DIY Walnut Coffee Table Build: Part 2

Coffee table parts and pieces

Coffee Table Parts and Pieces

The first post in our DIY Walnut Coffee Table Build Series focused on the aesthetic and functional aspects of the coffee table. In part two, we take a deeper look at the woodworking aspects of the design, focusing on the joinery techniques, and furniture hardware decisions.

Joinery – Table

Most woodworking projects involve connecting multiple pieces of wood together to form one single piece. The wood to wood connections are called joints and the methods or techniques used to connect multiple pieces of wood are called joinery. There are a multitude of joinery techniques, ranging from the basic butt joint, to more complex miters to even more complex secret mitered dovetails. Each technique has unique qualities that factor in to the decision making process when choosing the right joint for the job.

Butt Joint

Butt Joint

Miter Joint

Miter Joint

Secret Mitered Dovetail Joint

Secret Mitered Dovetail Joint

So how did we decide which techniques to use for our DIY walnut coffee table build?

We first looked at the strength of each joint. The coffee table isn’t going to hold a lot of weight, but it needs to be strong enough to withstand everyday use and occasionally being used as a bench. Secondly, we looked at the complexity of the joint. The walnut coffee table is only our second major DIY furniture project, so we didn’t want to get overwhelmed with complex joinery techniques. Finally we considered the aesthetic aspects of each joint. What would the exposed joint look like and how did it fit into the overall design.

After researching various different types of joints, we decided to use blind rabbet joints to connect the table sides to the top and bottom and dados for the internal dividers. The sides and back need to stay vertical in order to stabilize the table and prevent it from collapsing. The blind rabbet and the dado provide a mechanical means for keeping the coffee table sides and dividers upright. The groove of the dado makes it physically impossible for the coffee table sides and dividers to move.

Blind rabbet joint close up detail

Blind Rabbet Joint

Dado joint close up detail

Dado Joint

Both the blind rabbet and the dado joint can be cut using simple measurements with basic power tools. Aesthetically, the exposed joint complemented the clean and simple design of the walnut coffee table.

Joinery – drawers

We followed the same methodology to determine which joint to use for the drawers. We decided to keep it simple and chose box joints (also called finger joints) for the drawers. Box joints are less complex than dovetails, which are traditionally used in drawer construction. The strength of the box joint comes from the large amount of glue surface area each finger provides. The orientation of the wood fibers in the box joint also increases the strength of the joint. Joints are strongest when the wood fibers are glued long ways to each other. This is know as gluing long-grain to long-grain. End-grain joints are weak due to the structure of the wood and mechanical connections are commonly needed to strengthen end-grain joints.

Box joint closeup detail

Box Joint


We didn’t want to interfere with clean, simple lines of the coffee table design, so we opted to not have exposed drawer pulls on the drawer fronts. Instead, we decided to hide the draw pulls in to the bottom of the drawer fronts. This allowed us to maintain the look of the coffee table design without sacrificing functionality.

For the drawer slides, we are both big fans of soft-closing drawers so we chose Blum Tandem plus Blumotion drawer slides. The Blum Tandem plus Blumotion drawer slides come in a variety of lengths, ranging from 9 inches all the way up to 21 inches. The Blum slides can also accommodate a variety of drawer side thicknesses to fit any application.

We chose the Blum 563h drawer slides in the 15 inch length which are designed to accommodate drawer sides between 1/2 inch and 5/8 inch since our drawers are 5/8 inch thick.

Subscribe and follow along as we share the rest of our DIY walnut coffee table build! Now that we’ve done our homework designing and planning the DIY walnut coffee table, we can finally start working with wood next time. Enter your email address in the top right section to receive an email each time we have a new post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.