Creating a Rustic Barn Wood Coffee Table

I often find fabulous wooden boxes with vintage advertising on them but no lids. I had always wanted to try making a barn wood top, but didn’t have the tools to make them.

For this project you need a Mitre saw, a planer, electric sander and a drill. (You can get away with not planing, but will have to be more selective with your boards and do a lot more sanding. My very first barn wood table was done this way – all I had was a jig saw and a mouse sander.)

I had a pile of 60 year old barn wood and started by cutting them down to size with my Dewalt Mitre Saw (you can also use a Dewalt table saw).

While these boards came from the same building and were all siding, they had slightly different thicknesses that I had to even out. With the Dewalt planer, the idea is to slowly shave off layers little by little. However, for this piece, I wanted to achieve a more rough look rather than completely smooth, so I planed the top to the roughness I wanted, and then planed the underside as much as I needed to achieve even thickness for all 4 boards. I then used my Dewalt 5″ orbital sander 120 grit to clean up the sides and other splintery spots.


The beauty of barn wood is its uniqueness and perfectly aged look. But along with that, especially when making a table top that is still a little rough is that your table top is not completely smooth nor the boards joined up perfectly. There may be gaps and slight thickness variances. But I feel it’s a lot easier to work “for” the barn wood rather that make the barn wood work for you. Embrace its ambiguity and uneven parts!

You can tell more of those uneven areas and decide what to do with them better once you have joined your pieces together on the back. I numbered my pieces because I had to put them away one night and didn’t want to try and remember how they best fit together the next day. I found some basic scrap wood pieces and cut 4 down to size using my mitre saw again.  I cut the pieces slightly smaller than the width of the box. I also used bar clamps on each end to hold the pieces together while I was attaching the wood.

Drilling pilot holes definitely helps the screws to go in better.


Once attached I figured out where the most uneven parts of the table top were and I decided to pull the one off I felt was the worst and passed it through the planer 2 more times. I could have sanded it but it would have taken longer and would have taken away the roughness I had worked to keep. Sometimes extra, unplanned steps are what’s needed and it’s how I learn for the next time. Next time I will be more precise in getting the thicknesses equal.


I decided to use the “natural” color stain because I liked the look of the wood already and didn’t want to change the color.

Then I applied several coats of clear lacquer. Be sure to use a respirator in a well ventilated area!

The “floor” of the bread box was thin and not very sturdy to hold table legs, as the table top and box weight 30 lbs each. So I cut scrap wood and attached them to the bottom with corner braces and mending plates. This was a little difficult as some of the wood underneath was deteriorated due to its age. The scrap wood also did not line up evenly with the wood on the box so I used washers on the under side of the mending plates to make it even heights.

The last thing I did to the underside of this box was “repair” the deteriorated wood in the one underside corner with clear resin. This seals the area in case the dry rot would spread.

Stella can barely contain her excitement in showing you the finished product! This vintage coffee table is available for purchase, local pick up or delivery only. Contact me for details!

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