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Modern Plywood Coffee Table (Rockler Plywood Challenge 2018)

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

….Using only 1 sheet of plywood!!

Top View of Modern Plywood Coffee Table

Okay, so this modern coffee table is in my top 3 favorite things we’ve ever made. Yes…EVER…like since we bought our first saw and starting building things on our own. This was the first piece we were able to build that wasn’t for a practical purpose, but for the sole purpose of testing our creativity, skills, and eye for design.

For those of you who have never heard of the Modern Maker podcast, it’s a podcast created by Ben Uyeda (HomeMadeModern), Chris Salamone (Foureyes), and Mike Montgomery (Modern Builds). They discuss all sorts of topics pertaining not only to DIY modern furniture, but new ideas spurred by makers and content creators. Last year, they decided to start a competition within the maker community to see what people could make with one sheet of plywood – with the most creative idea winning the challenge! They partnered with Rockler, and it gained a TON of popularity on YouTube and Instagram.

So we started scheming as soon as we heard about the challenge. We couldn’t decide what direction to go – do we try to make as large of a project as we could and have almost no waste from the one sheet, or did we want to highlight the material itself? Do we make a piece of furniture or a piece of art? Do we want to make just one entry or several? After a day or two of thinking I asked myself, “What’s the coolest part of plywood?” The stripes of the layers on the side. “What’s a pattern or design that’s really IN right now?” That curvy Moroccan pattern and herringbone. That was it. Herringbone.

We decided that day that we wanted to make a herringbone design for a table top and incorporate metal hairpin legs to add to the eccentric modern look (and it was for a competition hosted by guys that specialize in modern furniture, so…ya know…we had that going for us, I guess).

We drew it all up in Google SketchUp so we could calculate how many strips we could get from one sheet while preserving enough material to make a shelf in the table for some storage. After that, we bought some 16 inch hairpin legs.

These are the 16 inch black hairpin legs we purchased for the coffee table.

I’m not kidding, we were so excited about this project (and we wanted to get our build video and Instagram post up as early as possible in the competition) that once we got our hairpin legs in the mail, we built the whole thing in 5 HOURS!! We started by cutting our sheet of plywood to the length that we needed all of the strips to be. We then set our table saw to the proper width and cut out all the strips at one time (time consuming, but made for a pretty sweet time lapse). After that we began laying them all out in a herringbone pattern on top of the middle portion of the sheet of plywood so that they all had a flat surface to be fastened to. After a lot of gluing and nailing, we had our table top!

We cut off the excess triangular shaped material from the top of the table and used it to fill the triangular void left at the bottom of the material since this project was all about conserving what little material we got to use! We then buil a simple box with two openings on opposite ends of each other beneath the table top. This made the table a little bulkier (not just one thin sheet of plywood) and provided some storage for practical use. We used pocket holes for this. After the box was completed, we finished the top with some satin polyurethane and attached our black hairpin legs.

This was the fully assembled table top and shelf before we finished it with polyurethane and attached hairpin legs.

Here’s the completed table with finish and hairpin legs!

And it was done! In all of its modern beauty. At the time, we didn’t have a tracksaw, so we had created our own jig to be kind of a “mock” track saw, but we still weren’t quite happy with how it cut. Looking back at this project now that we invested in our Makita tracksaw, we can’t believe how much faster and more exact this project would have been!

Tracksaws are AMAZING for cutting down plywood. In fact, we did almost this exact project a second time – except it was for 2 sides of a huge sliding barn door!! We couldn’t believe how much better the tracksaw made it, not to mention the time it saved us. It’s now our favorite tool in the shop!!

We’re by no means sponsored/supported by Makita, we just chose them after doing a bit of research and price comparison, but if you want to check out the one we purchased, click the tracksaw link above! Also, check out the blog post we did on that sliding barn door! It was quite an adventure.

So…what was the coolest part about this project for the Rockler plywood challenge??? The guys from the Modern Maker Podcast saw our table on Instagram and discussed it on an episode of the podcast!! It was super awesome to get a shoutout from those guys on a piece we were so excited about. They were discussing 2-3 projects at the end of every podcast during the time the challenge was going on, so if you want to check that out, it’s episode 087!! We had the privilege of meeting Ben, Chris, and Mike at WorkbenchCon this year, and they are all so nice and a blast to hang out with – so go check out their YouTube channels, too!

This is the video we created documenting the idea, process, and build of our modern plywood coffee table for the 2018 #rocklerplywoodchallege! Overall we had a blast and knocked this project out pretty quickly. Who knew plywood could provide this much dimension!?

This post may contain affiliate links for products we used to create this project! If you’d like to check them out, we do get a small percentage of the sale and they are of no extra cost to you! It all goes towards supporting the content creation of Jennie and Davis. BUT – we do not take tool sponsorships and there were no tool endorsements. Just our honest opinions!

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