How to Build a Glass-top Recessed Coffee Table

This table is covered in zebra-wood veneer, and the recessed top is filled with river rocks.


The inside of the recessed coffee table is filled with rocks and little battery-operated lights to make it glow like a fireplace.

Materials and Tools:

two 3/4" MDF at 18" x 15-1/4" for shorter sides
two 3/4" MDF at 22-1/2 x 15-1/4" for longer sides
one 3/4" MDF at 24" x 18" for bottom
one 3/4" MDF 22-1/2" x 16-1/2" for recessed top
two 3/4" MDF 3-1/8" x 15" ledgers
two 3/4" MDF 3-1/8" x 22-1/2" for ledgers
two pieces of zebra veneer at 25" x 17"
two pieces of zebra venner at 19" x 17"
one bag river rocks
one 3/8" thick piece glass cut to 22 3/8" x 16 3/8"
one 3/8" MDF piece
table saw
chop saw
2" finishing nails
1-1/4" finishing nails
nail gun
good quality contact adhesive
utility blade
laminate trimmer
laminate roller
black spray paint


Coffee table base:

1. Cut down a 3/8" piece of MDF for your spacer and place at the top of the two short side pieces. Glue and attach your ledger pieces below the spacer so that you end up with a 3/8" space once the spacer is removed. Make sure the ledger is flush with the sides of your piece.

2. For your front and back pieces, take the shorter ledger piece and place it against the 3/8" spacer. This ledger will be shorter so that all the sides will fit together once attached. Center the ledger and attach with glue and 1-1/4" finish nails.


3. Nail the pieces of 18" x 15-1/4" over the ends of the 22-1/2" x 15-1/4" to create a 24" x 18" box. Use 2" finishing nails to secure the pieces.


4. Flip the box upside down so that the ledger is now at the bottom, and slip the recessed top (22-1/2" x 16-1/2" piece) inside and nail to the bottom of the ledger with 2" finishing nails.


5. Nail the bottom (24" x 18") to the box using 2" finishing nails.

Toe kick:

1. Using the table saw and chop saw, cut two pieces of MDF to 20" x 2" and two pieces at 12-1/2" x 2".

2. Cut two 6" squares out of MDF, and using the chop saw, cut them on the diagonal so you end up with four triangles.

3. With 2" finishing nails, nail the 20" x 2" pieces to the 12 1/2" x 2" pieces so you end up with a box that is 4 inches smaller than the existing coffee table.


4. Attach one triangle to each corner of the toe kick, and flush with the top.

5. Flip the toe kick upside down, and place it centered on the bottom of the coffee table and nail the triangles into the bottom using 1-1/4" finishing nails.

Finishing Touches:

1. Using black spray paint, paint the interior recessed portion of the coffee table and the toe kick.

2. Cut the zebra veneer wood down to four pieces using a utility knife – two at 25" x 17" and two at 19" x 17". Make sure that you number each side of your cut line so you know how to match up the wood grain when you adhere it to the coffee table.

3. Brush contact adhesive on the back of one piece of the veneer and the corresponding side of the coffee table. DO NOT glue all four sides of the coffee table at the same time because when you go to trim the laminate, the debris will stick.


4. Once the contact adhesive has lost its white filmy look, place the veneer onto the corresponding side, making sure to leave a 1/2" overlay on every side. Use dowels between the MDF and veneer to make sure it's placed slowly and correctly.

5. Using the laminate roller, roll out any air bubbles in the veneer to ensure a smooth finish.

6. Take the laminate trimmer and run it around all four edges to cut off all excess.

7. Repeat steps 4 through 7 for the other three sides.

8. Pour river rocks into the recessed top of the coffee table.

9. Place piece of glass on top of the ledger, so the rocks are below and show through.

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