How to Build a Marble-Top Coffee Table

Philip FriedmanI recently became aware that we needed a new coffee table. Let me rephrase that. My wife made me aware that we needed a new coffee table. Those kinds of revelations happen when you're married. We'd bought a coffee table at a tag sale 20 years ago, and although it served us well, I have to admit that my wife was right. The table was beginning to look a little dated.

I drew up several designs for a replacement; I decided to forgo wood, opting instead to use extruded aluminum tubing for the base and a marble slab for the top. I was looking for a clean, mechanical, minimalist design. The base is made from fractional 15 Series smooth T-slotted aluminum, an extruded material with slots that accept connectors. You simply slide the legs, stretchers and connectors together­ and tighten the setscrews.

Coffee Table Plans (PDF, .3MB, requires Adobe Reader)

You can buy this aluminum in stock lengths and cut it to fit, as I did, but its manufacturer, 80/20, agreed to make parts available cut to the dimensions in our plans (80/20; PM Coffee Table Base, Item Q-38819; $188.56, plus shipping). The kit comes with precut legs and horizontal stretchers and the necessary connectors to join the parts. Using the kit, you can assemble the table base in about 15 minutes.

For the tabletop, I used a 1¼-inch-thick slab of Crema Marfil marble, an inherently durable and beautifully under-stated material. (Be sure to protect it with a granite and marble sealer.) Ordered from a local countertop fabricator, the top cost $550.

Our design is easy to build and hundreds of dollars less than similar tables. Better yet, it gives you complete control of the top's color and edge shape.

Step 1: Make the Base

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If you're cutting the parts yourself, the extruded aluminum is easy to work with: Use an eight-teeth-per-inch metal-­cutting blade in a jigsaw. Clamp an aluminum rafter square to each leg and stretcher to ensure the jigsaw makes a square cut, and run the saw's shoe along its edge. Cut each leg and stretcher slightly oversize and smooth each cut end, bringing the leg to finished dimension.

How to Build a Marble-Top Coffee Table

Step 2: Smooth the Cut

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We smoothed the cut end using a big Delta disc sander with its miter gauge clamped in position. Lightly press each cut surface against 80-grit abrasive paper. Go easy. If you press too hard, you'll either tear the disc or remove too much metal. (Note that I held the sander's miter gauge in position with a clamp.) Lacking a disc sander, you can use a 10-inch-long ­double-cut aluminum file. Also called a Type A file, it has a relatively coarse, double-cut tooth pattern.

Step 3: Position the Connectors

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Use a combination square to position the right-angle connectors on the table legs. Set the square to 4½ inches and hold it against the bottom of the leg. Slip a connector into the leg's T-shaped slot, then slide the connector down until it hits the end of the square's steel rule. Tighten the setscrew with a 5⁄32­-inch Allen wrench.

Step 4: Thread the Feet

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Thread a rubber foot onto the bottom of each leg and tighten it with the Allen wrench.

Step 5: Complete the Base

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Complete the base by assembling the legs, stretchers and mounting clips for the top. Slip a stretcher over the connector on each leg, butt it tightly to the adjoining surface, and tighten the setscrews. Complete the base by sliding the right-angle mounting clips into the groove.

Step 6: Attach the Top

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Rip and crosscut the small plywood blocks that you'll use to mount the marble top to the base. Next, lay the top on a padded surface, mark the outside corners where each leg is to be positioned, and invert the base onto the top. Align the outside corner of each leg with its pencil marks. You can also invert the base onto the top and measure to get its correct location, then mark the outside corners of the legs on the top to provide the registration marks.

On a scrap piece of plywood, mix two-part epoxy and use a putty knife to spread it on the back of each plywood mounting block. (You can wipe the knife clean using a rag dampened with mineral spirits.)

Press the block against the top and against the leg and weigh it down with a heavy object such as a brick.

Step 7: Attach the Top

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After the epoxy has cured, slide down the right-angle mounting clip on each leg and butt it firmly to the plywood mounting block; ­tighten the setscrew.

Step 8: Complete the Table

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Finally, secure each clip to the block using a ¾-inch No. 12 pan-head sheet-metal screw driven through the hole in the mounting clip. Note that these screws are not included in the kit.

With the aid of some helpers, carry the table upside down to where it needs to go. While holding the table above the floor, flip it over and set it down on its feet. Don't set the table on its edge and then flip it over. That might damage the top, the floor, the base or someone's foot. Finally, pull up a comfortable chair, have a beer, and relax. Yes, we know—it's a coffee table, but considering you built it, you're entitled.

Joseph TruiniJoe is a former carpenter and cabinetmaker who writes extensively about remodeling, woodworking, and tool techniques.This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at