How To — DIY Leftover Concrete Table

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Usually when you hear “leftovers” (especially the week after Thanksgiving), you think of food, but not in this case. I’m talking about the the Leftovers project by Klemens Schillinger in the book DIY Furniture 2: A Step-By-Step Guide, a popular follow-up to its predecessor DIY Furniture. Leftovers, in this case, means the use of inexpensive materials usually found left over on construction job sites, like plastic buckets, wood and concrete mix. Using those three materials, Schillinger created a unique contemporary stool. I decided to take it a step further and make a small side table using the same technique.

The result of this weekend project is a very cool industrial side table with clean lines and rough texture. It’s a perfect fit next to my platform bed, but it could also work outdoors. Keep reading for the full tutorial on how to make my take on the Leftovers project.

The Book

Similar to the first book from which I learned how to make an industrial lamp from scratch, the second book, DIY Furniture 2: A Step-By-Step Guide, is set up as an amalgamation of global art projects in industrial design. It’s targeted to those DIY-ers who are interested in building out of necessity but with total regard for aesthetic. This is a DIY furniture book that lives in the contemporary space where furniture is an exploration into the temporary, ready-made and mobile.

The Projects

The designer behind the Leftovers project is Austrian-born creator Klemens Schillinger. Currently based out of London, Schillinger is an independent designer who focuses on co-creation, ad-hocism and DIY. Much like the the other 29 project designers, Klemens Schillinger aims to capture the beauty that occurs from imperfections and un-predictable outcomes. DIY Furniture 2: A Step-By-Step Guide, released in 2014, lived up to all of the hype that the first book had delivered. From lighting to seating to storage, this book takes it a bit further with more unique designs using a greater variety of materials.

The same precise blueprints, color photographs and clear material/tool lists that the original book had makes this weekend project completely stress-free. The only drawback I have regarding DIY Furniture 2: A Step-By-Step Guide is that in fitting in as many projects as it has, you do lose out on some opportunity for clarity. All in all, I say that if you are up to get your hands a little dusty, definitely give the Leftovers project and DIY Furniture 2: A Step-By-Step Guide a try.

The Leftovers Project: What You’ll Need

  • (1) 6′ – 2″ x 2″ Pine Wood Board
  • (1) Package of Fast-drying Concrete (Quikrete 5000)
  • (1) Plastic Mold
  • (1) Bucket
  • (1) Concrete Trowel
  • (4+) Clamps
  • (4+) Spacers
  • Waterproof Tape
  • Miter Table Saw
  • Fine-grain Sandpaper
  • Stain/Sealer (optional)
  • Step One

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    The original Leftovers project detailed in the book DIY Furniture 2 is for a 3-legged stool. With a far more pressing need for a short bedside table instead, however, I decided to alter the design. While the end process is exactly the same, I had to first find a table-top alternative to the plastic bucket mold. Luckily, I was able to score the exact shape I wanted in a $3 flexible tray from the Children’s section at a Swedish furniture store. The rest of the items I picked up from a local hardware store. You’ll notice that there are lots of different types of concrete mixes. Keep in mind that the coarser the mix, the more rocks and less consistent surface you will have.

    Once I got home, I went straight to work! Using the miter saw, I cut the 6 ft board into 16 inch pieces. Since you will have just enough for the four legs, be sure to measure twice before cutting. After the legs were cut, I sanded, stained and sealed them. I chose a nice rich walnut color to help balance out the the dark grey concrete top.

    Step Two

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    The legs are pretty much done at this point. All they need is some waterproofing tape. Since wood can absorb water and expand, you don’t want to risk it eventually cracking the concrete. To prevent this, you will need to tape off the end of wood that will be submerged into the cement mix. The book instructions also recommend wrapping wire around the end to give the concrete greater stability. Now you are ready to start dry-fitting your table legs in the mold.

    Step Three

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    Planning where your legs will go is the hardest and most time-consuming part of this project. Unlike the project from the book, I had to place four legs vertically, equal distant from the sides as well as each other. The only way to accomplish this is through the use of clamps and spacers. To do this, carefully align the leg to the right spot and bring it up so that the bottom does not touch the plastic mold. Clamp it into place and continue until all four legs have been secured into position. At this point, you will need to check if the legs are level or need to be adjusted. Enough prep – onto the concrete mix!

    Step Four

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    Pour several inches of concrete mix into the separate mixing bucket. Slowly add water until the concrete mixture reaches the consistency of thick pancake batter. Scrape down the sides, working quickly to make sure there are no dry pockets of cement. Once the mixture is the right consistency, pour it into your mold. Use your handy concrete trowel to move the mix under and around your table legs. Once everything has been smoothed out, tap and shake the mold to remove trapped air bubbles. After you feel that you have sufficiently removed all bubbles, let it sit undisturbed. Typically, it’ll take about a day for this type of concrete to fully cure.

    A day later, you can begin removing the plastic mold from the concrete table by turning the edges and sides away like you would do trying to remove an ice cube from an ice cube tray. It should pop out with ease. All that’s left to do is a quick sand with a 120-grit Fine sandpaper to smooth out the cement top and then a wipe to help remove any dust and debris.

    Recap

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    A snap to make, this one-of-a-kind industrial concrete side table is a great introductory foray into building with concrete. The materials are inexpensive and the instructions are laid out with clear visuals thanks to the writer and illustrator behind DIY Furniture 2. If you are a fan of self-made furniture but are a bit hesitant to start out, then Leftovers is the perfect weekend project for you. Just pick up your copy of DIY Furniture 2: A Step-By-Step Guide from your local bookstore and get to work!

    Did the Leftovers table make an impression on you? Let me know if you make your own!