How to Build a 2-in-1 Coffee/Dining Table

A coffee table that becomes a dining table or a desk — in seconds!

Time

Multiple Days

Complexity

Intermediate

Cost

$251-500

Introduction

I’ve got a large family, and when we all gather it’s become tradition to haul a card table up from the basement and evict the coffee table to make more space for dining. Our next big get-together will be different. Instead of shifting furniture around, I’ll just flip up the coffee table legs and round up the kids!

Tools Required

  • 23-gauge pin nailer
  • Drill
  • flush-cut saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Miter saw
  • random orbital sander
  • Table saw
  • Tape measure

Materials Required

  • 1-1/2" x 4' piano hinge
  • 2" trim-head screws
  • 3/4" x 2" x 8' walnut board
  • 3/4" x 3-1/2" x 8' walnut board
  • 3/4" x 4' x 8' walnut plywood
  • Glue
  • jig knob set
  • pin nails
  • toggle clamps

A Vintage Project That Still Has Legs Today

The inspiration for this project came from an article Family Handyman published way back in 1956.

Project Reimaged for Today

I thought the idea of a two-in-one table was brilliant, even for today. I used the same hinged-leg concept but updated a few key things:

  • The original article suggested using a door or solid wood for the tabletop. Plywood was available back then but in a limited range of options. Luckily for me (and you), we can now make projects faster, easier and often better with plywood.
  • In coffee table mode, this project looked awkward with its large overhangs and inward-tilted legs. So I tweaked the design and found that placing all eight legs on the floor gave the table a more balanced and unique look.
  • Since the legs will be swung in and out, I decided to build a half-lap joint instead of a miter, which would have to be reinforced. It also made assembling the legs much easier.

Project step-by-step (12)

Step 1

Build up the Top

  • I started with a piece of walnut plywood cut to size. On the underside, glue three-inch-wide strips of the same plywood on the edges and pinned them into place.
  • Put one more three-inch strip in the middle and add two six-inch-wide strips to provide a mounting surface for the legs.
    • Pro tip: Doubling the top like this adds stiffness without too much additional weight.

Step 2

Bevel the Edging

  • The top is wrapped with edging to hide the plywood edges. Square edging would be fine, but I cut a 13-degree bevel on the edging stock. This bevel matches the angle of the legs and gives the table a more refined look.

Step 3

Add the Edging

  • Fasten the edging to the ends of the table first.
  • When I added the side edging, I let it protrude beyond the bevels of the end edging.
    • Pro tip: Instead of fumbling with long clamps, I used a pin nailer to hold the edging in place while the glue dried.

Step 4

Trim the Edging

  • Trim the overhanging ends of the edging to match the bevel. 
  • Protect the wood from the saw teeth with a layer or two of painter’s tape.
  • Then sand the cuts smooth and flush.

Step 5

Pro Tip: A Jig Makes Tapered Legs Easy!

To safely cut the tapered legs, you’ll need a jig for the table saw. There are simpler jig designs but this one is my favorite. You’ll just need a few scraps of plywood, a pair of toggle clamps and knobs. In 30 minutes you’ll have a great jig for this and future projects.

Step 6

Cut Slots in the Sled

  • Drill two holes six inches from the ends of a sled made from a 12-in. x 30-in. piece of plywood.
  • Draw lines to connect the holes, then cut out the slot with a jigsaw.

Step 7

Assemble the Fence

  • Cut two slots in a two-inch-wide fence. The fence slots should line up and be perpendicular to the slots in the sled.
  • Connect the fence to the sled with a pair of threaded jig knob and 1/4-in. bolts
  • Then attach toggle clamps and a heel to finish the jig.

Step 8

Set the Taper Angle

  • Align the end marks on the leg with the edge of the sled.
  • Position the fence against the leg and lock the fence into place.
  • Make sure the leg is against the heel of the fence and clamp it down.

Step 9

Taper the Legs

  • Adjust the table saw fence to cut along the edge of the jig and then make the cut.
  • Cut all the long legs with the same jig setup, then adjust the jig to cut the shorter legs.

Step 10

Assemble the Legs

  • The half-lap joints for the legs are made by layering the leg parts.
  • Fasten the parts with glue and a nailer or clamps.
    • Pro tip: I built two leg sets at a time, laying them out on my workbench to make sure I got a “mirrored match.”

Step 11

Connect the Legs

  • Cut another 13-degree bevel in the stretcher then glue and screw it between a pair of legs.
  • Fasten a second stretcher to make a strong corner where the legs will pivot on the hinge.

Step 12

Attach the Piano Hinge

  • Align ends of the short legs up to the inside of the edging.
  • Position the legs with a framing square, then pre-drill and screw a length of piano hinge to the tabletop and the legs.