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Lift top coffee table with hidden storage

Coffee table with storage

Do you ever have trouble maintaining a clutter free living room? Me too, especially with 2 kids, a cat and a dog. I thought this must be a common problem so I set out to create a coffee table with storage. And I didn’t want to just put a shelf underneath because you can still see everything, then it falls on the floor, then you have to keep picking it up. I wanted the clutter to magically disappear. Read on to find out how I got on.

Building the coffee table frame and carcass

As usual I started with a pallet that had been dumped on the side of the road. First I made sure it was suitable for indoor use and then took it apart.


I took the thickest pieces, cut them to size and then fixed them together to form the frame. Then I used dowels to join the wood but you could also use screws. The key is to make sure everything is straight and square, because everything else attaches to this piece.

Table frame

I then attached some more boards to form the bottom of the coffee table. I used glue and screws for these. As they’re underneath I didn’t mind the screw heads showing. But I did spend some time sanding and filing to make sure there were no rough edges.

Again I just paused for a few minutes to make sure everything was straight, level and square. If it wasn’t, I used a plane or a spokeshave to make small adjustments. It’s worth spending some time here because it will make fitting the legs so much easier.

Making the legs for the coffee table with storage

I used my bandsaw to cut the rabbets on the legs, followed by some minor adjustments with the chisel. I love this type of joint for my pallet coffee tables. it just seems to work really well and is much stronger than just screwing the legs to the side or bottom.

Attaching the legs

I used glue and dowels to join the legs to the table with a rabbet joint. Dowel joinery is great because it puts additional wood and glue deep into the joint. And the rabbets increase the surface area which provides a stronger bond. I was also excited to use my new flush cut saw which I got for my birthday. It was much neater than using a normal saw because the teeth have no set, so they don’t scratch the wood. It was smooooooth.

Next I used my Makita hand router to add a nice little profile on the legs, just to add a bit of sizzle.

Adding profile with router

I then spent some time smoothing the wood and removing any hard edges. I’m starting to move away from sandpaper for this purpose, and more often reach for my plane and spokeshave.

Making the lift-up top

I spent some time choosing some nice flat boards for the table top. However I still needed to remove some lumps and bumps with my plane.

And here’s a good tip. If you’re mixing wood from two different pallets, make sure they’re the same thickness. You can see here I forgot to check, and after sanding everything down I realised I had one fat board which I had to replace.

Making the top

I then looked at the appearance of the boards, and arranged them to make a nice pattern. In this instance, some were lighter than others, so I alternated light and dark. I also made sure any damaged edges were on the inside. I marked them to make sure I didn’t forget later on.

Marking the top boards

Next I needed to create the section of the table that was going to lift up. And it needed to be strong enough to withstand constant up and down movement. First I joined the boards using glue and dowels.

Then I spent some time flattening the surface.

And finally I attached some support pieces on the back. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of these supports, but they’re basically horizontal planks positioned to lie across all 4 boards.

Attaching the lift-up top

Next I attached a piano hinge.

Lift top coffee table with hidden storage

And then I nailed down the two outer boards, and attached the 4 inner boards to the hinge.

Lift top coffee table with hidden storage

I then made a block for attaching the soft close hinge.

I’d recommend hinges from Hafele. You can get similar ones for half the price on Amazon, but the quality isn’t as good. These are well built and should last a long time. They hold the table top in the fixed position, and have a nice slow closing action.

I finished the table with teak oil to bring out the grain, followed by 3 coats of polyurethane varnish thinned with white spirit.

The finished coffee table

So here it is. A nice practical coffee table with storage to help you maintain a neat and tidy living space.

And here’s an example of how the table might be used in the real world. Spielberg, Tarantino, you know where to find me!

If you’d like to make one of these, or have one made for you, feel free to contact me. Or you can receive my newsletter to get the latest news, updates and projects straight to your inbox.