The Old Elm Coffee Table from old IKEA coffee table

Upcycling at its best.

We wanted to have a heavy rustic wooden table, with only two or three pieces of wood glued together. This style fits our house and other furniture very well, but it’s hard to find in stores and it gets very expensive. And we wanted to have something unique that we’ve made ourselves!

Here’s how our elm coffee table turned out.

Old elm wood coffee table
IKEA items used:
  • IKEA MARKÖR coffee table, solid pinewood, manufactured 1999
    • Table top dimensions: 1190x670x20 mm
Other materials and tools:
  • Paint remover (Beckers Färgborttagning)
  • Sandpaper (60, 80, 120, and 240 grit)
  • Two-piece elm table top
    • It’s from and old dead elm tree that grew nearby, and was cut down 15-20 years ago
    • Dimensions (glued together): 1230x710x40 mm
  • Linseed oil paint:
    • Ottosson Titan-Zink White, 10 cl
    • Ottosson 1A-4950 Iron Oxide Black, 10 cl
  • Handcrafted brush for linseed oil paint
  • Furniture wax (I used an uncolored one consisting of linseed oil, carnauba wax, and beeswax)

Elm coffee table instructions:

Disassemble the MARKÖR coffee table fully, even the metal plates to hold the table top together.

Apply the paint removal to the lacquered and stained pieces (legs, frame, drawer). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove the paint (again, according to the paint removal instructions).

paint stripped and sanded

Sand the previously painted pieces, starting at grit 60 and going gradually up to 240.

(Optional) Apply a barrier color or twig varnish to stop resin from leaking through or discoloring the finish.

I didn’t do this, partly because of the age of the wood but also because I’m using such a dark color.

If you’re using a brighter linseed oil paint color, I recommend using a twig varnish.

Mix the black and white paints to a blend you like (I used about 2 parts black and 1 part white) in a resealable container.

Apply the linseed oil paint to all leg and frame pieces of wood.

Follow the instructions of the particular linseed oil paint manufacturer.

With Ottosson, you normally do 3 applications, but I had some bleed from the twigs so I applied it a few times extra.

You can put the brush in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer between applications, no brush cleaning required inbetween!

The tricky part: the table top

I contacted a nearby saw mill and found the two pieces of elm there. They helped me plane, cut, and glue together the pieces according to the dimensions we asked for. We asked for a slightly longer and wider table top (60mm wider than the frame both in width and length). This makes it look more balanced as we used a thicker top than the original (40mm instead of 20mm).

These pieces are mirrored, making it a beautiful joint piece of wood.

You could use other kinds of wood, like oak, cherry, walnut, or something else with an interesting grain pattern.

Sand the table top up to grit 240.

old elm wood coffee table top

Apply one layer of furniture wax to the entire table top (sides and bottom, too). I applied using a sponge and wiped off excess wax with a cotton cloth.

Use the metal plates from the MARKÖR to keep the table top stable:

Measure and drill holes on the bottom side of your new table top (make sure to not drill through!)

Mount the metal plates.

metal braces

Apply two more coats of wax on the top.

My pieces had some small holes and irregularities but it doesn’t matter much, the wax keeps it protected.

Polish with the wax to get a nice surface.

Reassemble the MARKÖR frame and legs once the paint is dry and hardened.

Measure and drill holes on the bottom side of the table top for the frame screws (make sure to not drill through!).

Put the table top upside down on a carpet and mount the frame.

Done!

old elm wood coffee table top
How long and how much did it cost?

It took a few weeks in total with the rounds of paint drying. Actual work time maybe 10-12 hours in total.

Costs:

  • MARKÖR table (used): 25 EUR
  • Elm pieces, including planing, cutting, and gluing: 360 EUR
  • Paint and sandpaper: about 30 EUR

Total: 415 EUR

If it was even possible to find this in a store, it would probably sell for 1000-1500 EUR, I guess. A custom-built one would probably be at least as expensive.

old elm wood coffee table top
What do you like most about the hack?

The contrast between the dark gray frame and legs and the natural elm top is beautiful. It’s also very heavy and rustic, doesn’t move a bit. It’s a table for a lifetime.

What was the hardest part about this hack?

Finding the right pieces of wood.

old elm wood coffee table top
What to pay special attention to?
  • Apply very thin coats of paint when using linseed oil paint!
  • Carefully selected the pieces of wood for the table top. The fewer pieces you use, the more you should pay attention to the grain pattern and twigs.
Looking back, would you have done it differently?

I probably would have used twig varnish if I could redo it, to not have the bleed-through and having to apply those extra coats of paint.

For further details on the elm coffee table, see Oskar’s post on Twitter and Instagram.

~ by Oskar Wickström