Ideas for a glass tabletop project
July 15, 2005 6:19 AM   Subscribe

I have finished building a dining table and want to use an all glass tabletop instead of wood top. The idea is that the glass top would rest on four leg supports. Originally I was thinking of getting grey tinted glass with countersunk holes that sits on dowel pins. Turns out it is almost a custom job and the cost is coming out to be too much for 0.5 inch glass. If I go with 3/8 inch glass then apparently they do not make grey tinted version of those. So here are my questions - What are good ways to prevent a glass top from sliding around when it is resting on four flat contact points which may be 1 to 2 inch in diameter. Special transparent glue ? or sticky pads ? I am looking for a clean look. The other question is what is a good way to get the tinted glass effect. I was thinking of may be using grey colored films. Not sure if that is the best way. If you think that is a good way i would appreciate some pointers to good sources of such films. Thanks
posted by flyby22 to Home & Garden (23 answers total)
Films are going to scratch, eventually, no matter what you do, whether you put them on top or on the bottom. Your only option would be to sandwich a film between two layers of glass. You would want to experiment with that, because you're likely to create some kind of unintended mirror effect, I would guess. And of course you'd then have the quesion of connecting the two glass layers.

I think you have two options to tie glass to the base:
1: Cover the tops of the base supports with a layer of black rubber, maybe neoprene -- something with good anti-skid properties. Put the glass on. It won't be a solid connection, but in ordinary use the weight of the glass and the anti-skid quality of the rubber should be enough to keep it from sliding around. (The glass will come off when lifted, but you have the same situation with your dowel idea.)

2. Rather than a counter-sunk dowel system, get holes bored all the way through, which is probably easy enough and a lot cheaper. Then make your dowels in hardwood or aluminum flush with the table top. They become a design element. This method allows the tint-sandwich system described above. Conceivably, you could have the holes cut with an upward-opening bevel, and fit in dowels with the same shape, so the top won't lift off the dowels.
posted by beagle at 6:53 AM on July 15, 2005

Here's what I would do...

Go out and buy the .5" grey tinted glass in the approprite size/shape.

Go get a 3/8" (or whatever smallish) size dowel. Drill a 3/8" hole in the top of the table legs. Hammer a little piece of that dowel into the top of each table leg (say a piece long enough that 1/8" sticks up out of the top of the leg.

Do all your measuring *very* carefully and figure out where you want the table to sit and where the dowels would be on the glass. Probably I would do one dowel-spot first, go through the rest of the steps with that one and then go back and measure for another etc.

Now go out and buy a 1/4" glass and ceramic drill bit, and some play-do or pliable wax. (ok, now you're balking, but I've drilled glass and it's messy, but easy).

Go home and build a little mound of play-do or wax around the spot where you want the hole to be. Basically you want a raised circle around the hole area with bare glass in the middle. So you have a little bowl-shaped area. Fill this with water and keep it water-filled throughout. Glass needs to be wet (with cold water) when you drill it because the friction from the drill builds heat and if you don't keep it cool you'll get a heat fracture. Keep it wet, no heat fracture. Keeping it wet also prevents the glass dust from flying around too much. You'll have to stop every now and then to clean up the goop (glass dust+water) so you can see what you're doing. Dump this stuff in newspaper or paper towel and throw it out. Don't dump it down the drain where it will harden and cause clogs.

You're obviously not going to drill all the way through...If you have 1/8" of dowel sticking out, I would drill the hole 1/4" in. Having it just a little deeper than the length of the dowel will ensure that the table is resting it's weight on the whole table leg, not just the little piece of dowel, but it won't slide around. Glass drills *very* slowly, so you won't have to worry about accidentally drilling all the way through.

It sounds scary, but drilling glass is very easy. I've taught my 12 year old cousin to do it (for making windchimes) and she never cracked a piece, not even the first few she did (and this was glass more in danger of breaking than the kind you'll be working with). The hardest part is holding the drill steady in the beginning (up until you get something resembling a pilot hole to hold it in place). If you ask nicely the glass place will probably give you some free scraps that you can practice on. If you're unsure if you want to do this, get some scraps of the .5" glass before buying the big table-top piece. Try it out. You'll see that it's easy.
posted by duck at 6:55 AM on July 15, 2005

I just wanted to add something....the top and sides of the hole (i.e. the glass that remains above the area that you've countersunk) will not be smooth and transparent. It will look like etched glass (since it basically is etched), and whitish. It won't look bad (it would like every other hole drilled in glass that you've ever seen), but if you wanted the table top to be completely transparent, you're out of luck.

The only way to get the shine/smoothness of unscratched glass back is to heat it in a kiln. (There are places with kiln's large enough to do that who would do it for you, but it would cost you, obviously, which is exactly what you're trying to avoid). This would also round off the edges of the glass so you wouldn't have square corners.
posted by duck at 7:39 AM on July 15, 2005

I'll try not to comment anymore, I promise....But if you really really don't want to do it yourself, I would call a few stained glass stores (not places that sell table or window glass, but places that do windows and panels and such), and ask if they would be willing to drill the countersunk holes for you if you brought in the glass (they won't have that type of glass).

Stained glass places have more experience doing things with glass that are more complicated than just straight cuts to size. This will be child's play to them and they may be willing to do it more cheaply than the glass place you're working with. That's assuming they have the equipment. Since they will normally work with smaller pieces of glass than table tops, they'll have glass drills mounted on grinders, which couldn't be used with a table-top piece of glass...not sure if they would also have glass drill bits on regular drills). . It's worth asking.

Wow, I really miss working with glass...
posted by duck at 7:56 AM on July 15, 2005

I can't speak to the construction and whatnot, but we had a glass-topped coffee table and we managed to stop the glass from moving by applying 4 1-inch diameter rubber pads. A glass tabletop is heavy, and the stiction between glass and rubber should be more than enough to hold it in place under any kind of normal use.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:14 AM on July 15, 2005

I really like all the ideas posted so far. I had a random thought. How about finding small suction cups that I can glue to the leg tops. The table is black in color. So if I can something black and in right size, wont that work ? Also any glues out there I could use and possibly can be removed in future if I needed to ? Trying to avoid stuff like crazy glue. One shop quoted me $250 for the glass top in 0.5 inch and grey. Add 50 bucks more for drilling. The price goes down to $125 for 3/8 inch without drilling. But they only come in clear form. No tints.
posted by flyby22 at 8:18 AM on July 15, 2005

Ah, I thought it was the drilling that was expensive, not your choice of glass. I guess I won't get to vicariously enjoy drilling glass. *sigh*
posted by duck at 8:27 AM on July 15, 2005

What Dipsomaniac said. I've seen glass tabletops held in place by clear vinyl discs much smaller than an inch. A 1- to 2-inch black rubber pad on each leg (black to match the table; rubber to give you more traction than vinyl) ought to be plenty to keep the thing from sliding, although obviously sliding is more likely to happen with the lighter 3/8 inch glass than with the 1/2 inch.

The only question then is how to stick the rubber pads to the legs, which depends on the material the legs are made of. This is a job for This to That.
posted by jjg at 9:10 AM on July 15, 2005

Um, doesn't the glass need to be tempered, which is, I believe, very expensive? I can imagine scenarios involving dinner parties, dropped fondue pots, shattered glass, severed femoral arteries, and ruined dinner parties, that'd make me very reluctant to use untempered glass. I wouldn't use untempered plate glass on even a coffee table, where the glass is well below femoral artery height.
posted by tiny purple fishes at 9:35 AM on July 15, 2005

The glass must be tempered or it is going to be a very, very big danger.

I would choose the vinyl or rubber stickypads over drilling, simply to retain the integrity of the glass. Why introduce a weak spot?

A clear, soft, slightly rounded vinyl pad will compress quite nicely under the weight of the glass, making a very secure connection. Put a drop of water on it, and I think that once it dries, you'll find it is essentially adhered to the glass.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 AM on July 15, 2005

I wouldn't use suction cups. They tend to tear away at the base at the slightest provocation (that was why we had rubber pads on the coffee table - the suction cups that came with it didn't hold).
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:10 AM on July 15, 2005

Assuming you've told your glass dealer what it's for, they should be quoting tempered or toughened glass. At $250 I would think they are.

If you want gray, I'd go for the extra expense. But I would shop around -- gray might be available elsewhere in 1/4 or 3/8. Here's one outfit that seems to have it.

I'd go with the rubber pads -- it will look fine, hold the glass almost as well as a dowel in a countersunk hole, and avoids the issue of the etched look in the bottom of the hole.

BTW, the coolest glass table I've ever seen was made out of GE Lexan, which is used to stop bullets in armored vehicles. This particular table was in a GE conference room, and was made out of sheets of one-inch clear Lexan previously shot at by various calibers of weaponry, with the bullets stuck in the middle (shot-at side down).
posted by beagle at 10:14 AM on July 15, 2005

Yes, yes, yes! You must use tempered glass. And yes, it will be more expensive - and nearly impossible to drill. My suggestion is to hit the phone book and look for (usually smaller) glass shop that specializes in custom glass work (shower doors, mirrors, that kind of thing); they are more likely to be able to get what you want, or to advise you properly on what to do to achieve the look you want.
You don't say where you are, but there is at least one shop in the Seattle area that does such work.
Another suggestion (and this may sound goofy) is to check out local thrift shops to see if there are any older smoked glass tables that are the right size. If the scratches aren't too deep, and the glass is truly tinted, they may be able to be polished out by the aforementioned glass shop.
Lastly, have you considered framing your glass top with wood? This would make it easier to mount, and will eliminate most of the risk of chipped edges (which does happen enventually, alas).
Good luck.
posted by dbmcd at 10:19 AM on July 15, 2005

Ok, i think will go with the rubber pad idea. Looks like easiest thing to try first. That This to That site is really cool. Thanks. Yeah I will have to look into tempering. I rarely have guests at my place. But it is something I have not yet looked into.
posted by flyby22 at 10:23 AM on July 15, 2005

You guys are way cool :-)

Yes I should check a few more shops. Thanks for the links. I have thought about framing the glass. But I am trying to get this contemporary clean look and I feel I like the unframed might look better. And I forgot to mention - I will try the glass drilling someday on scrap glass :-) Now that I know the technique.
posted by flyby22 at 10:29 AM on July 15, 2005

Beagle, any idea whether that sort of thing is commerically available for a reasonable price?
I suppose I'd have to settle for a few 12"x12" squares, rather than the monolithic table.

posted by metaculpa at 11:44 AM on July 15, 2005

Yeah, unfortunately, you can't drill tempered glass. If you do manage to break the tempered layer, I suspect you'd quickly find yourself the proud owner of a gajillion 1/4" cubes of smoked glass. That's what tempering does to glass---when the surface is punctured, it immediately breaks into small non-dangerous pieces rather than large sharp shards.

Have you looked at translucent polycarbonates? They are extremely hard, scratch resistant (for plastic) and keep their colour very well, but may be terribly expensive for a piece that size.
posted by bonehead at 12:15 PM on July 15, 2005

Glass is perfectly okay, so long as it's tempered. I've a relative with a six-seater dining table that's glass. Weighs a metric ton. There's no problem with slippage: the vinyl bumpers are sticky like a post-it note, and the weight is enough to make it seal down well.

And thicker is better, both from a strength/safety pov, and an aesthetics pov.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:41 PM on July 15, 2005

Er...yes, I should add that I've only drilled regular glass, and art glass, though I've cut tempered glass and it did not break into a million pieces.
posted by duck at 2:42 PM on July 15, 2005

I worked for a glass installer for a while and I can tell you that the glass that goes on table tops and coffee tables is not tempered and does not need to be tempered. It takes a lot of force to break thick glass. Call more shops to find some tinted 3/8 glass. It is definitely available. Are you getting it cut to your specs or custom? Pre-cut is much cheaper.
posted by monkeyman at 3:47 PM on July 15, 2005

Clear RTV silicone. Put a dab on top of each leg, then lower the glass onto them, without any lateral movement. Let the silicone cure fully, and you're done. Does silicone adhere to glass? Visit your nearest fish tank and figure out how much force all that water is applying to the corner joints.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:59 PM on July 15, 2005

I reread my comment and realized I was not being emphatic enough about using tempered glass. You can not use tempered glass for any project where the edges of the glass are exposed, because tempered glass will shatter when hit on the edge. It doesn't chip, it just breaks into hundreds of tiny pieces. Tempered glass is much harder to break when hit on the surface which is why it is used on patio and shower doors and anywhere safety glass is needed. Annealed (normal) glass will chip when struck on the edge, so anytime you see chipped glass, you know it's not tempered. Get some of the silicon disks to rest the glass on the table posts. Big sheets of glass are very heavy, they don't move easily.
posted by monkeyman at 4:11 PM on July 15, 2005

I guess I'll take monkeyman's words for it. I know roughly how strong 1/4" untempered glass is, so I'd readily believe half inch is exponentially stronger. And I quite like kirth's RTV silicone idea. I've used that stuff as gasketing for engines, and I can imagine how well it would work on glass. Black might work nicely, tool.

I now very much want to see a slo-mo video from two angles of a thick tempered-glass table being struck on the edge by a ballpeen hammer. If it does what I imagine it does, it'd be a damn neat sight.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:23 PM on July 15, 2005

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