I need help making my own glass coffee table!
February 19, 2006 8:08 PM   Subscribe

I need some construction suggestions for making a glass-topped coffee table.

I recently bought some speakers from a friend which turned out to be white van speakers. They sound pretty bad, but I didn't figure this out until I got them home. My friend is moving out of the country and basically needs to be rid of these, so I was trying to think of what else I could do with them (we renegotiated the price to 1/3 of what I paid him, so that's good). I realized that they would make a cool looking base for a coffee table. I'm really into music, and this would actually mesh with the rock-art theme of my apartment.

The cabinets are 27" tall and 15" wide. They have 12" woofers and smaller mids and tweeters, as well as gain knobs for high and low frequencies. They look pretty fancy... too bad they sound like crap. My idea is to lay them on their backs, with the drivers facing up, and then put a piece of glass over them. The cabinets have holes in them at their corners where the covers snap in, so I'm thinking that I will cut some dowels to fit into those holes and hold the glass a few inches above the speakers themselves. I don't plan to have the speakers hooked up at all.

I guess I have three basic questions:

1. Where can I get glass for the tabletop? I'm in San Francisco, if you know of a local place. Are there special kinds of glass that I should use for this purpose? Maybe something stronger/thicker than window glass? Can I get the edges beveled in some way to add a decorative flourish?
2. How can I keep the glass from sliding around? Since I'm not envisioning having anything to hold the glass at its edges, it seems like I would want to anchor it to the dowels somehow. I've thought of putting a rubber non-skid pad on the tips of the dowels, gluing the dowels to the glass somehow, or even having very small holes drilled in the glass, and then using small nails sticking out of the dowels to hold it in place.
3. Anything else I should know about? I've never tried to build anything like this before, but I think it'll be pretty cool if I can pull it off!
posted by autojack to Home & Garden (21 answers total)
Provided that:

The dowels are reasonably wide (3/8" or bigger, I'd guess..)


The glass is reasonably thick (I don't know... 3/8 or thicker...)

Then rubber feet on the top of the dowels will work very well- the weight of the glass will make them stick well. It will be very sturdy. This way, you have the additional benefit of being able to easily remove, replace, and/or clean the glass.

If I were you, though, I'd just put some rubber feet on the surrounds of the speakers themselves- go for dead simple. I think it would look better than having them suspended with dowels, myself.
posted by fake at 8:26 PM on February 19, 2006

Custom shaped beveled glass is probably going to be pricey. What shape are you thinking of?

I've seen glass toped tables for around $100 CAD. I'm not sure that it will be cheaper than a custom top, but I think it probably would be. At least it is a starting point for price.

I think those table tops are affixed with multiple 8 double sided adhesive rubber feet.

Nothing very precise, sorry about that, but something you could go and check out for ideas...
posted by Chuckles at 8:28 PM on February 19, 2006

Response by poster: Fake: The only reason I don't want to go with rubber feet is that they'd need to be a bit tall to clear the drivers and knobs on the speakers. I'd paint the dowels black or something, and not make them too much taller - just enough to get clearance over all the other parts.

Chuckles: I'm thinking just a simple rectangle shape. The bevelled edges aren't important, just an idea. I just know that a basic piece of glass is going to have sharp edges that aren't ideal for this project. I need something designed for this type of use.
posted by autojack at 8:51 PM on February 19, 2006

How big of glass top? Room & Board has glass table tops for (relatively) decent prices. They have a 60 x 24 for $189.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:05 PM on February 19, 2006

Oh and in place of dowels, I'd use black rubber stoppers.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:14 PM on February 19, 2006

Keep waiting for some more answers. I can't answer the question; but I know that 16 years ago I simply walked over to a nearby glass shop and asked for a particular size of beveled glass and hinges to put a glass door on a printer stand to turn it into a small stereo cabinet...and it was very inexpensive. $10 or something. There are glass shops (that sounds awkward—what are they "properly" called?) everwhere and if you call around you'd probably get good information and find a good price for what you want.

People put stuff on glass tables. You want something stronger than plain window glass, don't you think?

Be sure to let us know what you discover. I've been thinking about this type of thing a lot, recently, because I've actually built my PC into the satisfactory but not-that-nice computer desk I have. The desktop hasn't aged well, I've thought about resurfacing it and putting a glass top on it, which would be more durable and easy to clean. Not to mention that I could put indicator lights or whatnot in the desktop.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:51 PM on February 19, 2006

Response by poster: In terms of size, I'm envisioning the speakers having some space between them, not being pushed right together. So if they're 27" tall, I'd guess I want a piece of glass that's 30" tall. Then for width, at 15" each that's 30" total, so maybe 40" or 50" wide. Something along those lines; rectangular is basically what I was thinking.
posted by autojack at 9:59 PM on February 19, 2006

An old roommate had a custom-cut piece of safety glass (with diamond-pattern wire) that he used with yellow metal sawhorses for a desk. The glass was heavy enough that he didn't need to affix it to the sawhorses.

I think the glass shop he went to was on Folsom in the 16th-17th block, but there are a bunch of places around. I'd walk in to one and tell them what you're trying to do.
posted by aneel at 10:25 PM on February 19, 2006

When I was in college in the 'states, some friends where costing out glass/glassed-mirrors for an art project; apparently, the price of glass varies considerably.

The cost will be proportional to what you want it to resist. Sure, you can get some cheap glass, but it'll shatter and hurt someone really badly. In EB's case, if there's a continuous supporting layer beneath it, less-expensive glass could do the trick. If you want glass that's free-standing and self-supporting, you'll probably want something designed just for the purpose and perhaps tempered so that if it does break, it doesn't shard but rather crumbled (or something).

Check your local yellowpages (or the internet version), call up various "custom glass" outfits, tell them what you want (size and application and get a quote). Call around five or so shops (in Mass - you might be able to check out more) and the good places should be able to furnish you with terms and technical information for you to either 1) check it out on google and/or 2) discount the discount places.

Good luck!
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:31 PM on February 19, 2006

2. How can I keep the glass from sliding around?

Put a dab of clear RTV silicone rubber on top of each dowel. It will bond to the glass and the wood.

Other suggestions:
- Definitely get glass thicker than windows. Window glass is very fragile. I suggest at least 3/8" thick (10 mm) tempered glass.
- Use Lexan (Plexiglas) instead of glass. It will scratch more easily, but is lighter and stronger.
- Use aluminum or delrin (like nylon, but better) dowels instead of wood, if you think they'd look better. A machine shop can turn down one end if the holes in the speaker front are odd-sized. The RTV will also bond to metal or plastic.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:32 AM on February 20, 2006

Use Lexan (Plexiglas) instead of glass.

Lexan and Plexi are two very different things. The lexan (polycarbonate) is much stronger, more optically clear, and scratch resistant.

Interesting link about "white van" speakers. I bought a pair of those, but I really didn't want them so I only offered $40, and they had to carry them up the 3 flights of stairs to my apartment. The enclosures alone, without any speakers, are worth that. I've seen the exact same in bars around here, and they are pretty decent. I put screw-eyes in the back and mounted them face down on the ceiling, using mountain climbing clips.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:16 AM on February 20, 2006

And, autojack, the artist Jennifer Bolande has done some pretty cool sculpture featuring faux speaker cabinets. (not the best link)
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:46 AM on February 20, 2006

Pier 1 Imports also sells glass table tops. They come in standard sizes, the largest being about 36"x60, and are 1/2 inch thick, non-tempered. They tend to go on sale with some frequency. The website has some sizes, but the stores carry a more extensive collection.
posted by kimdog at 7:09 AM on February 20, 2006

As a hobby, my wife and I like to paint on glass for art projects. They look neat for coffee tables, or hung in a window.

I have found that thrift stores and used furniture places are the absolute best places to find this stuff. For a coffee table, window glass is bad bad bad. It's going to shatter the first time you set a drink on it hard. You want glass that is at least a half inch think. Tempered glass is definitely better if you are buying new glass, it's considerably stronger, and it won't shatter if you set something really hot on it.

See also Tempered Glass.

If you can't find used glass you can buy table top glass at Michael's Arts and Crafts, I see there are a few near you. The store nearest us stocks a pretty good selection of sizes, your store may be different.

Good Luck!
posted by jefeweiss at 7:17 AM on February 20, 2006

Ethereal: a glass shop is properly called a "glazier".
posted by pocams at 7:51 AM on February 20, 2006

"How can I keep the glass from sliding around?"

A small dab of silicone will keep things in place and can be cut with a razor knife if you ever need to move.

I'd go with tempered glass, it'll be wildly safer if someone ever falls on the table. Regular glass breaks into knife like shards, tempered glass breaks into tiny little bits. You'll still get cut but you won't slash a jugular or something.

A readily available source of fairly cheap tempered glass is glass patio railings. Big box home improvement stores can order it in any length you need and about 30" wide.
posted by Mitheral at 8:47 AM on February 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

I bought glass to replace my coffee table top at Cliff's Variety on Castro Street. I can't remember exactly how much I paid, but I remember thinking it seemed reasonable.
posted by trip and a half at 10:49 AM on February 20, 2006

A small dab of silicone will keep things in place and can be cut with a razor knife if you ever need to move.
Mitheral means silicone adhesive (RTV, as I said), not silicone, which is a lubricant.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:13 AM on February 20, 2006

Kirth Gerson writes "Mitheral means silicone adhesive (RTV, as I said)"

Yes. Ixnay on using lube to hold your coffee table together. Though after you've got it together it'll wipe right off the glass top unlike, say, your roommate's black suede chesterfield.
posted by Mitheral at 11:54 AM on February 20, 2006

send me an email if you need any machine shop help with this- I can turn down some delrin/aluminum/wood if you need. Free of charge for fellow mefites.
posted by wzcx at 1:44 PM on February 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses guys :-) Looks like I'll be checking out some local glass suppliers to see what I can get from them. I have a friend who offered to put together some standoffs using aluminum rod and plate to make a decent metal-to-glass contact, so I think this will work out. We'll see!
posted by autojack at 4:34 PM on February 21, 2006

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