My family & I have downsized and are working hard on maintaining a small footprint. We’re living in a modestly sized rental house without any room for a dining room table. We like to entertain and not having a place to sit and eat has been a bit challenging. There is a foyer in the house that is a decent size but wouldn’t work for having a permanent dining table. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a good size table that sat 6-8 people but didn’t require a dedicated room? Here’s how I solved this dilemma by designing and building an portable Expanding Steampunk Table.
Expanding Steampunk Table – a DIY Instructional
When you want comfort, style, and personality without breaking the bank, often the answer is DIY. In this post, I’ll walk you through the steps I took to make my version of an Expanding Steampunk Table. I shopped for components at my local hardware store, and broke out the tools to create a solution that is stylish, comfortable, and super compact.
When we moved from the Northeast to the Southwest last year, we decided the best approach would be to sell most of our furniture and build or buy the key items we truly needed once we were settled in. We were looking for a fresh start and a minimalist lifestyle, so we didn’t want to bring along any unnecessary baggage. A fresh, clean slate awaited us!
One of the important features we needed was a dining room table but we didn’t have a room we could dedicate to placing a dining table except the Foyer. I searched the internet and the local stores and found nothing that could be used as a temporary table, that also looked cool. When you have a unique set of conditions and a big sense of style, chances are you’ll have to DIY to get it all.
Now, I’ll be honest – this DIY requires a bit of skill with some tools and probably isn’t suited for a beginner woodworker. But, if you’ve got some basic skills, some patience, and a little time on the weekends to work on a table, then get ready to jump in!
Expanding Steampunk Table STEP 1 – Draw it out
I knew I wanted a table that could comfortably seat at least 6 people for a sit-down dinner. This would require at least a 3 ft. X 6 ft. table. Working back from there, the table had to be portable and easily moved. Plus compress to tuck away when it wasn’t needed. So that meant it had to be on wheels, it had to have leafs that could fold-in, and finally, I it had to fit the stools we owned and look right in the room.
This table needed moving and mechanical components to bring it to life. I started straight away in CAD assembling the legs and folding arms. I knew that in order for this table to be tall the legs would need to be set far out for stability. This created the need for some custom pieces in order to bring it together.
Expanding Steampunk Table Step 2 – Engineering vs Design
I’ve been loving the Steampunk movement since Firefly and in our new little town of Raton, NM the old west and locomotives seem to still be living and breathing. Everywhere I looked there were pieces of yesteryear and great sources for inspiration. For me, design and engineering work together, and the best design comes from practical engineering. I started taking pictures of things around me that inspired me and ignited my creativity. I wanted guest to come over and sit down at a table that harkened back to the days of steam trains and outlaws.
Expanding Steampunk Table Step 3 – Components
Wood is one of the oldest building materials. Trees come in many shapes and sizes, each with their own unique characteristics. Wood is organic and it’s character changes over time as it ages. These changes make everything crafted from wood unique and special.
The wood I selected for this project is from the North American White Fir (Abies concolor). Generally easy to work with, Fir is favored by builders for it’s stability. It has tight and close grain lines that prevent twisting and warping over time. Having an excellent stiffness to strength ratio it is one of the most efficient shipping woods being both light and strong.
Fir is considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a species of least concern. It’s quite populous in the mountainous region of the western United States and has a high sustainability rating.
The wood treatment is called Ghostwood. It’s a custom blend of Old Masters stains that was inspired by the sun bleached deadwood found in the high plains of northeast New Mexico. The staining is a two-part application that requires the wood to first be pickled with a bleaching wipe before the application of a deep penetrating stain. Although great time and patience is spent on the treatment of the wood, the process can produce some wide ranged color variations which make each piece 100% unique.
Once the stain dries the entire surface is finished with a poly acrylic. This process seals in the color and prevents any leaching. The tops of the table receive an additional 3 coats of poly acrylic for a thicker finish and more durable work area.
I used 12 gauge steel baling wire to inlay into the tabletop. I really like the look of metal embedded in wood. Wrapping wood with wire conjures up images of barbed wire and train cars. The straight silver streaks of the wire cut into the wavy opposing grain of the wood. It looks like the wire is holding the wood together, strengthening it against time and the elements.
I’ve worked on this look a lot. It’s so very subtle on the eyes but deep and penetrating on the mind. I often find myself staring off through the baling wire and into the wood grain.
like a LEAF (on the wind)
I looked long and hard to figure out how to fold the leafs of this table without the hardware taking away from the look. Most tables I found had removable leafs or side leafs that flipped up. I found an elegant solution with SOSS inlay hinges. These mortise hinges have 180° of motion and can disappear into the wood.
They are not traditional hinges and quite a bit of fancy routing was needed to set these hinges into the table. I built a jig to fit my plunge router and made sure to test it before cutting into the finished table top.
I used 3/4 in. malleable steel pipe for the legs. It took a lot of trips to Ace Hardware to figure out the legs. In order for the mechanics to work to support this table folded in and out, I had to create quite a few custom parts. A drill press is a must from here on out.
I built the mechanical pivot for the swing out leg out of a 3/4 in. Tee coupled with a 1 in. Tee, a 3-1/2 in. stem, a rubber washer, and a cap.
Next came building the wheel insert pieces. The 3 in. wheels have a 1 in. 5/16 threaded stem. I found some metal threaded star type insert adapter for 1″ OD round tubing with a 5/16 nut. These fit perfectly into the 3/4 in. pipe.
In order for the leaf arm to support the main table when folded in, and the leaf when folded out, I needed an adjustment screw to raise up. I found these great drill press handles from Grizzly Industries and with a little tooling they fit a 5/16 carriage bolt nicely.
Expanding Steampunk Table Step 4 – Final Assembly
I had a lot of concepts for this piece and final assembly was a bit stressful. It’s always tough when incorporating mechanical elements into a piece. A lot of little tweaking is always necessary to get it right. Here’s a time-lapse video of the 1st assembly (took me almost 2hrs):
Steampunk Computer Desk Step 5 – In the space
Here’s a quick video showing how easy it is to roll out and open up:
My Expanding Steampunk Table took some time, some skill, and a lot of patience, but it was totally worth it! I finally have the perfect piece for the not-so-perfect space. Overall, this entire project took me about 3 weeks to complete working a couple hours each week and weekends. I hope that by putting this DIY instructional out into the great interwebs it’ll encourage others to embark on projects of their own, maybe even this one. Please send me your creation if ya do.
Thanks for tuning in,
P.S. If you love the look but might not have the tools and time to do it yourself, I’ve got these tables up for sale on Etsy in two heights (Standard 30 inch & Bar top 40 inch). I can ship it anywhere in the US right now and depending on your particular tastes, I can even customize it.