How to Make a Spool Table
Cable spools store wires and cables, and they are often discarded or sold inexpensively once the electric company or cellular tower installers have emptied them. For a dinner-height table, choose a spool that is 29 to 30 inches from end to end. Converting a cable spool into a table is as simple as turning it upright. But some effort with wiping varnish, available at hardware stores, will polish the spool into a smooth, rustic-looking furniture that won’t snag your clothes. Choose a span of several days with clear weather for this project, or work indoors in a well-ventilated area.
Hammer in any loose nails. If some nails are missing, drive glue nails, which are heavy nails coated in hardened glue, into the loose boards to secure the boards. Driving the nails creates heat from friction, which activates the glue on the nails.
Spread out a drop cloth, and turn the spool upright on top of the cloth.
Attach coarse-grit sandpaper to a power sander. Sand every exposed area of the spool until all splinters and rough edges are removed.
Sand the table again with medium-grit sandpaper, and then sand with fine sandpaper.
Wipe off the sanding dust with a clean rag, and vacuum the table’s seams with a hose attachment to remove the last traces.
Put on chemical-resistant or rubber gloves.
Open the wiping oil. Dip a rag into the container, or pour a dinner plate-size pool of oil on the tabletop portion of the spool.
Rub the oil into the wood with the rag, using firm pressure. Cover every exposed surface of the entire spool.
Wipe off the excess oil with a clean rag. Let the oil penetrate and dry for at least 24 hours.
Sand the whole table by hand with fine-grit sandpaper, and then wipe and vacuum off the dust.
Brush a heavy coat of oil onto the spool. Sand the table by hand with ultrafine-grit sandpaper, working the oil into the wood with the sandpaper. If the oil begins to soak in or dry, apply more oil to keep the sandpaper lubricated.
Wipe off the excess oil and dust with a rag, and let the table dry for 24 hours.
Sand more oil into the spool, wipe it off and let it dry for 24 hours every day for the next three or four days, until the table develops the smoothness and sheen that you desire. Let the spool dry for 48 hours after the final coat of oil is wiped off.
Spread out a clean drop cloth, and turn the table upside-down on top of the cloth.
Oil and sand the bottom of the table as you did the exposed areas, or brush on oil-based polyurethane to seal the wood. If you use polyurethane, let it dry for at least 24 hours before turning the spool table upright.
- Attach four rolling casters or adjustable feet to the bottom of the table, if desired.
- If you can’t devote time to achieving an oiled finish, sand the spool and then apply paint or oil-based polyurethane.
- Wrap the center pillar with thick rope for a nautical look.
- Dress up the outer edge of the tabletop portion of the spool by wrapping it with copper flashing.
- Spools can be very heavy, and they can roll away from you. Ask a helper to assist with moving yours.
- Unless your spool is brand new, it has likely been outdoors for a long time. It may retain moisture. Let the wood dry, preferably in the sun, until it no longer feels cool and damp to the touch.
Carole Oldroyd, a writer based in East Tennessee, has authored numerous DIY home improvement, Human Resources, HR and Law articles. In addition to holding a degree in paralegal studies, she has more than 10 years of experience renovating newer homes and restoring historic property.
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