The Intentional Apartment: Make an Industrial Side Table

Similar tables go for hundreds of dollars. Make one yourself for much, much less.

Coming up with your own furniture is a smart and fun way to put your place together without spending next month's food allowance. Furniture that is any step beyond Ikea starts to get expensive – fast. And, building your own produces something in your apartment you can be proud of. It also allows you to put together a cohesive style on a budget.

If someone in their 20's has a side table at all there's a good chance it's the LACK from Ikea. They're modern and they run about $10. Hard to beat it. Unfortunately they're a simple, ‘flat' design, and just like wearing a t-shirt with a brand name on it, everyone knows where you got it.

So instead, we'll put together our own for a relatively cheap price. The greatest thing about this project is that the ‘hardest' part is screwing in some screws. Even if you live in a tiny apartment without many tools, you can still pull this off with ease.

First, let's take a look at some similar tables on the market that I used as inspiration.

Click on each if you'd like more info.

The prices are pretty nuts, right? Even if I was earning half a million dollars a year, I can't imagine spending $700 on a tiny little side table. Ah well, to each their own I suppose.

Here's the one I came up with. It's sturdy, unique, and has only a few parts.

diy industrial side table

You can pick up all the components at Home Depot and the like, or your local hardware.

Here's What You'll Need

industrial table diy

Some of the parts seem expensive, especially the floor flanges at $6 a pop. I'm glad I'm not paying to run piping through a house.

Odds & ends you'll need:

  • Screws with a head wide enough to not go through the flange, with a body short enough that it won't go through the other side of the table.
  • Something to color the wood. I used stain that I had leftover from my dresser renovation. It's only a few bucks, but you can also make your own like I did for my giant map frame.
  • Polyurethane to protect the wood from water marks.
  • Felt stickers or something similar to put on the bottoms of the feet so they don't scratch your floors.

Step 1: Screw the 3 Legs Together

Start by screwing one of the 12″ pipes into a flange. Get it as tight as you can with your hands. (Which, by the way, will turn black from the pipes. Wear work gloves if you have them, and try to not to get your table top dirty.)

Add a 45° connector, then another 12″ pipe. In the photo above my second pipe is shorter, but I decided to use 12″ pipes for both ends to make the table the right height.

Then attach the second 45° connector that acts as a foot.

Step 2: Find the Center of the Table Top

We need to find the center of the table top so we can correctly position the 3 flanges. To do this, I utilized aspects of Thales Theorem. I created two right-angle triangles and where the hypotenuses intersect is the center of the circle. Yeah, math!

To get the right angles, I simply used a sheet of paper.

Step 3: Place and Attach the Flanges

Now that we have the center of the circle, position the 3 flanges in a triangle with your center mark in the middle of it. (Pipes removed from flanges for illustration.) Screw your screws in the holes of the flanges to attach the legs. You'll need to support them while you do this, or the first screw will rip out of the wood from the weight of the steel.

Step 4: Stain

There are lot of options here, depending on what sort of style you want to go for. I went with a dark rich stain color that I had left over called Kona. If you use the homemade stain from the map project above, you'll get a weathered look.

Before you begin, however, sand the top and edge of the wood to get a smooth surface.

Staining wood is super simple: Brush on in the direction of the grain; wait up to 15 minutes then wipe off the excess; repeat until you achieve the desired darkness. From there, you'll want to apply 2-3 coats of polyurethane to protect against water rings, which is applied similarly: When the stain is dry, wipe the polyurethane on with a rag or foam brush in the direction of the grain in a thin coat. Allow 2 hours to dry and apply another coat. Let the polyurethane dry completely before using the table.

If you've never worked with stain or polyurethane don't be intimidated – it's really as simple as that.

You could also choose to paint it for a different style entirely. Spray paint would work great for this.

Step 5: Mix an Old Fashioned & Enjoy


If you make one I'd love to see it! Send me a picture and I'll add it in.

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.

  • max

    where do you find a table top?

    • Patrick H.
      • Michael E. Wheat

        none near me. Any other place to get it?

        • Andrew

          Any hardware with a wood section, lumberyard, or larger craft stores will have them. If all else fails, you can use 1×4 boards and make a square table.

        • sojoyo

          Lowe’s had 18″ and 15″ versions available near me.

    • sojoyo

      Lowe’s had 18″ and 15″ versions.

  • TJ

    This is really cool. I will definitely be making this. How would something like this fair outside on a screened in porch?

    • John S

      If you’re going to have this outside, I’d recommend using galvanized pipe instead. It’s a bit more expensive, but will hold up better. Also, consider using a “spar urethane” as your protective clear coat (Minwax is one brand).

  • Paul

    Where do we find the piping parts?

    • Andrew

      Home Depot or your local hardware will have them.

  • John S

    One thing you could also do is add 3/4″ plugs to the bottom of each leg. This will give you a flat surface to attach floor-saving felt to and a degree of adjustment to account for an uneven floor.

    • Andrew

      Great idea!

  • Clent

    I’ve always wanted a coffee table in this style. It probably wouldn’t be too difficult to come up with something that would match this side table.

    • Adam

      Ironically I built a coffee table in this style right before this article came out. Since I had to “build” the top for it, it took me a few weekends to complete, but pretty straight forward.

    • Rob Dc

      I agree. Perhaps a follow up article is in order!

  • Ron

    If you’re going to be staining and applying polyurethane, don’t follow the instructions provided here. Look at the instructions on whatever you buy. Leaving stain in for 15 min is around the max time and will give you a really dark wood color. Typically leaving the stain in for ~5 min will do the trick. If you need it darker, you can always add another coat of stain. Also if you “rub the polyurethane,” you need to make sure you’re buying “wipe on” poly and not one that requires you to use a brush.

  • Austin

    I stained my table with tung oil and have been very pleased. Environmentally friendly, it lasts longer than stain from your local hardware store. I highly suggest you do your research on it and see for yourselves.

  • Casey Gooding

    As a furniture maker, I would like to chime in on a few comments on the finishing aspect of this project. If you choose a stain like Minwax leaving it on for several minutes will be fine. I would not leave it for 15 as suggested. If you want it darker, multiple coats would be better. Better yet, buy a quality stain like General Finishes (Minwax is mostly Mineral Spirits with a bit of color added). Higher quality stains work best with a wipe on, wipe off approach.
    Oak stains better than pine or poplar. It takes the stain more evenly as the latter both tend to blotch. Just make sure you get the stain into the pores.
    If you choose polyurethane, almost any method of application will work. I prefer to rag it on then wipe off. It takes more coats but you are nearly assured of a smooth finish without the runs and brush marks. Consider thinning it with mineral spirits to make wiping easier.
    Just FYI- Tung oil is not a stain. It is considered a finish. Unless Austin bought 100% pure tung oil, chances are the finish contained little to no actual tung oil. Just like the stain, most brands available at home centers are mostly mineral spirits with a few other ingredients. If you choose this approach, let the oil soak in for 15 minutes or so and wipe off. I would not recommend this over stain, however.
    This would be a fun project and something to be proud of.
    Happy Building!

    • Andrew


  • SB

    Any ideas for sourcing a coffee table sized table top?

    I can put the hardware together and stain it, but don’t have the tools or skills to make a table top. Basically I’m looking for the same table top as described in the article, but 2.5′ x 4′, Online Home Depot searches haven’t yielded anything.

  • zmac

    Could you use the same materials to make a high top outdoor bar/bistro table? I’d love to put something like this on my patio, but am curious if longer pipe would make it unstable.

    • Andrew

      You definitely can. Actually, my original design had 8″ pipes that connected to the 45° connectors on the bottom of this one. I took those off because it was too high, but would be a great size for an outdoor table.

  • Phil Hamer

    Really cool! I love the intentional apartment articles!

  • Curtis

    Awesome idea – Please keep this more and make more of these! I’ll be making mine soon. 🙂

  • Mark Steinhauer

    In the write up you mention the pipes will make your hands black. How do you clean the pipes so they wont get your apartment dirty? I have carpets and don’t want to have black spots at the base of each leg.

    • Andrew

      It’s more the pipes than the connectors (that touch the floor), but wiping them down with soap and water takes most of it off.

      • Mark Steinhauer

        Great! Thank you!

  • thom

    How sturdy are these table? Could the same method be use to make a stool or possibly a dinning room table?

    • Andrew

      Quite sturdy, it could be done for either of those I think.

  • Ryan N

    Not to mention, when you move, this would pack up FAR easier than most of the tables listed above..

  • Doug Cherner

    Made it last weekend. Turned out great!

    Couple of notes:
    -I did 3 coats of polyurethane but 2 would probably have been fine.
    -Also did 3 coats of stain wiping off after letting sit for ~5 minutes. The color is Onyx by miniwax.

    • Andrew

      Looks great!!! Thanks for sharing the picture.

  • Jordo

    I used goo gone to clean the pipes with an old rag and then just wiped them down with a clean one. It took all the grease off of the pipes. Any degreaser should work just fine. Table turned out great though! The only change I may make is adding some 4″ extensions to the bottom. If I had utilized all that trig they taught me in college, I could have figured out this is a little shorter than I’d like.

  • MikeB

    Live in the Northeast (CT) and Home Depot’s around here don’t carry the same pine table top (as others have noted). However, Lowe’s does have an 18″ one that worked just as well.

  • TyLo

    I enjoyed this DIY, although it took me several days to get it all treated and put together. I like the end product alot. I also went with the 18″ tabletop from lowes, and used two coats of espresso stain (I wanted it dark but could have went a little lighter), and two coats of semi gloss poly. I could also see this same design being used for a rolling clothes rack, coffee table, etc. I just cleaned my pipes with paper towels and windex and used WD40 on each attachment. My only gripe is the pieces only screwed together one way so my feet connectors are kind of loose when you pick it up off the floor but not a big deal. No big tips really, just patience. I had to buy everything new for this project and spent about $100, but worth the investment I think. Really enjoy these DIY’s so keep ’em coming!

    • Zachariah

      How tall does the overall table end up being? Looks great BTW.

      • TyLo

        Exactly, I’ll have to measure later, but I would guess around 3-3.5′. I use it for my laptop when I’m on the couch for reference. Thanks

  • D Cannon

    Anyone having luck finding this tabletop? All the HD near me (or even 100+mi away) are sold out…

    • TyLo

      I had to go to Lowes. Ace Hardware might have some also.

  • Jonathan

    I just finished my version of this. I loved the idea of it but i needed it to be a little more useful with my situation. I turned it into a lamp as well as an end table. the cost doubled since there were alot more piece of pipe and all the electrical required, but for a 1 off piece that i can say i made, that is practical and looks sweet. ill take it!

    I look forward to more articles like this.

    • Jonathan
      • Andrew

        Very niiiiiiiice! I love the lights!

      • Enoch

        Man that is so pimp. Well done sir, well done.

    • Rob Dc

      Wow, that’s perfect. You will have to email me how you did the flag display… amazing…

      • Jonathan

        it was 3 sheets of galvanized sheet metal i got from home depot, some red and blue paint i picked up from either walmart or autozone and alot of tape and measuring. if i was to do it again… i would try to find stars stickers about the right dimensions that would fit the size i want.

        The frame is reclaimed lumber from a barn i got off craigslist. i ran a circular saw down the center to give it a groove to slide the sheetmetal into. [email protected] if you have any other questions

        • Rob Dc

          Thanks a lot buddy. It helps bigtime that my side-hustle is home depot haha.

        • Andrew

          Awesome, thanks for sharing, I was curious too.

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  • Luly444lou

    thanks for the idea, i bought 2 round table tops and needed inspiration in what to do with them, ha ha i just found it. will send pic when finish

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  • drew

    Bought silver pipes (instead of black) and didn’t paint them. Kept the stain light and made for a nice look, I think.

    • Andrew

      I dig it! Thanks for sharing!

  • MrsPena

    So much cheaper if you buy the pipes on eBay. Got my table tops from homedepot for 4.88 on sale 🙂 great post looking forward to finishing the product.

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  • Enoch

    Thanks a lot for this post and the inspiration. I live in Dubai and couldn’t find the old school plumbing pipes/fittings unfortunately, so I had to just go with straight pieces and had them welded together. For the table top, I couldnt find round pieces for sale (DIY is not common here) so i found some scrap pieces of pine at a furniture factory and had them cut to size. I gave them a base coat of white, then topped them with a coat of navy blue which matched my accent wall color. Immediately after painting them blue, i wiped the wet paint with a rag to give them the faded “old barn” look. Very pleased with the results.

    • Andrew

      Turned out awesome!! Thanks for sharing the photo!

  • Scott Fish

    I found this design after looking for a cool affordable table for awhile – and finally found this and made a table as well. Used black steel pipes, a pre-made wooden circle, and navy stain for an entryway table. Cost just over $81.

    • Andrew

      Looks great Scott! The navy is a nice change. Thanks for sharing the picture!

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  • Chris

    I just made a pair of these! I’m really pleased with how they turned out. It ended up costing me $100 per table- I live in Hawai’i, which explains a good bit about why all the parts were a little more expensive.

    I used one coat of stain, which I left on for about 7 minutes. I didn’t want to do a second coat because it was exactly the color I wanted. Two coats of polyurethane and I was good to go! I also put a coat of polyurethane on the legs, especially the joints. That really stabilized the feet, which were a little loose.

    • Andrew

      They look great!!! Thanks for sharing your photos!

  • Bullet Tooth Tony

    If it is OK to add my two cents:

    I would suggest trying to find a top with a different edge to really button up the custom look: a reverse miter or reverse bevel.

    …or if it can be managed, maybe a flat nose wrapped in a steel edge would be really nice

  • Lee LaPosta

    I happened upon your wonderful blog when I was browsing for some industrial furniture ideas! I knew right away I had to make this perfect little side table! Thanks so much for the most awesome idea ever!
    (P.S. I had a local carpenter supply me the 17″ round as there are no Lowe’s within 100 km’s who had stock of them).

  • Mike

    Way late to the party on this, but I took some inspiration from the headboard and built the table top out of Oak 1×4 and used a sabre saw to make it (roughly) round. Haven’t gotten it on legs yet, but I’m really happy with how it’s turned out so far.