Session 1 – Metal and Wood Coffee Table

Project WEST - Ryan welding

Project WEST – Weld Experience Support Training

Learn all about the Project WEST model HERE. Then come right back and read about our build.

Build Session 1 – Metal and Wood Coffee Table. This is a collaborative project uniting some seemingly unconnected elements. The concept for this build is simple: Everyone involved benefits. A crazy idea, I know, so here it goes:

The 3 elements involved:

The Student:

Ryan Moore. He just turned 18 this year which means he’s straight out of High School.

Ryan’s dad works with my husband and I. Through his dad we’ve learned his interest in classic cars. He was interested enough to come watch us working on our project truck. He’s come over to lend a hand and both Mike and I liked his open personality and willingness to learn.

In January 2020 he started his first level Welding at Thompson Rivers University here in Williams Lake, BC.

The Mentor:

Hopefully, you know me. This is my website. I am a Red Seal Welder and have been for 12 years now. A desire to evolve my career path beyond the status quo has fuelled this and many other projects. For the full long story, My About page is over HERE.

The Non-Profit:

It’s safe to say I chose the non-profit for this first build. Williams Lake & District Daycare Centre. On a crazy whim I pitched a vague idea for this build to someone I knew would at least listen, the director of the daycare organization. She did not let me down. Her initial excitement really fuelled me. Without her, my self doubts could have sunk the whole concept.

With my son and both parents trying to work full time in industry, the struggels of the childcare sector in BC has hit close to home. When I talked with Ryan about the plan for this project, his interest was, understandably, the welding experience.

So, to streamline the process and get Linda’s help with her fundraising experience, I needed to choose this daycare if anything was ever going to get off the ground.

Ideally, it would be a more collaborative decision between the mentor and mentee.

So what are we going to build?

Wood and Steel Coffee Table

Build plans for this incredible coffee table are from Jen Woodhouse.

Metal and Wood Coffee Table - iso plain

I want a project that will unite good fabricating techniques – a little challenging – with lots of welding. Something that will be a beautiful finished piece generating lots of interest.

I have been inspired by these carpenter ladies before, and have saved loads on building some furniture while getting physical and mental exercise dabbling in wood builds. My favourite 3 are:

Ana White. Jen Woodhouse. Shanty 2 Chic.

Don’t worry – I love metal too much to give it up.

Session 1 – Metal and Wood Coffee Table

With her table in mind, I drew out a plan using some selvaged material I already have. Some 1 1/2″ x 3/4″ x 1/16″ galvanized square tubing.

Today we cut some material for the long front and back pieces. We talk about cut off saw set up. Mostly the importance of making sure the material is level as well as square to the blade.

Ryan’s question: Which way is the correct way to cut metal shapes?

I know this one. It depends on what outcome you want. Let’s talk about flat bar for example: If you want a nice square cut, lay it down horizontally. This is assuming you check periodically the squareness of the vise. But, if you want a quick cut, set it in the saw vise vertically. Sometimes the blades of a bandsaw or cut-off-saw can flex or wander, creating an off-square cut.

I mis-measured. Shit. I don’t actually have enough material for all 4 side pieces.

It happens.

It might actually be a good thing though. I’m worrying this whole time about welding galvanized steel. Having the talk about respirators and then that health and safety responsibility… I’m not feeling good about that…

We carry on and tack the front and back long skinny rectangles. We still have time today to work and I don’t want to just shut the day down.

metal and wood coffee table - exploded

Right away in this first Session I am learning to work with a new personality and these little bits of time between explaining a step and watching from a respectful distance as they complete the step about having time to think what’s next and the best way to explain or show that.

I want Ryan to get lots of hands on time and it’s balancing that with also trying to give some information, but not too much and a little demo of each step.

wood and metal coffee table - rectangles

Ryan jokes, “These will be our practice ones.” and his optimism is, honestly, keeping me from crying.

He is teaching me determination and grit in Session 1!

So, instead, we talk about the importance of level AND square while we consider welding smaller shapes together to make this material work for our project.

Levelling AND squaring our project section will create a 3 dimensionally square object. It could be square but kinked. Or it could be level but a trapezoidal shape. Both situations would not create a nice squared final ‘cube’.

Here’s how we did it:

wood and metal coffee table - level and square \

Because we are working on an uneven concrete surface, we make sure to level the frame on both X and Y axis using 2 levels positioned perpendicularly as in the graphic.

Then we measure from one corner to the diagonally opposite corner, and switch diagonally opposite corners. As long as the measurements are the same, it is square.

wood and metal coffee table - level and square /

Thats it for Session 1 – Metal and Wood Coffee Table. We sweep and wrap up equipment and put away tools. A bit of a slow start to Session 1, but we are both excited and Ryan is asking some really good questions. His easy, upbeat attitude of these being ‘our practice ones’ is really saving me from just turning off the lights and abandoning the whole project.

I am wrestling with myself about just going with Jen Woodhouses’ plans. Again, the need to simplify the process to get going is actually going to be more helpful to everyone, and that is staying true to the goal.

I decide to go buy 1” x 1” x 1/8″ square tubing and call in the order. The end result needs to be something we are proud of. The confidence I feel after making that decision tells me it was right.

I need to get over whatever mixed feelings I have about using someone else’s plans.

Stay Awesome,


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