Wednesday, January 9, 2013

DIY: Suitcase table

Sometimes, projects can evolve from one idea...into something completely different.  This is what happened to me when my aunt gave me this suitcase. 

I used this suitcase at my cousin's wedding to collect cards on the gift table. You can see it here.  I fell in love with it.  From the lilac satin interior, brass accents on the handle and locks... the "Lady Baltimore" signature...I loved it all.   

I asked my aunt if I could have the suitcase because I wanted to make a dog bed for Jada.  I know...what? I was inspired by this idea, but soon realized the suitcase was way too small for her.  At the same time, I was looking...and looking...and looking for a new bedside table.  I LOVE his and hers mismatched bedside tables.  I had already found the perfect table for Jason, but I was having a bit more trouble finding one for me.  Finally, as I was shifting around stuff in my storage room, I put the suitcase on top of a tray table and realized that the perfect solution to my problem had been sitting in my storage room the whole time.  

So, I got to work- with a little help from my very understanding husband, who usually responds "You want to make what?", when I ask him for his help : )  I guess what is important is that he does help...eventually.    


I am not including any dimensions or sizes because the sizes you need will depend on how large your suitcase is and the width of your balusters. 

  • 4 poplar stair balusters
  • 4 hangar bolts 
  • 4 washers 
  • 4 nuts
  • 1 piece of 3/4" mdf (I chose mdf because I knew I wanted the table to be white.  You can use wood or veneered plywood if you are planning on staining the shelf)
  • spade drill bit
  • painter's tape
  • socket wrench
  • pencil
  • straight edge
  • wood glue
  • small dowel
  • rubber mallet
  • level


1. The first thing we did was cut down the balusters with a miter saw.  We cut them at the most tapered point of the leg, right above the decorative curve.   We measured the height of the suitcase and subtracted it from the 29" height we were wanting the table to be.  We then cut the other end of the balusters, leaving us with 4 - 20 1/2" long legs. 

2. We then cut two identical pieces of mdf.  One would be inside the suitcase- the legs would be screwed into this piece to add weight to the table and also steady the legs and make them more stable.  The other piece would be used for the shelf.

We measured the inside of the suitcase and cut the pieces to fit inside the suitcase snugly.  The corners of the suitcase were rounded so we cut the piece a 1/2" smaller to compensate for this.  

3. We marked the position of the legs using a pencil and straight edge on both pieces of mdf.  We chose to have them 2" inside of each corner. Jason drilled the holes through the bottom of the suitcase and then through the first mdf board.  This piece of mdf will be the one that goes inside of the suitcase. 

On the second piece of mdf, we used a 1" spade bit to make the holes for the legs.  Even though these holes are much larger, if you use the same measurements and drill in the center of the 2" marking, the legs will line up.

4.The next step is to drill into the squared end of the legs, and then screw in the "wood screw" side of the hangar bolt into the top of the leg. (Sorry...I don't have a picture of this).  Just make sure that you screw straight into the leg so that the bolt will be at a 90 degree angle to the leg. 

5. Now you can attach your legs.  Place each bolt through the suitcase and the mdf. Secure the legs with a washer and nut.

Your table should look like this-

6. Now, add your shelf.  Coat the inside of each hole with wood glue.  The legs should be straight, so just slide the shelf onto the legs slightly tapping as you go with the rubber mallet.  Use the level to make sure the shelf is level when it reaches the point it will not move any further down. You could stop here, if you are not planning on having anything heavy on this shelf.  Jason knows me better, so he added a pin to each leg to make sure the shelf could not move. 

He drilled a small hole parallel to the shelf into each leg.  He then tapped in a dowel (that was coated with glue) of the same diameter into the hole. These pins can not be seen when the table is sitting upright.  They just add a little more security to the shelf. 

7. Now, for the finishing touches.  I knew I wanted to paint the table with a glossy white, but I wanted to protect all of the cool details of the suitcase.  I used painter's tape very carefully.  You want to take a lot of care that you do not over-tape or under-tape - it creates a lot more work for you later.  Then paint away. 

8. I primed the shelf and legs and then sprayed everything with Krylon glossy white paint.  Do not be surprised if you need to do many coats on the shelf.  The mdf soaks up the paint, but it does allow a super smooth finish in the end.

And now you are done.  Pull off all of that tape and you have a beautiful and one-of-a-kind table that can be used for a side table or a night stand or even an entryway.  The possibilities are endless.

 Of course, I chose a bedside table...

Have fun making your own suitcase table!

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