You ever wonder how craftsmen make those hoity-toity nature tables with tiny bodies of water flowing through them? Turns’ out, there’s no water involved. As former NFL lineman turned furniture maker, John Malecki, shows, all you need is some glass, some metal, and a good slab o’ wood.

How to Make a River Table

John starts off by breaking apart a beautifully massive slice of walnut using his beam saw. The two parts he cuts will form the tabletop which houses the sheet of glass “river” of this river table–and it’s a big table.

walnut glass river table

Before getting to the glass part though, he planes the two slabs of wood to an even thickness. Without a large enough CNC milling machine for this, John sets up a makeshift router jig, making passes on both sides of the wood. Seems arduous, doesn’t it? Yet, the end result looks just as good as if he used a CNC machine.

walnut glass river table

Getting a piece of sheet glass to fit perfectly between to pieces of wood requires an outline of the wood gap. He draws the inlay area on the wood followed transferring it to a large sheet of paper. He again transfers the paper template to 1/4″ Lauan plywood and takes it to the glass company for the glass to be cut.

walnut glass river table

While the glass is being cut, he sands the wood and finalizes the shape of the table using a beam saw, track saw, and finally with an old-fashioned hand saw.

walnut glass river table

More importantly, the waiting time allows him to make the metal base for the table. That John–You can tell how ecstatic he is about this part since he gets to show off his brand new geared head bandsaw before moving to a carbide-tipped metal cutting saw.

walnut glass river table

The extruded metal tubes are cut then filed to fit before welded together. The finished table base is then taken to paint for a powder coat, polish, and clean.

walnut glass river table

Now that the glass has returned, John delicately fits the sheet to the walnut slab. First, he checks it against the outline, marks it and makes a shallow cut to inlay the glass.

walnut glass river table

The process pays off–the glass fits like a glove between the walnut slabs.

walnut glass river table

John proceeds to add the finishing touches on the table, using Rubio Monocoat to give the wood a colorful finish and countersunk threads fit with epoxy to connect the table to the metal base.

John is self-taught and has a whole YouTube channel dedicated to his love of furniture crafting and metalwork, so be sure to give it a look for more of his wonderful creations.

Author

Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.