Charles Rohlfs Inspired Coal Hod Coffee Table

My first woodworking project some thirty years ago was a coffee table for the family room in our first home. My wife wanted a new smaller coffee table for the family room and the first coffee table has now been relegated to the basement.

Well for the new coffee table I decided to base it on Charles Rohlfs 1900 Coal Hod (or coal storage box).

I modified it a bit to make it more functional as a coffee table extending the top beyond the legs. Rohlfs coal hod is about 30 inches wide and 14 inches high. Unlike the original coal hod I did not carve the top. I made the coffee table 24 inches in diameter and 16 inches high.

Every time I build a new piece I want to try something new. In this case the challenge for me, as a novice turner, was to turn the large centre bowl. It is 12 inches high and 19.75 inches in diameter. It is made up of twelve segment rings.

I was concerned about the weight hanging off the end of the lathe so I turned it in three pieces (of four segments each) to reduce the mass and get each segment to its circular shape. Then I glued the three pieces together for the final turning and shaping. My small low budget lathe does not have outboard turning capability, so I want to thank the guys at the Wasaga Beach Woodworkers Club for the use of their lathe.

The coffee table is made from oak and finished with a Lee Valley Fumed Light Oak Analine Dye. The bottom portion is finished with shellac and the top with satin finish urethane and then waxed.

— Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

Woods: oak

Tools: lathe

Tags: charles rohlfs coal hod coffee table


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lightweightladylefty ...


That’s certainly a very clever adaptation. Your wife must be delighted.


shipwright ...

I’m going to quote Steve Palm here Peter.
“Man, you got skills”
What a great idea and what fun is a project if it doesn’t stretch you a little.

Very nice work!

lanwater ...

You do great work.

Thorreain ...

Excellent reproduction. That looks like it took a long time to glue up then turn, but I bet it was a lot of fun.

Woodbridge ...

Thanks for looking and for the comments.

I’d like to make another one of these tables. At the time, I had not done much turning, so I guess what you don’t know can’t hurt you. I had a few guys at the woodworkers club coaching me, but they sure kept a good distance when that bowl was spinning. I wonder if there is an easier way to make such a large bowl..

a1jim ...

wow this is amazing great build.

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Charles Rohlfs Inspired Coal Hod Coffee Table