Coffee Table



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Several Main Street Platforms have been built as Coffee Tables and posted to the Olszewski Website and each of them influenced my design.  My thanks to the designers of these other tables – you were an inspiration to me and I can appreciate how much work goes into designing and building your work.   



I wanted the “Street” to be up as high as possible so that you are looking down at the platform as little as possible and you are able to see a Street level view as much as you can.  This is clearly a problem with Coffee Table designs since they can’t be more than about 18” high.  I also wanted as much free space underneath the platform as possible to make room for your feet.  I wanted to have the Table relatively close to the couches and still provide comfortable seating positions for everyone so foot room was a must.  The combination of the above produced the following dimensions: 


          From the ground to the bottom of the Table = 6"

          The 1x6 Oak Sides as they wrap around = 5 1/2"

          The 1x6 Oak sides at the South/Entrance side = 4 1/2"

          The Plexiglas Top Height (Outside Dimension) = 6 7/8"

          The Starfire Clear Tempered Glass Top = 3/8"

          Total height of the Coffee Table = 17 3/4"



The Plexiglas/Glass top cover: 


I wanted the top cover to be 100% clear.  I didn’t want any wood or steel to block any part of the view into the Main Street Platform.  A 100% Tempered Glass top wasn’t very feasible because A) the glues that hold the glass pieces together aren’t transparent, B) the glues aren’t reliable enough for boxes of this size/use, and C) I couldn’t find anyone to build one for me.  A 100% Plexiglas cover wouldn’t work because it scratches too easily and between the parties, kids, dogs, and cats the Coffee Tables in my house get a lot of abuse.  So, the local Tapp Plastics vendor convinced me that a hybrid design was my only reasonable option. 


Click to EnlargeI had Armando at American Plastics build a special Plexiglas top for me that was 6 ½” (Inside Dimension) high.  He charged a bit extra for the special build but it was worth it – they’re still the best bargain in the country for this kind of construction.  I had Wilson Glass in Berkeley build a 3/8”, Starphire Clear (low Iron), Tempered Glass top with holes drilled into the corners.  This sheet of glass is placed atop the Plexiglass top.  I then used four ¾” Low-Profile Brass Standoff Caps to attach the Glass top to the Plexiglas case.  You can see one of them in this photo.


Note:  Don’t try to drill holes into Plexiglas – it might shatter.  Instead use a Dremel with a cutter bit to create the holes.  And be careful, the American Plastics tops aren’t 100% straight or square – mine is about 1/8” off square at the corners and bows out 1/16” in the middle, so a few extra measurements might save you a ton of grief if you're expecting the Plexiglas to be square. 


The result is very scratch resistant and looks good.  The Tempered Crystal Clear Glass top is (virtually) bullet proof and will tolerate about any kind of use it will get in our house.  It's already survived dogs jumping on it, kids falling on it, plates scratching it, spilled dips sliming it, laptops dropped on it - you can't imagine the abuse it gets.  The good news is that it is a wonderful place to entertain.  It’s somewhat heavy – the hybrid top weighs over 100 pounds.  I'm guessing that the complete table weight somewhere in the range of 300 pounds.


The Platform: 


There are two fundamental issues with the Platform to address: First, I don't know if it's a general problem, but my platform warpped.  It's warped about 3/16” down in the middle even though it has never been supported by its ends.  If you look at the construction you’ll see that the platforms are built using fairly light weight structural materials (so it could be shipped), so it’s not surprising that this can happen.  It can be a serious issue if you need your top to fit snugly and without gaps all the way around the platform.  I decided to add extra support to prevent future warping. 


And second, if you use the Plexiglas top on the Platform base as shipped from the artist you’ll notice that the top can slide “North” very easily.  The Gallery was the first to discover that if you press on the top with very much force in a Northward direction (from the front gate towards the Castle) the top will slide back and sheer off the turnstiles, the Disneyland Sign, and anything else ahead of the Train Station not to mention scraping the paint in those areas.  That happened in the Gallery when a guest tripped on the stairs and stopped their fall by pressing against the Platform top - and that would certainly happen in my house with all those kids/dogs/etc.  The Platform needs additional construction to prevent this from happening. 

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I made two changes to the platform to address the issues.  First, although I didn’t want to add any height to the platform, I ended up installing a ¾” marine grade plywood sheet to cover the bottom and provide a stable “foundation” for the platform (this is actually part of the base).  Second, I wrapped the platform sides with clear/straight 1x6” Oak that added substantial strength, extended down to cover the ¾” plywood bottom, and extended up to the top of the platform to prevent the top from sliding.  This also covered up the gap between the platform and the Plexiglas top caused by the warping.  


The 1x6 Oak was attached using screws and glue and drain channels were cut in the inside of the 1x6 to allow liquids to drain out when someone spills a drink on the table (and I sealed the platform so that liquids could not seep back into the street).  The solution was low profile, relatively easy to install, and preserves the overall look and feel the artist intended for the Platform. 


Click to EnlargeThree of the electronic sub-systems are attached to the Platform in the 2.5” space under the street.  The Train Power Supply and Controller, the Lighting Power Supply, cables, and controller, and provisions for the Electrical Parade Roadbed are all attached to the Platform structure.  The Three power cords for each of the three Platform based electronic sub-systems are used to connect the Platform to the Base unit.   


The Base:   

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The Platform unit and the Base unit screw together in a “Clam shell” form.  The five electronic subsystems, three in the Platform and two on the Base, are laid out such that they peacefully coexist with each other without interference.   


I’ve already mentioned the ¾” plywood sheet placed underneath the Platform acting as the foundation of the structural improvements.  That’s actually the top of the base unit.  The legs of the table screw into the base and are designed to come off or be replaced if, someday, we decide to use the platform in some other setting.  The Legs are 6” square with molding around their base with a cavity left for the wheels.  The wheels extend ½” below the bottom of the leg moldings to enable rolling on carpets (I wish I’d have extended them down more like ¾” because the table rolls with some difficulty on our carpets).  


Two of the electrical sub-systems are built into the base.   


1.      The Audio Sub-system is built into the base.  As mentioned earlier, the powered speakers, the MP3 player, and (that irritating) MP3 charger circuitry is built into the base unit and is directly attached to the ¾” plywood foundation.


2.      AC power switching and distribution is also built into the base.  Power comes into the table near one of the legs.  The power is then routed through a 4 amp circuit breaker and then four switches concealed under the base unit.  These four switches control the four major electrical sub-systems; Lights, Trains, Audio, and (future) Electrical Parade Roadbed.  The switches power a set of receptacles that provide switched AC power to the Base mounted Audio sub-system and the three Platform based sub-systems.  The fourth receptacle on the Base is always on – I use it to power my laptop when I’m working in on the Coffee Table. 


Bottom View:


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From the bottom you can see the Heavy Duty wheels, the Black Speakers on each end, the MP3 player to the left of the leftmost speaker, the four switches on the upper left corner, the hole to connect the Platform (upper) Unit electrical plugs into the base unit sockets, and that silvery plate is the vent for cooling the upgraded lighting power supply.


I would highly recommend this coffee table design to anyone considering the effort required.  It’s relatively easy to implement, provides substantial extra strength to the platform, provides a comfortable environment for guests and their feet, and most importantly showcases the artistry of Olszewski in a very compelling way.   Maybe someday we can convince someone to produce a “kit” version of a Coffee Table design both with and without the electronics?   


Bruce Richards