How to upcycle a cable reel into a coffee table for your garden

I've been DIYing in the garden again and this time I've made an outdoor coffee table using an old wooden cable reel that I found in a skip. Plus, I've created a cosy corner for drinks and chatting outside on my deck (featuring my 'new' coffee table, so here's how I did it...

Some items have been gifted

I’ve been DIYing in the garden again and this time I’ve made an outdoor coffee table using an old wooden cable reel that I found in a skip. Plus, I’ve created a cosy corner for drinks and chatting outside on my deck (featuring my ‘new’ coffee table) so here’s how I did it…

Blimey, garden furniture is expensive, isn’t it? It’s only since I finished installing some decking at the back of our house that I began looking at outdoor furniture options in the garden centre and I was shocked by the prices. I mean, some of those outdoor sofas cost more than an indoor sofa! That can’t be right, can it?

Of course, there was no way that I was going to spend the rest of my garden budget on furniture when I could at least have a go at making some myself. It’s going to be outdoors, so it doesn’t need to be perfect, and I was sure I could DIY something suitable.

If you spotted my blog post last week about the wooden garden benches that my husband and I made from off-cuts of scaffold boards, you’ll know that we’re up for a project, even if it means sanding down wood all day! And it’s these benches that have inspired my next project – the outdoor cable reel table.

When we built the benches, they were for seating around an outdoor scaffold board table (I’ll share this HUGE project soon!) but it wasn’t long before I noticed just how perfectly the benches fitted around the edge of the deck, with the raised beds behind them. They made a gorgeous cosy corner, just right for chilling with a cup of coffee (or a gin!) on a summers evening.

So, I shuffled them into place around a gorgeous charcoal grey checked outdoor rug that I found on The Rug Retailer website. It’s not one of those plastic woven rugs but it IS suitable for using outdoors in all weathers – and indoors too. As you can see from the photo above, Muffin approves of having a carpet outdoors!

The huge rug defines the area to create more of a ‘cosy zone’ seating space – a sort of indoor/outdoor living room. It’s made from none-rotting polypropylene, it’s resistant to UV light so it shouldn’t fade in the sun, and it’s stain-resistant too – perfect for BBQs and outdoor drinks. But even with the rug in place and the benches around the sides, there was still something missing. The space in the centre of the benches was just crying out for a coffee table.

I remember that we’d rescued an old wooden cable reel from a building site earlier this year and I wondered if it would be the right size to use as a coffee table. I rolled it into place and, yes, it was just right! I even liked how the grey lettering on the top of the reel was a similar tone to the stain I used on the scaffold boards.

So, with the intention of keeping the industrial style lettering in place, I set to work on gently cleaning the top and sanding down the edges to make sure the wood was smooth enough to use as a coffee table.

I also decided to add a coat of grey paint to the centre of the reel to make the table top really stand out. We had LOADS of paint left over from the benches as I’d bought a big tub of garden paint because the small tub was £8 and the huge tub was only £9.99 in B&M. So, naturally, I went for quantity!

Even though I can turn the reel on its side to manoeuvre it into place, I decided that castor wheels would make moving it around even easier. I turned the reel over and screwed in four small wheels that I has previously bought from IKEA but had never used in my office as planned.

This cable table was probably the fastest and easiest upcycle I’ve ever done – and it was largely down to keeping most of it ‘as is’, for that industrial look. I hung up some festoon lights around my cosy corner (yes, I’ve been watching too much Love Island again!) to create a soft glow in the evenings.

These lights are proper plug-in outdoor lights rather than solar powered so they give off more light and help to extend the length of time we can spend in the garden in the evenings. And they’re only £10 for a string of 20 bulbs – I used two sets here to span the length of my trellis (which, by the way, we also DIYed but I can’t put every project on my blog now, can I?!)

I also made the area extra cosy with the bench cushions that I got from Wayfair last month and a couple of outdoor cushions that were gifted to me by VonHaus earlier this year.

What do you think of my cosy corner now that it’s complete? I’ve already enjoyed my first drink at my new cable table and it’s just the right height and size for the space. Plus, I can wheel it to one side when we want to turn our rug into an outdoor dance floor!

Let me know how you would upcycle a wooden cable reel if you had one in the comments below. And I’d love to hear about any ways that you’ve saved money on garden furniture yourself – any money-saving hacks would be greatly appreciated 🙂


Some items in this blog post have been gifted to me and the pink links indicate a gifted product, affiliate link or information source. All thoughts and opinions in this post are based on my own experience and I am not responsible for your experience 🙂

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Cassie Fairy
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4 Responses

  1. Hi Joanna, I used a garden stain to paint the centre part of the drum grey and I used a clear wax all over the sanded wood to finish it 🙂 Hope this helps!

  2. Looks awesome! I made a table too, but I used the same type of Casters but locking type

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