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How to Build a Zinc Tabletop

Evoking pre-World War II metal bar tops that could take a beating, tables finished in zinc develop a charming patina as they age

Evoking pre-World War II bar tops that could take a beating, tables finished in zinc develop a charming patina as they age. We replicated the vintage look by wrapping sheet metal over plywood to make a console table with shapely legs, but this metal finish could just as easily dress up a flea-market find or a table you already have. To build an industrial-style piece, choose a machine-age cast-iron base for less than $75 at online marketplaces and follow these steps to assemble the classic zinc top.

Legs shown: Nipen in gray, $15 each;

Step 1

Attach the Zinc

Photo by James Worrell

Load the caulk gun with heavy-duty construction adhesive, and glue a thin sheet of zinc to the plywood top. Flip the top over, metal side down, and use a utility knife to score the metal along all four edges for an easier fold.

Step 2

Cut the Corners

Photo by James Worrell

Using tin snips, make a diagonal cut in the zinc at each corner, from the metal's outermost point to where the corner of the wood starts. Repeat on all four corners.

Step 3

Bend the Edges

Photo by James Worrell

Flip the piece over so that the metal is on top, and place quick-grip clamps along the edges for a secure hold while the adhesive dries. Then, starting along one side, use the flat 12-inch chisel, covered with a clean cloth or rag, to bend the zinc around the edge of the wood. Help smooth the crease by hitting the edge with a deadblow hammer. When the metal is well creased, glue it to the plywood edge with the adhesive.

Step 4

Wrap the Corners

Photo by James Worrell

To finish a corner, wrap one triangle of zinc around the plywood edge. Wrap the opposing triangle of zinc on top of it and snip off the top triangular piece of metal. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until all four sides and corners of the tabletop are finished.

Step 5

Solder the Corners

Photo by James Worrell

When the soldering gun is hot enough, hold it in your dominant hand and pick up the coil of lead-free solder with your other hand. Place the straight tip of the coil on the rough zinc edge at one corner and touch the tip of the gun to the coil to join the metals. For a smooth and uniform joint, hold for 3 to 4 seconds, then remove the coil before removing the tip of the gun. Repeat on each corner of the table. Use a metal file to even out the corners.