My hubby recently helped me refinish a coffee table that I bought from a friend months and months ago. It had a great shape and sturdy legs, but the wood on top was very thin. We tried thinking of ways to support it and finally decided to just rip the top off and start over. We did that in about 3 minutes, only to find that the legs didn't extend fully to the top and were not even with the side pieces. So adding a new top would result in gaps between the legs and top. Frustrated, we stored it on the patio for a few months.
Then for Valentine's Day, the dear hubby announced that he would raise the legs to be even, sand the legs and bottom, and make a new top to my specs. We are not the handiest of wood-working type folks, so this was an adventure. First, he measured the top and bought inexpensive planks to fit. We looked for pieces that were straight, free from cracks and had interesting grain/knots. Remember that wood isn't as wide as it says it is. I don't know why they do that. It's confusing, ie. a 2x4 isn't quite two inches wide. Grrr. We remembered that the hard way. After a couple of return trips to the hardware store, he had six planks and cut them to the same length. Then the dear sanded all the rough edges for many moons until all of the boards were even and smooth as silk. They were a tad uneven from cutting, so sanding with a high-grit paper really helped even things out. After that, he laid them all side by side and attached small pieces of wood vertically with a nail gun to hold the planks together. While he worked on the top, I primed and painted the legs cream and chose a stain for the top. I ended up with Minwax Polyshades Mission Oak. It has polyurethane included, although I don't really think the added poly did much. I ended up buying a separate bottle of polyurethane and giving it two nice coats. Now all we have to do is attach the two pieces. And I love it. It is so big and beautiful and delightfully sturdy for a house full of boys. I also love that it makes such an impact and didn't require a lot of skill to make.