Coffee Table Project

I've always enjoyed woodworking, though I confess myself an amateur at the craft. I made some furniture out of plywood in college. While not finely finished, it was all quite durable (in fact I still use my old entertainment center as a woodworking bench). I decided that I wanted to improve my skills a bit by trying something a little more difficult. We needed a coffee table and I could never find one that I really liked. I found a coffee table plan from Rockler in a magazine advertisement that really intrigued me. The coffee table has a lift built in that you buy from Rockler that raises the top up for a work surface. Since I do a lot of work on my computer, this seemed perfect for us!
I had a pretty good idea what I was getting into when I started, but it was still a pretty involved project. The coffee table design is, in my opinion, a pretty difficult skill level. It makes some use of all the essential woodworking techniques. You have to make a lot of intricate cuts, dado (a lot), create a variety of tight-fitting joints, and make drawers with dovetailing. The good news is that the plan is very well written with a lot of diagrams and I don't think I could have built this without it. All the measurements seemed to work out (or at least I'm not good enough to notice if they didn't...). After all the work, I think I got a pretty good education about how to make furniture.
I selected red oak instead of the cherry that the plan called for, but otherwise stuck to the plan as much as I could. As an engineer, I knew to measure very carefully and, as a result, had very accurate table saw cuts. The main things I struggled with were the fitting up of all the sub-assemblies. It's very easy to get something that is not perfectly straight and that makes the next steps tougher. I got through with descent results somewhat by shear luck and was also able to hide any imperfections with the trim and a lot of sanding (coarse sand paper is the amateur woodworker's best friend). The main lesson learned is to go very carefully and check the squareness of assemblies carefully before the glue dries. The other part I struggled with was the staining. I'm still not sure if there is any better way to do it. The stain application tends to be very uneven. Multiple coats helped but it's not perfect. Some of it is inherent to the wood. There are also pre-stain treatments that I did not use. I found very mixed opinions online about whether they were worth using or not. In the end, I spent about 3 months working in my spare time on it, probably totaling about 60 hours overall. The table is very solid and very functional. The lift seems solid to me and the oak top is heavy enough that it stays fully open and shut without any extra weights. The bolts on the brackets were a little bit loose so I put rubber plumbing gaskets under the heads like a washer to make everything nice and tight.
There are many small flaws but I am very proud of my accomplishment! It was a great learning experience and I feel better about trying more things in the future (maybe on my own without a professional design plan). With the help of this design plan, I think this coffee table a good project for anyone who is comfortable with tools and has the patience to work carefully at each step.