A simple garden table

Posted by jerry on May 15th, 2005 — Posted in Woodwork

Simple garden table

With the timber from the old gum tree that was partly burnt during the Canberra bushfires outside the front of our house now nearly ready for use, I thought I’d better start thinking about table structures. One thing we don’t have is a garden table, so armed with a pile of pallets left over from all the rebuilding in the district I set to work to design and build a simple garden table from recycled timber.

After removing the usable boards from about three pallets I had enough pieces for a top about 900mm x 800mm – perfect for a small garden table. I removed the nails from two of the better thick supporting timbers from the pallet and gave all the timbers a quick once-over through the thicknesser to see what sort of timber I had. The main uprights and most of the thin boards were redgum, while there were also some thin boards of a pale eucalypt, possibly ribbon gum. I also had about four metres of thin pine stock that I thought I might use for the frame skirting.

Table frame

I ripped the thick timbers down the middle with the Mk3 triton saw bench using a GMC saw, so I had four pieces that I squared off and thicknessed smooth. I then cut the legs to length at about 700mm.

Now most table designs use a mortice-and-tenon joint to connect the skirting pieces to the legs. But I thought I’d try something different. After cutting the skirting to length I set them up with the legs in the cheapo dovetail jig with a view to building a frame that would use sliding dovetails instead of the traditional mortice and tenon joints. This would give me a strong structure with a rapid construction time. The result wasn’t as neat as it might have been, but it was certainly functional.

sliding dovetail joint

The next challenge was the table top. I wanted to practice making a table top that could also be used indoors, so this would involve edge jointing the timbers. Here I used the triton router table with a ryobi half-inch router and a straight cutter. This gave a surprisingly good and true edge to the timbers – and without the high cost (and extra space) of a dedicated planer/jointer.

Then using the biscuit jointer on the triton router table (yes you can cut biscuit slots along a long edge by simply removing the end stop) I cut four biscuit slots for each join and glued the pieces up in threes and clamped them, setting them aside to dry.

table top clamped

Once dry, the three panels of three boards would each still fit through the thicknesser, so I leveled each of the panels and brought them all to the same thickness ready for the final glue-up. By now the three panels were a bit unwieldy for the biscuit jointer so I doweled the boards together and glued them and clamped them ready for final trimming and finishing tomorrow. All in all, not a bad day’s work! I should have the table finished tomorrow with luck 🙂



Comment by Veronica

Where are you located? I am in Troy, Michigan. I have been trying to get someone to make a simple table frame like the one you have on display.

I purchased a huge urn(70 lbs) and am using it as the base of my table. I have a glass on top. Since the Urn is made of fibergalass one side has began to weaken. All I need is a simple frame built and stained.

Can you help of direct me?

Posted on October 3, 2007 at 12:24 am

Comment by jerry

I am in Canberra, Australia – just across the Pacific from the USA 🙂

If you are anywhere near a large hardware store you can get ready-made turned wooden legs, and then you just need to get four lengths of timber (they will usually cut it for you for a nominal fee) – then all you would need is a small hand drill and a screwdriver, and you can screw it together and finish it with your choice of paint or varnish.

Alternatively you could maybe buy an old table and take the top off, or get creative as you have done previously and use an old urn or some cement blocks (use a little “no nails” to attach the top to the blocks). You could also just take off the glass and get a fibreglass kit form a hardware or automotive store and follow the instructions on the pack…

Posted on October 3, 2007 at 9:07 am

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