We just had a new patio added on the back of our house and needed a large table to seat 10 or more people - all the tables we saw when shopping were for either for 4, 6 or 8 at the most - and ranged from $150-$600! I had seen several of this style "live edge" tables as rustic dining room tables, but never used outside. I did some research to see if it was even practical and after determining it was, started the planning to make one myself. The goal was to keep the total under $400.
As an experiment, I did a time-lapse of the majority of the process - wow, I get tired just watching it! It is here - 14 days reduced to 3 minutes - enjoy - http://youtu.be/ngZ_2pP5csQ
I looked at some local sources for the wood slabs (lumber yards, and saw mills) - I was pleasantly surprised at how many choices I had. I finally settled on purchasing 2 slabs from Craigslist - the person selling them had 6 slabs cut from a large maple tree - they had been drying for about 4 years - properly "stickered." The only problem I ran into was that I needed to rent a truck from Lowes for $50 to pick up these 2 11-foot long slabs - all told, the project came in at $361.
When researching the type of finish for an exterior table, I had to make sure it would be able to endure harsh winters and hot, humid summers. I ruled out polyurethane and varnishes - they crack and chip with wide extremes of temperature. I needed something that would expand and contract with the temperature (-20 to 100 degrees). For the top, I used WaterLox Exterior Marine Tung Oil - it expands and contracts without cracking. For the base I was more concerend with durability than appearance (and the Tung oil is very expensive) - I came across this article and decided to give it a try for the base. The only problem I had was I could not find the oil-based base (NY has pretty much outlawed Oil-based paints... thanks). I settled on Valspar Duramax #5 Base from Lowes. If dried with a slightly whiteish finish - the oil-based version would not. Nevertheless, it is barely visible on the base.
The first step was to cut the slabs to size - this required figuring out what final shape I wanted - flat, cut-off ends or natural. For our needs, we decided on on cut-off ends and natrual-edge sides. I took pictures of the two slabs and used a variety of image-editors to come up with shape-only outlines that I could maneuver to see how to butt together for the final shape and size I wanted. I used Powerpoint and an excel spreadsheet to scale the models to 1/15th scale.
I set up a workbench in my garage, because I could not fit this project in my basement workshop. I worked on the bottom side of the table first, locking toether the 2 sides with 2 parallel 2x4s screwed into the bottom. I trimmed the ends flat and trimmed the inside edge of each side flat using a power saw. I then butted the two edges together (lightly) and ran the saw down the common edge to flatten out and give the two butted edges a common surface. I drilled 72 holes using a Kreg pocket Jig. NOTE - I drilled way too many - I spaced them every 6 inches - I could easily have used half as many with no problem. Before screwing together, I applied Titebond III glue to both surfaces and clamped from the bottom using as many clamps as I could muster.