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Picture of Live Edge Maple Slab Outdoor Table
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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.

Materials Needed:

  • 4”x4”x8’ Douglas Fir Post - (legs and frame)
  • Set of Maple slabs – 4’ x 10’
  • Valspar Duramax Semi-gloss #5 Dark Tint Base - 1 qt
  • Titebond III waterproof wood glue - 1 Qt
  • 2”x4”x10’ Board – straight edge
  • WaterLox Tung Oil Marine Finish
  • KREG 2.5” Blue-Kote Pocket Screw – 50

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.

 
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Step 1: Fatten and Flatten...

The Plan:

  1. Design and planning
  2. Build work surface - saw horses with wood tops
  3. Trim to size + ½” and butt-edges – make angle template, cut with circular saw, then butt together and re-cut.
  4. Join two slabs together with Pocket Screws
  5. Plane bottom surface
  6. Flip and plane top surface
  7. Attach bottom seam and cross braces if needed
  8. Sand and remove bark
  9. Build base and mount top to base
  10. Stand up and finish top and legs


Table Top

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.

Step 2: Planning and Planing...

After the glue up, I let it sit for 24 hours to "settle" a little bit. I then used a Harborfreight power planer to rough-plane the bottom - no real need other than as a practice for when I do the top - I was only ever planning on finishing the top with the tung oil and the bottom with the external oil-based House paint Base #5. This gave me a good practice surface to perfect my technique as illustrated here.

I have since had the opportunity to build a router-based jig to do the flattening - like this - this would have been worth the time had I known about it - and gvien me a much nicer, flatter surface - although with a lot more work. Since this was basiclly going to be a souped up picnic table, I was less concerned with achieving a mirror-smooth finish and more looking to protect the wood from the elements. If this were an interior dining-room table, use a router to get that beautiful flat finish.

Step 3: The Basic Base...

Picture of The Basic Base...
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I had originally planned on using pressure-treated lumber for the base (I know, how crass....), as I was leaving the lumber aisle in LOWES, I spotted some beautiful Douglas Fir 4x4 lumber - rounded corners, hefty, and less expensive than the ugly PT wood I had planned on using. I quickly switched gears and loaded up with that instead. It only took 5 8-foot pieces to make this base - with a little left over. Perfect! This made the base simpler, stronger and gave it the "heft" I wanted.

After building the simple frame and coating it thoroughly with the aforementioned exterior #5 Base paint, I laid the top on and that is when it became apparent that the slab was starting to twist - I had seen a small amount of uneven-ness, but it was accentuated when I laid it on my now perfectly-square base. Nothing I could do now but fasten it down and let nature take its course.

The twist appears to have been minimized after attaching to the base - again, thankfully the base is hefty and stiff enough to not warp with the top.

Step 4: Finishing finish...

Picture of Finishing finish...
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As stated earlier, I used WaterLox Marine Tung Oil Finish. I spoke with Customer service at WaterLox about whether I needed to use the sealer first, they said it was basically the same stuff as the finish and to just go ahead and use 2 coats of the finish. I ended up doing 3 coats total, knowing that I would re-coat each spring - the idea behind the Tung Oil is that it never really dries - it is constanly evaporating - this is what make it so flexible and durable - it never hardens to a rock-hard finish. Although you would be hard pressed to gouge or score it - sure seems plenty hard to me.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

It has been 9 months since I built the table and one of the coldest winters on record - the finish survived beautifully. However, upon inspection this spring, I noticed some black staining UNDER the finish. Around mid April, I was able to examine it more closely and it appears there is some mold growth in parts of the table - looks terrible. I spoke with several people and they confirmed something was in the wood before I sealed it. So, I had to strip off the Tung Oil, treat the table with Concrobium - an algecide/mold killer/preventative. I used the planer again, this time I was not at all concerned with a mirror finish - since it was outside, a rough look was fine.

The Concrobium cleaned it completely, so I soaked the table top with an entire bottle and let it dry overnight. I then decided, as long as I had the finish off, to stain the table a dark brown - using Minwax English Oak. I also added a mold and mildew prentitive paint and stain additive to the stain - can't hurt! I then applied 2 thick coats of Tung Oil and the finish is smooth and strong - we will see how it lasts next year at this time!

Awesome, it looks fabulous! I love the 9 months later follow up too! Impressive! :)

I cannot believe you pocket jigged that many holes. How long did that take!?

Awesome build, by the way.

ChrisReddy (author)  wonderbrett1 year ago

Only about an hour, but it was WAY overkill.

mike29071 year ago
How did you fasten the slab to the base?
ChrisReddy (author)  mike29071 year ago

I use some 4.5" lag bolts, counter-sunk and filled with a hole plug. It isn't going anywhere. They were something like this - http://www.homedepot.com/p/Unbranded-8-4-1-2-in-In...

devbert1 year ago
Great design on that table! Someday I hope to make one of my own.
ttowngirl1 year ago
You are amazing. Give yourself a handshake from me!

This is beautiful!