Introduction: Folding Umbrella Table

This is my first Instructable. I have enjoyed this site for over a year now, getting cool ideas, getting inspired, and getting the strong desire to make.

I saw the Epilog Contest and the grand prize. I was HIGHLY motivated by the idea of winning a laser cutter. That would be an AWESOME addition to my maker space. I have been slowly collecting tools and gadgets to increase my ability to make more and more complicated stuff. A laser cutter is definitely something I could use to make my projects look more professional. Not to mention more accurate.

I have looked at most of the entries and I am impressed by the projects and skills. Not to mention a little intimidated. But no one has ever succeeded by hiding in a corner.

Ok... Now what to make. I am inspired, I have tools, Now what.... Think ...Think....Think... NOTHING!

Ok this is the first step.. Relax.... creativity can't be forced.

My wife and I were talking about our first anniversary at Sunset Beach, NC (both of us with HUGE smiles on our faces). I remembered something. I was a pack mule hauling all that stuff to the beach. By the time we got to the beach I was tired and a bit grumpy. She was wanting to go for a walk and hold my hand. I wanted to plunk my butt in the sand and rest.

Then I had it. What if some of that stuff was in one gadget. OOOh, I like gadgets and less to haul is good.

At first I was thinking I would make the swiss amy knife of beach umbrellas. I had several images in my head of Bugs Bunny and beach umbrellas with stuff exploding out of them as they opened.... I was grinning like an idiot... My wife was highly entertained by some of my ideas.

After a few hours over several days of me spouting off ideas and my wife grinning at me..... I finally had an Idea.

A small table attached to an umbrella. That way, my wife and I could have a romantic time on the beach and I would not be a pack mule. We could set our wine glasses on it and watch the sun set together.. Now my heart was melting and I was grinning like an idiot...

This is good... I have an Idea, I have tools, I have a maker space, and I have passion. That is a great recipe for success.

Step 1: The Design

Now is the hard bit... Getting my thoughts on paper and a way to make it with the tools I have.

I need some design goals.
1) It must be unique but not be obvious about it. Something no one has done on Instructables before.
2) It must break down easy (folding would be good)
3) It must be small but have enough surface area to hold wine glasses and a few other trinkets...
4) It should be light. I'm not a pack mule. Not any more.
5) Spend as little as possible.

Now it's time to do some research on item number one. Finding something on Instructables that no one has done before. Now that's a hard one. There is one project for an umbrella table but it's nothing that's truly portable or folding. There where some very cool folding tables and they where all very portable.

(if you want to see what I found, just some examples)




Now it is time to go to my CAD system. I'm using Inventor Fusion for Mac. (Not Fusion 360, same company different software). Auto Desk no longer supports this version but I have it and it works well for what I do.

The table will have 3 interlocking folding sections set 120 degrees apart. To make the table as small as possible the 3 sections should pivot and come in line with the shaft of the umbrella. Then each section can fold in to make it as small as possible.

I did some research around the pivots that are on the shaft of the umbrella. There is nothing I found that would work for 3 sections. So, it's another piece I will need to design and make. Each section will fold in half. After looking around I found something called a butler hinge. It folds on top of itself and locks on the open position.

I used my CAD package to design 3D printable parts for the pivots and some locking pins that will be needed. The reason for the 3D printed parts is that I can't buy them or make them with hand tools.

The full table design is shown in the picture. The actual table ended up a bit different but that's how these things go.

I had an old beach umbrella that was broken and I decided to use the canopy pieces to make the top of the umbrella. This instructable is about replacing the pole of the umbrella and making the attached table. The canopy will get a makeover in a future Instructable.

I have attached the *.stl files to this Instructable. However, I will not be updating them. The current versions will reside on Thingiverse.

Umbrella Table on Thingiverse

You will need these materials:

  • Some sort of wood. I'm using Poplar. 7 in x 3/4 in x 96 in
  • 2-1/2 in 1/4-20 bolts
  • 9 washers for 1/4-20 bolts
  • 3 Nuts for 1/4-20 bolts
  • 1 print of the "Table Mount 03.stl" file (40% infill 2mm outer shell)
  • 3 prints of the "pin_holder.stl" file (40% infill 2mm outer shell)
  • 3 spring loaded sliding door locks
  • 6 butler tray hinges
  • 1 old beach umbrella
  • 96 in poplar dowel 1-3/8 in dia
  • Teak Oil


  • Table saw
  • Drill press
  • Cordless drill
  • 3D printer or 3D printing service
  • Random orbit sander
  • Belt sander
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Builders Square
  • Several different grits of sand paper (80-120-300)

Step 2: It Slices, It Dices, and That's Not All

Now that we have a plan. It's time to start cutting the poplar.

I cut 1 strip 1-3/4 in strip on a 3/4 in thick board. For the rest I set the saw to rip at 3/4 in. I wanted the table to be made of square strips. All the strips are 8 feet long.

The table saw was set using the thickness of the board in order to make the strips square. There are four 3/4 x 3/4 strips and one 1-3/4 x 3/4 strip in each table section.

Step 3: Making the Cut

Now we are going to cut the main strips for the table. When you are cutting pay special attention to the color of the wood. Poplar has a lot of different hues in it (green, white, purple, brown). Mix up the wood colors to make the table color just pop!!

The miter saw is set for a 30 degree angle with the end stop set at 15 in.

(This is where I make my big mistake) look at the picture with the tape measure. I'm cutting at 14 in!!! Oops!

This is the first cut list.

3 - 1-3/4 x 3/4 x 15 in (30 degree cuts on both ends)

18 - 3/4 x 3/4 x 15 in (30 degree cuts on both ends)

Now set the saw back to 90 degrees, the rest of the cuts are square.

30 - 3/4 x 3/4 x 2 in (square cut, saw set back to 90 degrees)

6 - 3/4 x 3/4 x 4 in (square cut, these will be used as spacers)

When you have all the parts cut out it's time to start sanding. Most of the time it would be a bit early to start sanding. However, when things are glued together some spots will be almost impossible to sand.

(At a later point I find some I missed and I have to make a tool to do it, trust me and sand them ALL now)

Step 4: Marking by the Numbers

Now we need to get the pieces aligned so we can glue them. I'm only going to show one section of the table. This will need to be repeated 2 more times.

The piece of wood that is 1-1/2 in wide will need to be marked. The markings should be at 1-1/2 in and 7 in from the point. As is shown in picture 1 and 2.

Now line up the slats of the table with a scrap piece of wood. At this point the 2in pieces of wood are just spacers so we can mark the slats. As is shown in picture 4. (I'm using a bar clamp to hold everyone together)

Using a builders square, mark the slats from the existing marks on the 1-1/2in board. These marks are where the 2in pieces will be aligned during the gluing process. See picture 6.

Now align the 2in pieces so that their left sides line up with the marks on the slats. As is shown in picture 5. This is what one section of the table will look like (upside down that is). Also note that from the cut-list we have one 1-1/2x3/4in piece, 6 3/4x3/4in pieces, and 10 2in pieces. In the middle it looks like something is missing. That is where the butler hinges will go. Each of the 3 sections will fold in half. In most of the pictures there will be spacers in that location, like in picture 4. Those are used to maintain the shape of the table during construction.

Please look at the pictures and note the orientation of the pieces of wood. This is very important. The way all the pieces are oriented during marking are important.

Step 5: Gluing

There are 3 sections to the table top. Each section is built in two pieces. We will be treating them as a matched pair. In many pictures spacers are used to hold the 2 pieces at the correct distance apart. This will help with maintaining the alignment and shape of the table top while you manufacture it.

I don't have a wood working bench with a built in clamp. I am going to use the rip fence on my table saw and some bar clamps. My table saw is old and built like a tank so this won't be an issue. With some of the newer saws this method would damage the rip fence.

First I put down a plastic covering over the saw and rip fence. Next I lined up all the boards with a scrap piece of wood (Picture 1). Notice the orientation of each piece of wood in picture 1. That is important.

I applied glue to the 2 in pieces and lined them up with the pencil marks from earlier. Do not apply glue to the scrap pieces being used as spacers. See picture 2.

After all pieces have glue on them and they are placed, it is time to clamp. Using a bar clamp (or a pipe clamp) and a scrap pice of wood (to protect your work), clamp the table section to the rip fence. The clamp feet MUST align with the 2 in pieces! See picture 3.

I used a damp (not dripping wet) sponge to remove excess glue. As is seen in picture 4. Rinse the sponge often and ring out most of the water. It needs to be damp, not dripping.

After all that, I put a heavy weight on the work to make it lay flat and not curl up. My weight was a large bucket of water. I had one on hand when I was wetting my sponge. :-) See picture 5.

Step 6: A Little Bit of a Trim

This bit is tricky.

All the slats moved slightly during the gluing process. Also, the angle on the miter saw was a bit off. So we need to trim the table top.

Don't trust the markings on the miter gauge of the saw. However, we will need set the angle of the miter gauge accurately. To do that, we will use the 3D printed pivot joint. See picture 1.

Put the miter gauge close to the angle needed (60 degree) but don't tighten the set screw. Slide the rip fence close to the miter gauge and lock it down. Now, while holding the 3D printed part tight to the fence, slide the miter gauge up to the part. Once everybody fits nice and snug, tighten the set screw on the miter gauge. See picture 1 and 2.

Using the miter gauge to hold the angle of the work, move the rip fence close to the edge of the work so the saw blade only trims a hair off the end off of each slat.

Woking with the rip fence and the miter gauge will produce a nice accurate cut. I have spacers so I can line both pieces up at the same time (you will see me say this a lot) ;-) See pic 3 & 4

Now line everybody up with the 3D printed pivot joint. As seen in picture 5.

Step 7: Fix the Short Fall

Ok you can see that things don't seem to line up.

That was always the plan but it's a bit more than I calculated. This is when I discovered my measurement mistake (remember 14 in instead of 15 in). See picture 1

So we need to glue two strips together that end up being the same thickness as the shortfall. Same process as before. See picture 2.

I measured each section and cut pieces to fit each one. We will be belt sanding in a bit. So, having them a bit off is ok.

I used very quick set epoxy. See picture 3. The reason for this is simple. There is no clamp I can put on this that will stay in position. At least not one I have. I also don't want to use my nail gun. You will be able to see every side of this table. The stuff is strong and I won't have to hold it in place long.

Even though it's a quick set epoxy, it needs some time to be fully cured. I let it sit overnight. It might not have needed that much time but more can't hurt. See picture 5.

Step 8: Getting Jiggy With It

Belt sanders are like a hand held wood grinder weapon thing. That's good. Right now nothing on the table is flat. It will need to be smoothed out. I think a plainer would be good for this; but I don't own one. So I get to sand till the cows come home.

Belt sanders can also grab your work and throw it across the room. I have spent many many hours on this now... It's not going to go flying if I can help it.

To that end, I screwed down some scrap pieces of wood to my work bench. I used one of the table sections as a guide. It doesn't need to be accurate but it does need to keep the wood from moving around while we work on it. See pictures 1-4.

Now with my hold down jig in place, I can start sanding. I first used 80 grit paper. That takes a lot of wood off. You need to keep the sander moving and don't sand in one spot too long. Also, it is important to sand with the grain of the wood.

After it is flat and even, I move to a 120 grit belt. Then when it looks like I got all the scratches out, I move to 200 grit on a random orbit sander. See pictures 5-8.

Notice the spacers are missing from the middle. When sanding you want the 2 pieces for that section to come out the same thickness.

Step 9: I Bit of a Sticky Wicket

I discovered, to my chagrin, that I missed some spots with my initial sanding job.

In order to sand in between the slots I needed to make a tool.

I grabbed a thin (but sturdy) piece of scrap wood. I then cut several strips of 150 grit sand paper to be slightly larger that the strip of wood. Using 3M's 90 spray adhesive, I glued the sand paper (grit up) to the wood.

I centered the sand paper on the stick. The folded the edges over on each side of the stick.

I just made the world's largest nail file. Or at least that is what my wife calls it. It did a good job, but there was a lot of sanding to do. And it was 120 grit paper. Lots and Lots of sanding

After it was all over, I should have titled this step "It was the summer of 69, I sanded till my fingers bled". Brian Adams can eat his hart out.

Step 10: My Kingdom for a Router With Routing Jig

Ok, now it's time to mount the hinges. This will allow the table to fold on top of itself.

The hinges I'm using are known as Butler Hinges or double pinned hinges. When the are open, they are flat. And when they are closed, they fold over on themselves. I have a picture of one. They only bend oneway. Locking the table flat. See picture 1.

The down side of these is that they need to be mounted on the top of the table. Furthermore then need to be inset into the top surface at a depth of about 1/8in.

I don't have the mount for my router to be able to use a router jig. Not to mention I burned it out a short time ago. A routing jig would have made the cuts for hinges more uniform. But that's not going to happen. So plan B it is.

I get to do some practice with my chisels. I really have no clue how to use them for this. So, rather than give up, let's do some research.

This Instructable gave me some good tips on how to use them.


That and some You Tube videos and I'm off.

After finding the centers of the 2 in strips (see picture 2), I traced the hinge with a pencil. Then using a box cutter, I traced the line. I keep tracing the line with the box cutter until I have a cut that about 1/8 in deep. Then I apply the techniques I just learned about in the Wood-Chiseling Intractable. (the rest of the pictures)

I was careful and slow. It took a very long time to do. I did my best and it worked out. Just check out the pictures. By the last hinge, I was almost an expert. Well ok, I was still mostly a novice apprentice. But functionality is key.

Now place the hinges in their spots and mark the holes. Then using a drill press and a 1/8 in bit, drill pilot holes for the screws. DO NOT DRILL ALL THE WAY THROUGH.

Now using a fine grit sand paper, sand off any left over pencil marks.

Step 11: Line It Up, Drill It Out, Hook It Up

Picture 1 shows where the 3D printed pivot part will go. Use a thin stick to align the pivot with the edge of the section.

It is important you get it in the correct spot. Look at Picture 2 and note the orientation of both pieces. Once you are confident you have it in the right spot, use a pencil and mark where to drill the hole for the bolt.

Using a 3/8 in drill bit, drill a hole on the drill press. I clamped a scrap section of wood to where the drill bit will come out. This will keep the drill bit from knocking out large chips on the bottom.

Step 12: Bolt the Wonder Dog

Insert the 2-1/2 in bolts in the 3D printed pivot mount.

Slowly twist them in until you have them poking out the other side. Then align the bolt's hex end with the nut trap in the plastic. See picture 1 and 2.

Now place a few washers on the bolt and then add the nut. Then start tightening the nut until the bolt fully sets inside of the nut trap. Do all 3 bolts. See pictures 3 and 4.

In picture 5 I am removing material from the pivot so it will easily slide on the pole for the umbrella. I used the side edges of a chisel to do this. Slowly and evenly scraping material until it snugly fit on the dowel.

Picture 6 is of the 1-5/8 in poplar dowel.

Step 13: Headed Toward the Finish Line

We are very close to being done.

I am choosing to use Teak Oil to put a finish on the table top. There are a few reasons for this.

  1. It penetrates the wood and makes it water repellent.
  2. You can't put too much on. It takes days for it to dry enough to sand it.
  3. It brings out the natural color of the poplar.

I just used a brush and slapped it on, drips and all. After 30 minutes I wiped it down with some paper towels. After 24 hours I repeated the process. I let it sit for a week before sanding it with 300 grit sand paper. Then buffing it with OOOOO steel wool.

The wood looks great and it is easy to do.

The down side of this is that Teak Oil is not cheap and you have re-oil it every once and while. If I did not already have a can, I would have gone after a urethane or something of that nature.

Step 14: Install Butler Hinges

I used a drill and very carefully installed the butler hinges. You don't want them to rip out and you don't want the screws to strip out.

At this point we need to attach the pivot to all the table sections. Add 4 washers to each bolt. Then push the bolt though the 3/8 in hole that was drilled earlier.

Once that is complete, add the nut and tighten it down. But Not too tight. The pivot will need to be removed so it can be installed on the umbrella pole.

Step 15: The Latch Key Kid

The latches are now ready to be installed.

Flip the table upside down onto a cloth. Place the window latch between two slats and line up the receiver on the other side. The receiver will hang over the edge of the vertical piece of wood slightly. See the provided pictures.

The latch should have enough space so when it slides back it clears the receiver. But it needs to be close enough so when it slides forward, it penetrates the receiver. The latch will keep the table locked in place when in use. When unlatched the table sections will pivot and fold out of the way..

Mark all the holes with a pencil. Then drill pilot holes with a 1/16 in drill bit. DO NOT GO ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE WOOD.

Then screw all the parts in.

Step 16: Use the Old Parts on the New (and Destroy the Workshop)

When the old umbrella came apart, I looked at what failed and decided I could repair it. Little did I know how hard that would be.

Sorting out the umbrella ribs then getting them coherent enough to get a piece of wire threaded through them was a challenge. I knocked more stuff off the workshop shelves than I can count. I did finally get it and I have pictures to prove it. It took me about 20 minutes to pick up the destruction. :)

Each umbrella is different. I have no idea how yours will go. On the umbrella I had, the parts slid off or unscrewed.

I then put the parts on the new one.

I threaded a piece of copper wire through the holes of the umbrella ribs. When I got the ribs in place, I twisted the wire until it was tight and it held the ribs in place. I then cut off any excess wire.

Step 17: Done....The Agile Way.

OK last step.

Slide the 3D printed pivot on the pole of the umbrella. It my need a little encouragement with a hammer. I placed the pivot 3 feet from the bottom of the pole. I then screwed it in place with three #10 by 3/4 in screws. After that I bolted the table sections back on the pivot. Now tighten the nuts good. (not to tight you do want the table to piviot)

I went to REI and got some tubular webbing and a back pack buckle. I weave the webbing through the slats and around the pole. Then I cinch it all up with the buckle. That way they don flop around when I am carrying the umbrella.

Step 18: The Agile Retrospective

Im done and it would be a good idea to look at the goals and see what we ended up with.

This is what I said I wanted.

  1. It must be unique but not be obvious about it. Something no one has done on Instructables before.
  2. It must break down easy (folding would be good)
  3. It must be small but have enough surface area to hold wine glasses and a few other trinkets...
  4. It should be light. I'm not a pack mule. Not any more.
  5. Spend as little as possible.

This is what I got

Criteria 1 - I consider a success. There are folding tables and umbrella projects but none quite like mine. I know that could be said of lots of projects. However, I think that the folding mechanics are unique enough to qualify as a new idea on Instructables. If not, please post a link in the comments. I would love to see others.

Criteria 2 - success. The pictures speak for themselves.

Criteria 3 - success. It would be hard to miss this one.

Number 4 - FAIL. This thing weighs a ton. It is easy to cary on your shoulder. But with the poplar and the old parts, its heavy.

Number 5 - FAIL. I spent $40.00 on butler hinges, $17 on the poplar pole, $10 on window latches, and $6.75 on screws and stuff. So $73.75 came out of my pocket. If I counted in the stuff I had laying around, things like prototype plastic parts, glue, poplar, Teak Oil, etc.. This could have easily cost me $150.

Now all that was left to do is to take some pictures of my wife's pink fuzzy sock... :-)~ I hope you all enjoy this! I had oodles of fun making it.!!!

Epilog Contest VII

Runner Up in the
Epilog Contest VII