Introduction: Outdoor Coffee Table With Fire Pit
This firepit table can be made for around £40, looks great and is super strong.
3 metre scaffold boards (2 off) - this will give you plenty spare.
45cm x 45cm tile
Chinese wok or Indian Karahi pan, ideally with a lip.
150cm of heavy angle iron (eg 100mm x 75mm)
Heavy duty flanged screws, eg roofing or cladding screws
Step 1: Let’s Get Started
The first step is to cut your scaffold boards to size. Start by truing up the ends by taking a skim off with a mitre saw... this removes any damage and makes sure they’re square.
Cut 4 pieces of scaffold board @ 220mm long
Cut 2 pieces of scaffold board @ 440mm long
Use a table saw or plane to skim the edge of these pieces, reducing them from 225mm wide to 220mm wide.
This will give you all the timber for the top... we’ll use the other board later to make the frame.
Step 2: Dry Fit the Pieces for the Top
Dry fit the top
Now dry fit your components together, pushing them up as tight as possible, and check that your tile will easily sit in the recess in the centre. You don’t want it tight, and you don’t want it with too much gap.
If it’s too gappy, just take a skim off the smaller pieces of timber, and try again... this will close up the hole.
Step 3: Biscuit Joint Your Top
Mark your components for position and biscuit joint together, clamping with sash cramps until set. I always leave mine overnight to be sure.
Step 4: Which Way Is Up?
Once your top is dry, look at both sides and decide which is the best face, and that will be the upper face.
You’ll probably want to sand both sides, but obviously pay most attention to the top.
Certainly here in the uk, scaffold boards are as rough as a bear’s backside, so I’ll leave it up to you how much sanding you do. I like to take scaffold boards down to a finish where they’re smooth enough, with no splinters, but still have some machine marks. It’s best to sand the table top at this stage, as it will help with some of your sizing later. I used a belt sander, then finished with a mouse sander with 120 grit sandpaper.
Step 5: Making the Frame
I wanted my table to look really chunky, so I used a table saw to take a few millimetres off each side of a length of scaffold board, then ripped it up the middle, leaving me a couple of 100mm wide boards to make the side rails from.
Don’t cut them to length yet... you need to decide on your metal leg design first!
Step 6: Making the Metal Legs
I was lucky enough to find a scrap piece of angle iron 100mm x 75mm, which was just long enough to cut 4 legs at 14cm long.
It was really rusty, so I cleaned it up with an angle grinder, but leaving some patina, and clear lacquered it for protection. I used an ordinary auto clear coat in a rattle can for this.
There are two ways of fixing the legs to the frame.... you need to decide this now, as it affects the size and machining of your wooden frame.
Option 1: cut a groove in the end of the timber side rails and set the metal leg into it. This needs great accuracy with hand tools or a jig on a table saw, but looks great I’m sure!
Option 2: butt joint the side rails, and allow the iron to overlap the outside corner.
I went for option 2.... I laid my top on the bench face down, and marked a line all round 25mm in from the edge. This then allows you to work out the length of your side rails. The reason for the inset line is so that the top will overhang both the rails and the metal legs.
This pic shows the assembly (face down as described)... note the chamfered corners, as the inside corner of angle iron is rounded rather than a sharp right angle.
Step 7: Fixing the Top to the Frame, and the Legs to the Frame.
Fix the side rails to the top with pocket screws on the inside so they won’t be seen. I used three for each side rail. I also used glue on all mating surfaces, including the butt jointed corners, and clamped it with a couple of sash cramps till dry.
Drilling the legs
Well this one took me by surprise! When I’d found the angle iron in a skip (dumpster), I’d not realised it was a hefty 8mm thick... so 4 holes per leg... that took some drilling! I needed 7mm holes for my chunky screws, so I started with a 3mm pilot hole, then jumped up to 5mm, then finally to 7mm. By the way, I made a cardboard template, so all the holes were in the same positions on each leg.
Screwing the legs in place
I had some cladding/roofing screws which have a flanged head and are rust proof. I did remove the loose washer, as I wanted them to penetrate the timber frame more. Position the leg in place, then check for square before driving the screws in.
Step 8: Tile Support
Originally I had thought to screw a timber rail all round to support the tile, but decided against this as it might be a water trap. Then I thought about kitchen cabinets, generally the shelves just sit on four little 5mm diameter pins, and carry a huge weight with all your cups, plates etc!
So I decided to make longer heavier duty versions of the same, from some stainless 8mm bolts. I drilled two 7.5mm holes on each inside edge. To mark your holes, you need to work out the centre of the pin by adding the thickness of tile to half the pin thickness.
I strongly recommend doing a test fit on a piece of scrap, then making a simple jig, or using a dowel jig, to drill all the shelf support holes consistently.
Once you’ve done that, simply screw the bolts into the holes, then grind off the hex head, leaving just the shaft. This will give you 8 tile support pins altogether... more than enough.
Step 9: Cutting the Hole in the Tile
Measure the size of your wok or karahi, then mark a circle dead centre on your tile which is about 6mm smaller all round. You’re looking for a hole which is big enough for the wok to go into, but not so big that it drops all the way through!
I cut the hole using an angle grinder... here’s how....Drill a hole in the centre of the tile, and screw to your bench so it’s loose enough to turn... that way you can hold your angle grinder still, and rotate the tile. Also have a water bottle to hand for occasionally wetting the cut.
You cut the circle by leaning the angle grinder, rather like a bike wheel going round a corner. Don’t go through in one pass... the idea is to go round and round, gradually going deeper. I also made a shallow cut on the back side of the tile, to reduce chipping, then returned cutting the face until I broke through. To be honest, this was the most challenging part of the whole build, as the tile I’d bought was porcelain which is much harder than terracotta - so it was many hours of cutting and fine tuning.
Step 10: Finishing
As the scaffold boards were new, they were almost white. So I made up a solution of strong tea... 200ml of boiling water to 5 tea bags, and let it brew for an hour. I simply applied this with a brush and let it dry before a quick final sand, and a coat of danish oil which is cheap and suitable for outdoor use.
This stage couldn’t be easier... drop your tile onto its support pins, and drop your wok into the tile.
I like the fact that both the tile and the wok are both held in place by gravity alone, so that they can be removed for cleaning, or even replaced.
So that’s it! All that’s left to do is to light a fire, crack open a chilled beer, and admire your handiwork! Cheers!