Introduction: Mid Century Outdoor Furniture: Table and Bench With Tapered Legs

About: David Burkhardt is a product designer based in Hamburg, Germany.

This set of outdoor furniture can be made from only two types of recycled wood. The design is inspired by Will Holmans Scrap Table (Check out his book: Guerilla furniture Design), but using other proportions and simplified materials: generic 4x6 roof lath and 2x10 cm board.

The mid-century-style tapered legs are stressed to give necessary stiffness to the thin board. Contrary to Holmans design, the legs are not interconnected by threaded rods. Non-triangulated beams do not add much stability to the space frame, that's why i left them out.

Step 1: Choose Your Proportions

I made these for my new patio, which is quite small, so i chose a length of only 150cm.
This does not have the great proportions as Holmans original design have, but it fits my space perfectly.

Think of your use case and plan for the length of wood accordingly.

For the choice of wood, i went with common spruce/fir which has a low density but also long fibre that make planing and finishing more difficult. If you use 'better' wood, keep in mind that the furniture will probably become heavier. This design may look thin and light on the photos, but it is actually almost heavy - even when made from spruce.

Step 2: Make Your BOM

Use the Rhino .3dm source file if you want to experiment with different proportions, but also try laying out the pieces in the workshop. In my final table and benches, i differed from the Rhino file with the table being two laths wider and the benches one lath.

I adjusted the tapering of the bench and table legs so that it looks as if the angle of incidence on the table were the same angle als the emergent angle of the bench. This gives a well-proportioned look to both, despite their different heights.

Also the connecting rods should have the the same distance from the ends of the table and benches when you look from the top. It would look weird when either one of it were out of proportions. I put mine at 23cm and 27cm from each end of the laths.

This is my BOM for the table and two Benches:

  • 12 pcs 3m generic roof lath (6x4cm)
  • 8 pcs 2m 2x10 concrete shuttering board
  • 8 pcs 1m threaded rod M10
  • 36 pcs nut M10
  • 48 pcs large diameter washers
  • 12 pcs M10x80mm Screws

Step 3: Cut the Table/bench Surface

Cut all the 3m roof laths in half. You should have 14 pieces for the table and 5 each for the benches.

This is best done on a mitre saw.

Step 4: Cut the Legs

Last step was very simple, now its getting a little more complicated when cutting the tapered legs.

The short cuts are best done on a mitre saw and the long tapered cuts with a jig saw.

  1. Start with the Table legs. Each of the four leg consists of two 80cm boards joined by a nut at the end. So you need four boards of 2metre for this, one for each joined table leg.
  2. Draw the Points on the board sides to get the Angle right and then cut the template.
  3. Use the rest of the four 2m boards to make the shorter legs for the benches. You can make four out of the 16 short leg pieces you need.
  4. Now use the bench legs you made as a template to mark additional 3x 3m boards and cut 12 more short bench leg pieces.
  5. Use the rest of the board to cut short spacers for the table and bench surface. You nee at least 26 spacers. Cut some more as some will probably break when drilling them.

Step 5: Drill Everything

Now its time to drill all your pieces.

  1. First draw a centerline to the 6cm side of your surface laths, the spacers and the legs. This is best done using a marking gauge (set to 3cm).
  2. Now mark the length of two holes from the ends of the table surface where you want to place the legs. I use 22.5 and 27cm. The Leg holes have a 4.5cm distance and are centered correspondingly.
  3. Use a larger drill than your rods. For a M10 threaded rod, it is good to use a 14mm or bigger drill, even 20mm would not be bad. This helps with positioning later. Dont worry, things wont get loose, everything will hold together by tightening the rods!
  4. For the table i used a center bit to flush the Nuts with the edge of the table. For these two outer rods you have to use the center drill bit BEFORE you drill them with the smaller drill.

Step 6: Screw Together and Test the Fit

  1. Shorten the rods. For the table (14 laths) this would be 4x 82cm, for the benches (5 laths) you need 8x 34cm.
  2. Stick a nut and washer on one side and start to stack the pieces like in the Photo.
  3. Before you tighten the rods, set the table on a flat surface and adjust the pieces with a mallet.
  4. Use bar clamps to bent the legs together. This should introduce quite some stability to the flimsy thin legs.
  5. Tighten the nuts on the rods on each end.

Step 7: Stress the Tapered Legs

  1. Now take a 10mm drill and make holes at the end of the legs that you have clamped together.
  2. Insert the M10x60 screws with washers using a hammer.
  3. Add a washer and nut on the other end of the screws and tighten it.

Step 8: Belt Sand the Surface

  1. Grind off any protruding rod ends with an angle grinder and a flapped disc.
  2. Use a belt sander to finish the surface to your taste.
  3. Paint in linseed oil to increase the brown/yellow wood color and protect it from moisture or keep it natural and dry to let the wood get a silver grey touch - as you like. By design this furniture will hardly rot at all, even when unpainted, because it does not soak up rain water even when kept raw and outside for a long period. It will just dry out quickly after each rain and loose color slowly when subjected to the weather, which i appreciate by the way.
  4. Congratulations, you just made your own outdoor furniture!
Woodworking Contest 2017

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Woodworking Contest 2017