For my first woodworking project, I wanted to do something easy and makable in a weekend: an outdoor table.
After looking at and getting inspired by a few tables in my house and in the Ikea catalog, I drew my own draft plan and went to the local hardware store to buy what I needed.
Caveat: I read a few woodworking tutorials on the Internet, but I'm not a professional woodworker. I'll be glad to get advice for my next projects.
Step 1: The Draft Plan
This is what I drew on a paper.
I used the following dimensions:
- 70 cm high for the table legs (seems to be standard for tables)
- 80 x 100 cm for the depth and width (not too large for my balcony)
For the other dimensions, I adapted to what I found in the store with the following constraints:
- at least 4 cm width for the table feet
- at least 4 cm width for the sides
Step 2: What You Need
I chose pine for my first project. Its light, easy to cut and to drill because it's soft, and it's far less expensive than other noble wood like oak. These are the wood pieces I took:
- Posts: I needed a total length of 4 x 70 cm = 280 cm; for the width I found 5 cm, which was perfect for my project
- Panels: ideally try to find a wood panel that's already the size you're looking for (or larger). In my case, I had to buy two 40 cm x 120 cm panels, which I would have to cut and assemble
- Planks: I needed a total length of 2 x 80 cm + 2 x 100 cm = 360 cm; for the width, I found 6 cm, which fit my constraints
For the thickness of the panels and planks, I took 18 mm, which seems to be standard.
- Saws: a hand saw would work, but a jigsaw would make your life easier. Optionally, you can also use a circular saw to cut the panels straight.
- Power drill / driver
- Metal ruler and pencil
- Pocket hole jig
- Dowel jig
- Sandpaper (several grit size)
- Wood screws (length = at least 30 mm, diameter = 4 mm) x 16
- Dowels (length = 30 mm, diameter = 8 mm) x 7
- Metal brackets x 4
- Wood glue
- Wood stain (a small bucket is enough for this table)
Step 3: Cut the Table Legs From the Posts
Take the posts. Measure 70 cm, clamp onto your workbench and cut your first table leg with the jigsaw.
Use this first table leg as a reference when cutting the 3 remaining table legs.
When done, you should have 4 identical table legs.
Step 4: Cut the Wood Panels to the Right Size
My 2 panels were too long by 20 cm. I cut this extra length using a circular saw. To make sure I was cutting straight, I set the circular saw guide to the right length.
As for the table legs, I measured and marked the first panel. For the second panel, I used the first one as a reference.
After that step, you will have 2 identical 40 cm x 100 cm panels.
Note that on the first picture, I'm not yet sawing but taking the picture with my phone. When actually sawing, put your 2 hands on the tool!
Step 5: Cut the Sides
First you need to figure out the length of the sides. Then you can cut.
Lay one of the panel flat. Along the length of this panel, with your pencil, draw a 5 mm margin from the border. Lay one of your table legs against this margin, draw a reference line on the other side of this leg. Do the same on the opposite side of the panel.
Lay your side plank against the panel and use the 2 reference lines you just drew to measure the length of your side plank. Cut the side plank with the jigsaw and use this cut piece as a reference to cut a second side.
Put the 2 panels together so that you have the full width of the table. Then, using the same procedure as for the longer side, make the 2 shorter sides.
Step 6: Assemble the Frame (table Legs and Sides)
Because I wanted to use metal brackets to make the frame sturdier, I had to figure out at which position on the table legs I would assemble the sides (If you don't want to use metal brackets, you could just assemble the sides wherever you prefer, like completely at the front or at the half-depth of the table legs.)
My metal brackets had a 3 cm long 45° slant. Pushed against the innermost corner of a table leg, this slant would leave 1.5 cm on each side. As 1.5 cm is almost the square root of 2 cm, you can easily compute the length of the table leg you have to leave empty thanks to Pythagorus' theorem: 1 cm. See diagram in the provided pictures.
So, I drew this reference line 1 cm away from the table leg edge on the 2 sides you want to become the inner-sides of it. Repeat this for the remaining 3 legs.
For the side planks, I first used sandpaper to smooth the faces that would be assembled to the legs.
Next, I used my pocket hole jig to drill 2 holes into the side plank on each side.
Repeat that for the remaining 3 side planks.
Now it's time to assemble the legs and the sides.
Take a leg and align a side with the reference line you drew above (the one 1 cm from the leg edge). In the pocket holes, drive the wood screws. As the leg is thick, I used longer wood screws as advised by the pocket hole jig notice. It makes the assembly stronger.
Continue with all the sides and legs and your frame is complete.
Use wood screws to add the metal brackets in the corner. In my case, I had to add a washer as the holes in the metal bracket were too wide.
Step 7: Assemble the Panel
Use your dowel jig to drill three 8 mm holes 16 mm deep (half of 30 mm + 1 mm) into the side of your panel which you want to assemble. Drill 1 hole in the center and the remaining 2 a few centimeters aways from the edges,
Put some wood glue into the holes you made and insert the dowels.
Put the second panel against the first one and use your dowel jig to drill three holes exactly in front of the 3 you drilled earlier.
Glue the side you're going to assemble.
Assemble the 2 panels tight and let it sit 24 hours.
Note that one or several long clamps would help here... but I didn't have any.
1 day later, you should have one single panel the dimensions of your table.
Step 8: Smooth the Surfaces
Use sandpaper, first medium grit then fine grit, to smooth the surfaces.
If you don't have a power sander, this is going to take some time.
Make sure you wear a mask as it makes lots of dust.
Step 9: Protect the Wood
As this is going to be an outdoor table, you have to protect the wood against the sun and humidity.
I used wood stain I found at the store. It requires 3 coatings and each coating needs to sit for 6 hours.
Step 10: Assemble the Frame and the Top Panel
Use your dowel jig to drill a 8 mm hole at the center of the top side of each leg. As the legs are square, you can draw 2 diagonal lines to find the center.
To find where to drill the holes into the top panel, lay the frame upside down on top of the table panel, exactly where you'd like it to be. Draw the squares around the legs. Remove the frame. For each square, draw diagonal lines to find the centers. This is where you're going to drill the holes. Be careful not to drill to deep else you would have a hole in your table top.
Put dowels into the holes. Add glue. Lay the table panel on top of the feet.
That was the last step. You're all done now!