My partner needed a new outdoor table. I had some timber left over from another project and could access free pallets for other wood. I used it to build a large and solid table for her.
Step 1: Find Your Timber
I had some 90 mm x 90 mm (3.5 x 3.5 inch) pine left over from a previous project. This timber was used to make the table frame. It is used as stillage in shipping containers and I was lucky enough to get hold of a large quantity for free. As an alternative, pallet slats can be laminated together to make the frame timber. Use at least 3 layers and stagger the ends. The laminates can be glued together with construction adhesive and/or screwed.
The top of the table was made from 95 x 16 mm (3 3/4 x 5/8 inch) rough sawn pine pallet slats sitting on light pine framing left over from other jobs.
Step 2: Assemble the Frame
The frame and legs are made from 90 x 90 mm timber. The frame pieces were cut to length and butted up to the legs. The frame pieces were clamped to align with the edges of a piece of square cut sheet to ensure that each corner was square. Guide holes (staggered slightly to prevent screws contacting each other when driven home) were pre-drilled in the legs and and side pieces using a long bit. The legs and side pieces were connected using 150 mm (6 inch) countersunk head 10 gauge screws (2 for each connection). Care was taken to keep the frame and legs square. A centre cross piece was added after the basic frame was completed.
After completion, blocks were screwed into each internal corner of the frame to add strength and to help keep the legs and frame side square.
The table shape was designed around the width and length of the available pallet slats. For example, the distance between the side frames was dictated by the width of 10 slats (950 mm) plus 11 gaps of 5 mm (55mm). A gap must be left as the rough sawn pallet pine does not have a regular edge.
Step 3: Make the Table Top
Pieces of light pine were placed running across the table (parallel with the centre piece). These cross pieces were attached so that they sat below the level of the top of the frame by 16 mm (5/8 inch) so that the top slats would sit flush with the table frame.
The cross pieces at each end of the table and at the centre frame beam were attached directly to the table frame. The intermediate cross pieces were made with a T of timber at each end (the vertical part of the T is the cross piece and the horizontal part is a short offcut). The offcut was attached to the cross piece by screws (through the top centre of the T). The offcut sides (arms of the T) were predrilled and then screwed to the inside of the table frame. This saves any need for skew nailing or screwing of the cross pieces.
The pallet slats were then fixed to the cross pieces. They were secured from underneath by screws so that no screw heads are visible on the top of the table. Care was taken to ensure that the screws were shorter than the combined thickness of the cross pieces and slats so that the screw ends did not protrude from the table top. Three screws were used at each cross piece (one placed at each outer edge of the slat and one in the centre) to prevent warping. The slats were positioned using spacers to ensure an even gap.
Step 4: Tidy Up and Stain
After construction was finished, a random orbital sander was used to remove any extreme wood roughness. An outdoor furniture stain was then applied to provide some weatherproofing and spill protection.
The resulting table is strong, attractive and well used. It is located in a covered veranda area and is not fully exposed to the weather. More durable timber should be used if the table is not protected from sun and rain.