This was another collaborative family project. We turned our small back yard into a large back patio, so we needed furniture to have people over and enjoy it. My wife found some photos of outdoor tables on pipe legs that she liked. I piggy-backed on that idea, replacing the pipes and fittings with bent steel fence posts to match the surrounding fence. My wife wanted lockable casters, so we could rearrange the furniture easily. What follows was the result...
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Step 2: Cut the Tubes to Length
I used a scrap piece of plastic sheet (actually an old toboggan) as a straightedge as shown and marked where I wanted to cut the tubes. This part is simple since I just used three 8-foot posts. I only had to cut two in half with the hack saw. The third post is not cut.
Step 3: Fill Tubes With Sand
I capped one end with duct tape, turned the other end up, and filled it with sand. The most important lesson I learned in this whole experience was to pack the sand well. At first I just tapped the tube on the ground to pack it, but that doesn't prevent some severely ugly buckling later. We found that by using a ball-peen hammer and whacking it with another hammer, as demonstrated by my daughter, we got about 6 more inches of compaction in a 48-inch tube. This made a world of difference in both appearance and load-bearing capacity.
Step 4: Insert the Tube in the Bender
I marked the short tubes 14 inches from each end using the same piece of plastic as before. I marked the long tube at 18 inches from each end.
I found that it worked better to use the next size smaller die than my tube size. My tubes are 1.875 inch, and the 1.5 inch die gave me better results than the 2 inch die. I marked the center of my die with a black marker so I could line up the center marks of my bends as shown.
Step 5: Bend the Tubes
My son is demonstrating this step. We set the tube bender down as shown. We stacked some wood on each side to support the tube. I found I got 5 to 10 degrees of spring-back, so go about that far beyond 90 degrees. After trying a few different angle-measuring approaches, I landed on the one in the third photo. I drew circles around each roller pin the size of the rollers (at the middle,or narrow spot). I drew a center line on the frame in line with the jack center line. I put a speed square and carpenter square together and aligned them with the marks as shown. I looked down from approximately where the camera is to judge the angle by eye. After spring-back, when I it wasn't quite there, I nudged it a little more.
Step 6: Repeat
To help get consistent results, I made a gauge out of scrap wood and mdf to test each piece for size and shape. First I laid out blocks of wood along the ends and sides of a finished tube, then screwed thin MDF it to make a jig as shown.
Step 7: Adjust If Needed
If you get a little overzealous with the bending, say you're sorry, then stretch them back out again. This is easier said than done. If you did a good job compacting the sand, your tubes will be very stiff. That's what you need, but it makes unbending tricky. After trying several ideas that failed, I finally succeeded using two trees, three tow chains, and a come-along. One of the chains connects one tree to the come-along. Another chain connects the come-along to the tube. The tube goes around the other tree, and the last chain keeps it from slipping off the tree as shown. There are probably similar solutions using a car, etc. Be careful. There are some fairly strong spring forces involved.
Step 8: Drill Some Holes for Bolts
Using some extra 4x4 posts as shown, I set up a fixture to get consistent hole positions. I drilled each post twice between the bends as shown, including the long post. I also drilled near each end of the short posts as shown in the second photo. I used a center drill to start each hole, then drilled it through to 5/16" for the 1/4" bolts to go through later.
Step 9: Assemble the Tube Frame
Using the pre-drilled holes, I assembled each pair of vertical legs with two carriage bolts, washers and nuts. Then I assembled them to the horizontal tube on the ground upside-down, and clamped as shown (c-clamp and a little triangle-shaped block of wood). I drilled holes for a carriage bolt through each vertical tube and the horizontal tube on each end. The finished table in the third photo shows where the bolts need to go.
Step 10: Install Casters
I installed nut and washer as shown on each caster, then inserted it into the post and threaded on the hex coupling. Then I installed the screw and washer from the top. Once all the casters are installed, I adjusted them as needed to level the table on a flat concrete surface, then tightened the bolts.
Step 11: Cut the Lumber
Two 2x4s and 3 2x10s are original 8-foot lengths. A few more pieces of 2x4 need to be cut: 3 pieces of 30 inches and 2 pieces of 29-3/4. The 3 30-inch pieces need 45-degree beveled ends as shown.
Step 12: Assemble the Table
I assembled the wood parts together with deck screws as shown in the attached drawing. There is a .pdf version if you want to print it out. I applied an exterior stain to match our fence, then an exterior clear coat.
Step 13: Attach the Table
Using six 2-1/2" deck screws and 1/4" washers, I attached the legs to the table upside-down.
Step 14: P.S.
If you like this style of step-by-step instruction, please share with others and subscribe, so you'll be notified when I post more. If you have questions, please post them in the comments. I will try to answer and probably update the instructions, too. Read about more of my woodworking projects and tools at ChipsWoodShop.com.