Build a Water-Repellent Outdoor Table

Table in action!

I love making things for my home and yard. For this project, I chose to make a table out of steel and wood, then coated the whole thing with Rust-Oleum NeverWet to help protect the steel from rusting and the wood from the elements. Check out my video about the process.

The idea is that the table could be a plant stand or a nice place to set a beer when hanging out in the yard. My buddy Brad at Bubbas Barrels is a master welder and helped out with the steel base construction plus my new friend Zach at Zavels Family Farms helped me select a great piece of cherry for the top.

I spent about a week working on the designs for the base and reviewing them with Brad. The original design was a straight-legged table with horizontal braces, but Brad had other ideas and suggested I think about the visual interest of the piece. I did some experimenting in SketchUp (download the PDF). We turned the legs in 45 degrees and put the bracing at 45-degree angles to the legs, creating an X pattern. On the Saturday morning after completing the base, Brad and I agreed to cut out the middle section of the legs to really push the uniqueness. In retrospect, I’m not sure that I am in love with that decision, but now we know.

The top is made from a 13-inch wide, 2-inch thick and 8-foot long piece of rough-sawn and air-dried cherry. If surfacing rough lumber is not your bag, there are other options. A pre-surfaced piece of oak from the home center can be cut into two pieces and glued together to make the top. Or you might use a piece of stone, tile, or even cast a piece of concrete to fit. The point is to have a top that will fit into the table tray.

That’s pretty much the project in a nutshell. I hope you dig it and can be inspired to make your own steel and wood table. If there are pieces of the process that you want more details on or if you have some ideas for variations, leave a comment below.

This post is brought to you by Rust-Oleum NeverWet — “You’ve never seen water behave this way!”

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Step 1

 Open Gallery

Tack weld the pieces of the top tray together.

Make the tray to accept the wooden top. Cut the angle steel into 12-inch lengths with 45° angles at the ends. Tack the pieces together making sure that the pieces form 90° angles. Make any adjustments to the angles and finish the welds.

Step 2

 Open Gallery

Getting the steel clean to attach the legs.

Make and attach the legs. Cut 4 pieces of tube steel 30 inches long. Tack weld the legs to the tray at 45° angles (so the legs face each other). Tacking the legs will allow for slight adjustments to be made later.

Step 3

 Open Gallerytack welding the table bracing

Tacking the bracing together. Someone should be wearing gloves …

Cut the leg bracing. We need 8 braces for the legs that are 8 5/8 inches long with 45° angles cut. Tack weld two of them together to make a 90° angle. Do this three more times.

Step 4

 Open Gallery

Brad is tacking the leg bracing to the legs.

Attach the bracing. On each of the legs, mark the location of the leg braces. We wanted the braces to be in the middle of the legs, but they could be positioned nearer the top or the bottom for varying effects. Tack weld the bracing into position. When all four braces are attached, tack weld them together in the middle. If all has gone well, there will be a square home in the middle of the bracing.

Step 5

 Open GalleryTapping threads

Tapping threads in the table feet.

Make the feet. Cut four pieces of 1/2-inch-thick bar steel into 2 x 2-inch squares. Use a cold chisel to mark the center of each foot. Drill holes in the center of each foot. Use a 3/8 tap to make threads in the holes. The threaded holes will accept 3/8-inch bolts for leveling the table. Tack weld the feet to the legs.

Step 6

 Open GalleryTapping threads

The finished welds in the leg bracing.

Finish the welding. Now that the whole table is tacked together, finish all of the welds.

Step 7

Now, on to the top.

Step 8

 Open Gallery

Cutting the cherry plank

Rough-cut the top. Cut an 18-inch length of the board. I like to use a jig saw for this because it is perhaps the safest way. A circular saw might bind in the wood if the board is warped or twisted. The extra length gives me wiggle room during the rest of the surfacing process.

Step 9

 Open Galleryjointing the table top

Jointing half of one face so that the board can be safely run through the planer.

Joint one face of the board. Since my jointer is only 6 inches wide, I have to joint as much as possible to create a flat length in the board.

Step 10

 Open Galleryplaneing the table top

Make both sides of the board smooth and flat.

Plane both sides. Place the flat side of the board down and slide a 1/8-inch piece of Masonite under the flat portion of the board. This should make the board stable for running through the planer. Make a couple of passes through the planer to make one whole side flat. Flip the board over, remove the Masonite and make a couple more passes through the planer. The result should be a board that is flat on both sides and even thickness.

Step 11

 Open Galleryjointing the table top

Jointing one edge makes it flat and square to the faces.

Joint one edge. Now that the board is flat on two sides, run the board through the jointer a couple of times to make one edge flat and 90° to the faces of the board.

Step 12

 Open Gallery

Let the board rest before bringing it to its final dimensions.

Let the board rest. Lay the board aside overnight. Wood has a natural tension in it. When you cut it, plane it and joint it, you are changing the tension within the board and it needs to adjust itself. What this means is that it might warp a little. Once it has rested, it will need to be run through the surfacing process one more time with a few light passes to get it back to true.

Step 13

 Open Gallery

Cutting the cherry table top to size

Cut the board down to size. On the table saw or with a circular saw, cut the board to proper width and length. The proper width and length will be determined by the inside of the tray. My length and width are around 11 5/8 inches, but this could vary depending on the thickness.

Step 14

 Open Gallery

The Rust-Oleum NeverWet puts a foggy coat on the cherry top and the steel.

Apply Rust-Oleum NeverWet. Coat the whole base in 2-3 coats of Step 1. Wait 30 minutes and apply 2-3 coats of Step 2. The Rust-Oleum NeverWet will create a slightly foggy surface on the wood, but water will fly off the top. It does not, however, protect the board from expanding and contracting with the change in the humidity (all wood does this, even the studs in your house).

Step 15

 Open Gallery

The cherry top slides perfectly into the tray.

Set the top. Place the dried wooden top in the tray.

Project Resources

  • Cost: < $150.00
  • Time: 8 hours of working time over 2-3 days

Materials

  • 4′ of 3/4″ Angle steel
  • 200″ of 1 1/4″ square tube steel
  • 8″ of 2 x 1/2 bar steel for the feet
  • 12x12x1 1/2 Wood for the top
  • 2 packages of Rust-Oleum NeverWet

Tools

About Dan Lipe 

12Posts

I’m a Senior Interaction Designer, focused on creating compelling and intuitive user experiences. During my 15+ years in the design field, I’ve worked in print, corporate identity and digital media ...

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9 Responses

  1. cherryblosem says:

    "Above all furniture looking high quality. I like this creativity. In above furniture have very impressive quality. table Table bases is looking very soft. Thanks for this amazing post. Amazing! I like these designs of table.These are wooden furniture. This is looking traditional and so unique design. for more information: http://www.stebul.co.uk/

  2. Rebecca says:

    Unique table! The legs really make it stand out

  3. how long does the rust-oleum last?is it a one time application or do you have to re apply it every 4 months or so?

    • Dan says:

      The table has been sitting outside for the last 2 months. I could definitely reapply the Neverwet to the wood top. The steel, however is holding up well. The only rust is where *someone* did a less than perfect job.

  4. Linda says:

    How did you guys go about picking the 2013 Historic Blog cabin? It is so very awesome, and the work put into it has been magnificient..

  5. Karen says:

    Why don't you have a picture of the whole table? We can't see the bottom! Very nice though.

  6. MaryPA says:

    Nice job, Dan will the never wet need to be reapplied. UV rays !

  7. John Riediger says:

    I think you made the right choice on the legs. Cool table, Dan.

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