Patio table, steel structure with wooden table top

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Blog entry by DrTebi posted 12-22-2010 07:01 AM 5134 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

If you don’t feel like reading through all of this, please just scroll down to “Table Top Questions”!

I took a welding/metal arts class at the “Academy of Art” last semester, and was intrigued by traditional blacksmith methods. I found these in many ways very similar to woodworking techniques, and decided to make a arts and crafts like table with a hand forged steel base and a wooden top.

My idea was to imitate woodworking mortise and tenon joints, as you can see in the pictures. The holes for the rails were “cut” into the glowing hot metal with a punch. By cutting this way (instead of drilling only), you get the nice bulging out around the “mortise”. The punch had the same size at the rails, and thus I could bang the rails through the “mortise”... afterwards.

To make the rails “stick” I formed the mushroom like end by heating and hammering on the ends over and over again, and finally drilled two holes through leg and rail through which I then stuck long rivets, which prevent the rail from coming out the other way.

The feet of the legs were “upset” by heating the end in the forge, and then banging them with full force onto an anvil. This would not work in woodworking :)

The thinner metal piece that connects the legs is screwed in. I made the threads myself as well, it’s quite simple actually. The other holes in this piece will provide a place to attach the steel base to the wooden table top.

Overall I am quite satisfied. It’s my first blacksmith project, and for a first one, not so bad. It’s a bit “blacker” than in the pictures, the flash caused a lot of reflections. This black look is achieved by simply painting a linseed oil/beeswax mix onto the table, and then burning it off.

Table Top Questions

Well, the table top however is not done yet. As you can see in the sketchup drawing, the plan is to make this wave-like table top with breadboard ends. I am not too worried about cutting the pieces itself, but I am a bit uncertain about the assembly. I have looked at a few patio tables, and some were screwed together, others with loose tenons, and yet others used dowels.

I would like to use dowels (my dowelmax would come in quite handy for this), but I wonder how much I should worry about the expanding and contracting of the wood? I will most likely use teak wood, as I may get some for a really good price. Does this make a difference, does teak move less than other woods? Any other suggestions for connecting the long pieces to the breadboard ends?

Also, I am wondering if I should need another support in the middle under the wooden table top (which would be out of wood). This would probably keep things together better, as the “strips” will be only about 1 1/2 or 2 inches wide.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!



———————- Update years later——————

I am sorry I never updated this post with pictures of the finished table. In the end I decided to just put a “normal” rectangular top on it. I used redwood, and mortise and tenons for the slats to breadboards. The top is screwed on with stainless steel screws. Has held up great for almost 5 years now, I have breakfast on it almost every morning ☺


5 comments so far

View DrTebi's profile


402 posts in 4384 days

#1 posted 12-22-2010 10:48 AM

Thank you kunk. I thought the reason to use slats for exterior table tops was simply for the reason to avoid water collecting on the top. But as you explain, it solves the problem of wood expansion problems as well. That’s great to know…

If I will use mortise and tenon joints I don’t know… I am still quite new to woodworking, and dowels seem so much easier, especially considering that it will be quite a few tenons and mortises that I would have to produce.

View JamesVavra's profile


305 posts in 4434 days

#2 posted 12-22-2010 04:37 PM

Actually, the mortises and tennons for this project should be a bit simpler than most. Instead of individual mortises, just run one long groove in the edge that will abut the slats. If you then make the tennons the full width of the slat, eliminating any shoulder cuts, they can be done fairly quickly. Depending on the spacing between the slats, you could fill the small gap caused by the full length mortise slot or leave it if it’s very small.

I’d still pin each of the tennons.

I love the design, by the way. The hand forged frame looks great and I’m sure the top will turn out well too.


View DrTebi's profile


402 posts in 4384 days

#3 posted 12-22-2010 08:25 PM

I think I am 99% convinced that a mortise and tenon approach will be the best solution. I should make some test pieces first, so I can get an idea of correct measuring etc.

Before I can get to it, I will have to finish up the workshop remodeling though… however, I will post updates to this blog once I get into the project.

Thanks again for all replies.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 4136 days

#4 posted 12-23-2010 06:44 AM

I made my living as a welder and can say that I think you did an excellent job on the table base. The only change I would make would be to use a heavier bar to hold the 2 sides together, the one you used looks like it will bend too easily. I would err on the stronger side.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View DrTebi's profile


402 posts in 4384 days

#5 posted 12-23-2010 09:53 AM

You are right, the bar on top does bend and causes a bit of shaking. I made two 1/2 by 1/2 bars with upset ends that are supposed to go between the two legs (maybe about 5 inches from the top) to improve that, but wanted to wait until I screw a “test” board onto the structure. Anyway, it might be a better idea to just replace the top bar with a thicker piece, although that will increase the table height a bit…

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