Outdoor Coffee Table

  • Advertise with us
Project by tpmwoodworker posted 05-03-2015 04:58 PM 1969 views 4 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was a little uncertain about whether to post this project. Because it started as some practice and experimenting to try to learn how to cut dovetail joints. But as I was doing it I remembered that my wife wanted a new outdoor coffee table for the porch. So I moved it in that direction. And I used some design ideas that I had not seen before. I’m happy with the result. So I thought I would share with the community in case anyone finds it interesting.

The table base and structure is Douglas Fir 2×4s, some presentation quality and some construction grade pieces. The top inset is 16’’ x 15’’ x 3/4’’ made from planks of Walnut and Hard Maple laminated together. Before final assembly I hand planed all the Doug Fir planks so I got them all to something like presentation quality. The entire project was done only with hand tools.

I started by making a top frame with four of the Doug Fir 2×4’s on their faces to make a 22’ square. As you can see, doing this this way meant that the outer arms of the joints are very weak because of how the grain is lined up. I’d like to say this was by design. But like I said, this was my first effort with dovetail joints. So I actually didn’t realize this when I started. When I was fitting the joints together, a couple of arms popped off right along the grain. But happily since it was clean on the grain I was able to glue them back on pretty cleanly. Probably stronger than when they started. I figured that since there wouldn’t be stress along the grain when it was being used as a table that once they were glued up they’d be strong enough for the project at hand.

I then cut the traditional perpendicular dovetail joints to connect the legs to the frame. As I said at the top, this was my first effort to cut dovetail joints. And a few of them fall quite a bit short of the work of a master, to put it mildly. But they were solid in structural terms and this is for an outdoor table. So I figured it would work aesthetically too.

Laminating the top piece was just standard edge gluing in two stages and then planing down any roughness.

For the inset, I used a rabbeting plane to cut rabbets on the inside edge of the shorter pieces that make up the top frame. I cut these 1/2’’ in and 3/4’’ deep so the top piece would seat in and be flush. When I did put it in there was a bit of twist in the top piece which required a little fiddling and fine tuning of the rabbets and then some planing of the top. All good.

The dovetail joints were structurally solid enough (even if not all pretty) that the entire table held together nicely without glue. I glued it up, did some additional planing and a bit of sanding. And then I added a couple coats of indoor/outdoor semi-gloss poly.

Thanks for reading. Comments welcome and appreciated.

-- Newcomer to Woodworking, Looking to Learn More

4 comments so far

View JFPBoring's profile


10 posts in 2796 days

#1 posted 05-03-2015 06:20 PM

Very well done and your description of the process was very helpful.


-- JFPBoring

View GravyBones's profile


43 posts in 2294 days

#2 posted 05-04-2015 12:47 AM

Beautifully done. Nice look with the dovetails. I bet you’re not afraid to try them again. Will only get better. You should get a lot of enjoyment out of the piece.


View Marty 529's profile

Marty 529

344 posts in 2881 days

#3 posted 05-04-2015 01:10 PM

Very interesting design. I really like it. Well done :)

-- Marty, Ohio

View EnderezandoClavos's profile


2 posts in 2285 days

#4 posted 05-04-2015 02:27 PM

Excellent. Cola de Milano!!

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics