Patio Table from Reclaimed Cedar

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Project by McaroJCC posted 08-08-2018 12:16 AM 1279 views 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My youngest daughter is in college in KC and she and 4 of her friends moved into an apartment off campus in January. They have a small balcony they like to sit on and have coffee and she thought it would be nice to have a little custom table to put out there. Hence the table project shown here.

I built the top first out of cedar spindles that I saved when we rebuilt our deck a few years ago. I started by planing all four sides of each spindle to remove the paint and the major blemishes. Then I resawed them to ~3/4” thickness on the tablesaw. To add rigidity and bulk to the table top, I decided to use 3/4” treated plywood as a backer for the spindles.

The final dimensions for the top were going to be 16 1/2” x 30 1/2” so I glued the spindles together along their narrow (3/4”) edge to a width of about 18”. I wanted it oversized so that I could cut it down to final dimension and have a square, jointed panel that wouldn’t need any additional working. Once the glue on the panel was dried, I then glued it onto a slightly larger panel of the plywood. When that dried I cut the top down to final size. The last thing to do was the edge banding, also made from the reclaimed cedar.

I finished the top off with 3 coats of Tung oil and 3 coats of General Finishes Exterior 450 semi-gloss.

For the leg assembly, I chose some 4/4 cypress I had on hand. I think the difference in grain and color added a nice contrast to the finished project.

I cut all the legs 3” wide and about 30” long. The final length of the legs would be 23 3/4”, but I wanted plenty of room for error as this was my first attempt at using angles. I cut a 5 degree angle across the top of all the legs and then used an angle jig on the tablesaw to create the narrowing effect. The cut entered the side of the leg 3” below the top and finished at 1 1/2” wide at the bottom. Angling the legs allowed me to use a smaller assembly attachment at the tabletop end, but still have plenty of stability for the table.

The rails on the leg assembly are 3” wide strips of the same cypress, but I planed them 1/8” smaller to create a small ridge where they join the legs. I think that gives some depth and texture to the build. The rails are attached to the legs with pocket-holes and glue. I toyed with the idea of doing a mortise and tenon joint, or a half-lap joint, but decided on the pocket-holes because they would be hidden anyway and I was coming up against a self-imposed deadline.

I wanted to be sure the cypress legs didn’t split out, so I clamped the rails in place and started the pocket-hole screws by hand just far enough to puncture the legs and leave a mark. I then pre-drilled the holes for the pocket-hole screws. When I did final assembly, I again installed the screws by hand so as not to risk over-tightening and splitting the legs.

Here’s a tip for getting the angle at the bottom of the legs to match the one at the top (which is kind of critical if you want them to sit flat on the floor, IJS). Now I imagine that you seasoned folks are aware of this trick, but I had to kind of figure it out during this process. So I’m hopeful that I may be saving other relative newbies, like myself, from a lot of trial and error. Here’s the tip: to get the legs all the same length, and at the right angle, assemble the long rails to the legs only, and then cut them to final length using the tablesaw and fence. You slide the upper end of each assembly flush along the fence. This guarantees that all four legs are the same length, and by using the tops of the legs as the reference against the fence, this ensures that the angles at the bottom of the legs will be on exactly the same plane. Sounds simple, and it is. But finally getting there caused me a lot of angst and head-scratching as I tried to transfer the angle from the top to the bottom of the legs using angle finders, hand saws, and spacers. I know, but I’m doing the best that I can.

I finished the legs with 2 coats of Minwax Weathered Oak 270 (wiped on) and 2 coats of the General Finishes Exterior 450.

To attach the legs to the table top I countersunk 2 holes in each of the long rails 1” deep using my drill press. I then pre-drilled a hole slightly smaller than my wood screws the rest of the way through the rails, again to eliminate the possibility of splitting the cypress. I used a 1” countersink because I wanted my 2 3/4” wood screws to penetrate into the tabletop 3/4” (i.e. the thickness of my plywood backer board). The 3” rail minus the 1” countersink left 2” of wood for the screw to penetrate, thus leaving 3/4” of screw to enter the tabletop.

I was very pleased with the final result on the table, and my daughter (and her roommates) loved it. In fact, they loved it so much that they couldn’t bring themselves to put it outside. It is now doing duty as an end table in their apartment.

There is one mistake I made that I would like to correct if I do another version of this build. You may notice from the photos that the legs have an unusual texture on one side. That is the milling marks and I left those intentionally in order to match the reclaimed theme of the tabletop. What I failed to account for, though, was that I needed to be very particular how I sawed the angle on the legs so that the milling marks would all face out when the table was assembled. What I ended up with was 2 legs that had the milling marks on the outside, 2 on the inside. I’ll remember that next time, and my daughter didn’t seem to mind.

Hope you like the project. If you have any questions, I’m happy to try and answer them.

-- MCaro, St. Charles, MO

7 comments so far

View BurlyBob's profile


9293 posts in 3476 days

#1 posted 08-08-2018 01:20 AM

What a great patio piece. It has all the wonderful character you would want for the outdoors. Good job!

View McaroJCC's profile


42 posts in 1138 days

#2 posted 08-08-2018 01:33 PM

Thanks, BurlyBob. I had a lot of fun making it, and learned some new stuff in the process.

-- MCaro, St. Charles, MO

View Richard's profile


11310 posts in 4244 days

#3 posted 08-08-2018 02:46 PM

Very nice Project & Well Done Mcaro!

-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View McaroJCC's profile


42 posts in 1138 days

#4 posted 08-08-2018 03:04 PM

Thanks, Richard!

-- MCaro, St. Charles, MO

View Woodknack's profile


13584 posts in 3591 days

#5 posted 08-08-2018 10:36 PM

Gluing the top to plywood and edging the ends like that, will cause problems as the solid wood tries to move but the plywood doesn’t. The expected result is a cupped top or maybe splitting. It’s a nice looking table and I especially like the base. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

-- Rick M,

View McaroJCC's profile


42 posts in 1138 days

#6 posted 08-09-2018 03:18 AM

Gluing the top to plywood and edging the ends like that, will cause problems as the solid wood tries to move but the plywood doesn t. The expected result is a cupped top or maybe splitting. It s a nice looking table and I especially like the base. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

- Woodknack

I thought about that, but too late in my process to undo it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the difference in movement will be minor enough to keep any serious flaws from developing. In hindsight, I wish I’d left the cedar full thickness for the top and foregone the plywood backer. If it does develop faults, I’ll remake the top and reuse the base. Since it’s screwed rather than glued it can be preserved. Appreciate the insight.

-- MCaro, St. Charles, MO

View mcoyfrog's profile


4757 posts in 4805 days

#7 posted 08-09-2018 04:44 PM

Sweet, thanks for the detail also

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

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