Help with Outdoor Dining Table Project

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Forum topic by 9And1HalfFingerJon posted 02-19-2020 12:01 PM 354 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 2419 days

02-19-2020 12:01 PM

Hi Jocks -
Yes I really am a 9.5 finger guy. Very lucky; ring finger only – golf game actually improved. Go figure!

Looking for some guidance as I deliver a nice piece over the coming days/weeks. I’ve scoured the forum and gotten a lot of great ideas and recommendations. I hope to apply your feedback as I proceed.

Here is a picture my wife found on the interweb…

My thoughts:
1. Using construction-grade 2x and 4x (6x?) materials for table and bench base and benches and 1x for tabletop and benchtops
2. Using pocket screws and glue for base joinery
3. Using pocket screws, biscuits (for alignment) and glue for tabletop/benchtops
4. Dimensions – TBD: 30”H, Long enough to comfortably sit 4 on each side and one at each end, As narrow as possible to accommodate seating at ends. Benches will fit underneath table between table legs
5. Finish will be Thompson’s or something similar.
6. Prefer to avoid breadboard end due to joinery related to expansion controversy (battens instead)

Priimary Tools: Table Saw, Chop Saw, Router Table, Kreg, etc.
Missing tools: Drill press, Jointer, Planer

Please share feedback – good and bad :-)
Q1 – what is minimum table width? 28”?
Q2 – bench requires climb in/out in addition to seating space: how much space per person is required along bench – 22”? this will determine table span and bench length
Q3 – what modifications to materials are recommended? i.e. rip 1×12 into 6 in wide pieces
Q4 – how to age tabletop/benchtops prior to fab and assembly? is same required for base?
Q5 – thoughts on batten vs breadboard? still need to accommodate expansion
Q6 – how to fasten top to base?
Q7 – finish?


12 replies so far

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2719 posts in 1039 days

#1 posted 02-19-2020 12:58 PM

what part of the country are you in ?


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View jamsomito's profile


589 posts in 1303 days

#2 posted 02-19-2020 02:01 PM

I tried a breadboard end on an outdoor table and it did not go well. My execution of the joint was bad, but I don’t see even if it was done well that it would have worked out. I used “kiln dried after treatment” (KDAT) treated southern yellow pine, and it was still sopping wet. I let it sit stickered on my lumber rack for a year and the middle was STILL wet when it came time to build my table. My only conclusion is I didn’t have enough air flow to fully dry it. But the wood was not in equilibrium with the environment when built and it warped badly. Even if it had been though, I can visibly see this thing move between hot summer days and rain storms, and between summer and winter.

Here’s my project:

Here’s my lessons learned:

The frame is generally ok and unmoved, it’s the top that moves significantly and is in bad shape. Same story with the benches. So, I wouldn’t worry about whatever kind of legs/feet/frame you make, it should hold up ok.

As for stock, at least as far as SYP goes, I found bigger boards were generally higher quality, though a lot of them were cut close to the pith. If I were to do it with typical lumber yard SYP again, I’d get 2×12’s and only use 2×4- or 5-inch segments from them.

Really if I could do the whole thing over, I’d just pay more for good kiln dried Cedar, let it sit stickered for a month or two (since it’s pretty close to outdoor equilibrium where I buy it), and just do it right the first time.

As for the top, I used Z-clips and they are holding well.

View PBWilson1970's profile


121 posts in 270 days

#3 posted 02-19-2020 02:01 PM

Narrow tables leave little room for dishes that people share in the middle. I’d say that 28” is narrow but will work if you have a place to rest the lasagna pan, turkey carving platter and large fruit bowls. A dinner plate is maybe 10’ or 11” diameter. If it’s at the edge of the table, you’ll have 6”-8” of space between them for glasses and salad bowls, but not a lot of room for dishes to pass.

For seating space. I’ve seen articles that say 24” is the minimum. 30” each is optimal. People need space to move their arms and sitting shoulder to shoulder doesn’t work all that well. You also need a bit extra at the ends if you want the person sitting at the head of the table to have room for his or her plate.

I’m currently drafting plans for my dining room table and have thought about this a lot. I got a lot of practical information about room size, space behind chairs and seating area from Fine Woodworking articles and google searches. I hope this helped.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

View PBWilson1970's profile


121 posts in 270 days

#4 posted 02-19-2020 02:06 PM

For aging the wood, you can try the steel wool in vinegar solution technique. It gives the wood, depending on tannin levels, a grey to almost black look. The black usually only happens with Oak (somewhat with Walnut and Cherry) which is loaded with tannins.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

View PBWilson1970's profile


121 posts in 270 days

#5 posted 02-19-2020 02:09 PM

Metal kerf fasteners or your own wooden made ones should work well to attach the top to the apron.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

View bilyo's profile


1165 posts in 1979 days

#6 posted 02-19-2020 03:38 PM

Has any one ever built outdoor furniture out of heat modified lumber? I don’t remember the correct nomenclature but, I understand, it is lumber that is actually cooked at high temp after kiln drying. It changes the chemical make-up and makes it more stable and weather/insect resistant. It is about 20% more $$. I would love to see someone make an outdoor project out of it. I have no occasion to do so.

I suggest you use stainless fasteners.

View PBWilson1970's profile


121 posts in 270 days

#7 posted 02-19-2020 03:45 PM

Do you mean Torrefied wood? I’ve seen it used in the guitar making world but not in other projects. It would be a great thing to be able to use any species outdoors without fear of weathering to the point of failure.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

View AndyJ1s's profile


452 posts in 632 days

#8 posted 02-19-2020 03:46 PM

Benches can actually require more length per person than chairs, when you account for a person stepping over the bench to/from their seat between others already seated. I’d allow minimum 28 to 30 inches per person, if you plan on this still working when the guests are all adults. Add 24” (total) for persons seated at both ends.

The table should be minimum 36” wide to handle serving dishes in the middle; more is better, especially for large platters and serving dishes (that would serve 10 adults).

-- Andy - Arlington TX

View 9And1HalfFingerJon's profile


4 posts in 2419 days

#9 posted 02-19-2020 04:49 PM

Wow- lots to digest already. Thanks guys!!

I live in Southern CA within a mile of the ocean.

View Snipes's profile


459 posts in 3121 days

#10 posted 02-19-2020 04:57 PM

Lot of questions. 2’ per person in length. Yes 30” high. I’ve built resteraunt tables at 28” wide, but if it is to be used a lot go wider. Nix the construction lumber Pick up some 2” red cedar from a Sawyer, I’ll sell you some.. not sure what a batten table is? Personally I would leave gaps between boards on the top. Pocket screws? I guess you could use some

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View 9And1HalfFingerJon's profile


4 posts in 2419 days

#11 posted 02-19-2020 05:05 PM

Here’s what I’ve gleaned so far…
1. Go ahead and buy kiln-dried cedar for the tops. Hell, even have them delivered edge jointed :-)
2. Breadboard without the right craftsmanship (guilty as charged!) will likely disappoint.
Batten is the way to go. Interesting videos to watch.
3. Thinking table width around 32”, overall length and bench length still TBD.

More to come…

View 9And1HalfFingerJon's profile


4 posts in 2419 days

#12 posted 02-19-2020 05:09 PM

Snipes – interesting idea to simply leave gaps and avoid LOTS of edge joinery issues.

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