Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend Project: Setting the table

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Justin Newcombe makes a table to complement his brand new deck

Step 7: Glue and screw the legs and braces together. Photo / Supplied
Step 7: Glue and screw the legs and braces together. Photo / Supplied

I'm keen to spend as much time outside as possible this summer. With the deck done, it is time to turn my attention to some furniture and the first port of call is a nice table.

I could just buy one, but that would be cheating. Besides, I've got a few sleepers left over from an earlier project so I thought I'd turn those into something special for Christmas. Instead of going for a big chunky table of whole sleepers, I've decided to rip the sleepers into planks and make something with a slightly lighter look. This means being a bit selective about which sleepers I use. I chose sleepers with as few knots as possible and with a nice straight grain. If I do this I am confident of getting some good sound planks.

A few years ago I cut a sleeper into 25mm thick planks with my skill saw for a project and I had one plank left over. The spare spent most of the time in the weather and I was impressed with how well it kept its form; nice and straight and no cupping or splitting which is actually what I expected.

The table is 2.2m long and has a slatted top to allow the moisture to run through. The slats are braced from underneath and the whole thing is framed, glued and screwed. The base is a simple trestle in case I want to pack it away during winter. Plus making a trestle is a lot less work, and at this time of the year I'm all into that.


Step 1: Choose sleepers with as straight a grain as possible and no knots. Then mark the 200mm face of the sleepers into four lengthwise sections and cut them into 45mm x 100mm x 2.2m thick planks. Depending on the width of the table you will need to do this to three or four sleepers.

Step 2: On a work surface covered with polythene, assemble five 2.2m long planks for the table top on their edges. Glue using a two-pot epoxy glue (if you plan to leave the table outside in the weather) or a polyurethane glue if the table will be stored inside.

Step 3: Clamp the board together using clamps or ratchet tie-down strops. Allow to dry. Epoxy requires a minimum of 24 hours, longer if the weather does not co-operate.

Step 4: Once the glue is dry, plane and sand the top. Trim ends with a skill saw so they are tidy.

Step 5: For the trestle legs, work out the angle of the legs by setting out a string line at the proposed height of the table. Use a baton or straight edge to mimic the angle of the legs. Be sure the legs are on a slight angle, so the tops point inwards, as this makes the table much more stable. I decided on the appropriate angle by sight, using an angle much the same as the legs on a saw horse. Once you are happy with the leg angle, take a measurement using a builder's bevel and use this to set your mitre or skill saw.

Step 6: The legs are joined together with a brace at the top and bottom using a halving joint which is glued and screwed. To make a halving joint mark out where the timbers will be joined, then set the saw for half the depth of the timber (in my case 25mm). Make a series of cuts through the timber where the join has been marked out, then clean away the small slivers of timber and tidy with a file.

Step 7: Glue and screw the legs and braces together.

Step 8: To attach the legs, mark out the centre on the back of the table top then place the legs on, in the down position. Mark out the hinge position of each set of legs. Hold the legs in the upright position and screw on 200mm strap hinges.

Step 9: Screw one end of a piece of chain to the centre of the top brace, the middle of the chain to the centre of the bottom of the table top and the other end to the remaining top brace.

Step 10: Sand the table with a belt sander or sanding block then oil with linseed oil. Repeat the oiling process at least two or three times. Allow the table to cure thoroughly before leaving it in the weather. The table will need to be oiled from time to time as part of your summer maintenance to keep it looking its best and staying the distance.

- NZ Herald

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