My first project in 2020 was this little workhorse of a table. I use it all of the time. And I made a second one for my in-laws. My friend Robin got me started in this hobby (THANK YOU ROBIN!). and suggested this first project and it was perfect. Time needed: a few hours to a day for assembly, and then a session for prime and another session for paint.
I was a total newbie to making stuff like this. So if you're just starting out, then no worries....this is indeed a good place to start. Take your time and enjoy it. You will learn the difference between a cross cut, mitre cut, and bevel cut ! Regale friends and family with tales of these facts while you rest your refreshments on the table!
Here's a link to the website that has the instructions. Big thanks to Toni at https://www.girljustdiy.com/build-2x4-outdoor-table/
Toni's instructions include the tools and materials you need, and the 'cut list' which explains how you're going to cut the wood. Good instructions like these will include sections to list what to buy and the cuts that are needed.
Here are my notes, advice, and lessons learned. My goal here is to supplement Toni's instructions.
Materials and tools
- Speed square.
The Speed Square makes it super easy to mark a straight line with pencil on your work piece. It has an edge on one side that you place along the wood and then voila you use the perpendicular side to mark your line. I had not even heard of this 2 years ago so don't feel like this is too basic. I use this on every project. And it has many other uses.
2. Stud wood at Home Depot or Lowes is perfectly fine for this. Spend some time looking over the 8 foot pieces and pick some good ones. Avoid ones that are bowed, bent, have splits, or nasty missing chunks. This table looks great with basic paint on it, so minor blemishes are going to be covered by the paint, includng the ink stamp that says STUD. Get an extra piece in case you mess up or if you discover a bad piece later.
3. Pick up a mitre saw. I bought this Metabo one off of amazon and its been great so far. I think it's a good beginner mitre saw.
4. The Kreg Pocket Hole Jig. This is a neat gadget that makes pocket holes. These are little eliptical holes in which you insert a pocket screw to attach the pieces. These pocket holes really make this look fancy. A "jig" in general is just a device that holds a workpiece and guides the tools operating on it. (I had to look that up.).
There are a couple different options with the Kreg stuff. I went with this Kreg gray box that has the blue jig and 2 drill bits....one is the hole maker and the other is for drilling in the screws. I also bought a Kreg clamp to attach the jig to the wood.
Putting it together
Most wood projects have 2 phases: assembly and finishing. Assembly includes making the cuts and putting the pieces together. Finishing is where you sand the wood, and then since we're painting, put a coat of primer on it and then paint.
I assembled the table on the patio in my back yard. The cuts were done with the miter saw. I was really daunted by the miter saw at first. The thing is intimidating. Highly recommend Steve Ramsey's video to get acclimated. Safety first! Eye protection and ear protection are requirements. Take your time.
Cross cuts, bevel cuts, mitre cuts.... and the kerf!
Most pieces of this table are getting a cross cut. This means you are using the miter saw in its straight position, making a 90 degree cut through the wood.
A mitre cut is where you adjust the angle of the blade using the post in the front of the miter saw. unscrew it, set the angle you want, then tighten it up. So the blade is still perpendicular to the surface that holds the wood. The cross leg supports of the table are examples of mitre cuts.
The legs of this table get a bevel cut. The blade is back at center (zero degrees) but this time the blade itself will be tilted....set on an angle so that you are bringing it down through the wood on an angle. On my saw the back of the machine is where the bevel angle can be adjusted. My saw has a big orange handle. Instead of turning to the left to loosen, you turn to the right. Then move the blade housing to the desired bevel angle, then turn the handle to the left to tighten it at that position.
Take your time getting the saw blade oriented and thinking through what the cut will do.
What is the kerf you wonder? When you cut wood with a machine like a miter saw, the blade itself takes up a couple millimeters. This is called the kerf. So when you make your measurements and draw with the pencil you actually want to make your cut to the side of the line. This accounts for the kerf. If you cut right through the line, then your piece will be slightly short.
The table top
The top of the table has 6 cross-cut pieces at 19.5 inches but I went with 21 inches and it turns out fine. Both glue and pocket screws are used to secure all pieces. The glue is actually the magic that makes the strong connections.
Try to line up the boards, attaching one at a time, as perfectly as you can. Imagine the top surface of the table....you want it to be come together so that the boards are all nicely level. It does not matter if the bottom has peaks and valleys from board to board, the top is what matters. I didn't have clamps at the time, but they would be helpful with this step. When you screw the boards together they try to lift up.
Attaching the legs
Near the end of assembly, you will have two pieces: the table top and the table base (the legs and the H support). The goal here is to attach the base to the underside of the table top, equidistant from the edges of the table. Take your time and find that best measurement. It might not exactly match the instructions. Use a pencil to mark positions under the table top. Once you are happy with the position, secure the base to the top. Don't forget to apply glue too.
Prime and paint
Slap a coat of exterior primer onto the table. Prime all surfaces.
Let that dry and then paint it with your favorite color. I really love the festive green I used. I went with a matte paint and if I make another I think I will use semi-gloss.
Kick back with a snack and a drink on the table. Or use it as another flat surface during your next project. If you made a mistake along the way, who cares. And resist the temptation to point out boo-boos. I love Steve Ramsey's advice: most likely no one will notice an imperfection. If they do, then tell them "oh that's a feature!"
Motivational quote to ponder
So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we don't just sit there. If we screw up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late. - Lee Iacocca.