Small Garden Table

Wednesday 11 July 2018

My wife, for longer than I care to remember, has wanted a small folding table to use when she sits in the garden. I must confess it has been on my things-to-do list for some considerable time, and it seems to have gone further down the list for some unknown reason.

Recently, I have been given some old teak laboratory benches. After cutting them into reasonable lengths, I was left with some smaller lengths which I thought would be ideal for a small project — such as a table – so I have been spurred into action.

Incidentally, this table is versatile in that it can be used as an occasional stool. Alternative timbers to use would be oak and ash. The construction remains the same if you vary the overall size – the only advice I can give is that if you vary the size, make some trial legs out of MDF so that you can experiment and get the folding action correct with the different leg length.

The problem with using reclaimed material is the surface dirt and finish make the detection of small pins etc, difficult, however, the cost of more frequent sharpening of planer blades is more than offset by the amount saved on buying the timber, and then there is the satisfaction gained by recycling.


The top

1. The teak was well over 25mm in thickness, so there was little difficulty in achieving the desired sizes. The top consists of an outer surround or apron with thinner slats fixed between the two ends.

2. I planed and thicknessed the 50mm wide wood for the surround – and made them slightly longer at this stage to trim them later

3. The slats are 12mm thick and I was able to resaw them to obtain two widths from the original thickness. If the wood you are using is nominal 25mm sawn material, you may have to settle for somewhat thinner slats

4. When resawing, make sure the sides are planed square, and use a sharp 12mm or wider bandsaw blade with no more than 4 or 5 skip saw teeth to the inch

5 Hold the wood well against the fence and proceed slowly, giving the sawdust plenty of time to clear. The old wood I used stayed flat but if your wood is new it might bow slightly, which can mean you have to plane a little more of the thickness away

6. With a router fitted with a 6mm straight bit, take out a groove 8mm deep, starting 10mm from the top of the end surround pieces, or slightly less if the thickness of your slats are less. The object is to finish with the top of your slats flush with the surround.

Cut the side pieces forming the surround and the slats to the length between the end pieces of the top, plus 16mm to allow for the tongue or tenon at each end

7. To form the tenon at the end of the slats, cut the shoulder – I used a table saw with the depth and fence set

8. Then use a bandsaw with the fence set to complete the tenon.

9. The top can now be assembled. Apply a waterproof glue, such as Cascamite, to the grooves before inserting the side frames and slats so that the spaces between are evenly spaced. The tenon may seem small, but this joint is strengthened when the side and end rails are fixed to the underside of the tabletop. Keep the top in the clamps until set, then make the side and end apron pieces and screw these in position. Do not use glue at this stage because it is easier to remove the side apron so that the bolt hole for the legs to swivel on can be drilled using the bench drill

10. Give the top a good sanding once the glue has gone off

The legs

11. Make the legs 38mm wide and round the leg tops – nearest the tabletop. I used a small pair of spring bow compasses to draw the outline before cutting and sanding to shape

12. Drill a clearance hole for the coach bolts to be used in two of the legs at the centre of the semicircle – the point used by the compasses. The holes in the legs are centred 19mm from the end and side. In order that the legs are free to pivot easily, drill a hole in the side apron 22mm from the underside of the tabletop and the internal corner where the end and side aprons meet.

13. I made a template for the legs out of MDF to ensure that the legs folded and were correctly positioned. If you are making the table a different size, then this will be essential. When you are satisfied with the MDF legs, the teak legs can be drilled with the central clearance hole, so that each pair of legs can swivel around a coach bolt. The inner set of legs have three stretchers to prevent racking but before making these, it is best to fit the teak legs in place so that the measurement for the stretchers can be checked. To assemble the legs, place the coach bolt in the hole drilled in the side apron, then after first placing a spacer washer on the bolt, place the legs in position. Next, use a bolt passed through the holes drilled near the leg centre to join the adjacent legs in place, after first using three spacing washers to separate them so that they can move freely and will not engage the coach bolt nuts when being folded.

14. Now measure the distance between the legs so the stretchers can be made. Before taking the legs apart, place a ruler at the distance

15/ I turned 12mm pins on each end of the stretchers, so that they could be glued into holes drilled in the legs. Use the long corner of a skew chisel to make a shoulder

16. Then turn the pin using a parting tool. If you do not have a lathe, you will have to chop a small mortise to take a tenon made on the stretcher ends

17. After gluing the stretchers in place, glue and clamp the legs

18-19. In order to stop the nuts coming loose, cut the bolts off flush with the nut, and then give the nut another complete turn. Next, use a small hammer, ball pein if you have one, to rivet the projecting bolt over, so that the nut cannot be removed. I used a small hook and eye to prevent the legs coming away from the top, if it is lifted by the top without holding the legs

20. Teak, even when reclaimed, can be somewhat oily, so I let the table weather a while before applying a coat of tung oil diluted 50/50 with white spirit to aid penetration. I find this better than proprietary teak oil