Slatted patio table and bench project

This project lays out a modern and durable patio/picnic table which is relatively inexpensive and can seat up to six.

Outdoor furniture made of wood has just the right look for many decks and patios. It usually blends well with other architectural elements and the landscape, while having a nice substantial quality to it.

For the Patio Table and Bench Diagrams and Materials List, click here.

Sadly, plastic and metal furniture sets are the common backyard choices these days because they're easier to move around and less susceptible to damage from the sun, snow and rain.

Hinged base and legs for patio table
The legs and base of the table are assembled using hinges, making it simple to set up and take down and easier to store.

This table and bench set solves the negatives usually associated with wood. It comes apart, so no piece is very heavy.

Disassembled patio table and benches
The pieces of the table come apart quickly and easily, making it take up less space and easy to store during the off-seasons.

Disassembly is simply a matter of loosening a wingnut at each corner. The furniture also folds flat, making it possible to store the entire set in your garage, shed or basement during the off-season — something difficult to do with other "fixed" furniture designs.

Securing patio furniture with carriage bolts, washers and wing nuts
The hardware you will need for this project includes carriage bolts, washers and wing nuts, which are simple to find and take apart when need be.

Indoor storage, combined with a tough outdoor enamel finish, will keep this ensemble looking great for many years of seasonal use.

Building the Leg Assemblies

Laid out patio table leg and base assembly
The leg and base assemblies are laid out here, with four hinges connected to the crossbrace and leg assemblies, put the hinges on the same side of the frame.

The table and benches are both built in the same way (only the dimensions are different), making construction quite simple.

Driving screws into patio table base
1. Use scrap wood to lift the rails and center them to the leg thickness, then drill counterbores and drive screws home to assemble them.

Begin with the leg assemblies. I used 2x Douglas fir kiln-dried lumber for the legs and rails (pieces 1 and 2) and 1"-thick pine for the crossbrace parts (pieces 4 and 5).

Clamping and securing crossbrace frames
2. Use water-resistant glue and 3" galvanized wood screws to fasten the crossbrace frames together and keep them as weatherproof as possible.

Cut your workpieces to the lengths specified in the Material List and assemble the six leg frames and three crossbrace frames using 3" galvanized wood screws. For a more finished look, I counterbored all of the screws and covered them with wood plugs (pieces 6).

Align hinge leaves on patio table crossbrace
3. Clamp a piece of scrap wood to the end of the crossbrace and line the hinge leaves up against it to get them aligned properly.

Break all the sharp edges of the legs and braces with 100-grit sandpaper before you bring them together with pairs of galvanized hinges (pieces 7).

Assembling frame and leg base for patio table
4. Mount the crossbrace to the leg, by clamping the lower hinge to the rail, then driving galvanized screws when the frame is at the center of the leg rails.

Mount the hinges on the same side of the crossbrace frames so the leg frames will fold the same direction for flatter storage.

Making Table and Bench Tops

Laying out patio table bench or framework
Your table and benchtops are going to be made of four rails and two edging strips, the only real distinction will be in the dimensions.

The frames for the table and benchtops are also made of 2x lumber.

Drilling countersink holes in patio top
1. Drill a 1/2" diameter counterbore into each part of the table and benchtop frame assemblies, then use dowels or plugs to fill in the holes once the screws are installed.

Select stock that is clear or with only tight, small knots. Rip the edging (pieces 3) for the table and bench tops, then join the rails and edging with 3" counterbored wood screws to make the three top frames (table and benches). Plug the screw holes.

Clamping and securing patio table and benchtop framework
2. Clamp and glue the table and benchtop frames, and secure them with 3" galvanized screws.

Next, cut angled slats that fit inside your table and bench frames. Miter-cut their ends to 45°.

Assemble patio table and benchtop framework and slats
3. Before moving forward with the assembly, cut and lay out the slats and screw them into the framework from below.

With the frames on a flat surface, work from a middle slat out, marking and cutting one slat at a time and spacing them 1/2" apart.

Sanding smooth patio table slats
4. With your slats secured, use a sander to smooth out the tops and edges of the slats to the desired look and feel.

Next, cut the long and short cleats (pieces 9 and 10) to size. They'll support the slats from underneath.

Installing cleats on patio table and bench frames
5. To finish the table and benchtop assembly, fasten cleats to the inside faces of the framework with 2" wood screws.

Drive 1-1/4" galvanized deck screws through the cleats — one screw per slat — to fix the cleats to the slats, then screw the cleats to the bench and table frames from the inside.

Tiled patio table and bench tops
Tiles might provide a good alternative look to the top of your table and benches by substituting large tiles or panels instead of the slats.

Note: You could substitute outdoor tiles for the slats to take this design in a different direction.

Tiled patio table and bench tops
Using tiles requires slight modification to the design, adding support strips to the top edge of the crossbrace for a little added security and stability.

But you will need to modify the frame sizes to suit your tiles and add additional cross supports to stiffen thinner tiles.

Fastening Tops to Subassemblies

Attaching the patio top to the base
1. Set up your leg and base assembly, and place the top over it adjusting the overhang to your liking and clamping in place.

Attaching the table and bench tops to the leg frameworks is easy.

Boring bolts into patio table rails and leg frame
2. Bore four 1/2"-diameter bolt holes through the top rails and into the leg frame rails, this will start the final assembly.

Set the tops in place on the frames, adjusting for an even overhang. Make sure the leg rails and frame rails are square to the crossbraces.

Boring the final bolt holes in the patio table base
3. Take the top frame off to finish boring the holes in the base, then clamp some scrap under the rail to back up the exit hole.

Drill a single, 1/2"-diameter hole down through the end rails of the tops and into the top rails of the leg frames.

Final patio table frame and base assembly
4. Place the top onto the base and fasten it down with carriage bolts, washers and wing nuts.

Then, remove the top and extend these holes clear through to house a carriage bolt, washer and wingnut.

Finishing Up with Primer and Paint

To keep the finish on your furniture looking good for years, you'll have to take some care when painting. Be sure the wood is dry before you begin. Then apply several coats of oil-based primer-sealer to all exposed, bare surfaces (especially the end grain). Take care to seal the end grain well. It's a good idea to allow the primer to go into the pre-bored screw holes, too. Finish up with several coats of a quality, oil-based enamel, allowing the paint to dry thoroughly between coats. (Use fine steel wool to de-nib the paint between coats if needed.) An occasional waxing will afford an extra measure of protection.

If your patio tends to be damp, consider adding nylon or metal glides to the legs to keep water from wicking up into the wood.

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