Outdoor Dining Table and Bench


Here’s the set!

After the staining success of the bench I was encouraged. I rubbed the table down with mineral oil, then scrubbed it with steel wool-000. It’s darker than the bench, still, but the surface is really smooth and not as mottled with smeared stain. I can live with it now but I will most likely sand the top and sides down first chance I get and do it right.

I’ll need to make cushions for the bench and chairs. That’s after we get the garage cleaned out and take care of a few other winterizing-type things. It will be a nice winter project.

This was a really interesting project and I learned a LOT! I’m looking forward to dinner for 6 on the deck next summer!

Project cost with tools: ~$150.00.

Critical tools: Kreg Mini Jig set, finish sander, belt sander (at least for me), 2 drills, chop saw, jig saw, Kreg Rip-Cut Circular Saw Guide, circular saw, brad nailer, tack hammer, nail set.

Hardware and other: Kreg pocket hole screws, pocket hole plugs, wood glue, stain (if you wish), random incidentals (pliers, sandpaper, etc…).



After installing the cross-pieces, filling the holes, and sanding and sanding and sanding, the bench is ready for stain. (Click to enlarge)

For the cross-pieces I used scrap that was ripped for the table and bench legs. It’s thinner but with the smaller dimensions of the bench, relative to the table, it looks good, and quicker than buying more wood and ripping new pieces.

I now realize where I went wrong with the table stain. What a dumbass I am. Instead of staining the table like a piece of furniture (wiping off the excess stain), I stained it like a deck and left the excess to dry. In a damp garage, just before a rain, the stain didn’t dry quickly enough and it left the streaks. Grrr, still kicking myself for this!

The finished outdoor cedar bench! (click to enlarge)

I got really lucky with a warm Saturday and was able to stain the bench outside–um, like a piece of furniture. I’m really, really happy with the bench!


The cedar bench with legs! (click to enlarge)

The bench is nearing completion! Again, three sets of legs and 2 crosspieces for more strength. It’s pretty solid right now but I’m not going to take any chances of future wobbling by forgoing the crosspieces. The leg design is slightly different for the bench. Here’s the deal:

This is the table leg design I got from the “inspiration” table’s instructions. http://www.westminsterteak.com/PID15900/Horizon-Teak-Extendable-Table (click to enlarge)

So, you see the table leg is stepped and there is a crosspiece that goes across, under the tabletop. Well, it didn’t fit perfectly–had to be shimmed and that was a weak spot to begin with soooo…. There were other weak spots too that had to be dealt with. I’m sure the Horizon-Teak-Extendable-Table provides many construction details that I have yet to learn.

For the bench legs I decided make cut-outs on the length-wise, edge under piece so as to be able to attach the legs at more spots for more strength.

Adding the cut-outs as described in the picture worked, sort of. The bench legs were sturdier right away but I had to shim and glue around the legs. After that it was pretty tight. The bench legs are shorter and there are three of them instead of the longer, two on the table; certainly this adds to the strength as well.


October already! The weather is getting colder and the daylight is diminishing quickly. I need to wrap this project up and get some maintenance and clean-up done around here before the snow starts falling. Frankly, this project is starting to wear on me. If I never have to cut another Kreg plug it will be too soon. And, another thing…

The outdoor cedar dining table is finished! (click to enlarge)

This is the table; lightweight, sturdy, and kinda pretty. But! I totally screwed up the stain and I am kicking myself over and over about it. After reading up on the options for treating cedar furniture (or not), and considering the other furniture (the new chairs) in the space; I decided to use the same semi-transparent, cedar color deck stain as I used for the deck floor. This is Woodscapes from Sherwin Williams. I considered leaving the cedar untreated and letting it go gray but I wanted the table to match the chairs and, although the table will be in a covered area, it will be left outside all year long.

Notice the streaks? Well, they did not dry and go away! Apparently, I back-brushed too much for the cool, damp weather and the streaks stayed! Short of sanding the top down and staining it again, I’m trying to work out a way to get rid of the streaks and make the top an even finish. Any suggestions?

I used these little plastic feet from Rockler on the four corners of the legs and the center of the crosspiece.(click to enlarge)

Wrapping this up, These little plastic, nail-in feet I found at Rockler are just the ticket for keeping the table legs up off the deck floor. They should help to prevent moisture from seeping in and prematurely aging the piece.



in this picture you can see the little slot, now encrusted with glue, that fits the Kreg plugs. (click to enlarge)

I searched online about how to use the plug slot on the underside of the Kreg Mini Jig and couldn’t find anything quickly.

Fit the Kreg plug into the slot on the underside of the Kreg Mini Jig and tap the plug into place with a tack hammer. (click to enlarge)

Here’s what made sense and worked. You slide the plug into the slot the only way it fits. Using a tack hammer or small rubber mallet, just pap the plug into the hole. The round end of the plug is cut at an angle so it covers the screw heads nicely.

You have to be careful not to tap too hard or the edge of the plug curls up. You can also just press the plug into place with your finger or thumb. This and just a little bit of glue in the hole and you’ve got an installed plug…or 64.

All the plugs are glued and sanded. So pretty! (click to enlarge)

Look Ma; no metal! (click to enlarge)

The decision to cover the holes on the underside really came down to wanting to make a nice piece of furniture. You never know how a project will turn out and along the way you have to gauge the importance of each step, relative to the effort. Conversely, it’s worth it, sometimes, to take the extra step if only for the experience of doing it. That’s my zen DIY statement for the day.

Braces for the Table

Corner braces for the last bit of stabilization. (Click to enlarge)

After a neighborhood assessment of the stability of the table I decided to, once again, take John’s advice and add the corner braces. He originally suggested this after the first pass of four. It downright swayed before I added the shims. Then, it got a little better after the crosspiece, and almost acceptable after the side pocket holes. Now, after the corner braces it’s good to go!



Yes, a matching bench was planned from the start. While waiting for the cedar Kreg plugs to arrive I started the bench. The top is finished and most of the leg pieces are ripped. Once again I ran out of wood and had to buy another piece of cedar from Home Depot. The bench will be the length of the table and 18″ wide.

Here’s the layout of the bench from underneath. (click to enlarge)

For the bench I’m going to make three sets of legs since it will be bearing weight. Also in the plans are a cushion and lumbar pillows for the bench, and cushions for the chairs.

Meanwhile, the cedar plugs, a package of 50, has arrived so, back to the table. I am determined to finish the underside of the table, even though my neighbors think I’m crazy, because the underside will be seen from the yard below and the screws are not stainless. Stainless screws are more than 3X more expensive but they won’t rust. It’s a trade-off: more work and less money or less work and more money.

The Kreg plugs are made to fit holes cut for 2 1/2″ screws and are too long for the, mostly 1 1/4″ holes in this project. How to cut these tiny plugs without taking off any fingers….?

At Rockler I found this little honey. (click to enlarge)

This tiny aluminum miter box and sharp little saw, bought at Rockler, are tactilely pleasing, perfect for cutting Kreg plugs, and cute as hell in a dollhouse sort of way — if ya know what I mean.

I used this tiny miter box and saw set to cut the Kreg plugs so they would fit into the pocket holes and hide the screws. (click to enlarge)

I can’t tell you how happy I was to find this set. It allowed me to cut 60+ wood plugs without noticeable, resulting pain in my shoulder, elbow, or wrist. I really need to save any strength my joints for the belt sander. The long awaited Kreg cedar plugs ran out and I had to buy a pack of “paint grade” plugs at Lowe’s which actually fit the holes a little better but were harder to cut.

At this point I have decided to use semi-transparent deck stain to finish the table so the plugs will be protected to some extent.



Just put glue in the hole and insert the end of the dowel. Then, using a flush-cut saw simply saw off the dowel where it meets the surface of the table. (click to enlarge)

This process took several hours. I became so obsessed with the task that I ended up re-drilling the holes that weren’t quite deep enough to fill. Several of these are evident in this picture. I am getting kind of excited about this project now that it is well underway. After a few swipes with the belt sander the plugs are flush and nicely finished. See picture below.

Use a belt sander to make the plugs flush with the surface. (click to enlarge)

The cedar plugs for the pocketholes will be here on Tuesday.

At this point I spend some time filling in the tiny holes (from the brad nailer) and some small gaps the leg pieces and tabletop edges using Elmer’s Wood Filler.

Elmer’s Wood Filler is Easily Sanded and Stained for a Lasting Finish.

John told me about this weather-resistant filler. Such a relief because the plastic wood is hard to use and the Elmer’s is water based and much more user friendly. I mixed two colors, natural and golden oak and had to use a little water to make it work. Filling holes and gaps with filler is not my favorite thing but the result makes it worthwhile. Enough about that.

Almost there! Now I need to wait for a family member or neighbor to come home to help me flip it right-side up.

Here’s a picture of the stringer attached and the legs fortified by more pocketholes. I’m really anxious to see if it’s sturdy enough. Alas, no one is around to help me flip it over.

The table is really lightweight but I don’t have the wingspan to move it by myself without the risk of damaging it. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long. Voila!

All that’s left on the table is plugging the pocket holes underneath and applying a protective finish. I am a tired but happy girl! (click to enlarge)

Have I mentioned the bench?


Although I love this table and chair set, it is too wide for the area. (click to enlarge)

The plan is to build an outside table for the screened area of the deck. Here is a picture of the current table. It’s a lovely, glass table with four matching chairs we’ve had for, hmm, 15 years. I really like the set. The issue is that it is too wide for the area in that, although six people can fit around it for a meal, it is too tight on the sides and when we have five or more people for an outside meal it’s a tight squeeze. This has been an issue lately when our new son-in-law has been visiting. The diameter of the table is 48″. The thought of replacing the table has been on my mind for some time and has made it onto the list for this summer. In July I spotted a good alternative at The Mill Store. See link below. The sale price was $139.00. I also looked at it last year and finally, this year, decided to take the plunge. The plunge being buying it when it isn’t the perfect size and it’s $139.00 to replace something that is serviceable, although difficult at times. Unfortunately, when we went to buy the table it was out of stock and the sale was ending before they expected to be restocked.

59” Patio Table.

These are two of three patio chairs I found a HomeGoods last month. (click to enlarge)

Meantime, I bought three really nice chairs on super closeout at HomeGoods. They are made from some kind of all-weather composite and aluminum. And, they are comfortable!

I did an exhaustive internet search for a matching table. All were either not right or too expensive for the budget. I did find one I thought I could build-ish.

Horizon Teak Extendable Table – Westminster Teak Furniture.

The extension aspect, although it would be fun to try to build, was not part of my plan. Upon searching the usual haunts, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Rockler, I was not able to find composite or even teak lumber. Of course the table needs to be built from something that will not wither and die in the ever changing outdoor climate. The other lumber yard’s hours and relative locations to my work and home don’t suit me at this time. Home Depot does have cedar which is what I decided on for the table. I bought 1 x 4 cedar for the table, in 6 and 8 foot lengths, for a total of $65.00. It has been humid this summer and the wood seemed wet so I let it dry in the breezeway for a some time while I did more deck painting.

This cedar has been drying in the breezeway for about 5 days. That should do it. (click to enlarge)

The table was to be 56″x36″. Mistake #1: Somehow I managed to cut the lengths for the sides 2″ short! What an idiot! Seriously, “measure twice, cut once”. I must have measured only once. :( It would have been easy enough to cut new boards and do it over but the shorter length fits the area better and I decided not to redo the sides.

I’m connecting the parts with pocket hole joinery using the Kreg Mini Jig

Kreg Jig® Mini.

Here’s the table top in its early stages of construction. (click to enlarge)

After the outside frame was constructed I laid the cross boards inside the frame. Since the frame was shorter than planned I needed to figure out a way to get the boards to fit across with around 1/4″ish of space in between them. At 56″ the boards would have fit perfectly, however, with the new, shorter length they were either too close together or too far apart. Grrr. Here’s a picture of the outside edges all put together.

As Mike Mulligan said, “Four corners, neat and square. Four sides, straight up and down”. Or something like that. (click to enlarge)

Once the cross boards were in position I realized that I wasn’t going to like this table as planned. It looked too rustic. And rustic? I’m not really a fan. The next morning, about a mile into my run I decided, definitively, to put a cross piece down the middle, width-wise, and justify the boards perpendicular on either side of it, instead of cross-wise the whole length. So, more like the table from The Mill Store. There would still be spacing issues but that problem was for another run. I’m keeping the U shaped legs for now and am hoping to eliminate the cross piece between the legs that goes along the floor on the Horizon model (see above).

Tabletop frame with cross piece. (click to enlarge)

Mistake #2. When I was really too tired to keep going with the project, mentally, I decided to install the middle cross pieces–just to get things moving on it since the boards for this area were already cut, re-cut (for the new configuration), and planed by about 1/8″. Looks great, right? About an hour later I started kicking myself when I realized that there are eight boards, which means there is no center piece! I took a day off work the following week for the time and peace to install the boards correctly. It took a lot of time and patience to get it right. I used a large paint stirrer to set the space between the boards. There was more planing to do and installing the boards ended up taking most of the day. Here are a couple of pictures of the process.

The boards are laid in place with a large paint stirrer’s width between them. It’s a space somewhere between 1/8th and 1/4 inch. (click to enlarge)

Featuring my new 9″ Kreg clamp! (click to enlarge)

At this point I’ve marked the spaces on the outside frame for the boards and numbered the boards and frame so as not to forget which boards go where. I also marked the boards, one side on the inner edge and the boards on the other side on the outer edge. Wood is wood and I am still a beginner. I wasn’t taking any chances once the best fit was determined.

One thing I needed to buy for this project was a larger Kreg clamp,

Kreg Extra Large Face Clamp – Rockler Woodworking Tools.

A coupon from Rockler softened the blow of the $39.99 price tag. The Kreg face clamps are my best chance of getting a flat surface at the joints. Getting all the boards clamped and screwed in was a bit of a trick. I had to take the board at the end off to get the next board in because of the limited clamp reach.

Tabletop underside just after fitting the boards. This was a long, hard day. (click to enlarge)

This was a happy moment.

The underside of the table top with boards around the perimeter. (click to enlarge)

To add rigidity and thickness to the edges, I added boards to the underside of the tabletop around the perimeter. I punched holes with the Kreg drill bit which created nice spaces to countersink 1″ screws. The legs should fit between the boards on the ends if I’m lucky. Actually, the legs will fit. The question is whether or not they’ll hold up the table and look good…

Tabletop (click to enlarge)

Here’s the tabletop from the front. I guess I’ll have to consider the results here mistake #3. Although, it is only out of ignorance that I didn’t anticipate the problem. Man, I am learning from mistakes big time with this project. The boards are not all flat! Some are so warped that a misplaced glass of wine could topple. We’ll have none of that!

Belt sander? Why, yes, thank you very much! After talking with some friends who confirmed the belt sander as a viable solution, I found this very effective belt sander at Home Depot on my lunch hour. The price was certainly right, although, you can get it cheaper if you can wait for it to be delivered, which I didn’t want to do. Here’s the sander.

3 in.x 18 in.Portable Belt Sander-BE318-2 at The Home Depot.

An associate at Home Depot talked me through the pros and cons of the less expensive models. This Ryobi 3 in.x 18 in. Portable Belt Sander was recommended over the 2 closest models and it was the cheapest, yay. So, I went to work on the table top and the sander really did the job. It also did a job on my back for a few days but it was just a little muscle pain. I’m sure it will only hurt for a year, if you know what I mean as a fellow approaching-a-certain age empathizer (apparently that is not a word but I’m staying with it). Here’s the top after sanding and sanding and sanding and sanding and sanding, first with the belt sander, then with the palm sander and back and forth a few more times. As a belt sander novice, although I tried to be careful about gouging. There were areas of gouging, not terrible, but more work. Honestly, this tool is going to take some practice because I’m not really strong enough to be good at using it right off the bat.

Here’s the tabletop all sanded down to an even surface. (click to enlarge)

The legs are next. In the inspiration table,

Horizon Teak Extendable Table – Westminster Teak Furniture.

there is a cross piece, or stringer, that runs along the floor between the legs. I am trying to avoid having to use it for a more minimalist look. I would like u-shaped legs that are around 2″ thick. This is the part that is very difficult for me because the pieces for the legs will need to be ripped, and, confession…I am very afraid of the table saw. I really need lessons and confidence. There is a brand new work-site table saw in my garage. It has been there for more than 3 years and it is still in the box. I did consider getting it out for this but what I had in mind was another Kreg jig that I saw on a fellow blogger’s site, http://pinktoesandpowertools.com/ It’s called the Kreg Rip Cut. Here’s a link to Rockler which is where I bought it.

Kreg® Rip-Cut Circular Saw Guide – Rockler Woodworking Tools.

I want to commend Pinktoesandpowertools.com for her great diy blog and incredibly clever name. Thanks also to Kristen, for introducing me to this tool. Here’s a link to Kristen’s site where a Kreg rep tells all about it.

Kreg Rip-Cut {continued} « Pink Toes and Power Tools.

This is certainly a revelation for me. That is, being able to rip wood without risking the evil table saw. The boards are 3 1/2 inches wide and I took them down to 2″ for the legs. There were 14 boards that needed to be trimmed down. The reason for this wonderful invention is to be able to rip plywood and mdf. I really don’t think it was intended for the type of application for which I am using it. I am looking forward to using this tool for cutting drawer parts out of plywood.

If this looks precarious that’s because it is. More clamping would have been better. (click to enlarge)

Table saw anxiety aside, I’d never been very confident with a circular saw either until this one arrived from Amazon.com,

Amazon.com: SKIL HD5510 6.5 Amp 5-1/2-Inch Circular Saw: Home Improvement.

This is super easy to use, especially for us lightweights.

So, the Kreg Rip-Cut? It mostly did the trick in spite of some crookedness due to my lack of strength and experience…not necessarily in that order. The problem was the clamping. Since the jig is so long I could only clamp the boards from one end. Therefore, it was difficult to hold the saw and jig firmly enough to the board to ensure a good cut. I ended up marking the crosswise cut, cutting just past the mark (to accommodate the saw blade), then cutting the board with the chop saw. Another problem, sort of, was the blade in the saw is meant for crosscuts and ripping would have come out better with a finer blade. I have no excuse except not realizing it until I was out of time. There is really so little time….

Ya, this was probably not the best solution for clamping but it worked pretty well. This is one of the table leg parts. (click to enlarge)

Pretty sure there’s a Kreg jig that solves this clamping dilemma but enough spending for now. This worked fine as long as the clamps were tight and I coaxed the boards together slightly, by hand. The legs are now cut down to 2″ and I’ve cut and attached the pieces, one to fit inside the other. This pictures below illustrate this better.

U-shaped table legs, cut and spaced out. (click to enlarge)

Table leg ready for gluing and clamping (click to enlarge)

The instructions on the wood glue bottle say to clamp for 1/2 hour and then leave undisturbed for 24 hours. Since I don’t have enough clamps I had to glue one leg at a time. Below, you can see what I was left with after gluing the leg pieces together.

Rough, uneven edges with dried glue. (click to enlarge)

After using the belt sander, first 80 grit, then 120 grit on this table leg the edges are smooth and the glue residue is gone. I did a once-over with 150 grit by hand. (click to enlarge)

I wanted to get a flat edge on the table with the belt sander but it had to be clamped. I had to stand on a chair to sand the width-wise edges. For this I used 80 grit paper; then, again just lightly, by hand with 150 grit. (click to enlarge)

It is time to install the legs. Dreading this because I’m doubting the strength of my design. The underside of the the tabletop has some cross pieces and more pocketholes and screws. The legs fit as previously cut and that was a relief. There is a weak spot in the legs and I am going to need to use the stringer that goes across the floor. It should look fine after all, I’ve decided out of having no choice and after some convincing from John. :) I shimmed the weak spot (sadly, am going to have to drill holes and connect from the top of the legs as well). The shim in this case will act as a support where there is a gap between the top of the legs and the underside of the tabletop. Here’s shim the process.

First test and make sure the shim is the right size. Paint the end to be used with glue. Use a non-marking rubber mallet to jam it gently into place. (click to enlarge)

Gently fold the shim up to break it off at the edge of the leg. It should be clamped for 30 minutes but I have no way of doing this so I turned the table rightside up to hopefully set the glue to the correct angle for the legs. It was the lesser evil.(click to enlarge)

I’ve taken some time off from the project to do other things, meanwhile of course, to do some mental planning for the dilemmas in the project. Two issues:

#1: The table is still wobbly even after the shims. The end result of my pondering this issue is screws from the inside of the legs, into the shimmed area and above. And, the crosspiece, or stringer(?) is necessary. Here’s the table as it stands.

Here we are-upright. I love the legs but there is more to be done.(click to enlarge)

I was hoping not to have to gouge the legs with pocket holes but sobeit. It needs the support.

It’s a total experiment and a minimal financial investment. Still, I really want it to work.

#2: The underside looks like this. I really should plug the holes because the screws are not stainless and they will rust and bleed, and the underside will be seen from the deck and yard below.

Lots of pock marks in this. I would be less concerned if the screws were stainless but there is also the matter of pride in workmanship. (click to enlarge)

You can see where I was trying out a plug here. The Kreg plugs will fit perfectly in pocket holes drilled for 1 1/2″ pieces. For thinner pieces they have to be shaved. I had some plugs hanging around but they are maple and pine. I went into Rockler to find some more pine plugs because they would be easier to cut. There– low and behold were cedar plugs; at least a spot for them among the other Kreg plugs. They were out of stock so I ordered them online. This made my day because I never expected to find cedar plugs and they will be really easy to cut with a hand saw. For the round holes I bought a dowel. I went to Home Depot and was told that they no longer carried wood plugs. Hmmmm, kinda weird me thinks. The dowel is a pain in the ass because it has to be cut for each hole but store-bought plugs would need to be shaved anyway and this is probably just as easy.

I’m going to start blogging from the top now because this post is getting long.

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