How To Build A Modern Outdoor Dining Table and Pergola
I built this modern outdoor dining table out of Ipe 3x3s. Ipe is one of the most difficult woods I've worked with, it's insanely heavy and dense. All of the tools I used are available from Acme Tools.I also built this pergola kit from TOJA GRID. Learn more about my Lincoln Electric Power MIG 210 MP welder and Lincoln's other metalworking tools here. Let's get started!
Materials Used On The Modern Outdoor Dining Table (affiliate):
- 11 Ipe 3x3x6s
- ½" All Thread
- ½" Flat Washers
- ½" Lock Washers
- ½" Nuts
- Teak Oil
- 10 feet of ⅛" Thick Steel 3" Square Tubing
- Steel Plastic Plugs/Caps
- TOJA GRID Pergola Kit, 12' x 12'
Tools Used On The Modern Outdoor Dining Table (affiliate):
- Powermatic 15HH 15-Inch Planer
- Powermatic PJ-882HH 8-Inch Jointer
- Parallel Clamps
- Rockler T-Track Clamps
- Rockler Bench Cookies
- Drill Press
- Festool OF 1400 Router
- Random Orbit Sander
- Lincoln Electric PowerMIG 210 MP Welder
- Lincoln Electric Tomahawk 375 Plasma Cutter
- Angle Grinder
- Clean And Strip Disc
Step 1: Milling Lumber
I built this table top on this project out of Ipe 3x3s. Ipe is an incredibly dense and oily tropical hardwood from Brazil, and these characteristics make it an ideal choice for outdoor furniture. They also make Ipe pretty challenging to work with, since the boards are incredibly heavy and hard on your tools.
The 3x3s I purchased were rough, so the first step was to mill them all flat and square, which took awhile. If you don’t have a jointer or planer, you could just buy pre-milled stock and skip this step.
Ipe is also expensive, the wood for this table was about $500, so if you wanted to keep the costs down, you could use pressure treated 4x4s and stain them to get a similar look.
After getting all of the boards milled square, I laid them out on my assembly table and added the washers between each board to give me an idea of the final look. It’s important to have gaps like this in outdoor table tops, so that water can drain through. I started with three washers between each board here, but ended up with two washers in the final piece, giving me a gap of about ⅛” between each board.
Step 2: Cutting Stock to Length
Next, I could cut the ends of the boards square and cut them to final length. I first cut off one end of each board at the miter saw, making sure to cut away any cracked areas. Since these were rough 3x3x6s, they were actually about 76 inches long, so I had about two inches on either end to work with.
After trimming one end, I set up a stop block on my miter saw station using a square and some clamps. My miter saw’s stop block system doesn’t go to 72”, but I was able to add this setup to make it work. It’s important that all of these boards are the exact same length, so you want to make sure to have some kind of stop block system in place if you can.
Once all of the boards were cut to final length, I could start drilling the holes for the all-thread to run through, which is what connects all of the boards to one another.
Step 3: Drilling
As I mentioned, the first holes I needed to drill were the countersunk holes for the nut and washer to sit it on the outside edge of the table. I used an 1 ½” Forstner bit for this and drilled just deep enough so the nut would be fully recessed. After figuring out that depth, I set the depth stop on my drill press and drilled the other countersunk holes on the two outermost boards.
Next, I switched over to a ⅝” Forstner bit and continued drilling into the board, until I got about halfway through. I then flipped the board and continued drilling the hole from the other side of the board until the two holes met. Drilling the holes from both sides in this way leaves you with a much cleaner hole, but you need to be pretty precise with your hole location layout, hence the jig.
I just continued drilling holes until I had all of them done, which took a long time. It was 33 holes in total, which might not sound like a lot, but Ipe is pretty tough to drill through and I made sure to take my time so I didn’t overheat my Forstner bit. I also made sure to wear a dust mask throughout this entire project, because Ipe dust is particularly nasty stuff.
Step 4: Routing, Sanding, and Finish
Once all of the holes were drilled, I could move on to adding a roundover to all of the edges of the boards. If I were to do this again, I’d probably use a smaller roundover or a light chamfer, as adding this heavy of a roundover meant I had a ton of hand sanding work later on. I also got some tearout during this step that I could have avoided with a less intense edge profile.
The tearout was especially bad on the ends of the boards, and I should have added a backer piece to help reduce this, but I didn’t since I was rushing a little bit.
Speaking of sanding, next I had a lot of sanding to do. I started with 80 grit sandpaper, using the random orbit sander on the flat surfaces and the ends of all of the boards, but I had to hand sand all of the long edges since the random orbit sander didn’t work well on those edges.
After sanding, I could get the finish applied. I used Teak Oil, which is designed to work with these kinds of dense hardwoods, and it was extremely simple to apply. Basically, you put on a heavy coat, let the wood soak it up for 10 minutes, apply another heavy coat, let that soak in for about 20 minutes, and then wipe off the excess.
It’s important to wipe off the excess before letting it sit too long, since the finish will get gummy and extremely difficult to wipe off otherwise. I did this, since I was trying to finish all of these boards at once, and I really should have split them up, working on half the boards at a time.
Step 5: Hardware
With the boards at their finished size, I could cut my all thread to it’s final length of 34”. I used a portaband for this, but a hacksaw would work just as well. When you cut all thread, you need to make sure to file or sand the ends to form a slight taper, to make it easier to thread on the nut.
The hardware I purchased for this project is zinc coated, which will hold up OK outside, but I wanted the hardware to match the steel base, which is black, so I gave all of the hardware a couple of coats of black spray paint, which will not only protect the hardware from the elements but will also give it a cleaner look.
Step 6: Top Assembly
Once the paint dried on the hardware, I could finally assemble the top. I ran the all thread through the holes, adding two washers between each board, and also added a flat washer, lock washer, and nut at each end. I made sure all of the boards were aligned and then tightened the nuts to secure the boards together.
The lock washers will keep the nuts from loosening over time, but since it’s summer now, the boards will shrink, not expand, so I’ll most likely have to retighten the nuts after a few months.
With the top done, I could get to work on the base, which is a simple steel base.
Step 7: Steel Base
I started with ⅛” thick plate steel, which I got for free from my local metal yard’s scrap pile. This required a lot more work than necessary, and 4” wide steel flat bar would have been much easier.
Anyway, I first needed to cut my steel pieces to width, so I marked out where I needed to cut and clamped a straight edge in place.
To make these cuts, I used my Lincoln Electric Tomahawk 375 plasma cutter, which makes really quick work of these kinds of cuts, but an angle grinder and cutoff wheel would also work.
Next, I marked out the length of the pieces, about 32 inches in my case, and then cut them to length using my metal cutting saw. Once again, an angle grinder and cutoff wheel would work great here.
With the pieces to final size, I cleaned up the edges with a flap disc, removing any dross left by the plasma cutter and rounding the corners slightly so they weren’t so sharp.
Step 8: Steel Legs
Next, I could cut the legs to size. The legs are splayed at a 10 degree angle, so first I set the fence on the saw to 10 degrees before making the first cut.
The legs are made of ⅛” thick 3 inch square tubing, and I needed about 10 feet of tubing for this build. Each leg is cut to 26 ½” with a 10 degree angle on each end.
Once the legs were cut to size, I beveled four of the edges on one end of the legs using the angle grinder, to give a better area for the welds to penetrate.
Step 9: Welding the Base
Next, I could get the legs and plate set up for welding. The legs are set in five inches from the ends of the steel plate, but I totally spaced during this step and lined up the inside edge of the leg with this line rather than the outside edge. I had to make some adjustments to the length of this steel plate because of this, but just pay attention and you’ll be fine.
After making sure the plate was flush with the leg, I clamped the leg in place and then got to welding, first tacking the piece into place.
Once it was tacked, I turned the leg assembly on end and ran full length beads on all four edges. I learned this MIG whipping technique when I was up at the Lincoln Electric headquarters a few months ago, and I love the way the finished weld beads look.
After getting the first leg added, I went ahead and welded on the other leg and then repeated the process for the other set of legs. This is an extremely simple base and the welding process only took a few minutes on each leg.
Step 10: Mounting the Base
Once both leg assemblies were finished, I could mark out the locations for the holes that the screws would run through to attach the base to the top. I wanted to make sure I had at least one screw in each board, so I measured out these hole locations and marked them.
Next, I added some cutting fluid and then drilled all of the holes. I made sure the holes were slightly oversized, to account for any wood movement.
After drilling the holes, I flipped the base over and countersunk the holes from the other side. This removes any burr left from the drilling process, but also allows the head of the screws to sit flush with the surface of the base.
To prep for paint, I used a Clean and Strip disc to remove any of the mill scale and surface rust from the steel. I got caught in a rain storm on the way home from the steel yard when I went to purchase this stuff, so it had a little bit of surface rust that needed to be removed.
After stripping the rust, I wiped down the entire base with acetone before adding a few coats of flat black enamel paint.
To help protect my patio from the steel legs and also keep the steel from being in contact with water, I added these plastic caps to each of the feet. They give the legs a nice, finished look and are super simple to install.
Finally, I could attach the base to the top using 1 ¼” exterior rated screws. I made sure to pre-drill the holes, since Ipe is so dense. Once the base was attached, I could flip the table over, and it was finished.
Step 11: Pergola
Now, in the intro, I mentioned that I’d also go over building this simple pergola, so let’s talk about that for a second. I’ve been wanting a pergola on this back patio to provide some shade during the day and lighting at night, but most traditional pergolas are way more ornate than I wanted.
I found this kit from TOJA Grid that allows you to put together a super simple pergola in about an hour. I’ll have a link to the kit in the video description in case you’re interested.
The kit comes with four corner brackets, four metal feet that are used to fasten the legs to whatever surface you’re building the pergola on, brackets to attach the cloth shade, and also the shade itself.
I went with the 12 foot x 12 foot kit, so I needed to supply four 12 foot long 4x4s for the cross members and then four 8 foot long 4x4s for the legs, and I used Cedar for this pergola.
The kit comes with detailed instructions, but I just attached the brackets to each of the 4x4s with the included screws and then made sure the pergola was square and plumb. Once the feet were in their final location, I fastened the feet to the patio, which is concrete in my case, so I used concrete anchors. Next, I added the shade brackets and then added the shade itself.
I also added some string lights, which gives the pergola a really nice feel at night and provides lots of light for eating dinner outside.
With that, the pergola was done.