Slatted Outdoor Table

Thermo-wood makes for durabilty and dark good looks

It’s one thing to have a nice patio, porch, or deck, but to truly make it special, you need to furnish it well. In addition to some great seating (see OnlineEXTRAS), a small occasional table such as the one presented here will go a long way towards making your outdoor space a genuine extension of your home. This little table is designed for both service and longevity. Its low height makes it the perfect companion to hold your morning coffee or evening sundowner beside your favorite chair. Or press it into service as a plant stand. It’s made from thermally modified lumber and joined with stainless steel fasteners so it should last for decades with minimal upkeep. The slatted top won’t collect rainwater and the splayed legs provide a solid, stable stance. Make one, or a pair and you’ll be on your way to gracious outdoor living. 

Tapered and splayed legs support a slatted frame top

Relatively thin boards, tapered and glued into an angle iron shape, form the legs. Their splay comes from the slightly trapezoid-shaped aprons that are screwed to the legs inside faces. The top is joined with mortise and tenon joints and features a series of generously spaced slats that allow rainwater to drain through. The tenons on the slats and top rails are integral to the pieces rather than being cut separately (or using domino tenons). This helps to minimize the chance of water infiltrating the joints and causing rot. Be sure to use a good, weather resistant glue throughout the build. I went with Titebond III. 

Order of Work

  • Taper, glue and taper the legs
  • Attach the stretchers
  • Assemble the top with mortise and tenon joints
  • Shape the top
  • Assemble and finish

Make the legs: taper, glue, taper, bevel

Mill the stock for both the wide and narrow leg blanks to size. Make a tapering sled and taper the wide leg blanks. Then glue the narrow leg blanks to them, being careful to orient the pieces as shown. Leaving the narrow pieces rectangular for now provides parallel edges for an easier glue up. After the glue dries, scrape away any squeeze out and use the same tapering jig to make the second taper cut. Bevel the top and bottom of the legs to accommodate the splay angle. 

Glue edge to face. Edge glue the narrow leg blanks to their wide counterparts orienting all four pairs as shown. Orienting the pieces this way allows you to reuse the tapering sled you used to cut the wide blanks.

Cut the second taper. Load the glued up legs on the tapering sled with the wide leg on edge against the sled’s long fence. Guide the sled along the saw’s fence to make the cut. 

Top and bottom bevels. Hold a glued-up leg against the blade with the trough down. Pivot the miter gauge to match the leg angle (about 4°) then tilt the blade to 8°. Bevel the tops of all four legs. Without changing any of the angles, switch the miter gauge to the other side of the blade to cut the bottoms.

Make and attach the stretchers

Mill the stock for the stretchers to size leaving the pieces about 1/2" overlong. Then crosscut them to their final length with the miter gauge pivoted 3° off square to create the leg’s splay. This will make the aprons into trapezoids—the stated length is that of the base (or long side). Drill pocket holes along the top edge of each apron for attaching the top. Then glue and screw a pair of legs to each of the long aprons. Finally connect the leg assemblies by gluing and screwing them to the short aprons. 

Make the top and finish up

Mill the stock for the top rails, stiles, and slats to size. Note that the stated lengths of the rails and slats on p. 26 include the tenons. Lay out and cut the mortises in the stiles spacing them as shown in the Top Detail. I used my PantoRouter for these joints, but feel free to use whatever method you’re set up for. Cut the matching tenons on the ends of the rails and slats. The tenons are centered on the slats but are offset towards the inside edge of the rails. Glue up the top. Then lay out and cut the gentle curves around its perimeter at the bandsaw. Sand the edges and fair the curves before rounding over the top edges and chamfering the bottom edges at the router table. Sand everything before centering the top on the base and screwing it in place. If desired, coat with a weather resistant finish. I used Osmo UV-Protection Oil. 

A series of mortises. The mortises are spaced 2 3⁄4" on center. I marked the center of each mortise and aligned these marks with a center mark I made on the table of my PantoRouter, sliding the workpiece over after each cut.

And the matching tenons. You can tenon one end of each of the rails by positioning them with the same fence setting you used for the slats. For the second end, you’ll need to shift the fence over 3⁄4" to compensate for the offset.

Mark the final shape. The edges of the top are gently curved to soften the shape and add a touch of style. Mark the ends of the curves 3⁄4" in from the corners then use a drawing spline flexed to connect the dots. 

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