The hubs and I spent the last month putting together a beautiful outdoor dining table for our deck. Isn’t it pretty? It took us about a month, because we mainly worked on weekends with a few weeknights sprinkled in here and there, but is also turned out to be a little more labor intensive than we thought. Cutting some boards and screwing them together always seems like an easy enough process… Skip ahead 4 hours when you only have half a bench done and you realize, ‘Hmm maybe that $799 outdoor furniture at Patio World is totally worth it.’ We ended up spending about $180 on our little labor of love ($130 lumber, $30 stain, $20 screws), which is not too bad when you leave out the cost of the crappy miter saw that died on us.
It’s official, our brand new miter saw the hubs got for his birthday is broken. The blade brake totally stopped working, so after you make your cut it just spins and spins. More annoying than anything else, but I am sure it is dangerous as well. It is too late to return it to Home Depot (you only have 90 days). Since it is under a year old, you can apparently take it to some Rigid service center here in town and they will fix it for free. The only thing that sucks about that, is they are only open 9-5 on the weekday, which means the wifey (me) has to take the hubs’ big heavy miter saw and try to explain what is wrong with it. This probably is not going to go very well.
On a positive note, we were pretty much done with all of our cuts for our table and benches before the brake went caput. After all the cuts were made, we decided to stain our wood individually, since we were using untreated “mixed” wood. We wanted to make sure we were able to cover ever inch of wood, so it would weather well outside. I learned a lot about staining with this project, but mostly that I don’t enjoy it. Staining each individual piece was such a pain in the butt. I am a perfectionist about certain things, which usually gets in my way more than it helps me (I am working on how to use it to my advantage), so when the stain drips on the edges or rubs on the bottom it drives me crazy. It is totally impossible to stain an entire piece of wood at one time, but it is even more impossible to stain a 2×4 without it getting on the edges. In retrospect, I would have loved to be able to put the table together and stain it as one piece of furniture. Staining furniture is wayyyyy easier than staining individual pieces of wood. On the other hand, I have never stained a piece of furniture, but I would imagine my last statement to be true. I will get back to you on that one.
We got the plans for our table from the Ana White Homemaker website. (That is her beautiful table pictured above.) Ana White is a wife/mother/homemaker living in Alaska, who loves building and sharing her creations with the world. Her site is pretty awesome, you should check it out. Anyway, I stumbled on her site when we were looking for woodworking plans for around the house, and the cost of her plans were right up my alley. They were $FREE! We decided on her Simple Outdoor Dining Table, wrote down the cut list and we headed to Home Depot to buy some lumber. We made a couple of mistakes along the way, but we learned from them and now I am here to share our trials, tribulations and successes with you. For the complete plans click on the links above and they will take you to Ana White’s site. She has tons of great ideas that will totally inspire you to pick up a hammer.
Tip 1. First off, spend the money and get some good wood. We ended up buying “mixed” wood, which was cheaper, but still looked pretty. It worked ok, except it’s more delicate than real wood and had a tendency to split if we weren’t careful. It also warped when we stained it, but it is my understanding that all wood moves and warps with stain, time and weathering. We will see how this table does overtime, especially with winter just around the corner. Hopefully our Ikea grade wood table will hold up ok.
Tip 2. Sand the wood splinters off the edge of your wood before you stain. This will help the table look more finished and those pesky slivers won’t end up getting in the way during the staining process. You will notice I was too lazy to sand my pieces prior to staining and those areas soaked up the stain more than the rest of the wood, making it look uneven. Laziness and perfectionism are not a good combo. Rah!
Tip 3. To stain your table, I recommend using a sponge roller… I repeat, use a sponge roller! I started with a paint brush and it was a disaster. It is very hard to control the amount and the movement of the stain with a brush and it ends up being a big ol’ mess. After the paint brush I tried the rag method, but I think that works better when staining an entire piece of furniture, not a flimsy piece of mixed wood lying on top of a tarp. The hubby suggested a roller twice apparently, but I only heard him after I suggested it and he agreed. However we got to the idea, the important part is we got to it and it worked. The sponge roller puts on an even coat and eliminates brush stroke marks. In my opinion, it is the way to go, but like I said I am a staining amateur and I am sure there are better ways to do everything I did. If you have any tips, please share in the comments below. I am always open to learning new ideas. However you do it, be sure to evenly apply your stain from head to toe. Never start or end in the middle of the wood.
Tip 4. When putting the table together getting the correct spacing is very important. No matter how many skew ups you make along the way, if the boards are evenly spaced, nobody will ever notice. To ensure even spaces we purchased tile spacers at Home Depot. They come in many different widths and luckily they had 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch. They worked perfectly and now we are prepared if we ever have to tile a bathroom. (I love how the spacers make it look like a mini graveyard. Morbid, yet kinda cute.)
Tip 5. Have fun and enjoy spending time with the person you are working with. My favorite thing about these projects is that we do them together. Sure there are times when only one of us is working, like while he is at work and I am out in the 90 degree Houston weather staining 50 boards at a time under the hot Texas sun cursing my Hubby’s name, or when I am too annoyed with the mosquitos biting my legs, arms, neck and face that I leave him in the garage to build by himself. ( Iswear I think bug spray attracts mosquitos.) Those times definitely exist, and there are moments where you think, ‘What the F are we doing?’ But at the end of the day, or in this case month, you can say, “We built this together.” I love that.
Notes: If you screw up, don’t give up. Just keep moving forward! Make the adjustments you need to make the table work for you. The slight alterations in the end will make the table unique and special just like you! If you fo’t have a kreg jig and have to screw in from the top, it is not big deal. Just buy some wood filler and cover up your nails. Nobody will ever know. We actually ended up doing both, but I have yet to fill in the holes.