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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Not sure if this is the right place for these questions. If not, please let me know.

My wife has asked me to make a couple of outdoor side tables. This will be my first outdoor project and I have a couple of question about joinery and finish. We live in Florida and I will take these tables in during the rainy season since it’s normally too hot to sit outside anyway. However, they will get rained on and the sun can be pretty punishing.

The tables will be similar to the one in the pictures. For wood, I’ll use Jatoba since it seems to be decent for outdoor use and I have enough on hand for one of the tables. The top will measure 20” X 20”.

Joinery: I’ll use mortice and tenon for the frame. For the top, I’ll mill a slot in the side pieces and tenons on the slats. I’ll space the slats using the narrow edge of Popsicle sticks. My first question is, is glue (Titebond III) adequate to hold the slats or should I use stainless steel screws up through the bottom of the sides and through each slat? An alternative, and a lot more work, would be to use dowels instead of screws, again up through the bottom, and glued in place.

Next question. Should I attach the top with pocket hole screws (stainless steel) or should I use shop made buttons like on a larger table? I have no idea if there will be any movement in the top due to the rain and sun due to the spaced slats.

Final question. For a finish I’m thinking a satin spar varnish (or should I use spar urethane?) for its UV protection. Any better finish?

As always, thanks for your help.


Table Furniture Rectangle Wood Outdoor table
Brown Table Furniture Product Rectangle
 
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with any clear finish, such as Marine Spar Varnish, it will need a minimum of 5 coats for a high level of UV protection.
since you will take them in from time to time, and probably the same side will not always be exposed the same way, they should last a few years before needing refresher coats.
this is just a "few" of the products available. . . "which" one depends on how much work you want to put into the project.
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Whatever wood you select is going to shrink and expand a lot. So don't overdo the glue. Wood expands across the grain, and not so much with. So you're right to leave a little space between slats. I would tend to place screws in the middle of slats to secure them to the side rails. That will allow for expansion without so much danger of splitting. Sounds like a great project that should garner you a lot of husband points.

You might also consider making a pine version first before you start cutting up that expensive cypress, teak or other good outdoor furniture woods. BTW, hold on to your wallet when you shop for the wood. Make sure you have a good list so you don't buy way too much, but enough extra that you're covered for the inevitable oopsie. Since it's going to be in the sun some time, a lighter finish won't heat up so bad that you can't stand sitting on it. I live in the desert. Dry but intense sun and UV here. Dark outdoor furniture is a no go around here.

Glad you posted. This is a nice group.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
with any clear finish, such as Marine Spar Varnish, it will need a minimum of 5 coats for a high level of UV protection.
since you will take them in from time to time, and probably the same side will not always be exposed the same way, they should last a few years before needing refresher coats.
this is just a "few" of the products available. . . "which" one depends on how much work you want to put into the project.
John, thanks for the recommendations. I do have a quality question. When I was a kid, my step father had a paint store. I learned a bit about paint in terms of the quality of the pigment, how fine it was ground, and the solids content in the can. So, I understand the different price points for house paint. When it comes to the spar varnish I see prices for a quart from $14 for Rust-Oleum, to over a $100 for the Pettit Flagship. Why the huge difference and at what price point am I getting a good product without breaking the bank? These are side tables. Boats are a bit different. Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Whatever wood you select is going to shrink and expand a lot. So don't overdo the glue. Wood expands across the grain, and not so much with. So you're right to leave a little space between slats. I would tend to place screws in the middle of slats to secure them to the side rails. That will allow for expansion without so much danger of splitting. Sounds like a great project that should garner you a lot of husband points.

You might also consider making a pine version first before you start cutting up that expensive cypress, teak or other good outdoor furniture woods. BTW, hold on to your wallet when you shop for the wood. Make sure you have a good list so you don't buy way too much, but enough extra that you're covered for the inevitable oopsie. Since it's going to be in the sun some time, a lighter finish won't heat up so bad that you can't stand sitting on it. I live in the desert. Dry but intense sun and UV here. Dark outdoor furniture is a no go around here.

Glad you posted. This is a nice group.
Tom, Thanks for your reply. I was leaning towards screws for that very reason but wanted some input from someone more experienced. In terms of a prototype, I have done them in the past. I did that for a duck step stool for my grandkids. I still have and use the prototype around our house. What I'm doing now is prototyping joints. For example, I'm working on a small night table for the bedroom that the grandkids stay in when they come for a visit. Who knows when that's going to be. Anyway, I just made a small drawer for the night table. It's made from 1/2" plywood which, of course, is not exactly 1/2 inch. I only have a contractor's table saw that doesn't fit a dado set but I do have a 1/4" dado blade. The joint is a dado on the sides and rabbits on the front and back. I used cutoffs from the plywood to do test cuts until I got it just right. I then used the final version, not going to tell you how many interim versions there were, too embarrassing, to set up the saw for the project pieces. Came out nice after I remade the front piece because I cut the dado in it instead of the rabbit. Such fun.

Because of the narrow spaces between the slats, I will pre-finish all of the pieces before I assemble them then give it one final coat after assembly just incase any small gaps emerge after I assemble it.

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I live in Florida myself Cypress is pretty plentiful at the local mills here and it hold up well out doors.
Thanks for the suggestion. Yes, I considered Cypress since it is relatively easy to find in FL, even the big box stores carry it and is not particularly expensive, but my wife likes the rich color of the Jatoba and I have enough on hand to make one of the tables so we decided to go with that.
 
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Barry - the most desired UV inhibitors and blockers are quite expensive.
I have done so much research over the years on this subject that I am almost blue in the face.
NObody in the coatings industry will come close to saying "how much" UV blockers are in their products.
AND - I can not find what the "minimum amount" is in the "fair trade advertising" rules that a company can put in their product to advertise it as "High UV Protection". and as your step father indicated, you get what you pay for.
Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane promotes their product as being the best ever for outdoor projects.
(well, maybe for a year or two, then it crumbles up and falls off).
Epifanes touts the same advertisement but tells you right up front that 5 coats minimum is required and 15 coats will provide you with the best UV protection - but, "however", seasonal maintenance is required (not optional, but required) to maintain the best looking boat in the harbor.
since this is your first project, I would focus in the fabrication of the tables and use Rust-Oleum Spar, following the instructions on the can. I personally go a step further with diluting the first coat 50% with 100% pure mineral spirits or pure gum turpentine, 25% reduction for the 2nd coat, 5-10% for the successive coats. following the instructions on the can for the product being used.
this is good for shovel handles, yard furniture, boat seats, garden benches, dog houses and much more.
keeping in mind that any and all clear coatings are High Maintenance Items - not a "one-time-and-done" finish.
looking forward to seeing your projects.

Edit: if you want a satin or semi-gloss finish, it is best to put all the coats on using "clear gloss" to preserve the grain pattern - then, the last coat will be the "non-gloss" finish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Barry - the most desired UV inhibitors and blockers are quite expensive.
I have done so much research over the years on this subject that I am almost blue in the face.
NObody in the coatings industry will come close to saying "how much" UV blockers are in their products.
AND - I can not find what the "minimum amount" is in the "fair trade advertising" rules that a company can put in their product to advertise it as "High UV Protection". and as your step father indicated, you get what you pay for.
Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane promotes their product as being the best ever for outdoor projects.
(well, maybe for a year or two, then it crumbles up and falls off).
Epifanes touts the same advertisement but tells you right up front that 5 coats minimum is required and 15 coats will provide you with the best UV protection - but, "however", seasonal maintenance is required (not optional, but required) to maintain the best looking boat in the harbor.
since this is your first project, I would focus in the fabrication of the tables and use Rust-Oleum Spar, following the instructions on the can. I personally go a step further with diluting the first coat 50% with 100% pure mineral spirits or pure gum turpentine, 25% reduction for the 2nd coat, 5-10% for the successive coats. following the instructions on the can for the product being used.
this is good for shovel handles, yard furniture, boat seats, garden benches, dog houses and much more.
keeping in mind that any and all clear coatings are High Maintenance Items - not a "one-time-and-done" finish.
looking forward to seeing your projects.

Edit: if you want a satin or semi-gloss finish, it is best to put all the coats on using "clear gloss" to preserve the grain pattern - then, the last coat will be the "non-gloss" finish.
John, thank you. That's a big help. I will go with your advice. It's interesting that your suggestion is similar to what I do with my indoor projects but in reverse. I've become comfortable with oil based poly and cut it with mineral spirits to make wipe on. My first coat is usually cut about 25%, successive coats around 50%. Almost like the way I spit shined my boots in the army. Start with all polish and end with all water. Ok, not a great analogy but it's in the ballpark. And, I do use gloss for the undercoats and normally finish with either satin or semi-gloss depending on the piece. Thanks again.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Sorry that it's taken me so long to post this update. Life got in the way but I'm trying to catch up.

I completed the two outdoor side tables in December. The Jatoba was a bear to work with because it's so dense. I went through a drill bit drilling the holes to join the legs and skirts since I used the Rockler Beadlock system. I don't recommend it for hardwoods but for soft woods it would probably be ok.. I finished the tables with 7 coats of Minwax spar varnish both full strength and diluted with mineral oil. I prefinished the slats before assembly.

Although Jatoba is rot resistant, since we're in Florida, I added a 1/4" thick ABS pad to the bottom of each leg after finishing the bottoms with the spar varnish. Might be overkill but I like to play with new toys.

I'm now in he process of making a couple of plant stands, again, from Jatoba. I'm a glutton for punishment.
 

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Kudos all the way around, Barry - awesome craftsmanship.

(and in one way or another, we all have had some set-backs with the Covid Crap).
 

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I would be happy with that result......:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Nice work! Looks like you did a great job. After such a nice project, my wife would have added an item or two to my honey do list.
Yep, that's where the plant stand project originated. I'll post pics of that when completed. I'm doing what is unique joinery for me to firmly join two plant stands at a 135 degree angle and yet be able to quickly separate them. I'll post the details if it works.
 
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