While designing and planning the New Decks for our house, I decided to make custom deck furniture. This was an ambitious plan as I enumerated all the pieces I wanted. To make it more manageable, I limited the first set of furniture I built, which you can read about on the Phase I Deck Furniture Project Page. After the basic benches and tables in the first phase were completed a number of other pieces I built in sequence. I've grouped all these subsequent pieces into this one project page, and labeled it as "Phase II" of the overall deck furniture plan.
This Phase II work consisted of the following:
- dining table;
- chairs and side table for covered porch;
- work bench and cabinet; and
- clothes/towel rack.
For both the Deck Screen and Phase I Deck Furniture, I had ordered a large amount of lumber, but this was not enough to cover all the Phase II furniture needs. There was enough left-over lumber to start, but I needed a second order so I had to plan out all the upcoming projects so I would only need to pay for a single delivery charge. The order consisted of pressure treated lumber for the underlying (non-visible) frames, Ipe wood (same as deck) for the wearable surfaces and cedar for the "skirting" that hides the frames. This lumber also included boards for the a planned project of adding some stairs around the pool. Planning this was very tricky since I had just a rudimentary idea of what I wanted here, and in fact I wound up changing my mind about using the wood for that. Instead, that area became the Deck Perimeter Project and this would would eventually be used for the Outdoor Planters Project.
My original plans called for bar-height tables. This was not going over so well with the other half, and I eventually began to doubt this being a good option. BY the time I had completed the Phase I Furniture, I had changed the plan to have a traditional height dining surface. With the ease of cutting angles that my new-ish miter saw gave me, and wanting to break out of the square table mode a bit, I decided to design an octogonal table.
I did some initial sketches on paper while on vacation and then moved onto making a 3-D model to better work out the geometry and get more precise about the dimensions for everything.
In terms of chairs for this table, I decided to purchase chairs as a short-term plan, since I did not want the queue of projects to grow and I did not have good ideas for making chairs any better than what I might find I could buy.
Porch Furniture: Seats and Side Table
When we moved into the house (14 years ago), we inherited patio furniture that included a love seat sized bench that swings a bit. This sits under the porch so is a nice place to sit, no matter what the weather. This bench was in need of replacing, so I decided to make a couple seats to replace this that would match the rest of the deck furniture. I also wanted to add a side table as that is always handy when you are sitting. For the chairs, I just made smaller versions of the deck benches I designed and built for the Phase I Deck Furniture Project. For the table, I just made one more of the smaller side tables I had already made for the deck furniture. I had all the templates I needed to make these quickly and the design had proven to be comfortable.
When I was designing the benches, I had actually made a smaller prototype out of materials I had lying around. This was a bench that was only 2 feet long, which had the effect of being a chair. This prototype sat in my shop (a.k.a., garage) for months during the process of building all the other furniture and I used it constantly as a comfortable resting place. I needed two chairs for the porch, so I decided to re-use the frame of the prototype for one of these chairs. The frame was the only thing that was made of the right materials (pressure treated wood). I did have to replace the screws with the drywall screws I originally used with some stainless steel ones for outdoor use.
Work Table and Cabinet
I wanted a work-height table in the backyard so I could work closer to where a lot of the outdoor projects tend to take place. The outdoor projects (i.e., pool pump repair, lawn mower repairs) tend to be unplanned, and as such, the work bench in my garage is often occupied with something else, and it is also a hassle to maneuver clunking equipment if the cars are in the garage.
My wife had also suggested adding some cabinets for storage, which wound up being a great idea. Projects tend to span days, so having a place to stash tools and such overnight would be handier than dragging them all back into the garage.
All the other furniture has one side sloped in at a 5 degree angle. This is purposeful for the benches for the right ergonomics, but it is a stylistic things on the other pieces of deck furniture. I tried to carry this theme over to thsi work bench, but an angle greatly complicated the structure when having to support swinging doors. I finally gave up and sacrificed better visual appeal for the more practical goal of keeping the design simple.
The octogon dining table was relatively similar in design to the side tables I had made a lot of, so there were only minor issues to work out when trying to move from the 3-D model to actually building it. The porch chairs and table were even less eventful since they were so similar to the previously built pieces. This work table however, was very eventful in terms of having to figure out a lot of unforseen issues.
The first adapation was for adding an additional support on the top of the frame. The span of the surface boards would be too long otherwise: something I did not think about during the design phase.
Besides having cut out the doors and having a 2x4 vertical frame piece to mount them on, none of the details of how the hinging of the doors were worked ou. I needed stainless steel hinges to survive outdoors and none of the local places seemed to have such a thing, so I resorted to Amazon. This meant waiting for the parts to arrive before I would know exactly how to lay out the rest of the project.
The stainless hinges I found were not the highest quality items, and I would need to use my own stainless screws for them instead of the non-weatherproof ones that came with it. However, oevrall, the hinges would do the job.
On top of the door surface, and on top of the entire frame would be a layer of cedar "skirting", which would make it match all the other deck furniture. At this point, I knew there would be some tricky issues to work out regarding the way the door hinged and the addition of a 3/4" thick piece of cedar. As it was now, the doors hinged nicely and were flush to the frame, but the cedar would get in the way, so something would have to be worked out. The hinge design was such that you could see some of it, or at least the simple way I chose to cut out the wood did this. I would want to hide that in the finished result with the cedar somehow.
Another big difference between this work table and all the other furniture was that I wanted the interior to be somewhat protected from the elements. With the other furniture, all the surface wood has 1/8" gaps so water and smal debris can just fall through and generally would wind up on the ground. With the cabinet, I would want to be able to store things in here without them getting soaked. I also did not want any animals crawling in and making it their home.
What I did was to add a shell of plywood to this frame to created a closed compartment for the entire interior. Here is were I ran into a couple other design flaws. I did not think about how I would need to secured the back plywood to the the existing bottom and middle shelves, and thus needed to add shims to get them flush. I also had nothing to adhere the back plywood to in the top middle part, so I had to improvise an additional support piece.
With the door installed, and all the plywood encasing in place, I then took some silicone sealant and went to town. I try to imagine I was water and think about where I would go, and I plugged up every place I find that I thought would admit water. I also coated the entire top surface plywood with a layer of silicone. The surface will have Ipe wood with 1/8" gaps, so water will go in and sit on top of the plywood. Though it was stained andn sealed, I still did not trust this would last as long as I would like, so I hope this silicone layer will help that. Note that the silicone in the picture is white, but it dries clear. None of this silicone will be visible though, so it did not matter so much.
I was now ready to tackle the issue with how to dress up the frame with the cedar skirting, while still allowing the doors to swing open. I originally though all I needed to do was to put a 45 degree bevel on the door and the post side. However, I found that this would have only worked if the door hinged exactly along the border, which it did not. Instead, the doors swing completely clear of the opening, which meant coming up with some other solution. During the day, I tried a few different ideas. Some would not work, be too complicated or result in an unsatisfactory appearance. Nothing was resolved. Later that night, going back into the shop to ponder this some more (after some incubation period), I came up with a reasonably good solution.
When the doors swing out, there is about a 3/16" clearance, so I used my router table to create a cedar skirting piece that was very thin in one part. This would hide the hinge and visually match the horizontal cedar look. There would be abit of an indentation, but that wound up not being all that visually unappealing.
With the door hinging problem solved, I could now install the cedar skirting. I wanted the horizontal lines between the cedar pieces to be aligned all the way around the cabinet, and since the doors were the place where things had to line up more precisely, I had to install the cedar on the doors first.
I decided to screw the cedar in from the back instead of from the front like all the other cedar was. I think visually this is better, but the real reasons had to do with the available fasteners I had. I had 1-5/8" screws I used for the cedar, and these would be too long to go into 3/4" cedar and the 1/2" plywood door. I also has 1,000 stainless steel screws (#6) that were 1-1/4" long which results from my not checking carefully when I meant to order 100. I had been using these screws every chance I got.
At this point I thought I was home-free and there were no more unforeseen issues to be tackled. Of course, I was wrong. The front upper pieces of cedar, similar to the back plywood, had nothing to adhere to in the middle, making it too wobbly for me. I added an identical support piece to the one I improvised for the back plywood.
I had originally not planned to add cedar skirting to the back of the cabinet, but during my late nigfht inspirational session, chnaged my mind. The result was that then bottom back cedar piece had nothing to adhere to that would keep it flush with the rest of the boards. I had to add a couple shims to compensate.
After the cedar skirting assembly, I started to get a real understanding of an unforeseen implication of my design. This cabinet was very heavy. It was already heavier than I could manage, and likely heavier than my wife and I could manage. This was before we added the very, very heavy Ipe wood to it. I'd likely have to get my very strong friend to help me.
The final unforeseen problem I ran into was conflicting screw locations. I had already pre-drilled the holes in the Ipe surface boards (which you need to do because this wood is so dense) and had not considered the places where they might conflict with existing screws that were part of the frame and plywood encasing. I did run into a few conflicts, but was able to redirect the screws at a slight angle to avoid the collision. This was preferrable to having to drill another hole, or having to cut another board. Here's the final result:
The work table sat in my garage for a few days while I waited to ask my friend to have time to help me. I was not in any rush, so did put it out of my mind while I worked on the next project. Then, one day, as I was sitting around, I got inspired. The very beginning of this whole series of deck-related projects was when I had to get rid of the very heavy broken spa that was on the old decks. You can read about that on the New Decks Project Page.
I had learned a few tricks watching that crew move the spa, and I thought about how I might be able to move this work table all by myself using those tricks. The challenge of doing it became too enticing, so I decided to give it a try. I also got the romatic notion that the project's beginning and ending should be tied together somehow. This piece of deck furniture was the last major piece of the 3 month long series of projects.
I had a couple 12 foot 2x6 boards lying around, and a couple 3 foot long round dowels (which were in fact the exact ones the spa removal crew used). I could just push this up an improvised ramp on these rollers, and with the help of some furniture dollies to move it on flat ground, it turned out to be relatively simple to get this thing in place.
One obvious flaw with the new decks and deck furniture was the lack of having a place to hang wet clothes and towels. We have a pool and outdoor shower, so the need to have a place to put things became very clear when we first used the deck area for its intended purpose. The first step was to figure out a good place to hang things, which my wife came up with. The next step was to design something that would fit in that area, be easy to make, would fit into the decor and would not require anything but lumber I had lying around. I googled around images of towel and coat racks for inspiration and came up with the design at right. Simple, easy to make, and providing ample places for things. I would make it out of the Ipe I had lying around to match the furniture and decks. One of the inspirations I got was to also add a ledge above the hooks to allow putting small items down (phones, glasses, etc.)
From the time I was in my pool with my wife discussing the need for some rack, until the time is was installed was less than 24 hours. I had designed it later that afternoon, and was able to build it the following morning. It wound up improving the deck not just by adding needed functionality, but the fence it was put on was a bit of a blank, empty-looking thing. The addition of this rack makes it look like the fence has a purpose.
The LED strip lights run under the same 3x4 that this rack was installed on. This was my first concern when my wife proposed this location, but by using a 1x6 board on top of the 2x4, it actually protects the light, while still allowing it to light up the ground in that area. It does block the light a bit higher up, but in this area, the need for light at a higher level is minimal.