Build a decorative but durable outdoor feature that’s tough enough to weather the elements.
Garden furniture has to be tough if it’s going to withstand a battering from the elements, but often this durability comes at the cost of the item’s decorative value.
This outdoor table is different, as its tiled surface won’t fade from exposure to sunlight, and the strong steel frame is finished with metal paint to prevent it from rusting.
You can build the table using a few basic tools and skills and a simple homemade jig to bend the steel.
The round tabletop is marked up using a carpenter’s compass or DIY trammel, and has a base of two 12mm thick layers of exterior plywood laminated together.
The plywood is topped with a layer of 6mm thick fibre cement (FC) Hardiflex cladding suitable for exterior use, then waterproofing membrane is applied and covered with mosaic tiles.
The leg base is made from sturdy 40 x 6mm and 20 x 3mm mild steel flat bar. The legs are bent by hand and bolted together, then secured to the top using screws, with pine braces for support.
Sand the leg assembly using 180 grit abrasive paper, then clean the steel and apply primer.
Finish with two coats of a metal paint such as White Knight Rust Guard Epoxy Enamel.
Tiling the tabletop
For the top, we used tiles in three different sizes to neatly fill out the curves without having to cut the tiles into wedge shapes. The largest tiles were used on the edge so they enclosed the top tiles, giving a neat finish.
Once the adhesive has cured, mix up a sand-and-cement based exterior grout.
Use a squeegee to work it into the gaps between the tiles, leave to dry for 20 minutes, then wipe off the excess with a sponge.
Polish off the haze using a cloth dipped in a solution of water and white vinegar.
Make a bending jig
To make curves in mild steel, make a jig from a 900 x 450mm sheet of 19mm plywood and two 220 x 90 x 45mm timber blocks with rounded ends.
Secure the timber blocks to the plywood with an 8mm gap in between, using adhesive and 50mm x 8g screws driven through the ply.
Mark the midpoint of each rounded end on the blocks, then temporarily secure the plywood base to the workbench with 50mm x 8g screws.
To create curves in mild steel make a bending jig
Follow the diagram and templates to build the mosaic tile table
Use a trammel to mark two 660mm diameter discs on exterior plywood, then cut out using a jigsaw. Apply exterior PVA to both discs using a 3mm notched trowel, then align them carefully and secure with screws at 200mm centres. Leave to dry, then remove the screws and sand the edge.
Use a permanent marker to make reference marks every 25mm on the steel legs. Align the first mark on each leg with the midpoints on the jig blocks, then pull the steel bar firmly until you feel it bend slightly. Move it to the next mark, repeating the process with slight bends at each mark.
Enlarge the template to full size on a scrap sheet of 3mm plywood or MDF, then check the curve of each leg and adjust by bending or unbending the steel as required. Use a hacksaw or a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade to cut each leg to 710mm long and smooth the rough edges with a file.
Use a centre punch to mark hole locations 12, 40, 100 and 355mm from one end of each leg. Use a drill press or handheld drill at low revs with a 6mm HSS twist bit to drill bolt holes at the marked locations, starting with a 3mm bit to bore pilot holes and lubricating the bits with machine oil.
Use a hacksaw to cut the struts, then mark 40mm from each end. Clamp in a vice with the mark at the edge of the jaws, then hammer each end into a sharp 90º bend. Drill 6mm clearance holes, then bolt a pair of legs to each strut. Overlap the centre holes of the struts and bolt them together.
Trace around the base discs on the FC sheet, then cut out the top disc using a jigsaw with a carbide-grit blade. Secure the top disc to the base discs using thin-set tile adhesive, spread with a notched trowel. Reinforce the joint with screws, leave to dry, then roll on two coats of waterproofing membrane.
Remove the edge tiles from their mesh backing, then butter the back of each with floor-tile adhesive and push it into position, using nippers to cut the last one to fit. Leave to dry for 24 hours before tiling the top. TIP Use 35mm square tiles and shim, as needed, for an even top edge.
Draw concentric circles and quadrant lines on a cardboard or MDF disc the same size as the tabletop,
then use them to lay out a pattern of mosaic tiles in various sizes. Draw quadrant lines on the tabletop, then working on one quadrant at a time, apply adhesive and attach the tiles
Centre the leg assembly on the underside of the table and mark the curve of the legs on the braces, then use a jigsaw to cut the curves. Use a handsaw and chisel to cut housings for a half-lap joint at the centre of the braces, then secure the legs and braces to the top with panhead screws.