Introduction: "Distressed Plank/s" Birch Plywood Table
My outdoor patio table had a glass top... until the umbrella fell over, and then it didn’t. I decided to use the table frame and replace the glass top with plywood. Regular plywood or OSB wouldn’t do, because I wanted it to look classy in my outdoor space.
One sheet of 4’x8’ Birch plywood
4 ft level
Stain, various colors
Router, various bits
2 part epoxy
Sander and sandpaper
Upcycled table frame
Step 1: Cut Wood to Size, and Rout Edge
Unfortunately the widest diameter of this hexagonal frame was greater than 48”, so just cutting a table shape out of the plywood was not going to suffice. (Widest part of the frame, from one vertex to the its opposite vertex is 56”, shortest part, from the midpoint of one side to its opposite midpoint is 50.5”.) I decided to make the table out of two pieces cut from the plywood and joined together.
Laying the sheet of plywood on the ground, I inverted the table frame onto it, and traced out the shape of the table on the wood. The first piece will cover approximately 2/3 of the width of the table, making up 4 of the 6 sides. The second piece will compose the other two sides, but is large enough to have some overlap of the first piece. Use the circular saw to cut the pieces out of the plywood.
With the top of the wood Up, use the router with a round-over bit to create a rounded outer edge.
Step 2: Joining the Wood
I wanted the finished table top to be one linear piece of wood, with no bracing or support from additional pieces of wood underneath. To create a kind of hybrid cross lap and rabbet joint, I used the router to rout away 1/2 the depth on the Bottom of seam edge of the large plywood piece. (A plain router bit, 1” diameter is best for this) Flipping the wood back over, I used the router to rout away 1/2 the depth of the Top of the table in the middle of the seam edge. The length of each routed section along the seam edge was arbitrary, but the intended overlap space was 3.5”.
This process was repeated for the small piece of plywood, with the routed areas and cuts being the exact opposite.
Each of the mating surfaces of the plywood was coated in wood glue. The tolerance was so precise I had to use a rubber mallet to forcefully join the pieces together.
A test fit into the table frame ensured dimensional precision but the joinery seam seemed obtrusive.
Step 3: Routing the Planks
Using a speed square and a 4’ level as a guide, I traced “planks” of varying lengths and widths onto the surface of the plywood. This will give the finished look of having the table look like it was made of salvaged boards, and also hide the joinery seam of the two pieces of plywood.
Using a 1/4” Vee shaped router bit, set at 1/8” depth, i routed out the newly traced planks. Before each router pass I would set up the 48” level as a guide along the plank. For my router, the guide needed to be offset 2.25” from the intended edge of the new plank... yours will likely be different. Measure from the center of your bit tip to the outer edge of the router base.
Next I used painters tape to tape off the newly routed vees and then painted them black, to exaggerate the look of each as an individual piece of wood.
Sand any burrs created by the router, and any paint that may have gotten outside the lines.
Step 4: Stain and Epoxy
Each plank was stained with varying techniques... besides using two different colors, I spread it thicker in some areas and very thin in other areas... allowing some to stand and soak in for awhile and other areas got wiped off immediately. This will help each plank look weathered and different from the others. Enlist a helper if desired.
The two part epoxy I used is intended for bar tops, so it is very thick. It is self leveling and when cured, is about 1/4” thick.
Step 5: More Stain, and Rabbet the Bottom
So that the new top nestled into the table frame, I needed to rabbet out 1/2” of the lip edge all around. Router was set to 1/4” depth for this step. This will prevent the table top from being pushed or slid off of the frame.
Also stained the bottom (one color 😉, no technique) to protect it from moisture.
Step 6: Install and Enjoy
After stain and epoxy, all that’s left is to set it up and enjoy your new table. I opted not to re-install the umbrella because I could not bring myself to cut a hole in this beaut, but you easily could with a hole saw.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and Vote for my table in the Plywood Contest! Thanks!
Participated in the