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Thread: Doís and Doníts of outdoor furniture

  1. #1
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    Doís and Doníts of outdoor furniture

    I havenít made any outdoor furniture except PT utility type stuff. I have a client that wants a Big Green Egg table. Iím thinking about White oak or cedar, or cedartone from Menards (speaking of which, is that stuff colored through the board so if I joint/plane it will it remove the color?).

    Any articles or suggestions on what to do and what to avoid?

    For instance any special requirements for gluing up the top? Or space boards them like a deck? Recommended finishes? Any acclimation needed or time required before finishing?

    Iíd plan to use Sipo Dominos for structural joints.

  2. #2
    I'd say some general considerations are -

    1. Allow for wood expansion/contraction just like any furniture but amplified a lot.

    2. Don't rely on glue to hold. Use joinery that will hold up without glue - like traditional draw-bored mortise and tenons. I personally wouldn't rely on floating tenons like Domino's as these rely on the glue holding up. If you do, i'd use epoxy or polyurethane glue.

    3. In addition to the above, I have not had good luck with laminations for legs holding together and now use only solid stock for legs etc. This might just be due to the wood species I generally use which is difficult to glue at the best of times. If it were a species that glues well and is stable this might not be as much of a concern.

    4. Extra care should be paid to preventing wood cupping but still allowing free expansion/contraction.

    5. I haven't had great luck with any finish holding up well in full sun/rain so I use oil finished that can be easily rejuvinated / fixed up.

    Good luck!

    Cheers, Dom

  3. #3
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    Very good points, thanks Dom.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dominik Dudkiewicz View Post
    I'd say some general considerations are -

    1. Allow for wood expansion/contraction just like any furniture but amplified a lot.

    2. Don't rely on glue to hold. Use joinery that will hold up without glue - like traditional draw-bored mortise and tenons. I personally wouldn't rely on floating tenons like Domino's as these rely on the glue holding up. If you do, i'd use epoxy or polyurethane glue.

    3. In addition to the above, I have not had good luck with laminations for legs holding together and now use only solid stock for legs etc. This might just be due to the wood species I generally use which is difficult to glue at the best of times. If it were a species that glues well and is stable this might not be as much of a concern.

    4. Extra care should be paid to preventing wood cupping but still allowing free expansion/contraction.

    5. I haven't had great luck with any finish holding up well in full sun/rain so I use oil finished that can be easily rejuvinated / fixed up.

    Good luck!

    Cheers, Dom
    I've been stunned at the amount of expansion and contraction with some outside pieces in the Florida sun/rain.

    If you figure out how to prevent wood cupping but still allowing free expansion / contraction, let me know. Still struggling with that. I built a stunning cover for a fire pit table that turned into quite the Pizza. Never could figure out how to make that successfully.

    I actually have done pretty well with finish holding up well in full sun/rain. On the advice of a world class finishing expert, I finished a Titanic Deck Chair with System 3 epoxy overcoated with Marine Spar Varnish. It has held up now for 4 years outdoors, and looks great. I've always had success with General Finishes Experior 450 and Epifanes Spar Varnish. They certainly won't last forever, and you will have to redo the finish in time, but buying good exterior finishes with good UV protection is absolutely vital. Not an area to buy cheaper stuff.

    My $0.02
    Last edited by Alan Lightstone; 11-27-2019 at 9:36 AM.
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  5. #5
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    I have a stash of redwood, cypress and WRC if you want something different Matt.

    I would also consider ipe or the like.

  6. #6
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    Probably the most important thing to keep in mind with anything made for use outdoors is "realistic expectations". Weather, sun, humidity and moisture changes, air quality and many other things provide for a harsh, uncontrolled environment. NO finish is going to keep something pristine. Even the best species for outdoor use will show their age within a reasonably short time period. But if one uses quality materials suitable for outdoor use that are also complimentary, the results will be as good as they can be. And by complimentary, I mean wood and fasteners that work together without staining, adhesives appropriate for the conditions, finishes that penetrate but don't crack, etc.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  7. #7
    I say either choose a wood that does not require a finish (preferred) or use an oil finish that can be refreshed every year (read, every couple years).

    Also, I try to build outdoor furniture that is light and can be moved/stored or covered easily. That is really your best bet for longevity.

    I am in the process of redoing a picnic table. I am considering building 2 tops the size of store-bought folding tables, and mounting them on beefier folding hardware. This is not only easier to cover, but also more versatile.

    But that's a personal pref.

  8. #8
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    I had to look up a Big Green Egg table to see what it is. Nice project.

    Unless there is a compelling reason to glue up the top as one piece I would space the boards as in a deck, like you said. Make the gaps wide enough to clean out any debris that gathers there - and it will!
    Plus more generous gaps disguise variations in the spacing from wood movement and so on.
    Good luck with your project.

  9. #9
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    I did six Adirondack chairs for a friend's high end rental cottage using the premium cedartone PT wood from Menards. Tough to work with as it was soaking wet. But they turned out well and the client liked the natural finish. Not really cedar color, more brown. Some had stain all through the thickness, others didn't soak in all the way through. Most of the 3/4" boards were 100% stained. I recommended that he just let them dry and age naturally for least maintenance. If at some point in the future they wanted a different look, to just pressure wash and paint. I really didn't want to get into finishing.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    NOW you tell me...

  10. #10
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    You might be surprised to find that the 4 seasons up North presents more problems for finishes than the two seasons or so they get down South, but that's been my experience. No finish would be best, but white oak would not be a good choice for that approach because it will turn gray/black/moldy. Cedar, redwood, or much better, Ipe' or teak would be good choices. Deck type construction of the top to let water drain through. I've had good luck with epoxy for outdoor furniture, and never had a joint come loose yet. I've always used KD wood but you could use AD if you used pinned M&T joints with no glue.

    The only way to avoid maintenance is to not use any finish or to cover the piece except when you want to use it. I don't like the look of old, weathered wood, so I keep mine covered.

    John

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Probably the most important thing to keep in mind with anything made for use outdoors is "realistic expectations". Weather, sun, humidity and moisture changes, air quality and many other things provide for a harsh, uncontrolled environment. NO finish is going to keep something pristine...
    +1 ^^^ My experience has been that unless you're down for a TON of seasonal maintenance, just accept the "rustic" look, regardless of species. Best of luck,

    Erik
    Felder USA Territory Representative: Central & South Texas

  12. #12
    What's KD and AD?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vince Shriver View Post
    What's KD and AD?
    Kiln Dried and Air Dried most likely...
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  14. #14
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    Thank you for all the advice so far.


    First we went from a simple table with a shelf, no she sent me this image thinking she wants more storage. But there are all kinds of expansion/contraction issues with the design. If I did make some kind of storage area, itíd be tough to make a deck like top in lieu of a glued up top as water would go right through to the storage.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  15. #15
    Looks like everyone has you covered for build/joinery. As for outdoor finish, I have had fantastic results with Total Boatís Lust. Easy to apply and build coats. Just be sure to get their thinner for it as well. First coat will penetrate much better thinned down.

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