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Thread: Wood for Picnic Table

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Grand Rapids, MI
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    53

    Wood for Picnic Table

    I need to rebuild my picnic table. The frame is metal, so I'm only doing the top and seats. I'm not fond of the typical redwood look and want something a little nicer but not too expensive. The table of coarse will be outside, but under an awning. Would cedar be a good choice? Is it strong enough to use for seating without feeling flimsy? Is there something better (white oak?)? I'm open to any suggestions. TIA Gordy

  2. #2
    Western Red Cedar is a common choice for swingsets and the like.

    Mahogany is pricey, but looks amazing!!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    Tacoma, WA
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    731
    Dad used to use Fir
    I'm a Creeker, yes I m.
    I fries my bacon in a wooden pan.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Calvert County, MD
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    249
    Yep, white oak is often recommended for outdoor projects, along with cedar and cypress. I'd be looking at white oak if available, and it is the look you want.

  5. #5
    ive built a few out of 2x6 western red cedar and also eastern white. i prefer the western red (but it is quite a bit more money than the native Maine white).

    i would say go for the cedar.
    "there is no such thing as a mistake in woodworking, only opportunities to re-assess the design"

  6. #6
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    Aug 2005
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    Midwest
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    Cypress would be my first choice...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    Forest Grove, OR
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    Southern Yellow Pine is nice too if it is under cover.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Northwestern Connecticut
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    What is it you don't like about the Redwood "Look"? Color? Thickness of stock? Design limitations related to lack of inherent strength? What do you hope to achieve other than a solid place to rest your bottom?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Grand Rapids, MI
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Quinn View Post
    What is it you don't like about the Redwood "Look"? Color? Thickness of stock? Design limitations related to lack of inherent strength? What do you hope to achieve other than a solid place to rest your bottom?
    I just don't like the red colored chunky cheap looking tables. I want something that has a nice wood grain/color. Maybe a little fancier, that might give someone the impression I'm woodworker.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    SF Bay Area, CA
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    15,331
    Cedar is great and lasts nicely outside but it is very soft and dings up very very easily. However, you shop will smell wonderful milling it up! I'm not sure I would use cedar for the top...something harder would probably be better.
    Wood: a fickle medium....

    Did you know SMC is user supported? Please help.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Puget Sound area in Washington
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    353
    This might seem like a heresy, but I would use the plastic wood that is sold for decking. Just seems like the ideal material for an outdoor project.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Porter,TX
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    Picnic table

    How about trying out the new decking material.It comes in all kinds of color and its weather proof!!!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Northwestern Connecticut
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    I asked about the redwood because i suspected that chunky look was the issue. I stayed in a B&B south of Fort Brag a while back (redwood country) in a craftsman style bungalow that had floor to ceiling paneling and coffered ceilings in old growth redwood. Man that was some of the most beautiful wood i have seen. It just glowed with a natural chocolate red-brown hue! Of course it was not out doors exposed to the elements.

    I know that style your talking about and its not my favorite either. Seems there are also plenty of yellow pine pieces stained some strange shade of red meant to simulate fresh redwood. Yuck!

    I'd guess most soft woods are out. If you want a more formal look they all ding too easily to maintain crisp edges and require some serious support from below to make any span with out using 2X4's.

    Any hard wood left to the elements is subject to checking, splitting and cracking as well as fading to grey, and that includes teak or IPE. Maintenance is required and indoor storage during the winter is preferable.

    I'd consider quarter sawn or rift sawn white oak, cumaru, ipe, black locust, cambara, genuine mahogany, eucalyptus, jarrah, or iroko as a short list of worthy candidates. Black walnut is also known to weather reasonably well, though it feels vaguely criminal to suggest it for a picnic table. Cypress might be a choice if you like the look of it, which I for one do not. Sealing all 6 sides of what ever wood you choose prior to installation will go a long way towards preserving your investment in time and lumber.

    Perhaps a good substructure crafted from a less expensive grade of lumber (pressure treated) could be carefully hidden and allow you to use thinner boards for the visible and contact surfaces thus focusing your budget where it counts?

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Hudson, Québec
    Posts
    6

    Picnc Table

    TableSet (600 x 401).jpg

    I built this set using cedar decking (5/4) for the tops and cedar posts for the legs. Finish is an outdoor -compatible oil.

    It did get quite dirty if left exposed to the elements and needed to be sanded and re-oiled. I bought an inexpensive gazebo last year and it maintains the
    finish quite well, although it will need a light sanding this year.

    The bread-board ends are attached with tenons and Gorilla glue. If I had to do it again, I would make those ends narrower as they tend to cup
    Never stop learning !

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Tyler, Texas
    Posts
    2,041
    Cypress would be my choice. It's stronger than Cedar and doesn't dent quite as easily. I don't like the look of unpainted White Oak after it weathers. It doesn't hold up that well, either.

    Ipe, Mahogany and Teak would all be good but expensive choices.
    Cody


    Logmaster LM-1 sawmill, 30 hp Kioti tractor w/ FEL, Stihl 290 chainsaw, 300 bf cap. Solar Kiln

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