Umbrella table

Enjoy lunch on the patio with this extra-sturdy umbrella table

By Gary Walchuk


Photo by Roger Yip

Relatively easy and inexpensive to build, this umbrella table is the perfect size for a gathering of friends at a summertime lunch. The design and materials are on the heavy side, making this a sturdy outdoor project with the weight and footprint to support a large umbrella, even in a moderately brisk wind. I tested it extensively to be sure it was up to the job.

This table’s elevated top circle is a handy spot for extra snacks, and it also provides support for the umbrella. When you’re shopping for an umbrella, look for a 6 1/2′- to 7′-dia. model, with a shaft that’s 1 1/2″ in diameter or less.

With the exception of the circular tabletop, the table is made entirely from some well-chosen 2×10 construction-grade spruce planks. You can find suitable wood if you select kiln-dried, straight, flat boards with nothing more than small, tight knots. Even if your wood is officially stamped “kiln-dried” it will need drying indoors. I bought my wood ahead of time and stored it in a heated space while it dried.

It’s also worthwhile to sand both sides of each board with an 80-grit belt sander before you cut out the parts. Presanding makes the finished project paint-ready, speeding up the building process.


Build the Base

Begin by cutting the top and bottom braces to size, noting the 55° bevels at each end. Make sure that 1/2" at the bottom corner of the bottom braces remains square, since pointed ends would soon break. Mark the middle of each part, then lay out the two 1 1/2"-wide notches you need to cut into each brace. The plans include the details you need to follow here. Clamp the braces in pairs as you work, notching the top edge of one pair and the bottom edge of another. The idea is to have alternating notches in the upper and lower brace pairs so they interlock, half-lap style.

Cut the legs to size and, on the outside top end of each one, make a notch three inches wide and 6 3/4"-long. Cut the feet to size, making 55° bevels at the outside corners, 1/2" up from the bottom edges.

Assembling the base is easiest if you've taken the care to get the joints correct. Use clamps, outdoor glue and #8 x 2 1/2" corrosionproof screws. Drive these into predrilled, counterbored screw holes. Start by laying one base support piece on your work surface, inside face up. Next, apply two legs to this base support, flush with the outside edges of the notches. The legs should be 4 1/2" apart. Then, attach a foot at each end of the brace, making sure that the top and bottom edges of the feet extend 1/2" above and below the edges of the bottom braces. Flip the assembly over and apply the second brace, sandwiching the legs and feet.

Next, stand the assembly upright and slip one opposite brace into the group, fitting the notches together. Apply screws from below to secure the pieces notch to notch, then add the other two legs and feet to the inside surface of this brace. Finally, tap the remaining brace in place, interlocking the notches and sandwiching the parts as before.

Join all four top braces together by fitting the notches at the centre. Use four screws to secure the braces in an X shape. Slide this assembly downward from the leg tops until the brace top edges are flush with the upper surface of the notches you cut in the legs. Measure, square up and clamp the top braces to the legs perfectly, then use #8 x 2 1/2" screws and outdoor glue to secure everything together.

Tackling the Tabletop

You will need to cut out 16 pieces of stock to make the top. Start with the large and small top curve pieces, then use biscuits or dowels and glue to connect them into a frame that measures 22 1/4" square inside. When the assembly is dry, tap a 22 1/4" piece of scrap wood across the centre, flush with the frame's surface. This temporary piece gives you a place to affix the large compass or pencil and string you'll need to use when drawing a circle around the outside of this frame. Make the radius 19". Mark the top, then cut it to shape with a jigsaw or bandsaw.

Next, make another frame, this time using the four top frame sides. Miter the ends, then biscuit-join or dowel them together. The top squares and top triangles come next. Prepare these parts now, then slice off any dried glue that squeezed out of the top frames you've just made.

Begin assembling the top from the inside out, but dry-fit the parts for now. I predrilled small holes for 2 1/2" spiral finishing nails through the top pieces and into the braces. Tap nails in just far enough to hold all of the pieces in place for now. Make any adjustments needed for a good fit. There should be a 1/8" space between all parts.

I found this assembly job worked best by starting with the 4 1/2" squares fitted against the leg sides. Next, set the top triangles, then the 22" square frame, followed by the outer frame. After everything looks good, mark the location of each part, remove them and paint the exposed edges. You have to do this now because a brush won't fit into the grooves later. Finish by securing all parts using outdoor glue. Drive and countersink the nails home.

Cut the top cleats to shape and affix them under the tabletop with glue and nails. These support the mating top parts. Secure them at a 45° angle to the top bracing. Cut the 19"-dia. top circle from 3/4" exterior-grade plywood, then drill a hole through the centre that will fit your umbrella. Attach this piece to the leg tops, carefully centred, with countersunk screws. Plug all screw holes, fill the nail holes and sand them flush.

Finish-sand, prime and paint the project using the best exterior latex paint you can find. Add four rubber or plastic glides to the bottom edges of the feet to keep them off the patio surface, then open your umbrella and enjoy!

Tools & Materials

Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.

Top braces spruce 1 1/2" x 2" x 36" 4
Bottom braces spruce 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 34" 4
Legs spruce 1 1/2" x 6" x 23 3/4" 4
Feet spruce 1 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 10 1/4" 4
Top curve small spruce 1 1/2" x 9" x 22 1/4" 2
Top curve large spruce 1 1/2" x 9" x 33" 2
Top frame sides spruce 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 22" 4
Top squares spruce 1 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 4 1/2" 4
Top triangles spruce 1 1/2" x 5 1/8" x 10 1/4" 4
Top cleats spruce 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 11" 4
Top circle exterior ply 3/4" x 19" diameter 1

* Length indicates grain direction

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Umbrella table

Illustration by Len Churchill

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