I was designing a outdoor table as a present but couldn’t locate the Merbau fence panel we’d wanted to use as the tabletop.
While searching for other boards we came across 1800mm x 200mm x 50mm H4 sienna Pine sleepers – the perfect size for our tabletop. Their rich, red colour and rough, rustic look were the clincher.
We selected the four straightest sleepers we could find and set them aside for a week to dry out and acclimatise in situ.
To start off the build we laid out our boards, picking the faces and orientations we liked the best. We numbered and marked them all, and got set for plenty of sanding.
You can really see the difference in the finish between the rough-sawn sleepers and how nice they come up once sanded with 80-grit paper and then 120-grit.
We decided to add in two palings to act as bracing for what would a very heavy tabletop. With plenty of measuring, pre-drilling, spacing and clamping we finally had our top complete.
Some more measuring and pre-drilling, some very heavy lifting and plenty of hammering we had our legs on as well.
Some cinching up of washers and nuts from underneath, a final sand of the top and sides and rounding over the edges and it was done.
The overall dimensions are 1800mm x 820mm so it can fit eight chairs, three on each side and one on each end. The sleepers also come in 2.4m and 3m lengths, so you could also do 10- or 12-seater options quite easily.
We used two 1500mm fence palings, cut down to 700mm to get four supports.
In hindsight the the palings were a bit thin and weak – they haven't been able to stop a bit of twisting as the sleepers dry.
If I was doing it again I'd widen the holes in the steel and bolt straight through each sleeper directly into the steel legs. The only worry there would be if the sleepers start twisting as they dry – it could lift the whole leg and make it all a bit wonky.
Perhaps a basic rectangle or X-shaped support frame underneath would do the trick. It would also cut down on any racking, sway or movement end-to-end.
With a sander and sandpaper already on hand, the overall cost was fairly cheap:
4 x sleepers @ $15.31 = $61.24
2 x legs @ $49 = $98
8G 50mm outdoor timber screws = $5.40
8 x 1/4” x 2-1/2” bolts, washers and nuts @ $0.56 each = $4.48
TOTAL = $169.12
The total time it took to complete was about four to five hours for two people, taking it easy with plenty of breaks.