DIY : Cable Reel Garden Table – Shaft – Medium

From trash to table in 2 hours – fast-food garden furniture for the paleo couple.

  • Noise level: Low
  • Mess: Low
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Cost: £10 cable reel, £45 hairpin legs, £5 varnish

Since moving into our flat, our DIY efforts have been interior-focused, sanding floors, stripping walls, replacing shelves, and more.

But summer and outdoor BBQs will be here soon, so we’ve started turning our attention to the outside concrete floor, concrete steps, ageing planters …and missing garden furniture.

Keeping in style with the rest of the house, we wanted something rustic and sitting on a good old quartet of hairpin legs. Because of where we want to place our garden table, the best option for us would be something round, enough to sit 4 people as we prefer quiet private gatherings instead of wild parties.

Also keeping in style with everything else in the house, we wanted something wooden, instead of a heavy metal garden table with detailed decorations like we’ve owned in the past.

Sourcing the Cable Reel

So once more we turned to our favourite place to source wood from: The Brighton & Hove Wood Recycling Project AKA The Wood Store. The natural choice here would be to grab a big enough wooden cable reel and work with that.

We weren’t sure how easy those cable reels were to source but after visiting their store on Elder Place in Brighton, we saw they had a few fully assembled reels or just the tops for a very low cost of £10! The fully assembled reels were in better condition, or if you prefer, had less character, whereas the tops had some weathering. We went for the assembled reel as we don’t mind the more pristine look and we got 2 for the price of one, so we gave one of the tops away to a friend, fully sanded and varnished.

Building It

The building process was super straightforward: sand, varnish, screw.

Here’s what you need:

  • Belt sander with 40 or 80 grit sandpaper (you can use a mouse sander but it’ll take longer, but if you do, get JCB mesh sanding sheets, they’re awesome)
  • Ourdoor varnish (clear matte or to your preference)
  • Wood stain (optional, we prefer the natural look)
  • Electric screwdriver
  • Nail puncher (optional)

And of course, a wooden cable reel and hairpin legs (71cm height, 2 rod should be enough, we prefer the look of the 3 rod in clear coat color).

For the sanding, we used a belt sander with 40 grit paper.

One thing we didn’t do properly when we built our first few tables was levelling the surface properly, which you may argue that gives it a more rustic look, but sometimes you want a nice level surface you can place your laptop and plates on without hunting that sweet spot of stability.

To do this, we could’ve used ‘our’ electric plane (it’s actually borrowed), but the darn thing can be a bit hardcore on the wood so we just went for the diagonal sanding technique. It simply means you start sanding not along or perpendicularly to the wood boards, but diagonally where they meet each other.

This works particularly well if you face the top of the belt sander towards the lower board as that’ll cause the belt to go against the edge of the higher board. You can stop when you start seeing some abrasion on the center of the lower wood board, or if you want a completely flush surface wait until it reaches the area where both boards meet. Just keep moving the belt sander along the edge of the two boards as you want an even sanding and the belt sander can leave a noticeable mark if you don’t move it around.

Also: make sure you hammer the nails beneath the surface with the nail puncher before sanding as you may damage the sander or simply waste a belt if you don’t (we found it hard to do this so we picked the side of the cable reel the nails were already sunk). We didn’t sand the side with the protruding nails, we used that for the bottom of the table and only varnished it.

Once you’re done with the sanding, get some outdoor varnish and apply it generously to top, bottom, and sides of the cable reel top. We applied 2 coats and waited 20 minutes between each coat.


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