The first supper

Toward the back of our garden, just before the newly build workshop, we have a beautiful pergola that is intertwined with a wisteria tree. This provides cover to a patio area which is prime real estate for a dining table to be placed in it, so a few weeks ago, I took up the challenge of building one.

The plans I used for the build were created by Shanty2Chic, and are special because they’re designed to be built out of stud timber 2x4s using nothing but a mitre saw and pocket hole jig.

Mitre saw mishap

I’d had the date of the build scheduled in my diary for around three weeks, and made sure I had everything I needed in time. The date of the build was important as we had a garden party scheduled for the following weekend – so imagine my frustration when just a week before, the base on my mitre saw cracked.

Thankfully, the saw has a three year warranty on it, and Evolution were happy to pick it up for repair – and with credit where credit is due, they got it back to me in time for the build – even if there was a slight cock-up when shipping it back to me (two saws got swapped during packing, meaning my saw went to someone else, and I received theirs), which Evolution were also quick to rectify.

What Evolution didn’t do, however, was calibrate the saw before sending it back to me, Something I didn’t work out until after I’d built the two trestles. I considered scrapping them and starting again after I’d calibrated the saw, but decided they were stable enough, even if a little wonky.

At least I know how to calibrate the mitre saw now, and have learned a valuable lesson about being square.

Pocket hole jig

Apparently, pocket hole jigs are a bit divisive in the woodworking community, and are often viewed as “cheating” or “not real woodworking” by the elite. Steve Ramsey has recently put out a video highlighting this nonsense for it is, which I’m really happy about, as I’d hate for someone to be shamed out of using a perfectly suitable tool for a job based on the idiotic opinions of the elite minority.

If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.

Murphy’s Law

That said, other than briefly seeing one at The Building Block, and watching makers use them in YouTube videos, I’d never used one myself, which is why I asked my parents for one as a birthday present.

Kreg are the brand which seem most popular, and I very nearly asked for the K5 Master System, but after doing some research I decided to go for the Trend PH/JIG/AK. Partly because they’re a British company, but mostly because it’s made out of aluminium, rather than plastic like the Kreg jigs, which should make it more durable.

For obvious reasons, I can’t compare it with any other jigs, but I can say that the kit came with everything I needed, including a clamp, some extension bars to help hold longer pieces of wood, and a small sample of screws, all housed in a robust case. Because I’d need a lot more screws than it came supplied with, I also picked up the PH/SCW/PK1 Pocket Hole Screw Pack (one of the few things I didn’t buy from Amazon, as it’s listed for half the price at Trend Direct).

I found using the jig to be easy and it worked perfectly, even if drilling nine pieces of wood five times each became a little tedious. My only complaint is the square driver screws, which are apparently designed to avoid cam out, but cammed out a lot anyway. Maybe I was doing it wrong?

The build

Other than the calibration squareness issues mentioned above, I think the built went well. I’m a lot more confident with my skills now than I was a year ago, although it’s obvious I’ve got a lot to learn.

Although the plans did have an accompanying video, it served as more of an overview and general build video, rather than what I was used to from The Weekend Woodworker (which features much more hands on instruction at each stage). But armed with the knowledge I’d gained in the past year, I felt able to step up to the challenge of reading the plans, and following the instructions myself.

I made some small variations to the plans for the top – specifically I decided to use the full 2.4 meter length of the studs, rather than cutting them down to the 1.9 meters as defined in the plans. This is because we had plenty of space under the pergola, and it would allow additional people to sit at the ends. I also decided to leave the breadboards off, as I think they’re purely decorative in this instance, and I decided it wasn’t worth the extra wood.

I painted it using Cuprinol Garden Shades; Silver Birch for the top, and Natural Stone for the base.

Initially I attempted to use the Cuprinol Spray & Brush unit that we’d picked up to paint our fence, but it didn’t work very well. I think this is because it’s designed to cover much larger surfaces with a lot more paint than I needed, so because I barely filled it with paint, it spluttered as air got into the pipe.

There’s a paint spray gun on sale in Aldi right now, which I think would have been much better suited to the task, but it’s a little bit more than I can afford right now.

Costs

All in all, the total cost was just under £200:

  • A hair under £100 for the lumber, which I got from Wickes. The plans called for 17 studs, so I ordered 20 (with the extra three acting as fuck-up insurance), and only ended up using 16 of them.
  • £85 for the chairs, which were 25% off from Homebase off due to an end of season sale.
  • around £35 for the paint, screws and glue, etc.

This sounded like quite a lot to me at first, but after seeing that Homebase are selling a vaguely comparable table for £379 without the chairs, it doesn’t seem too bad after all.

Conclusion

I’m happy with how it turned out, and I think it looks great under the pergola. If I was to do it again, I’d make it slightly shorter than it is, or buy slightly taller chairs, but that’s a minor issue as it’s still perfectly usable – at the very least I had no complaints during the party. It seems to have impressed at one person though, as I might have a commission to build one for someone else in the near future, which would be awesome.

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