This DIY bistro table is just the right size for one or two people and would work great for a small dining space or to create a cozy nook in a wide open patio, deck, or yard. The pedestal base is made of an industrial galvanized steel plumbing pipe and a wooden serving bowl, turned upside down and weighted with concrete for stability. The table top is a store-bought pine panel.
This is the first dining table that I have made, and I’m happy with how it turned out. The table is standard height, 30 inches high, and the table top is 24 inches diameter. The bowl that I used for the bottom of the base has a diameter of 12 inches. When I was “designing” the table, I scoured the internet for information on how wide the base should be relative to the table top diameter to reduce the possibility of the table tipping over. What I found out is there are no hard rules on the ratio of the base to the table top. But, generally, the base diameter (what sits on the floor) should be at least half the diameter of the table top. Variables that affect the ratio, while I don’t understand it all, include the weight of the base, the weight of the table top, and the height of the table top off the floor.
Why am I telling you all this? The bowl that you use will probably be different from mine, with different dimensions and may hold more or less weight in the form of concrete. My table seems very stable, so you will probably be okay if you stick with the dimensions that I used. But if you want a larger-diameter bistro table (for instance 30 inches diameter) or you want a bar height table (36 inches), I suggest getting a bigger wood bowl to use in the pedestal or install a “foot” underneath your bowl to increase the base diameter.
The Rustic Modern Pedestal Bistro Table project has six main parts:
- Preparing the wooden bowl for adding concrete
- Weighting the wooden bowl with concrete and finishing the bowl
- Painting the plumbing pipe and flanges
- Cutting flattening cleats and attaching them to the table top
- Sanding and finishing the table top
- Assembling the table
PREPARING THE WOODEN BOWL FOR ADDING CONCRETE
- wooden serving bowl, at least 12 inches diameter
- 1/2″ galvanized steel flange (you will paint this one later)
- drill and bit
- four 1⁄4-20 x 3 inch machine screws
- eight 1⁄4-20 hex nuts
- four 1⁄4-20 flat washers
- four 1⁄4-20 cap nuts
- picture hanging wire (or similar wire)
- sand paper
- Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane, clear satin (for outdoor use of the table)
In this part of the project, I show you how to set up so that when you add concrete to the bowl, the machine screws are in the right place.
You can often find wooden serving bowls at second-hand stores, or you can find affordable ones at stores such as Walmart or Target. Or maybe like me, you know someone who doesn’t need their bowl anymore and was hoping someone would offer to make a bistro table with it. Whatever you have to do, get yourself a bowl.
Center a flange on the foot of the bowl (or the flat part at the bottom) as shown in the photo below.
Mark the location for the holes, and drill the holes through the bowl. Use a drill bit that is slightly larger than the diameter of the machine screws.
Next, put the following on each machine screw in this order: hex nut, hex nut, washer.
Put the machine screws through the holes in the bowl from the inside. On the outside, position a galvanized steel pipe flange and tighten the cap nuts on the machine screws. On the inside, tighten the top hex nut and washer against the bowl (finger tight).
This is a photo of the inside of the bowl with the machine screws installed. I wrapped the machine screw with picture-hanging wire, positioned the wire between the hex nuts and screw heads, and tightened the hex nuts against the wire. I used the wire, long machine screws, and hex nuts so that the screws get more securely imbedded in the concrete.
This is a view of the outside of the bowl showing the cap nuts and galvanized steel pipe flange.
WEIGHTING THE WOODEN BOWL WITH CONCRETE AND FINISHING THE BOWL
In this part of the project, you will fill the bowl with concrete so that the pedestal base is weighted for stablility.
- wooden serving bowl (prepared as described in the previous section)
- gloves, dust mask
- towel or other cloth (for cleaning bowl after pouring concrete)
- 5-gallon bucket or similar
- trowel (or similar for mixing)
- straight flat wood (or similar) for leveling concrete
Be sure to wear protective gloves and a dust mask. I had this Quikrete concrete on hand so I used it, but pretty much any concrete will do. Anchoring cement would also work well, but it is a bit more expensive relative to concrete.
I mixed the cement in a 5-gallon bucket using a trowel. Follow mixing instructions for the concrete (or anchoring cement) you use. I used one and a half volumes of my bowl of dry concrete and mixed with water to get a stiff mix. (I didn’t measure the water.)
After filling the bowl, I patted the sides to let air bubbles work their way up, then leveled it with a scrap board. I used the rag to wipe wet concrete off the side of the bowl.
I didn’t seal the inside of the wooden bowl in any way before putting in wet concrete, and I ended up with horrendous water stains on the outside of the bowl after the concrete cured and the bowl dried. The water stains all sanded out, but it took a lot of sanding, which I tend to do anyway, so it was fine with me. I also sanded off a film of concrete on the bowl where I hadn’t wiped off all the wet concrete. A lot of sanding may be inevitable. I sanded with coarse, medium, and fine sandpaper by hand, following the wood grain of the bowl. The next time I do this, I’m planning to seal the inside of the bowl with several coats of spar urethane or maybe a plastic garbage bag before pouring the concrete. It may not prevent all the water staining, but will probably minimize it. I left the bowl and concrete alone for about three weeks before I sanded it and applied finish. I let the wood and concrete dry out so that water wouldn’t affect the finish. I finished with Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane, clear satin. This is a good finish for outdoor wood furniture. If you are going to use your bistro table indoors, you have many different options to choose from, such as shellac, varnish, or polyurethane.
PAINTING THE PLUMBING PIPE AND FLANGES
- 1⁄2 inch galvanized steel plumbing pipe (18 inches length, but yours may be different length depending on height of your bowl and overall height of table)
- two 1⁄2” galvanized steel flanges
- #000 steel wool
- dish soap
- Zinsser spray shellac-based primer
First, clean the pipe and flanges with dish soap and steel wool (or sponge) to remove the greasy coating that comes on the pipe. Rinse thoroughly, then scrub them with steel wool. Rinse thoroughly, then wipe them down with vinegar. The steel wool and vinegar treatments rough up the galvanized coating on the pipe, allowing better paint adhesion. Let them dry thoroughly before painting.
I screwed the flanges on the pipe and suspended the pipe/flanges in a tree using a rubber band, then painted them with Zinsser Bin primer, followed by Rustoleum Universal hammered spray paint, silver color. This is the first time I have suspended something like this for painting, and it worked out well. I cut the rubber band off after painting, and did a little touch up where the rubber band was.
CUTTING FLATTENING CLEATS AND ATTACHING THEM TO THE TABLE TOP
- 1 inch x 2 inch (or similar) board, 36 inch length
- miter saw
- six #6 x 1 1⁄4 inch wood screw
- drill bit slightly wider than #6 wood screw
- pencil, measuring tape
- palm sander and sandpaper
It’s always a good idea to put flattening cleats on wood table tops to minimize cupping or warping. I had a wake up call on this because I bought one of these edge-glued round panels, brought it home, and realized it was already slightly warped. So I switched it out at the store and knew I needed to put on the flattening cleats.
To be most effective, flattening cleat boards should be positioned so that the growth rings of the wood curve away from the table top. See in the photo below the direction of the flattening cleat growth rings relative to the table top. This is what you want. This orientation is best because the flattening cleat will cup, or warp, but oriented this way it will warp against the table top, minimizing the overall warp.
I cut my two flattening cleats at 45 degree angles at the end because I like how it looks. You can cut it straight or at an angle. I originally intended my cleats to be 18 inches long, but I cut one of the angles wrong relative to the growth rings, so I re-cut, and ended up with cleats about 17 inches long. After cutting, I sanded the cleats using a palm sander and 150 grit and 220 grit sandpaper.
To attach the cleats, first drill four pilot holes into the cleats only. Drill these pilot holes slightly bigger than the screw diameter. In case of cleats, you want the pilot holes bigger than the screw to allow “movement” of the wood as it swells and shrinks over time with changes in air humidity. I didn’t measure where I put these pilot holes, I just spaced them out.
Position the cleats on the underside of the table top perpendicular to the direction of the boards of the table top. The exact location doesn’t matter. I just made sure the cleats were the same distance from the edges all the way around and were parallel to each other.
Next, drill pilot holes in the table top through the pilot holes that you previously drilled in the cleats. For these pilot holes, the drill bit needs to be slightly smaller than the #6 screw. Use a bit of painter’s tape at 1 1⁄2” as a drill depth guide. I drilled one pilot hole and put the screw in, then went on to the next pilot hole, etc.
SANDING AND FINISHING THE TABLE TOP
I sanded the edges by hand with coarse, medium, and fine sand paper. I used a palm sander for the top and underside and sanded with medium and fine sandpaper. You can finish your table to your liking, even painting it some fun color, staining it, or leaving it clear like I did. If you will be using your table outside, I suggest giving it a couple of coats of Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane as the final finish. If your table will be used indoors, you don’t need the spar urethane.
ASSEMBLING THE TABLE
- pedestal pipe and flanges
- weighted bowl
- finished table top
- measuring tape
- drill and bit
- four #10 x 1 inch wood screws
- four 1⁄4-20 cap nuts
- 7⁄16 inch wrench
You might notice that I attached the flange of the pedestal to the table top before I put the cleats on. You can do it before or after.
There are ways to determine the center of a circle like this table top, but I usually center things by trial and error, with ideally not so much error. In this case, I positioned and repositioned the flange until there was an equal distance between the edge of the pipe to the outside edge of the table top. When I got it where I wanted it, I marked the location of the screw pilot holes.
I drilled the pilot holes using a bit that was slightly narrower than the screws and drilled the pilot holes 1 inch into the wood.
The last step is to set the bottom pipe flange onto the bolts sticking out of the bowl and screw on the four cap nuts. Tighten these with a wrench. Done!