Outdoor table and bench setting

A batten-top table with matching seats

an outdoor batten-top table
an outdoor batten-top bench
Modular top design • The size is adaptable • The units can be made any size • The tops are modular and interchangeable • A gaggle of variations

Plans and instructions for a 6ft x 3ft (1800mm x 900mm)
Modular batten-top table with seats
  By Les Kenny

batton table 1
batton table 2
batton table 3

Note: This project DOES NOT contain any plan drawings. Plan drawings are only in the PREMIUM PLANS at leskenny.com version. To find out why click here.


Here we have a gaggle of tables and seats that are all constructed in the same manner.

They run fundamentally along the same theme and all have the same method of construction.

The seats are the same as the tables but smaller.

The seat and table frames can be made to any length as can the tabletops.

The tabletops can be made with different configurations within the same construction methodology. The various tabletop patterns can be swapped, therefore being modular and interchangeable.

This article takes you through the making of one particular style and size table and seat. Once that is mastered the same method of construction can be used on any of the seat/table sizes or configurations shown throughout this content.

Our focus will be on a table 6ft x 3ft (1800 x 900mm), but from there – anything goes.

The tabletop structure

In short, the tabletop consists of rows of battens separated by spacers and held together with rod threaded through the battens and the spacers. Washers and nuts at each end of the rod hold it together.

The spacers can be pretty much anything solid that has a hole in the middle for the rod. For example: galvanized washers, hard plastic washers, thick rimmed tube cut to suit, etc.

The rod in this case is 1/2″ (12mm) threaded galvanized rod.

About the wood sizes given in this project

The wood sizes (widths and thicknesses) given in this project are the ‘nominal’ sizes.
That is the size of the wood before it has been planed (dressed, dimensioned, smoothed).

Therefore the size given to a piece of wood in this project is not its true size – it is its nominal size. For example: A piece of wood called 2×3 (75 x 50mm) in size – the ‘nominal’ size, is really 1-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ (38 x 64 mm). The ‘actual’ size.

Also, the ‘actual’ size of the wood in North America differs to that in Australasia, or pretty much anywhere outside of North America.

I give the nominal size in this project because of the variation in the actual size from country to country.

The table below shows the approximate differences between the nominal and actual sizes of the wood used in this project.

Nominal Size Inch Nominal Size Metric Actual North American Actual Australian
2 x 2 50 x 50 mm 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ (38 x 38 mm) 42 x 42 mm
2 x 3 50 x 75 mm 1-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ (38 x 64 mm) 45 x 70 mm
2 x 4 50 x 100 mm 1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ (38 x 89 mm) 45 x 90 mm

About the measurements given in this project

All length measurements in this project are given in both inches (standard) and metric (mm).

The standard (inch) measurements are given first followed by the metric equivalent in brackets.   For example: 19-5/8″ (498mm)


The table frame and the seat frame are made the same way. The only difference is the size of the structure and the size of the wood.

Each table/seat frame consist of two end ‘A’ type end frames spaced by two top rails.

We will begin with the table frame

Step 1. Make the side frames

table end frame with dimensions

Each side frame consists of 2 legs [A], and two end rails [C] and [D].
First cut all the pieces according to the dimensions given in plan 1a and then make up each end frame according the above plan drawing.

Make it easy with a jig. Go to “Technique step 1” in the Technique section.

Step 2. Fix the rails to the side frames.

Mark and pre-drill the screw holes in the end frames. The placement is given in the plan drawing below.
Make the drill hole the same thickness as the screw shank.

table screw hole measurement

Position the top rails [B] in place between the two end frames. This is best done with the unit upside-down.
Pre drill about 1-1/2″ (40mm) into the top rail through the holes in pieces (A).

table screw detail

Use 6″ (150mm) bugle head screws. Screw tight. Screwing to detail is important as it is the main table bracing element.

Step 3. Make the seat frames

Make up the seat frames in the exact same manner as the table frames in steps 1 and 2.

Below are some helpful pictures and a picture is worth a thousand words.

seat assembly 1
seat assembly 2
seat assembly 3

The modular seats and tabletops

The seat tops and the tabletops have pretty much everything in common.
Basically, they are a row of battens held together with threaded rod and spaced with washers.
You can use anything else suitable for spacers as long as the material is strong and will not squash when the end nuts are tightened.
The wood size used is 2 x 2 (50 x 50mm) battens at varying lengths. A different size wood can be used.
Below are some configurations for both seat tops and tabletops.

tabletop and seattop configurations

Step 4. Making a tabletop

In this example I will explain how to make a 6ft (1800mm) tabletop using 2 x 2 (50 x 50mm) battens running across the table. A different size wood can be used.
Any other size and configuration will use the same method.
So… cut 40 battens @ 3ft (900mm) long. Of course the number will depend on the spacing size and batten thickness. I used two 1/2″ (12mm) galvanized round washers between each batten for spacing.

Now, the hole marking and drilling… Each batten will require three 9/16″ (13mm) holes drilled through the side, centered vertically.
Position one hole 4″ (100mm) in from each end and one in the middle.
You will require a drill press to do the holes. An inexpensive drill press with a makeshift jig would do.
This is how. Go to “Technique step 4a” in the Technique section.
The end battens will need a countersunk hole deep enough to house a washer and a nut. Do it in this order…
1. Drill a hole with a diameter more than that of the washer, to a depth deep enough to house a washer and nut combined.
2. Then continue through the batten with a 9/16″ (13mm) drill bit (via a drill press).
3. It is now ready to take the threaded rod and house the washer and nut.

countersinking drill holes detail

Step 4.1. Threading through the battens

Cut three lengths of 1/2″ (12mm) threaded rod 6ft (1800mm) long. Put a washer and nut on one end of each rod.
Thread the rod through the holes in the first batten, a batten with pre-drilled holes including the countersunk portion which will house the washers and nuts. Place the first batten on the ground with the thread rod sticking upwards, leaning against a workbench or other suitable object.

threaded rod in the first batten

Slide two washers (or other suitable spacers) down each rod until they sit on the first batten. Then slide another batten down the rod followed by more washers and so on and so on until the last batten. The first and last batten have countersunk holes – the rest don’t.

threaded rod through tabletop battens

Step 4.2. Fixing the tabletop to the frame

Place the tabletop on a work-bench, tighten the nuts and cut off any protruding threaded rod.

tabletop placed on bench

Sit a frame in place (in upside-down mode) on the tabletop and fasten with screws as in the drawing below.

tabletop being fixed to the table frame

And there she is!

table and seat all done

This article explains how to make one variation of a number of modular batten style tables and seats.

However – any variation can be made by the same method.

Techniques: step 1 – jig for the side frame

table frame jig 3 If you are making many side frames – Then a jig (such as below) to place and hold all the side-frame pieces in the right position while fixing them together, would certainly speed things up.
table frame jig 1

number1 Mark the outline of a side-frame on a flat surface and fix narrow wood strips to the surface about 10mm away from the outline (to allow for packing). That is the jig.

number2 Place the side-frame pieces in the jig with the joins glued, and jam tight with packing.

table frame jig 2

number3 Skew nail (toenail) the under corners at each join. Just to hold everything until screws are inserted.


number4 Remove the packing, take the frame out of the jig and screw each join with 6″ (150mm) bugle head screws but first pre drill the screw holes through the leg pieces.

Techniques: step 4a – An inexpensive drill press and makeshift jig

drillpress jig

An inexpensive drill press and a makeshift jig can save a lot of time as it eliminates the need to painstakingly measure, mark, and center every hole that needs drilling.

It’s just a matter of bolting a batten (called a fence) to the slotted table on the drill press.
The fence will be positioned so that when a batten (to be drilled) is held against it, the drill line will be in the center (across ways) of the batten.

holes by drillpress and jig A block can be clamped along the fence as a stop to hold the batten in position, thus ensuring uniformity, i.e., every piece will have the holes in the same place along the batten.
A little bit of planing and preparing can make the task so much easier and save a heck of a lot of time.


Photos for your information

seats being made
small seat being made
seat tops being threaded
batten seat with varied top
seat battens being threaded
batten tabletop being threaded

Note: You can purchase this DIY article in downloadable file including plan drawings with dimensions for a small cost from the Premium Plans at leskenny.com section.