I wasn’t sure what to call this post so that the most people possible would be able to find it in a search to hideaway their propane tanks – usually used for fire pits.
It’s a propane tank cover – yes – but better still, it’s a usable surface to put drinks on while the eyesore is tucked away.
So propane tank table?
Alternatively, you could build it as a side table for indoors or out, and just leave the tank out of the equation – in which case maybe I should have titled this “Outdoor side table”?
Hopefully now that I’ve dropped all of the SEO terms in those first few sentences, you’ve come here and found what it was you were looking for… I’ll go with propane tank table since that’s what I have my photos saved as.
You will need:
(2) 16″ x 16″ x ¾” waterproof MDF squares
(~30) ¾” x ¾” x 21 ¼” wood dowels – ideally square, but round will work too
(1) 20″ x 20″ x ¾” wood top – I glued up some poplar to make this square.
Tools: (Amazon affiliate links to the products I used)
- table saw
- mitre saw
- circle jig
- plunge router
- Instant bond (optional)
- masking tape (optional)
- outdoor-appropriate wood glue
- brad nailer w. 1 ¼” finishing nails
- torpedo level
- sander w. 120, 150, 220 grit sandpaper
Have you heard of waterproof, or water resistant, MDF? Neither had I, but I came across a sheet at cabinetmaking school and I figured this project was the perfect time to test it out. My instructor told me that the salesperson for this magic material actually kept the MDF in a bucket of water overnight and it didn’t absorb a single drop of moisture!
Here’s hoping it’s true, since this propane tank table will likely live outside all year long.
I started by setting up my plunge router on my circle jig. My circle jig is just a piece of plywood with a hole in one end to allow the router bit through it and then 4 screw holes so that the jig/paddle can be attached where the faceplate of your router is.
I drilled a hole in the circle jig arm at 7 ½” from the INSIDE edge of the router bit.
I attached my circle jig to the centre of my MDF square with a wood screw – not too tight – to act as the pivot point. Then it was just a matter of slowly lowering the router down onto the MDF and then pushing it along – the jig will hold it in a perfect circle. You may have to do a few rounds with the router, lowering it about ¼” at a time until you get all the way through the MDF.
Repeat with the second MDF square so that you have two 15″ diameter circles.
Now here comes the interesting part… we want to cut the centre out of these circles so that the propane tank can fit inside. The problem is, how do you clamp down the 15″ circle while still allowing the circle jig and router free movement to cut inside it?
Check this out:
This is like crazy glue, but it comes with an activator (the spray can) so that it sets immediately and totally firmly. It’s the first time I’ve used it and colour me impressed!!
To use this adhesive, you’ll want to tape your work surface with masking tape, then tape one side of some scrap wood as well. This will become the lift to keep your circle, and router bit, from eating into your workbench. Spread a little bit of the glue on the tape on your work surface, then spray the activator on the taped side of your scrap wood and press the two together.
Now you have scrap wood solidly adhered to your workbench.
The next step is to use masking tape on the top side of the scrap wood pieces as well as on the coordinating spots on your 15″ circle (underside). Again, run the adhesive along the tape on the scrap wood and spray the activator on the tape on the MDF and press the two together.
It’s not going anywhere!
I love this product!!
You’re going to drill a new hole in your circle jig arm – one that measures 6 ½” from the OUTER edge of the router bit. 6 ½” radius will cut a 13″ circle.
I made a mistake here and you’ll see below the difference.
Attach your circle jig to your MDF circle with a wood screw (not too tight) and then push your router around to cut the inner circle.
When you are finished cutting both 15″ circles, you will be left with two 15″ rings with 13″ of the centre removed.
Perfect, since the average propane tank is 12″ in diameter.
Lift your circles off of the table and remove all of the masking tape.
You can see the error in the bottom ring, but since this won’t be seen once the propane table is assembled, I decided to work with it. Waterproof/water resistant MDF is VERY expensive.
I used a table saw (although you can use a planer if you have one) to rip down ~30, ¾” square dowels cut to 21 ¼” in length. This is a great use of scrap wood if you have 1×2’s or 2×4’s lying around. You can get a few of these dowels out of each one – simply run the board over the table saw to get a ¾” width, then turn it once to the right (or left) and run it again to make it square.
Use your mitre saw to cut to length.
I don’t have measurements for this next part – I simply started by gluing and nailing with 1 ¼” finishing nails, on opposite sides of the circle. Start with 4 set opposite to each other and then fill in the gaps by adding the remaining dowels in the middle of each section.
Keep gluing and nailing dowels until you have your desired ‘density’ in dowels. For my propane tank table that was 28 dowels after I had left spacing enough in one spot to fit my hand through so I’d be able to turn the propane tank off and on.
I turned my propane tank cover over and used a torpedo level (a level that runs vertically) to line up my dowels on the second ring for gluing and nailing.
While the glue sets on the table base, cut your ¾” wood boards to length at 20″. If you have a jointer, joint both sides of each board for a tight glue up. If you don’t, just clean up the edges by ripping a straight cut on either side of each board on your table saw.
Use wood glue and pipe clamps to glue enough boards together to make a 20″ square. Leave everything overnight for the glue to cure.
Set up your router and circle jig so that you have a screw hole at 9″ from the INSIDE of the router blade (a 9″ radius will make an 18″ circle). Screw your circle jig to the underside of your table top (not too tight) and then push your router around to cut an 18″ circle from your wood glue up.
Your table top is finished!
Attaching your table top to your propane tank table base is just a matter of using 1 1/8″ wood screws drilled up from inside the base, through the MDF circle and into the underside of the top.
Don’t over-tighten the screws or you run the risk of the ends popping through the table top.
Sand everything smooth with 120, 180 and then 220 grit sandpaper.
I took this project two steps further and applied my favourite outdoor stain; Benjamin Moore Arborcoat in Black Beauty to the base. Spraying it would have made it quick and easy, but I find painting cathartic so I was happy to go over each dowel/spindle with a sponge brush inside and out – two coats.
The propane tank table top itself received two coats of an outdoor-appropriate, clear sealer – with a light sanding at 320 grit between coats.
This table top is made from Poplar, and while it’s the cheapest wood cabinetmakers/furniture makers use, I’ve really come to love how it looks!
All that’s left to do now is lower your propane tank table over the tank, and attach the hose from it to your firepit/fire bowl!
The large opening on one side of the table allows you to feed the hose in and easily turn your tank off and on. If having the hose out is a tripping hazard, there is enough room inside the table to wrap the hose around the tank and tuck the end.
This is a relatively easy build that will help build your confidence with the router and give you experience using a circle jig.
Time to enjoy your labour – hit the patio and get the party started!
Have a great one!