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Build a Serving Cart

Shaina Oliphant
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Outdoor serving cartEntertain friends and family outdoors in style by building a classic teacart. This piece of portable outdoor furniture makes it easy to serve up drinks and snacks to your loved ones while lounging around on your deck or patio. An easy DIY project, building your own outdoor serving cart will repay you with years of service.

Skill level:  Intermediate

Time to complete:  Variable


Step 1: Prep the underside of the table

  • Use a straight edge and pencil to trace a rectangle 1 3/8-inch in from the perimeter of the 32-inch by 21-inch plywood panel.
  • Position the two 18-inch and two 29-inch miter-cut lengths of 1×3 pine legs to fit the penciled rectangle.
  • Secure the 1x3s into position with carpenter’s clamps and pre-drill through the plywood table surface into 1x3s on the underside. The longer sides should take three holes and the shorter one will have two holes.
  • Drive non-rusting screws into the table surface and down into the 1x3s. Bead a line of wood glue along the joints for a tight seam. This finished area is called the perimeter board.

Step 2: Attach the main legs

  • Turn the tabletop upside down. Butt one of the prefabricated legs into a corner of the perimeter board. Screw it into place through the perimeter board. Repeat this process for the remaining legs.
  • Next, carefully turn the table right-side up. Reinforce the legs by pre-drilling a hole from the table surface down into the top of each leg, then driving in a screw.
  • For added stability, install corner braces on the underside. Flip the table upside down again and brace each of the legs against the perimeter board using the four miter-cut 7 5/16-inch 1x3s. Apply wood glue and nudge each into place. When dry, pre-drill on a 45-degree angle in from the outside edge of the perimeter board and into the brace, then secure with screws. Drive additional screws through each brace and into the table legs.

Step 3: Attach the lower shelf

  • Place the table upside down again. Center the 29 1/4-inch by 18-inch plywood panel on the four legs.
  • Pre-drill holes through the plywood down into each of the four legs. Secure each leg to the lower shelf with a screw. Apply a bead of glue for a tight seam.

Step 4: Table surface and tea-towel rack

  • Use finishing nails to attach the miter-cut 22 9/16-inch 1×2 to one of the short sides of the table surface and the 21-inch straight-cut 1×2 one to the other. This step adds a lip to the table surface (to prevent items from falling off when the cart is moved). Put the 21-inch piece on the end where you want the tea-towel bar.
  • Fit each of the two 38-inch 1x2s into place so their mitered ends meet up with the miter-cuts on the 22 9/16-inch 1×2. Secure this end first, using finishing nails. At the other end, the 1x2s will meet the 21-inch 1×2 and extend beyond it and the table surface. Secure them in place with finishing nails.
  • To add the tea-towel bar, pre-drill a hole into one side rail, 1 inch from the end. Pre-drill a hole into one end of the dowel as well. Fit the dowel into place and then screw it into position.

Step 5: Attach the feet and casters

  • Cut the remaining pine legs to the same height as the casters, creating two pine feet.
  • Put the unit on its side and pre-drill four holes through the lower shelf, just underneath where each of the main legs connect. The wooden feet should go on the side of the cart with the tea-towel bar and the casters on the opposite end. Screw the feet into the pre-drilled holes in the base. Insert the two casters into the other end, screwing or tapping in, depending on the style (some are sold with pre-threaded bottom screws, others can be tapped in with a hammer or mallet).

Step 6: Finishing the serving cart

  • Fill all nail and screw holes with wood filler and allow to dry per package directions.
  • When the filler is dry, sand, then prime the unit, following the paint manufacturer’s directions for drying time.
  • Apply two coats of exterior paint in your desired color, following the manufacturer’s directions for drying times.

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