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Roll top camp table made of Ipe wood

Roll top camp table made of Ipe wood

One of my challenges as a father of a toddler and as an avid camper is finding a table that’s a suitable size for my daughter.

I’ve tried plopping her plate on top of two stacked  Storm Cases.  The right height, but a little too shanty-like.

A few companies make a 20-ish inch high table: Byer of Maine for example.  Nice table, but just not quite what I have in mind for the ideal table.

Why not just make one? Ah yes, the great benefit of custom woodworking means you can make anything you want, just the way you want (ahem, so long as you have enough time and money, of course . . .).  So I set out to just get the job done with a simple design in mind and a perfect outdoor wood: ipe.


Ipe displays a nice even color and looks spectacular with a clear finish

You might know ipe (pronounced ee-pay) as a nearly bomb-proof timber that comes out of South America (get more details here).  For the most part, the decking industry is largest consumer of ipe.  Its density and resistance to rot are virtually unmatched.  Digging a little deeper, we’ve learned that ipe has a fire resistance rating identical to that of  — are you sitting down for this? — concrete.  Got an outdoor project?  Sure thing, ipe will do.

Now, wood that will be subjected to the elements should still have some protection added.  Generally speaking, latex paint is one of the best coatings for protecting wood – for utilitarian projects that’s fine, but when using a fine hardwood you probably don’t want to cover it with paint.  Yet there are a few choices for clear finish that work well on exterior wood projects; spar varnish and epoxy resin for two examples.

I chose Deft Exterior Wood Finish, which is an oil that’s simple to apply. You know the old adage, “oil and water don’t mix,” so a penetrating oil finish helps the wood shed water.   It will need to be re-applied about once a year, but that’s easy enough to do.

The construction on this table is simple, and with just a few details here and there give it a little class.  The threaded brass inserts contrast the dark wood nicely.  And all the slats and legs have a basic 3/16″ round over.  Wah-la.

Wait a sec, did this say “dual purpose?”  Yes.  First, it’s a mighty fine kids eating table.  Second . . . when she’s gone nighty-night . . . it’s a cocktail table.

Vice President of Operations – Woodworkers Source
We’re a family-owned lumber & woodworking supply retailer with 3 delightful stores in Arizona, and 35 friendly employees.
Mark oversees the company and creates tutorials on wood finishing and woodworking tips for hardwood lumber.

Discussion, Questions & Answers

  • F.P.

    Perfect! I love your ipe table.

  • Dave Anderson

    What a gorgeous, precious little girl. Bet she’s got her mother’s beauty if “*all*” your “cuteness” in personality only. Great creativite ability – with the table too! My only suggestion would be to install slighly shorter thread inserts from underneath to hide the hardware from the top view. Great job x2!!!

  • Excellent. Thanks for all the responses folks! Although I figured the little spawn would get some attention. She’s got *all* my cuteness.

  • Bryan Hill

    What’s there to grIPE about IPE? Looks awesome and great idea for a camp table (roll up, now who would have thunk?)! I do agree, you should pay the model a stipend for being the inspiration for the table!

  • Brian

    I really like the idea of this table. It looks excellent too! Gotta love the Ipe.

  • Steve Cogswell

    The table is beautiful, and talk about thinking outside the box, the design is excellent and practical. Great job, I’m sure it will get alot of use and get passed down from generation to generation.

  • fred medina

    That table is just great. I have some left over Ipe and I will do one for my grandson. Thanks

  • Dan Raffetu

    Great article and you need to give the model a bonus.

  • Joseph Ford

    Hi Mark –

    Nice table but the real beauty is your daughter! You probably know that already.

  • Joe Tripodi

    Nice job. Looks like a great finish. I like the portability of this design. Should stow easily for your camping trips. Ipe sure seems like a great outdoor wood. Let us know how the Deftoil works out.


  • Susan Shane

    Hi Mark,

    This table is great! Because of the way you built it, you could build taller legs, if needed, as she grows.
    Chloe looks so happy, bless her heart! You’re a good Daddy!

    Keep up the beautiful and inspiring work!

    Susan Shane

  • Ray Rockefeller

    Your best work is sitting in the chair. Table looks great also.

  • Roy Hill

    It’s a very beautiful, multipurpose table.

  • Gary Werbowski

    Great job Mark, Bet she loves her new table!
    I have 1 question, I bought a pattern from Meisel’s hardware a long time ago. It requires a 2-1/2 jesus figure and they have discountinued the 2-1/2 and said to use the 3-1/2. Well the plans I have does not correspond with a bigger cross. Why won’t they give me the manufactor so I can make sure they don’t carry them? My wife is a pastor of a church down here in Arizona and every Sunday people keep asking me to make my crafts for them so I am very busy! Any thing you can help me with is surely appreciated.
    Thanks and keep the newsletters coming.


  • Ruth Archambault

    Chloe is precious. Oh, the table is nice too:)

  • Bill

    Putting Chloe in the picture is a major distraction from the table. She’s adorable!

    The table looks good and I really like the design and portability.

  • Leo

    Hi, you mentioned that you built your ipe table out of IPE. What else would you build an ipe table out of?
    Seriously, it looks nice. I like the roll-up feature for traveling convenience.