River Table Ideas

I am thinking of building a plywood based rafting kitchen table. 16" or 24" wide.


Would those who have been successful building a rafting kitchen table share their ideas, successes and failure. Suggestions for mistakes to avoid would be most helpful.


I am planning to size the table to fit the top of either my cooler or drybox. I have 3/4 exterior plywood, I would like to use, prepping and coating several times with high grade polyurethane.


One thing I am considering is putting a Formica top over the polyurethane using contact cement. I think this would be easier to keep clean and healthier. Opinions?

Very interested what boaters have successfully used for legs and how they are attached to the table top. 

thank you





Hi Dave,

I've used galvanized pipe and flanges (available at most hardware stores) for screw-on legs, on three tables. They seem to work pretty well and are relatively inexpensive, if somewhat heavy.


Rich Phillips



If your table is going to be the 24" wide variety, you might consider purchasing a set of banquet table folding legs.  You've probably moved 6' or 8' tables many times by just folding the legs up and then storing them.  I, and others I know, have used these successfully on plywood tables.  These legs are available at many hardware stores, either on the shelf, or they can order them for you at very reasonable prices.

The Formica may be a problem.  I question how well it will do with exposure to the sun and heat in the canyon.

I have built my rafting frame out of Marine plywood rather than exterior plywood. I don't really know the difference between the two, but the marine was more expensive. Anyway, the frame has held up very well and you can consider that as an option for the table top.


Most of the camp tables used by the outfitters are metal, probably because of the extensive use, but there may also be more practical reasons. Brady could probably have some comment on that.

Jay Meierdierck



When I build plywood accessories I use usually use 3/4" because it is strong enough whereas thinner board isn't usually -- depends on the use. I put a full radius on the edges for beauty and safety and fewer delamination problems. Stain makes the boards look less cheap.

Triple or more on the polyurethane is much nicer to touch than the adequate alternative of linseed oil. 

The last table I produced had slots around the edges and through the middle so it could double as a back board. The slots were also useful for strapping it to the boat.

What would be wrong with buying a cheap molded plastic table with folding legs? I think that's my next step.

Dave Yeamans



I built one this Summer. I used 3/4" plywood. Rounded over the edges with a router. Cut some 2 1/2 inch holes with a hole saw, routed those edges, one handle hole in the center near the edge, routed those edges, applied a few river stickers, 3 coats of polyurethane, and put a set of custom 36" legs ($34) on it from here:


It's a nice table, cost less than $50, and is sturdy enough for preparing dinner. If you're going to load it down, get different legs.  





Here's a source describing spineboard dimensions. If you can stand a 16" X 72" table, you can come close to duplicating the configuration.


Micarta board is a very good alternative to plywood. More expensive, but much more stable and durable. You can find it on the internet or maybe locally.





I used an old back board, outfitted with screw-on legs (galv piping).  Have also seen conduit used for legs, and plywood top works fine.  It's nice to have the legs off instead of folding so you don't end up with an uneven surface to strap to cooler/dry box/thwart.  I wouldn't laminate the top...

contact cement is great, but the formica will eventually chip/delam.  The hand holds on the board are great for flexible tie-downs. Also, contrary to public opinion, wood surfaces are more sanitary than plastic, as wood tends to expand into gaps better than plastic after being scored....but should be cutting on a separate board anyway huh...





My friend uses 1/2" plywood tables, with 1/2" aluminum pipe  legs that screw into galv. pipe flanges. They have worked well on over 50 different river trips, but if they were mine. Because plywood splinters easily, I would try "Starboard".


It's not cheap, it's heavy, doesn't float, but it should last forever. It's wonderful to work with. If it's a small table, try it first without hand cut-outs.  If it's narrow, use the same material for wedges between the flanges and the table bottom, to angle the legs, like a sawhorse.

Rather that wood screwing the flanges to the bottom, use S/S flat head machine screws with nyloc nuts. Aluminum threads gall easily, so it's important the legs are as clean as possible before screwing them to flanges. People tend to turn the legs upside down to unscrew the legs, and the sand slides down the legs into the flanges. To correct this, I would thread both ends of the legs, and place a cap (pvc?) over the opposite end. If you have a thread failure, remove the cap, and you're ready to go. . .

Shop for a Starboard remnant to save money. . .

Good luck,





The absolute best folding table legs I found are located here http://www.midg-ett.com/page.home

I looked and looked for legs that would turn my 5/8" poly board drop deck cover into a nice table and they work perfect.  The are light, simple, inexpensive, and fold out at an angle for added stability for a narrow table, something you won't find in any other legs.

The poly board might be a little heavier than plywood, that's why I used 5/8 instead of 3/4 and I added some aluminum angle stiffeners. It's easy to cut holes, slots or cut-outs to customize to your raft...just don't 303 it!


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