How to Make The Coolest BBQ Table with Dish Soap

How to Make The Coolest BBQ Table with Dish Soap

Years ago, when I owned my coffee bar, we had outdoor tables and chairs for an outdoor patio. They were commercial quality, all aluminum and had a kind of an epoxy paint silver color. After we had used them for many years, they were at the end of their lifespan and I took a couple home. I figured they'd be great BBQ table, extra backyard party tables or ones that I could use as side tables to my BBQ grill.

Once I got them home, they were in fact used in the backyard when we had parties. One would hold beverages and one would be by my grill. If they were "public facing" they needed a tablecloth as the epoxy over the paint was completely cracked and looking kinda nasty. When not in "party use" one of them was usually in the garage used as a man cave accessory.

Over the years as I look at the tables, I thought I might be able to make something nice out of them. I could possibly use a liquid stripper or orbital sander to to get the paint off and then paint them fresh. I tested a corner of a table to see how easy I could strip it, and although the coating on them may have been old, it was still incredibly tough.

Man cave table

As my friends and I used one of the tables more and more, playing euchre, having a cigar and bourbon on it, I starting getting serious about resurfacing the top. One of my friends was collecting cigar bands and had planned on making an epoxy coated wood countertop covered with cigar bands. I liked his idea and began saving bands, researching and watching YouTube on various table refinishing videos.

My first step was stripping the tables. Many decades ago I used to refinish furniture and hated it, so the idea of using a liquid stripper did not appeal to me. Instead I bought various grades of sandpaper for my orbital sander and took the tables to the barn. After 5 minutes of 60 grit and barely a scratch on the table, I decided these old arms and my lack of desire to use an orbital sander for 3 days straight pushed me to a different tack.

I found a local sandblasting company and got a quote on the two tables. $100 to sandblast them both. I had only one more question, "How soon can I get them done".  ;^)

(I apologize for not taking a lot of pictures on this project. I sometimes don't realize till later that I want to blog about something.)


As you can see, the table has an section that the coating was pretty much rubbed and weathered away. If you look close, you can see the scratches and cracks all over it.

Creating the first table

After I received the tables back from the sandblaster, I kicked research into high gear. Knowing I wanted one of them to be a cigar band table I watched a few videos on how to make that work. I watched videos on the process, but none of them incorporated cigar bands. I knew there would be issues with paint and paper being combined; issues with smoothness, or the lack thereof, and how to combine multiple layers of paint, cigar bands, and a top coat.

If you go to YouTube and search "layering paint dawn dish soap" you will get an idea for where my thought process was leading me (here is a helpful video). In a nutshell it is as follows:

  1. Prepare surface.
  2. Paint a base coat, let dry.
  3. Paint layering colors per your design, let dry.
  4. Spread Dawn Dish soap on table per your design.
  5. Spray final color coat on over entire table, let dry for 15 longer.
  6. Gently rinse Dawn Dish Soap from table with a hose revealing 2nd layer of paint under final coat color.
  7. After everything has dried completely, spray 6-8 coats of clear coat over entire top.

If you watch a few videos, you'll see similar variations of this process. How I incorporated cigar bands in the process is as follows:

  1. After step 3 and my layering colors were dry I used Gorilla Glue (non-foaming) to adhere the cigar labels all over the table. Use glue sparingly, only enough to cover the label back and adhere to the table.
  2. Let the glue dry completely.
  3. When squeezing Dawn Dish Soap on the table, I squeezed a dollop on each label so once the final coat color was applied and rinsed, the labels would show through.
  4. After applying the first couple final clear coats, gently sand the table. The labels add a dimension to the surface and need to be as smooth as possible. I sanded a bit too early and roughed up a few cigar labels, but it was my first time and for the man cave, so I'm not too concerned.

The overall effect turned out pretty cool. If I did it again I'd do it better and maybe a bit different, but I was happy. The only thing that really bothered me was the surface was kind of rough and uneven from the cigar bands.

Upgrading with high gloss pourable epoxy coating

We used the table for a few months, and I finally decided to do a pour epoxy coating over the table top. As it had holes in the middle of the table, I taped them underneath to get a completely smooth surface (prevents epoxy from dripping through). I followed the directions and it took one quart of the Pour-on brand to cover my 30" square table.

It turned out even better than I hoped. The epoxy created a wonderful gloss surface and depth to the top coat I really enjoy. The roughness of the cigar bands and my oops was covered up and hidden in the epoxy!!

Table Two

The second table, my round one, I did not do cigar bands on. I got a little creative and changed it up. When I used the Dawn Dish Soap, instead of pouring it out of the bottle it comes in, I transferred it to a smaller squeeze bottle and made the nozzle dispensing hole much smaller. That way I could pour the soap out and write with it without it quickly spreading and making my lines thick and illegible.

As you can see, this was my first time again and I learned from it. I would do better next time, but am happy with the results.

What I did to achieve results:

  1. When I sprayed the 2nd paint layer, I did concentric circles of color. The base paint was silver, then I did black, green and orange in circles.
  2. Before I wrote the words with dish soap, I wrote a bunch of words down on paper that I wanted to use. That way I could write the words on the table quickly to reduce soap spread.
  3. Once I wrote the words and did a few flourishes, I sprayed the top silver coat over everything.
  4. Trust me, do not let it set more than 15 minutes. If you let it dry for 20, you'll start having problems at the edges of the paint, where the soap is rinsed off. You may need to use a cotton cloth and gently "scrub" to get it smooth.
  5. Once it dries, you may also want to do a light hand sanding with fine grit sandpaper.
  6. Then apply your top clear coats.

Final result - I have not done an epoxy clear coat on this table yet. I wanted to wait and see how it wears without it. I think this spring I will epoxy clear coat the top. It's held up pretty well, but I I like the epoxy version of the final surface better and think it will protect the surface better long term.

If you have any questions on the process, ask in the comment section below.

1 thought on “How to Make The Coolest BBQ Table with Dish Soap”

  1. This is definitely a cool and fun way to decorate the BBQ tables. Never heard of decorations with dish soap before, what a unique ideal. Thanks for sharing!

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