Outside detachable table—concept to completion
I have seen removable tables on some late model RVs, but never on an Airstream. The table that I envisioned could be very useful and would be detachable so it was only installed when the Airstream is parked. Sure, I could purchase one and install it, but I decided to make my own and believed that I had the necessary components. I had one of the vintage “fold-out” tables from a 1973 Airstream 31 foot trailer. As such it is pretty large, roughly 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep before folding out the wing which nearly doubles the size. These were typically installed near the couch and were opened up only when needed. They have a sliding aluminum frame, a folding support leg, and the two table surfaces on top, hinged so that one or both can be used.
I decided the best location for my custom, exterior table is curbside and under the awning. There is a horizontal aluminum strip inside the skin, along a rivet line just above the wheelwells. This is where I’d planned to permanently attach the “hanging strip” into which the table would slide. The table is 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep, and I decided to center it on the wheelwell.
The “hanging strip”, a channel into which the table slides currently, is the piece to get attached permanently to the Airstream, after removing the piano hinge which was not needed. This hanging strip got riveted onto the Airstream, using the existing screw holes in the strip, and into the existing rivet holes on the Airstream. To move the hanging strip away from the Airstream skin to make installing and removing the tabletop easier, a piece of aluminum bar stock (1/8 inch x 1 inch x 36 inches) was placed behind the hanging strip to gain the extra clearance, and both pieces were then riveted. The hanging strip, and therefore the table when in use, is roughly 36 inches off the ground which is very close to the height of a standard galley countertop, and I think this is quite acceptable. Once completed, this permanently attached hanging strip is the only piece that will be visible when the table is not installed, and when the Airstream is being moved. NOTE: the hanging strip did have an anodized coating which I removed (think Easy-Off oven cleaner) so it would match the rest of the aluminum skin (yes, I know, the skin on our Airstream has a case of extreme patina, so the strip is shinier than the rest of the Airstream).
The next step was to remove the three “slides” which were originally mounted (riveted) to the old table frame. These slides were then fastened into the new tabletop (I only need a tabletop, not a heavy framework to support a detachable table). I decided to use the existing tabletop—the larger of the two that were hinged—for a couple of reasons: 1) the size and structure works fine and 2) this table has survived for more than forty years without any warping or distortion. I had the tabletop and edging refreshed with a piece of laminate that matches that used in the galley of our Airstream—a pattern called “Retro Blue”.
I spent more time on the support mechanism than any other aspect of this project—do I suspend it with a chain or cable?, or do I determine a way to attach legs? After significant cogitation I decide to use a couple of adjustable legs that I already have as part of my Shopsmith. Since I rarely ever use these with the Shopsmith and they are aluminum with telescoping, locking legs that can extend to more than 40 inches, this seemed like a good choice. So, I built a couple of round wooden “donut” anchors to attach to the bottom of the tabletop and decided to drill down into the bottom of the tabletop a small amount to seat the legs when they are being used. Imagine my surprise when I drilled into the bottom of the tabletop and found that it was not solid! The outside perimeter of the tabletop is solid wood, however the area inside that perimeter is “honeycomb corrugated board”, leaving nothing solid into which the leg anchors could be fastened. After thinking about it overnight, I decided to cut the area away a bit and glue in a piece of plywood for my backer and solid surface, and then proceed to finish. I painted the wooden leg anchors and the “stretcher” between the legs with silver paint so they would resemble aluminum.
The table is now complete and should serve us well for some time. I will store the tabletop and legs in the tow vehicle for travel and when not being used. One advantage to using adjustable, locking legs is that they can be set to fit the terrain wherever we happen to park. The project was not difficult, it just took a bit of pondering and doing—really all you need is one of those “fold out” tables and then you can expand the useable outside living space under the awning. Hmmm, a couple of bar stools would work nicely to make that an outside dining space where you could sit rather than stand...
Below are a few photos of how I did it.