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Turning an old table into a Korean-style grill table

Expert Grill Portable Charcoal Grill
A 14" grill is a perfect size for this project

BachelorontheCheap.com

Back in the day when in the Air Force and stationed at Osan Air Base, South Korea, one of my favorite things to do during my off-time was dine at the local restaurants.  Many of those restaurants featured grill tables, where diners cook the food!  In the middle of the table was a grill, usually propane, hot and ready for customers to use.  A server would bring whatever fresh meats, fish, veggies, etc., you ordered to the table, and with chopsticks in hand, you started grilling dinner, sitting in a comfortable chair, sipping on some Soju...  Life was good.

Having my own Korean-style grill table has been an "I want one" desire ever since, and I'm finally getting around to making that 'grill dream' a reality with a fun repurposing project.

Table, before grill installation
A Habitat ReStore table, with two coats of UV-resistant clear lacquer

I've shopped for grill tables in the past, but they can be pricey, starting at $500 and up for something decent!  Screw that, I can build something just as functional and looks good for far less.

As a charcoal grill enthusiast, my grill table features a charcoal grill, which delivers better flavor.  I initially thought about purchasing a Weber Smokey Joe portable grill in building my table.  Weber is a great brand, the grill size of 14", is perfect for this application, and the price tag of around $45 isn't bad.  But when in Walmart the other day picking up some potting soil, I found a 14" Expert Grill (Walmart's grilling brand) for a way cheaper price than a Weber and threw it in the cart.  For the table, I shopped online for outdoor tables, but decent ones start at $100.  I found a great table at the Habitat ReStore in Wichita, which will require some treatment to make it outdoor-worthy, but I can do that on the cheap.  Also on the materials list, an aluminum panel to handle the heat from the grill and prevent charring on the table's wood surface.

Grill installed
An old hotel table repurposed into a Korean-style grill table

Putting the table together was pretty straightforward.  I assembled the grill, which took maybe ten minutes tops.  I put two coats of UV-resistant clear lacquer on the tabletop, also hitting the legs and underneath.  Getting coverage on the underside is important, as many traditional dining tables - and in this case an old hotel table - don't have a stained finish underneath, it's naked, unprotected wood.  That lacquer will keep the moisture out and that UV resistance will keep the sun's rays at bay, avoiding fading, cracking, and peeling.  After giving the table and that lacquer enough time to dry, I secured the aluminum panel and grill to the tabletop.  I had initially planned on cutting out a section of the tabletop (then lining the cutout with metal tape to prevent charring) to accommodate a Weber Smokey Joe, which has grill vents at the bottom of the kettle.  Visualize half the grill below the table, similar to an under-mount sink.  But the Expert Grill vents are center basin, so this particular grill model wouldn't have drafted properly in a cutout installation, I had to alter my plan.  A tabletop installation isn't quite as aesthetically pleasing, but since Korean-style grilling is fast, high-heat cooking anyway, the lid isn't used, so it's still low profile.  Aside from the waiting time for lacquer to dry, the actual labor time to put this table together was around 30 minutes.  Tip:  Pre-measure the area for the aluminum panel placement and mask it off before spraying the tabletop with the clear lacquer.  This will make final placement much easier and secure it to the surface a snap.   

Cost breakdown:

  • Table - $30 at the Habitat ReStore
  • Clear lacquer w/UV resistance - $10 at Ace Hardware
  • Aluminum sheeting, pre-cut panel - $10 at Ace Hardware
  • Portable Grill - $18 at Walmart (about $27 cheaper than a Weber Smokey Joe)
Korean-style grilling
Later tonight, grilling dinner at the dining table, sitting in a comfortable chair, sipping on some Soju...

Total Cost to repurpose an old hotel table and turn it into a Korean-style grill table:  $68

Next Project:  Building an 8'x8' pavilion so I can grill in the rain, an umbrella just won't do!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

~ Mike

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