White Oak for outdoor dining and boat building…

The outdoor projects have jumped to the top of the list now that spring has arrived and summer is just around the corner here in Colorado. The first thing I want to do is get going on making our outdoor space functional, comfortable, and pleasant to hang out in.

We have some of the elements already in place – the grill, comfortable lounging furniture, comfortable dining chairs, some art, and the most recent addition of shade.

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Just a little reminder about our shade solution. Our courtyard is open to the sky. We love that at night. Though it is really, really hot and blindly glaring during the dog days of summer. Last fall, we had horizontal type roman shades installed over our courtyard space – to provide some much needed shade during the summer months. The shades got installed in October or November so we didn’t really get to try them out. We like the look – a bit modern. We like the functionality – easily extended to provide shade and easily retracted to allow for sunshine inside as desired. I am looking forward to getting some good use out of these shades this year.

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We had a round teak table and chairs that served us well for 15 years or so. The set was still in really good shape but didn’t work the greatest in our new outdoor space. So, we passed it on to a friend where it can continue to get good use for many more years to come.

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Last summer we got new light weight, comfortable dining chairs – in anticipation of getting a new rectangular dining table that would work in our outdoor space.

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We shopped around quite a bit for a new rectangular table but never found anything that met all my requirements.  Yes, I’ve got a list of things I want in our outdoor dining table.  You know I like a good list. So, here goes:

  • I want a table that is about 8 feet long and 36-38 inches wide.
  • I want the design and style to work with the dining chairs and lounge furniture. It needs to be sort of eclectic I think.
  • I want a metal base – so it doesn’t rot if it sits in water.
  • I want the top to be wood.
  • I want the top to be thick – like 1.5-2 inches or so.
  • I want the table top to be slatted – rather than solid – to allow for water to easily drain off.

While out and about, we did discover that we tended to gravitate towards the salvaged wood pieces. We even considered some beautiful pieces at the local store, Revampt –  which is where my new office cabinet is coming from.  Unfortunately, the tables that we like were a bit expensive and not specifically intended for outdoor use.

So, we’ve concluded that we will need to make our own. I made my own desk so I figure an outdoor dining table is doable.

With one decision out of the way (that our table will be custom), I have been whittling down the options for the table top material over the last few weeks (because there are a bazillion options out there).

I initially thought about salvaged wood since we liked the salvaged tables at our local Revampt store. It wasn’t easy, but I did finally find a local source in town that sells salvaged wood. My options were maple, oak, or mahagony. This remained at the top of my list for quite some time because I thought it would work in with the rest of the patio furniture with it’s slightly industrial and eclectic vibe. Below is a photo of a table top in the showroom of the salvaged wood place – made from the salvaged oak. I think it is cool. I also liked the idea of using something that was already out there rather than cutting down another tree just for my table top. Tad wasn’t as impressed by this idea as I was. The salvage wood itself was a bit pricey, and it was in pretty rough shape.

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Then, we thought about using Beetle Kill Pine. It isn’t salvage, but we have a ton of this stuff in Colorado since the Pine Beetle killed thousands of acres of Pine trees in our state.  We thought we could do something to help use it up.  We went to the lumber yard to check it out.  We quickly realized that Beetle Kill Pine is not going to work as an outdoor, exposed to the elements dining table. It is really soft – and, a bit too rustic for the style I was going for.

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We talked to the guys at the lumber yard and they made a few suggestions.

We finally decided on White Oak. Unfortunately, it isn’t the most environmentally friendly decision, but I do think it is probably the most practical decision – I hope it will last forever – or at least for the rest of my lifetime. Apparently, boat builders used to make boats from white oak.  I figure if it worked for boats that crossed the oceans, then it should work for my outdoor dining table. So, I ended up with four rough cut 8′-2″ planks that are 2″ thick, in random widths.

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I was excited – the project had finally begun.

Then, there was a hiccup. I had to figure out how to get the boards planed and perfected so they are straight, flat, and all the same length. I initially thought I could do this myself with our largish collection of tools. Tad nicely pointed out that we don’t have a planer or a table saw capable of cutting a 2 inch thick board.  Then, the lumber yard said that they could clean up the boards for me by planing both flat sides and laser cutting one edge. That sounded good to me. I was feeling lucky. That was until I got home and pulled the planks out of my car.

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I quickly discovered that “cleaned up” was nowhere near cleaned up enough.  So, I headed back to the lumber yard and explained my situation. They said they couldn’t help me, but they did refer me to a local woodworker.

I dropped my 4 planks off to my local woodworker this week. He was totally nice and very patient with me. He says that they can get my table top material exactly like I want it. And – they are going to add a small radius on all the edges. And – they will even do a machine sand for me.

All I will have to do is a little hand sanding and apply the finish.

Oh – and decide on a table base design – and decide on what metal to use for the base – and finally get the base made…