We needed a new outdoor dining table. The plastic one I bought about 10 years ago had a tear in it. The easiest thing would have been to go out and buy another plastic one or a wooden one made to withstand the elements, but I wanted something more.
Each spring I place the table on an expanse of grass in my side yard. I like the look as it reminds me of one of those old oil paintings of a French picnic or feast in the Italian hillside. So I decided I wanted a farm table with turned legs that could be used outdoors and looked online to see if anyone sold such an animal.
I found just what I wanted at the Pastoral Furniture Company. The tables are handcrafted out of mahogany and built by a craftsman with the same vision as me: the owner, Brian Ober, states “The Pastoral style draws its inspiration from English picturesque and French informal garden dining traditions—where a long wooden farm table, many times carried impromptu from inside the house, was placed en plein air alongside an assortment of garden chairs: painted wrought iron, wicker or rattan.”
Ober confirmed in my own mind that I’m not crazy. His tables are beautiful but cost between $3,200 and $3,850: a little too high for my outdoor budget (my formal dining room table handcrafted in the late 1800s didn’t cost that much). So I decided to create my own.
For $220, I purchased an unfinished farm table with turned legs from the Millstores, a discount furniture chain with various locations in New England. And I figured with another $100 worth of paint, I could put a coating on it that would protect it from the weather.
I called the Fine Paints of Europe company and asked them what they would recommend for my project. Their paints are expensive by American standards ($110 for 2.5 liters) but I’ve used them in the past and know their products to be high-quality, durable, and stretch further than other paints. The kind gentleman at Fine Paints of Europe said if I followed his instructions, the table should last 25 years.
With my newfound knowledge here’s what I did:
- Since I was going to use paint, I decided to make my table a little bit more funky than your standard parisian outdoor farm table. So I chose to paint the top delft blue and the legs tulip red.
- The table came unassembled which was good. I placed the unfinished tabletop ontop of two large plastic flower pots in my sideyard and I hung the four unfinished turned legs from strings in my basement.
- My friend, Joey McMullen, a woodworking craftsman, drilled a hole in the center of the table for the umbrella.
- I liberally wiped down each leg and the tabletop with a rag soaked in laquer thinner.
- I applied two coats of oil coat primer undercoat, letting each coat dry overnight and then lightly sanded down each layer with 220 sandpaper between coats. I also used tack cloth after each sanding.
- I applied three coats of paint (Hollandac, Brilliant), letting each coat dry overnight and then lightly sanded down each layer with 220 sandpaper between coats. I also used tack cloth after each sanding.
- Tip: For the legs, I used those cheap foam brushes instead of a paint brush, which seemed to work better.
I then assembled the table. Luckily the hardware was made out of steel to better withstand moisture and as an extra precaution, I put a bead of silicone around the base of each screw on the turned legs.
The whole process was messy and tedious, but would have only taken 6 days if it didn’t rain or if I had a garage to work in. In the end it took me about two weeks. The total cost was about $350, when you factor in the expense of paint brushes, paint thinner, sandpaper and tack cloth. And, my hands still have blotches of red and blue paint and there are specks of both colors on my grass and a couple of doorknobs around the house which I’ll have to clean up.
Still, I think it was worth it. You be the judge.
(All photos by Mark Micheli)
(© 2009 Mark Micheli)
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