Saturday, July 18, 2015

An Anniversary and a Table

Today I'll be sharing a more difficult project that we recently finished.  It took us one long weekend to finish, and we're really excited about how it turned out!

Hubby and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary last month!  We like to follow the traditional wedding gifts, and the 5th anniversary is wood.  Usually we secretly come up with gifts for each other that fit the theme, but this year we decided to put our relationship to the test build something together.  

Our deck is in need of a dining table, so we figured this was the perfect option for our anniversary project (read: Amy wanted to build a table).    

I have been reading lately about building decks out of hard woods, and that they'll last basically forever.  Well, there's no way we could reasonably afford to build our whole deck out of hard wood, but we did decide to spring for a table of hard wood.  So, we payed a visit to our favorite fine lumber supply store (ok, two trips...), and after talking it over with a really helpful guy there, decided to go with a frame of african mahogany with a table surface of canary wood.  Teak was another option, but was much more expensive, and isn't nearly as exciting.   
If you remember, our deck isn't a square shape on one of the sides, and of course that's the side that needed a table.  

So, we decided that our table would just mirror the curve of the deck.  We mainly stuck to these plans, with some modifications to accommodate the shape of our deck.  As you'll notice, this table is mostly assembled through the use of pocket holes.  We ended up purchasing a Kreg Jig to help us, and it really simplified the task.  I had been debating over whether or not to buy one because they really aren't cheap and I wasn't convinced that the pocket holes would really be that much stronger, but let me tell you- our table is solid.  Much more so than it would have been if we built it by another method.

The first step was to make the top.  I'm not going to put the dimensions on here, since I kind of doubt that there are too many people out there that would like to build this exact shape (the link above has dimensions for a more standard shape).  The top gets about 50 pocket holes, as you can see in this photo:

Ideally the table pieces would have been clamped together as we were driving in the screws to keep the wood from shifting, but since we don't really have a work surface this big, we had to settle for me standing on the wood while hubby screwed it together... haha.  The outer edge and center board are mahogany, and the middles are canary wood.

Next comes the apron, which is pretty simple for a square table, and just slightly more complicated for ours (and more pocket holes):

And finally comes the legs, which we bolted on so that they could be removed if needed:

And so here she is, before I put the finish on:

And yes, we did build this in the basement... it was a really rainy weekend!

Once we finally had a sunny weekend, we moved it outside and sanded the top.  Standard procedure with sanding something like this is to start with a coarse grit (120) and move to a finer grit (220), but I found that because this wood is so dense, I just stuck with 120.  I then coated the whole table in teak oil, which is designed for hard woods and will protect the table from UV damage without changing the color of the wood like a stain.  So, here it is in place and finished:

(see the post for the centerpiece here)

And our first dinner at the new table...

To me, this is probably one of our best looking DIY projects to date.  I am sold on the pocket hole construction, and am so happy with our choice of wood.  A few things to consider:

- Hard wood is not cheap, and is not all created equal.  Like most wood, there are different varieties and grades, and you get what you pay for.  When we went to the lumber shop we told them that we wanted wood that would withstand the elements, and they helped us find the right varieties.  

- To keep this table looking nice, we will cover it in the winter, and once a year we will wash it with a deck detergent and re-oil it.  That's all it should need!

- Hard wood is, well, hard.  Know that you will need fairly strong drill bits, fine thread screws, and some strength!  Please be careful if you need to drill through hard wood- your tool will become very hot!  When drilling the holes for the legs, we had to drill halfway and then let the bit cool down- the wood would start smoking!

- A table built out of a softer wood could also look great, and would cost much less.  It will also last a long time if you care for it, so consider that option if the cost of hard wood doesn't seem worth it to you.

Hope this inspires you to make something extra special!

PS. We also take a photo every anniversary (I think this will be really fun to go back through once we have been married 20 years!).  Just for fun, here's some of this year's outtakes:

Monday, July 6, 2015

Three Easy DIY Candle Holders

Happy July!

Lately I have been focusing on bringing extra light to my outdoor living spaces. I scattered solar pathway lights throughout my flowerbed in the backyard just for fun.  I also have a pile of string lights and lanterns waiting to decorate deck phase 2 once it's finished.  In the meantime, I have been enjoying relaxing on the completed half of our deck in the evening, and usually bring a few candles out with me.

So, today I will share three easy ways to display some candles, specifically tea lights.  The best part was that I was able to make these with scraps that I had laying around, so they didn't cost anything!  Let's get to it!

Option 1:  Modern Candlesticks

This one features 3" square mahogany blocks on a canary wood base, but of course the shape can be made with any type of wood.  I like that the mahogany was cut with sharp corners and obviously isn't just ordinary lumber.  I finished the whole piece with teak oil since both mahogany and canary wood are hard woods.

The hole for the tea lights is made with a 1 1/2" spade bit (same for all 3 ideas), drilled to the depth of the tealight.  Before I get too much farther, I have to at least recommend that you use the flameless LED tea lights, especially if you have a tendency to leave this sort of thing unattended...

Option 2: Table Runner

I wish I had a bigger table to photograph this one on, but you'll have to use your imagination- wouldn't this look great as the centerpiece on a picnic table?

I like the dramatic, long look of this one.  Mine is roughly 2 feet long, with the candles centered every 2 inches.  If you were to make it any longer, you might want to push the spacing to 3 inches.  For this one, I only drilled about 1/3 of the way into the board so that the tea lights just barely sit in place.  


This happens to be made of a scrap piece of purple heart wood.  Yes, it's really that purple!  Now, to keep it's color, it can't be left outside as the UV will fade the color.

Option 3: Firewood

The first thing I want to say about this one is that it really should have the flameless lights.  I lit these long enough to take the picture, but I really wouldn't want to leave this one alone, especially with the peely kind of bark.

Anyway, these were made from leftover branches from cutting down the big tree in our yard.  These are another one that I probably will not leave out in the elements, as the hole for the tealight will probably aid the wood in rotting pretty quickly.  Not that it's that hard to find replacements...

I like these most along the deck railing like this:

(Let's just pretend that they all stayed lit for the photo, ok?)

This is a really simple project, but I think each could be a neat way to bring some ambiance to some time outdoors.  All you need is some small pieces of wood, a 1 1/2" drill bit and drill, and the tea lights!  Seriously, the hardest part of this was photographing them (10 candles + breeze = frustration)!

Hope you can enjoy some outdoor time this summer!