Thursday, July 19, 2007

$1,000 Table

No, it didn't really cost $1,000. It just seems like it.

A couple of years ago we decided we needed a table for our patio out back (not the patio next to the house, the one "out back" by the animals). We weren't looking for anything fancy and the electrician three houses down had a couple of empty spools behind his fence. You know the kind, the great big ones that come with miles of wire. One was even used for a while as a table on "That 70's Show" in their basement.

Anyway, since the empty spools had been behind the electrician's house for a very long time, we asked him if we could have them if he wasn't going to be using them. His response was "Take all the spools you want!" So we took two. One went to the goat pen and the other to our out back patio.

It was fine for a while, but then in the back of my head I kept thinking "I can make this better!"

My idea was to make a mosaic design on the top. That would certainly make it prettier. But the top was not even. It had gaps where the wooden boards came together. I came up with a solution. We had the remnants of a failed boat-making attempt, including a full sheet or two of expensive marine grade plywood.

I cut a circle from the plywood to match the top of our spool table. I thought it was a good idea because the table was for outside and would be in the elements, just as a boat obviously would be.

I came up with a design, kind of nautical in nature, and transferred it to the table top. It took a few weeks of an hour here and an hour there, and a couple of weekends of hours at a time, mindless tile breaking and piecing together of my design. That tile wasn't expensive. In fact I managed to get a small box of mostly broken tiles of one of the colors at a steep discount. I'm not a very good negotiator/bargainer/hustler and I was a little miffed on the one hand that I didn't get it for free (the tiles were broken for goodness' sake!!).

Table top: starfish, tuna, and octopus in waves.
I did pay a premium price for the grout, though. It was some sort of special flexible stuff that should be able to hold up to the sharp weather contrasts. It hasn't disappointed. (I almost bought an add-in that would make the grout glow in the dark, but I didn't.)

After I got the top glued to the spool, then the middle part looked really crummy. That seemed simple enough to fix. I would get some more tiles and stick them around the middle section. I didn't really make that a mosaic design, per se, but I used different tiles and made a simple banded design. The main tile I used for that was rather pricey. I wanted something a little more fancy for that so I went to one of the tile specialty stores rather than the Home Depot or Lowe's flooring section. I found a beautiful 1" X 1" iridescent tile that was a little over $20/square foot. The spool middle is 4' around. I had just sold a couple of lambs so I didn't feel too bad about buying that tile.

After I finished the middle I just had to continue and finish the top of the bottom side. I know that sounds confusing, but look at the pictures and you'll know what I mean. Those two sections I grouted using regular grout. I wish now that I'd spent a little more and bought the other grout.

I guess the wood of the spool was greener that I thought, because it apparently contracted and the middle tiles started chipping off. Eventually whole sections of the expensive iridescent tiles came tumbling off at the slightest touch.

It was time to re-do.

Neighbor Dean suggested first fiberglassing the middle section and then re-tiling over the fiberglass. That way it would not be affected by any heat/cold/dampness shrinking/swelling. So that's what I did.

Applying the fiberglass to the middle and edges.
First I scraped off all the remnants of the old middle section and sanded it all down. With the table on it's side I did a section at a time, rolling it to a new section every day.

When the fiberglassing was done, I sanded all the really rough spots and spray painted the middle portion. By then I had an idea of a new middle design. Shiny river rocks and flattened marbles from Michael's in a wavy pattern around the middle. This to me was like a meandering river flowing to the ocean (the top of the table). (Please stop your gagging!)

Applying the marbles.
I used epoxy for the river rocks and simple white glue for the marbles. This had to be done a small section at a time or the rocks and marbles would slide off before the glue had a chance to set. Each little bag of rocks weighed 2 pounds. I figured out I added about 34 pounds to the table, not including the weight of the marbles.

When the middle was done I painted it all over with more epoxy, just to make sure it would hold. Then I taped up the sides and poured a box of stuff on that I got from Michael's. It's this stuff kind of like the epoxy that makes a thick layer of clear stuff. It filled in a lot of the uneveness of the top (different sized tiles) and makes it look almost like it has a thick layer of glass on top.

Then I built up the edges ever so slightly with a "High Performance Spackling Paste". It was then sanded smooth, spray painted the same as the middle, and then spray painted with a clear coat.


Re-finished spool table back on the out back patio.

It looks good again back on the out back patio. But now the patio is looking kind of shabby...

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