Latest Home Improvement Project: Patio Table

In the story Johnny Mnemonic (not the execrable movie, but the excellent short story) Johnny walks into a tense and dangerous meeting packing a sawed-off shotgun in a gym bag. He knows he can’t out high-tech his adversary, so he goes low-tech. He states as accepted street wisdom that, if they go low, you go high; if they go high, you go low.

It doesn’t work out – they went a little too high – but fortunately, Trinity is there to bail out Neo – I mean, Molly Millions is there to bail out Johnny. Same difference.

This has nothing to do with my latest home improvement project, except that last time, for the triple bunk bed, I went high, with nice materials and high-quality finishes, brass and maple highlights, that sort of thing. So, this time, I went low: scrap and salvaged lumber, minimum sanding, no finish (although I probably throw some wood sealer on it, just in case – it is sitting outside, after all).

About 19 years ago, the company I was working for at the time bought the adjoining property in order to expand. On the couple acre plot were a couple old houses and a number of out buildings, all that was left of a farm that had once been there. The property manager was a friend of mine, and her knew that the wrecking crew was just going to reduce the houses to splinters and throw everything out, so he invited me to scavenge.

The house was about 90 years old, and so was built for the most part out of old-growth lumber. If I’d had a month and yard to stor it in, I’d have taken that house apart. As it were, we triaged: he grabbed some beautiful wainscoting and some built-in cabinets; I snagged a small pile of ancient Douglas fir T&G subflooring planks, maybe 4″ wide and 16′ long – straight, tight grained, not a knot in sight. These have now been waiting patiently for almost 2 decades for me to make the wall-mounted computer desk/tech center I’ve designed in my head….

And so on. As for today’s project, I also salvaged a couple work benches from one of the outbuildings – one about 10′ long, one about 5′. They consisted of 4 redwood 5/4 planks glued and tied together with some smaller pieces, and painted industrial green, with galvanized threaded pipe legs. I stuck them against the wall in the garage for a decade or so, then set one up to use as an outside table – but it was way too wobbly for any real use.

But not any more!

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I’m going to leave the top more or less as is, as it’s kind of junk-chic. A little light sanding and maybe some penetrating sealer.

As is my habit, wildly over-engineered this, with way-sturdy legs:

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Legs are old treated 4x4s from some old planters. Everything came from the scrap pile except that one 2×4, which was left over from another project, and the large dowels, which, along with a couple boxes of screws, were the only things purchased for this project.
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Did I mention I wanted stable? The four corner legs are tied to two center legs by high runners and 5/4 dowels; the center legs are tied to the high runners and to low runners. It ain’t going anywhere.
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Since we’re talking old pressure treated lumber, which very likely contains arsenic, one wants to keep the sawing and sanding down to an absolute minimum. Here, I cut slots to tie the cross pieces to the legs. Other than cutting the legs to length, that’s about the extent of the cutting.

Finished just in time for it to start raining! Soooo – we’re ready to rumble next summer.

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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