On a warm summer day several years ago while walking the grounds of Winterthur, my wife and I wandered to a secluded area of the patio surrounding the reflecting pool. The area was shady but still had a great view. In this restful place, the museum saw fit to include a few chairs and a table for guests to relax and enjoy the scenery. Somehow I don’t think they expected a furniture maker to discover the hidden treasure that was perched on the flagstone.
It was a simple design with details that stuck a chord with my affinity for William & Mary designs. It was drop-leaf table with two interesting gates. And while the table wasn’t as refined or intricate as the miniature table in Issue #2, it certainly caught my eye and was immediately placed on my ever growing “to do” list.
While this table works perfectly outdoors, there’s nothing to say that it can’t be hauled inside when needed, or even left there permanently. If you expect that your table will remain outside, or spend a portion of its life there, special considerations on several fronts should be taken. Choice of wood, type of adhesive and the type of finish to be used should be well thought out.
Because I plan on using the table outside, the first decision focused on what species of wood to use. I wanted a wood that holds up well to changes in weather and withstands the tortures of the sun. It helps to choose species that are readily available in your area and that fit your budget. For me, the choice was sapele, although I certainly could have used white oak or teak as both were available to me. (Teak, however, fell outside my budget – I want to keep the cost below $200.)
Sapele is an African wood in the mahogany family. It holds up well to weather and has a great reddish-brown color. The color resists change even in direct sunlight, but the sun is the great equalizer – it turns everything white eventually. My plan is to use tung oil as a finish to preserve the wood and help the sapele keep its color a good while longer. And when the sun has finally done its job, a light sanding and some fresh oil brings the table back to (nearly) new.