Thursday, 28 April 2016

Restoring a grand old table, part 1

We have inherited the most beautiful picnic table you've ever seen.

It's huge, it's so heavy that four of us can't move it, and it's top is made out of a single complete slice of a very large, very mature tree. You can see the growth rings so clearly, marking every year that this giant stood and watched over the earth.  Sadly, now that it is a table, it has had very little love and care over the last few years, and the top is cracking badly, the edges of the table are crumbling away and there is mould and lichen and rot building up in the crevices.

With all the work that W has been doing with wood, he's been falling more and more in love with the beauty of wood when it's loved and cared for - and this restoration has been high on his priorities. With spring here, and summer barbeques coming, we both really want this baby back at its full beauty.

We spent a lot of time researching how to best rescue it and had advice from many different sources. Many people suggested powerwashing it - but the surface is so broken, we are both quite worried that power washing will degrade it further. It also won't address the way that the surface is flaking in a consistent and gentle way.

We decided to start by sanding it sufficiently to remove the rotten and broken layers, and I will be spending a lot of time clearing out the crevices with a dental pick and a craft knife. W started  on the side that was most rotten and you can see just how much difference it's made already.

After a day of hard work we now have  the top and sides rough sanded. Here it is, halfway through. We still need to do the legs and the base, and I have to get to work clearing out all the crevices .I've started work on it, and I think I will need to use my trusty crafting dremel on some of the larger ones but many are so narrow and deep that we probably won't be able to do much beyond removing surface material. I really want the table to have a chance to dry out before we treat it with oils & wax to stop the rain from damaging it further. We are toying with a plan to put a frame around the table with waterproof covers so that the table can breath and dry out a little before we move  - or maybe we will just pitch a large tent over it. Either way it needs to be easily removable so that it doesn't add to the problem by creating an even moister environment that it sits in over extended periods, and it can be easily shifted on sunny days.

Here she is sanded roughly at the day's end - can't wait to continue! If any of you have done a project of this sort, - restoring old timber like this -  do let us know in the comments of what you think would be the best approach. I want this beauty to last another few decades yet - or longer!

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