Back in the early 1980’s, when the developer of our community, Roy A. Dye, was contemplating how to promote these 5 acre parcels of raw Sonoran desert in north Scottsdale as suitable home sites, I’m sure he came to understand the power of one’s own imagination. He realized the power of potential buyers imagining what could be, (the future), versus getting bogged down by what is, (the present), and that would – at least in a few instances – nudge them toward actually buying a lot instead of just thinking about it…
To that end, he strategically placed a simple picnic table on each parcel, (often adjacent to the lot number sign poking up out of the earth), so potential buyers – and eventual lot owners – could pause, relax and ponder what it would be like to build a house right where they were sitting.
When Martha and I purchased the Byrne residence back in 2010, one of the questions Bill & Carol Byrne asked us was something to the effect of “Hey Martha and David, do you want us to leave that old picnic table that’s sitting out there in the desert, or should we get rid of it for you?”
After hearing the story about why that picnic table was there, (still sitting near the weathered lot number sign), we said absolutely, leave it right where it was!
While we opted to move this creaky, splintered, rust-speckled piece of outdoor furniture underneath the deck, (see below), almost immediately after we bought the house, it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I – with no small amount of urging from my wife – decided it might be time to give it a new lease on life.
…and when I say “splintered”, I mean really splintered! There was no way on earth I would contemplate sitting down and sliding across one of those bench seats – the battered pine planks were in pretty sad shape.
The origins of this project date back almost a year ago. When we were preparing for Taliesin West Weekend 1.0 last spring, we paid Porter Barn Woods a visit, having learned about this establishment just a few weeks prior. If you like salvaged wood, this place would definitely appeal to you! Martha and I wandered around one afternoon carefully inspecting piles of weathered/reclaimed lumber before eventually settling on 10 sections of material, (solid ash), which would be re-milled to the exact dimensions of the original pine planks found on the picnic table – 9 inches wide by 1 7/16 inches thick by 72 inches long. Thomas Porter described what would happen next: these ten sections would be joined together with biscuits and epoxy along a freshly-milled seam forming five wider planks, then, after the epoxy cured, all five planks would be fed through the saw and milled down to the exact dimensions I’d given him. Perfect!
Three weeks later, I had five remarkable pieces of reclaimed solid ash carefully stacked to one side in the garage…
…and they remained there, carefully stacked, for the next 10 months – yikes! 😐
Now, (well, actually, it was about five weeks ago), it was time to think about how to (re)finish the steel tubing forming the frame of the picnic table. Should we sand off the paint and let the steel oxidize to match the corten steel details of the house? Should we chemically strip the chalky, cream-colored paint off and attempt to match to what we thought was the original shade? …or should we do something completely different? Hmmm… Decisions, decisions.
The more we looked at the results of the emuamericas, llc Topper patio chair restoration DIY project from last spring, the more we liked the idea of following a similar course with the metal frame for the picnic table this spring. In a word – well, actually two words – powder coating!
I reached out to the folks at Glendale Powder Coating about four weeks ago, and two weeks later I received word my eight pieces of picnic table frame were ready to be picked up. Hallelujah! All were finished in the same shade of silver, (called “Bengal Silver”), we used on the emuamericas, llc Topper chairs, and again, the job was done to perfection – I couldn’t be happier with the results!
I decided to replace the original carriage bolts with stainless steel equivalents, and after a quick trip to our local hardware store, I had everything in hand to begin assembly. I carefully laid out the ash planks, marked them for drilling after getting everything aligned while resting on the picnic table frame, took a deep breath and started making new holes…
Everything dropped right into place – aw, c’mon, you didn’t think I was going to tell you I’d messed up and drilled a hole in the wrong spot, did you – and about
two four hours later the entire picnic table was back together. Before I started assembly, Martha weighed in on which planks should go where, how they should be oriented, etc., etc., and I’m glad she did – if it were up to me, I’m sure I would’ve managed to flip one in such a way that a knot or gouge would’ve ended up right where someone was supposed to sit – ouch! 😦
Out came the random/orbital palm sander and after another hour, the surfaces of each plank, (as well as any exposed edges), were smooth to the touch. Thomas Porter had recommended a liberal application of boiled linseed oil twice a year, and that’s precisely what I did this past Saturday – the first coat, (of what will ultimately be two coats), of linseed oil now graces all five reclaimed ash planks, (see below).
…organic “stuff” and inorganic “stuff”. Stuff that would most assuredly ruin a picnic should it decide to unexpectedly reappear.
Not wanting to deal with the return of “stuff” in the future, I ventured back to our local hardware store and found four black plastic end caps, and presto, problem was solved, (see below), no risk of “stuff” in the legs any more!
I see another round of Uuni wood-fired pizzas being enjoyed outdoors while seated at the picnic table in the very near future – maybe Memorial Day?
…but then again, maybe it’ll be tomorrow! 🙂