A Pool Table, but not a pool table
If you live anywhere east of the Mississippi I’m sure you recall the winter of 2013-14 being one of the most brutal in memory. Here in Northeast Tennessee we had several weeks in a row of temperatures that would normally be record lows for the year, it just kept going and going. Once the days started getting longer and the weather started warming we began to venture back outside in hopes that the pool would thaw out in time for our daughter’s birthday party in late July. When we entered the gate to the pool, journeyed onto the deck, and started looking around we were met with an interesting dilemma. Somehow our nice, large, glass table had succumbed to the ridiculous temperatures and shattered into exactly 1,213,007 nail head sized pieces. I counted.
Now on seeing this carnage one might ask “How do you remove 1,213,007 pieces of glass from a deck”? Well it is convenient if the deck is only a couple of feet off the ground with no underneath access for people, in this case (our case) you simply remove one or more boards and motivate the glass shards into the void, never to be seen again. Also a shop-vac and a couple of able-bodied go getters helps as well. Once the area was purged of the offending material we were faced with a rather large, and empty, pool deck with no area for such activities as eating, drinking, playing games or drinking, eating and playing games. We needed a place to sit! We still had chairs but sitting around in a circle facing each other in our chairs just seemed….odd…and of course we needed a place to sit our cups, plates, and cards. As we began our search for a new table it immediately became clear that we were not going to be able to meet the financial requirements that new patio furniture demanded. Craig’s List wasn’t going to be able to help this time either. I began to detect a glimmer in my lovely bride’s eyes that could only mean one thing. She had a plan, and it was going to involve something that I may, or may not, be excited about. Of course the plan was to build a table that was both functional and suited our unconventional pool deck better than anything available at Lowes, Wal-Mart, or the Flea Market over on 11E.
Once it was established that I would be the one designing and building the new table I got out my favorite tool. The internet! I needed to find a base structure that would be strong and durable but also something that would add a touch of design to the pool area. I also wanted to build a table top that would be large enough for at least six people, stable enough for someone to dance on, and I wanted to be sure it was kid friendly. Kelli already had some ideas on what the table top would look like so my searches on the Interweb were focused on the frame or base. These features would be what determined the strength of the table. Eventually I decided on a simple design that had the impression of a picnic table but was much more stable and comfortable. Once a design was selected I needed to round up material. I always try to use “secondhand” building materials if possible and as luck would have it my sister had recently bought a home and needed someone to haul off some unwanted lumber. Most of the lumber pieces were large 4x4s often used as fence posts. They would be heavy, but extremely durable. At this point I was ready to start the project. I did not have specific plans or measurements to use so much of this build I was just going by what my eye told me. While building the legs and base of the table I did need to measure constantly to be sure all the legs and frames holding the table top were square. With some help from the big kid we were able to complete the construction of the table in about a day. Follow the series of photos to see the process.
Even at this early point in the process the choices I made were going to determine the size of the table. Things such as table height and width would be set in stone after finishing the legs.
In an effort to keep this project simple and inexpensive I used regular 2 1/2 outdoor wood screws to attach all the joints. I found all kinds of interesting ways to join the parts for a project like this but I had a budget, a small window, and a good cordless screwdriver so I went with what worked for me.
After completing the frame work I hit a point in the construction when my brain decided to just stop functioning (happens frequently.) Kelli’s ideas for the table top included several pieces of wood, similar to a butcher block design, but each piece would be painted a different color. The difficult part was to build a top that would be strong and dependable, but it also had to be built in a way that would allow Kelli to paint each piece individually then reassembled. I decided the best way to accomplish this was to cut a grove or lip out of the frame that the top pieces could fit down into.
To give the top more personality Kelli decided that some of the boards should be different widths. This worked out great and really makes the design come alive. This design feature worked out well with the construction process because I would have needed to cut pieces to fit perfectly in the remaining spaces and since we already had several that were different widths it blended in seamlessly.
After some slight disassembly the frame was the first to get the paint treatment.
Next came the table top boards
After some drying time, the reassembly, and some borrowed muscle to get this beast up onto the deck, I needed to do one more little modification. What good is a pool table without a place to put an umbrella? We all need a way to keep the sun off our bald spot. A few measurements to get the exact center and some tricky drill work and it’s ready to go.
I added a couple of coats of heavy-duty polyurethane to help protect the wood and I really think it turned out great. As always Kelli’s brave and exciting design really paid off. This was a fun project that will be used for many years to come.
(P.S. Inserted by Kelli: Because the wood used was truly salvaged and most of the paint was already in our stockpile the total project cost to us wound up to be a whopping $40! Can’t beat that. We also bought an ultra cheap umbrella from our local grocery store for another $40. And that is why we go through the trouble of our DIY projects. Well, that and complete creative control of course.)