French Farmhouse Table
French Farmhouse Table
Ever since we moved into our new place with a formal dining room, I wanted a French farmhouse dining table. Big, heavy & rustic. We brought over a round butcher-block kitchen table with us from our small one bedroom apartment in Pacific Heights, however, it is more of a kitchen table. It’s a great table, but it didn’t even come close to filling the room. At most you can fit 4 people (tightly) at it for dinner.
After doing some searching online to price them out, I quickly got discouraged. The prices were anywhere from $1,200 to $10,000. Most of the time that didn’t even include chairs!
So I got it in my head that I was going to try and build my own. Ok. I have no tools. I have no prior experience in building a birdhouse let alone a table. No tools, no know how, no problem. There were plenty of websites with videos, designs, step-by-step instructions on how to build a table. Tools. I can just buy what I need along the way.
I have a plan!
Sooo, several months later….I mention in passing to my friend Brian (aka Ron Swanson) that I wanted to build a French farmhouse table. He replied, “I want to help you do that. I have always wanted to build a table.” I guess I should mention, Brian has a full woodshop in his garage located in The Haight, just a few blocks away. He is (like the rest of us in San Francisco) in the tech industry. However, his hobby is carpentry and he is good at it.
So we devise a plan to head up north to Petaluma to see if we can’t find some reclaimed wood from Heritage Salvage. Heritage Salvage is a magical place where they sell reclaimed building materials at a fraction of the price of new materials. You can find some amazing gems here, and I highly recommend it if you are in the area. If you are not in the area, research a similar place near you!
Now let me clarify, this is not a “how-to” to build your own dining table, this is just a quick overview of my experience and a glimpse of where I eat the food I cook (when I am not eating it in front of the TV – I know bad…).
Brian picks me up early one Saturday morning and he wasn’t even hung over. Wow, he is taking this seriously. We get up there, park, and start wondering around. This place is huge. There are piles and piles of reclaimed wood everywhere. It is quite a daunting experience at first, but we start to take it in sections, search thoroughly, and move on.
It was beginning to look like we might not find the wood I needed for my table that day. And then suddenly, just when all hope was lost, buried under several planks of useless (to us anyway) wood we came across this beauty.
24-feet long. Big. Heavy. Rustic.
Our best guess was it came from a torn down barn or a similar structure. We carried it over to the storefront along with some other wood we collected for the table’s skirt and legs. A lady with a cane slowly hobbles over to us. She stops, exhales and her face twists up like she is in serious pain. She is not. She is calculating how much she is going to charge us for the wood. “SIXTY-FOUR DOLLARS!” she yells. This can’t be right. I came here expecting to spend at least $150-$200. Nope, under $70. This place is magical.
Hmmm, we came here in Brian’s old beat up Honda Accord. The plank is 24’ long. No problem. For a very small fee, they will cut up to wood to your specifications. So we had them cut it up into 4 equal 6-foot boards. Perfect.
So we load it on top of Brian’s Honda, make a pit stop at Lagunitas Brewery for lunch, (I mean, we are practically next door) and head back over the bridge.
We get it back to Brian’s unload the wood and give it a look over. They seem to be a bit warped, and grimy, but once we give it a quick run through the wood planer the wood will look bran-new.
Afterwards, we put the wood down flat and weighed it down with some sandbags.
Insert time passing music here.
Life happens and thank God it does, because the 4 to 5 months we left the boards under the weight of the sandbags, they straightened out.
Finally, we began our work.
First we smoothed out our boards by running them through a wood planer (again). This takes off the smallest amount of wood on the top, ensuring a smooth, level, and clean looking board.
Next we insure the sides of the boards are level and straight. This is important so that the table fits flush together with no large gaps.
After that was complete, we drilled holes for the pegs, taking care that each board would match up the next. We have all had that frustrating moment with crap from IKEA where they did not match up and we had to force them in there, ultimately creating a wonking piece of shit.
With holes drilled, pegs inserted and wood glue strategically smeared on the sides, it was time to put the top together!
“She’s got legs…she knows how to use them.” – ZZ Top
She did, we didn’t. The wood I had picked out for the legs ultimately I didn’t like. It really didn’t scream;
FRENCH FARMHOUSE TALBLE!!!
Besides, while the boards were straitening out, Brian found another use for the wood, and they were no longer available. Which was fine, because I had a picture in my head of what I wanted them to be and small and square they were not.
So I went online and found this amazing site, Osborne Wood Products. They had exactly what I wanted. I went with the Portsmouth Dining Table Leg in KNOTTY PINE at $34.97ea. After shipping my grand total came just shy of $180. They were perfect. Classy, rustic, affordable, and was exactly what I had in my vision for the table. You can actually get entire leg/skirt kits, with pre-drilled holes to assemble your own table. You can also buy the top through them as well if you don’t want to make your own.
They arrived in a timely manner, and I was very pleased with the results.
So, the next Saturday, I loaded them up in my vehicle along with some “refreshments” and towed them over to Brian’s shop. Old school.
ASSEMBLING THE SKIRT AND INSERTING THE LEGS
Next we took measurements to fit the table for a skirt. We cut the wood, drilled the holes, and with a little tweaking here, a little tweaking there, yelled at some tweakers walking by…and we were able to fit the skirt on the table.
Soon after, we drilled the holes for the legs and attached them to the skirt. (I know, it is starting to sound like we are building a woman)
Well all that there is left to do is put her together and see how she looks.
SHE LOOKS GRAND!
After we have a nice lunch break, and use the table for the first time, we take her apart.
It is now time to stain the top and paint the legs & skirt. At this point I am pretty excited about the whole process. It is finally coming together and I can’t wait to see her in my dining room.
A week or so has gone by, and all of the coats of paint and stain have been applied and dried!
We load her up, make the 7 block drive over to my place (the Radio Flyer was not going to work moving this monster of a table) and haul the extremely heavy top up 40 steps to my flat.
She is assembled and put together. The entire process, including waiting for the boards to straighten out, took about ten months, but it was worth the wait.
Since then, we have had many happy meals on this table and look forward to having many more. A large part of me cannot wait to hand this table over to my son (who now is only 3 years old) one day. I hope it is in the family a long, long time.