Monday, June 25, 2018

Tiki build-along, pt. 21

Time for some Lagoon of Mystery updates. I haven't launched any major initiatives to share, but there are a number of smaller projects you may or may not find interesting. Firstly, with the completion of the Hula Stage and some landscaping, the Lagoon is now suitable for The Wife to use as a set for her various photo shoots. Our friend Taylor came over the other week for an underwater mermaid shoot.

She also did some out of the water as well. I think they turned out quite nice.

I also continued my experimentation with interesting cocktail flavors. Picked up a couple pounds of tamarinds at a local Mexican grocery to try my hand at syrup and/or infused rum.

After peeling a half pound of tamarinds, I simmered them in a simple syrup for about 20 minutes or so then set it aside for an hour before bottling. The flavor's nice, but I'd like it to be a bit more intense to stand out stronger in cocktails. To get an acceptable level of tamarind flavor means the drinks are overly-sweetened. Infused rum may solve this problem. We shall see. I also realized that the native honey locust tree is a fairly close relative of the tamarind, and was once widely cultivated in the U.S. for it's sweet, flavorful seed pods. I mean, it's pretty obvious, isn't it? I can be so dense sometimes. Tamarinds can't survive our Texas winters, but honey locust has no such problem. Guess what I've been researching?

But enough about tangential stuff--what bar work have I been doing? Well first up, I tackled a project I was supposed to do last summer--build a table/housing for the projector we use during our Dive-In Movies. Being near the pool, we have to constantly scold the kids not to splash in that area. This adds another layer of protection for the equipment (which isn't terribly high end, but I still don't want to buy a new one). It's weather-proofed for outdoor use. It was built almost entirely out of scrap left over from other projects. The dowel I cut up for the legs is the only new purchase I made. Happily, once I added the bamboo tambour panel to the side (again, more scrap) it suddenly took on a Mid-Century Modern vibe. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. It debuted this past weekend, and the height was perfect for projecting Blue Hawaii and protected the equipment from any random splashes. So I'll chalk this one up as a success. When it's not in use for the projector, it can serve as a side table or somesuch.

Back during the Luau at the Lagoon, The Wife observed that our guests congregated and stood talking in certain areas, but had no place to set their drinks whilst doing so. "We need some of those tall cocktail tables," she said. She photographs a lot of weddings, so knows the utility of cocktail tables. I search online turned up none that were affordable, which is fine, because none of the commercially-available ones were thematically appropriate. That left me with the same option I always end up with--build it myself. I'd never built furniture before, so this would be a new one. Unfortunately, I couldn't really find any suitable plans, either, so I poked around online, grabbing elements from various builds to Frankenstein it together. I started with an 8' 4x4 piece of... spruce? I forget. One of those northern conifers that don't grow around here. Not pressure-treated. I cut it into two 38" lengths with a 20" length left over.

I used the same template from the deck rail posts to stencil that alternating triangle pattern onto the wood. Then I routered out the pattern. We're going to skip forward a lot here--it took me weeks to just do one post. I thought it would go more quickly than the earlier posts. I was wrong. It took me a couple hours to do each side of the post. I don't know why. I'm not good enough to freehand it, so I use wood guides. Regardless, it took a lot longer than planned. I'd entertained the notion of making four tall cocktail tables, but I'm having second thoughts.

From scrap 1x6 boards used to make the baseboard and center trim on the walls, I cut triangular buttresses for the table top. I drilled makeshift pocket holes on each end. Then I scorched these and the post with my propane torch. Every time I've scorched wood in the past, I've followed up with a wire brush to peel away the carbonized wood and create a dramatic raised texture. This time I left the wood intact, no wire brush. Let's see how that works out.

I bought a 24" circular table top from Lowe's. At $17, it's the most expensive component in my table. Obviously, the clean, smooth wood was not appropriate. I wanted something that looked like it came out of a Trader Vic's. I pulled out my cheap grinder and set to work distressing the wood. Initially I toyed with the idea of making the round, beveled edge of the table top appear to be faux bamboo. Then I took a closer look at the prominent grain and realized that absolutely would not work for faux bamboo. Rather than waste a month trying to seal the grain, I used the grinder to gouge a zig-zag pattern into the edge. It looks suitably tribal, I think.

Then I distressed the surface of the table.

I followed up with flame treatment. This time, I wire brushed the surface of the table top to bring out that dramatic texture. I didn't scorch it too deeply, so the texture is modest, but it's there. After that, I stained everything with Minwax Special Walnut. Yeah, that's my go-to. That ties the cocktail table in with the trim on the walls. I wanted a little more drama for the table top, so I applied a secondary coat of Minwax Dark Walnut. That enhanced the tonal range of the table top significantly.

Nest up, attaching the base/feet to the pedestal. First up, I apply a decent amount of Titebond III. This will help reenforce the screws that are to come.

I clamped the first of two legs to the pedestal to keep it steady (the glue results in a bit of slipping).

Then I securely attached the piece with four 3" outdoor screws. I repeated the process with the second piece at a 90 degree angle, to form an X.

This is not easy to visualize here, but it will become clear. The 2x4 X that makes up the base is tiered, and at this point does not make a stable base. So I measured and cut pieces to fill in the gaps. Once they were cut and verified by positioning them on the base itself, I then flame-treated each one and stained with Minwax special walnut.

To ensure I didn't mix the various pieces up and attach them to the wrong location (there were slight variations with each one) I penciled in corresponding numbers with position on each piece. Simple and relatively fool proof.

I slathered on the Titebond III.

Then I clamped the piece into place and secured with four outdoor screws. It should be clear now how these smaller pieces are evening out the base as a whole.

The finished base, with all the pieces of the legs in place. It's finally starting to look like something.

Now, the tricky part: Attaching the table top. I start out the same as always, with a layer of Titebond III.

When I position the pedestal on the table top, I drill screws through those pocket holes I cut earlier. My angles were a bit shallow, so some of my screws overlapped at the opposite end, forcing me to redirect said screws. Under ideal circumstances, this step would be sufficient to secure the table top. Needless to say, my execution wasn't ideal, and I need more support.

That's where the buttresses I made earlier come in. Simple and straightforward, each interior edge of a buttress gets a coat of Titebond, then a screw through the pocket hole to attach first to the table top and then to the pedestal. The buttress hides the original pocket hole drilled into the pedestal. The result is a solid table top, although I would not recommend anyone sitting on this thing. That'd be a bit much. I'm sure there's a better way to mate the top with the pedestal, but I wasn't able to suss that out.

I added adjustable table levelers to the base, because nobody likes a wobbly cocktail table.

For weatherproofing, I went with the Flood UV on the pedestal, but for the table top, I wanted a little more gloss and substance. I applied several coats of boiled linseed oil, and am happy with the result. It's brought out the tonal richness in the wood color, and dried into a nice, smooth surface. When it wears down in a few years, it will be easy enough to reapply. I like the fact that the oil penetrates the wood to protect it internally, whereas a coat of urethane would essentially form a shell. I still use urethanes, don't get me wrong, but for this I like the option a drying oil gives me.

And here is the finished product. Or rather, the mostly-finished product. I took this photo before I remembered I'd planned for one final tweak.

I wrapped a length of Manila rope around the base as the finishing touch on the table. It doesn't do anything for the table in a structural sense, but aesthetically, I think it works well. And with tiki, presentation is everything.

I'd originally intended to make four of these, but after the insane amount of hours I put into this one, I'm seriously rethinking that. I absolutely love the way it turned out--it could almost, sort of pass for professional world. I like to think it could've come from an old Trader Vic's somewhere. But I'm not likely to start producing these things on a commercial scale any time soon.

Now Playing: Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 Look Around
Chicken Ranch Central

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