Mahogany Plywood Dining Table with I-beam legs

Who builds their own dining table?  Only a crazy person!  Even worse is somebody that builds a table that weighs at least 400 pounds.

About two years ago our dining table started to look really worn out.  The table top had a thin veneer that was starting to disappear in patches. The seats were made of PVC faux leather, and large pieces of the material were breaking off leaving only the thin cloth backing left.

We started to look for a new dining table, but were not happy with the choices available.  Either we would have to buy something that would fall apart just like our old table, or we spend at least $3000 on something made out of solid materials.  So, I of course got the crazy idea to build my own table.

I started searching the internet for table ideas.  Somehow, I got the really crazy idea to use i-beams as the base for the table and bench I wanted to build.  Lynn isn’t able to visualize things in her head so I attempted to design the table using Sketchup.

I was able to buy the i-beams that I wanted at a local metal shop.  They cut the beams down to size for me, which is good because there is no way I could have done that myself.  The beams I bought had been sitting outside so they were covered in surface rust.  IMG_0961

Using my grinder, I removed most of that rust.  The metal underneath didn’t look new, but had a sort of aged patina look which is what I wanted.  To darken up the metal I cleaned it all with mineral spirits.  Then I sprayed with with a clear semi gloss enamel for protection.


Knowing that this would end up being a very heavy table I had to come up with a way to attach the parts.  I decided to drill holes in the i-beams and the angle iron that the table top would rest on.  The i-beams and angle iron are then bolted together.  I used large bolts so the table and bench are strong enough to hold a lot of weight.




As you can see from the dates in the pictures, I was able to get the legs completed over a year ago.  That is the point I ran into some difficulties.  I bought reclaimed wood to build the table top, but the wood wasn’t level and was more difficult to work with then I had thought it would be.  I was able to get the bench top put together, but was never able to make the tabletop work.  Periodically, I would try different ideas, but none of them worked out.

Eventually, I ran out of ideas for making the reclaimed wood work.  I was about ready to give up on making my own table, and Lynn was starting to talk about buying a new table.  Then inspiration struck me.  Why not use plywood to make the table and bench top?  I did a google search to see if someone else had done something like that before, and I found something I liked at a blog called Vintage Revivals.  They had created tabletops for a restaurant by stacking plywood.  They used 2 pieces of plywood and a strip of wood on the bottom edges to give the appearance of 3 pieces.  Ultimately, I decided on 3 pieces of plywood to make the tabletop higher and thicker since it matched the height of the reclaimed wood I originally planned to use.

Taking Vintage Revivals idea, I started looking into plywood.  Lynn and I finally decided on using African Mahogany plywood for the top and bottom piece with maple for the middle.  The total price for the wood and the urethane I used was about $450.  The store I bought the wood at cut it to size for me.  Each sheet of plywood was 4ft by 8ft.  My tabletop is 3ft by 7ft, and the bench is 15in by 7ft.  The bench needed one sheet of plywood and left just a small piece of scrap leftover.  From the table I have some scrap pieces that are 1ft by 8ft and some smaller pieces.  I will be able to use those to make a small shelf in our kitchen, and possibly a mantle for our fireplace.

I attached the pieces of plywood together with some heavy duty glue and finishing nails.  Once the plywood was attached together I used a sander to make sure all the edges lined up and were smooth.

Finally, I finished the table with polyurethane.  When I bought the wood I asked for suggestions on products for finishing the table.  One of the suggestions was a product from General Finishes called Enduro-var.  I was told it would amber the wood giving it a bit of an aged appearance.  There were other products suggested too, but I liked the idea of giving the wood the aged appearance.  I thought that would go well with the somewhat rusty looking i-beams.

Bringing the table into the house to assemble it was easier then expected.  The tabletop was the hardest part because Lynn and our oldest son had to work together to carry one of the sides.


There are a few minor things I wish looked better on the table. For instance, I was trying to move the unfinished tabletop by myself and put a small gouge on the top of the table.  The polyurethane did a good job of blending the gouge in so that it isn’t a major eyesore, mostly it just bugs me because I know it is there.


Overall, I am really pleased with this table.  As built it cost under $1000. There is the cost of the reclaimed wood that I didn’t use, but I think I will be able to come up with a good use for that someday. I do think you have to be pretty crazy to build something like this because it is heavy and that makes it difficult to work with.  However, should you choose to do it you will end up with a solid table that should lasts for a long time.






Easy Raised Garden Beds

One of my gardening goals for this year is to get my oldest three children more involved.  I want them to learn how to grow their own food, and not just eat what dad grows.  I think it would be sad for them to grow up without any ideas how to grow plants, and think that it is a hard thing that only a select few with “green thumbs” can do.

Since I needed to build three garden beds, I wanted to make beds that were quick and easy to put together.  Fortunately, I saw a product at Home Depot that happened to do exactly what I wanted. It is an 8in x 8in x 6in block with slots that a 2×6 board can slide into.  There is a small hole in the middle of the bricks that a piece of rebar can go into to help hold the bricks together or stack them to the ground.  Each brick costs $2.97 at my local store.

PlanterWallBlockI also bought my redwood for the sides of the bed at Home Depots.  I wanted each bed to be 4ft by 3ft.  Of course, Home Depot doesn’t sell boards in those sizes so they have to be cut down.  Home Depot does do limited cutting for free, mostly to make the boards fit into customer’s cars.  I bought 8 foot boards that I had them cut in half for me for the 4 foot side.  I also bought 12 foot boards that I had cut in half for transportation.  I have my own table saw so I cut them into 3 foot sections myself.  I had to pay for one cut at Home Depot, so I paid 75 cents for my wood to be cut.

Getting these blocks and having Home Depot cut the wood for you is an easy way to build a raised garden bed.  If you don’t have the ability or tools to build your own garden bed I highly suggest doing it this way.

Once my boys and I put the beds together, we filled them as close to the Square Foot Garden method as we could.  That is 1/3rd vermiculite, 1/3rd peat, and compost.  Vermiculite is very expensive so I never quite make the 1/3rd on that.

Then I let the boys plan out what would be in their garden beds.  I bought a few new seeds for them in addition to letting them picks seeds from my collection.  We made a grid on paper and wrote out what seeds were going in each square foot.  I want them to remember what what they planted and see the different stages of growth for each type.

corran garden

Corran doesn’t want to grow vegetables because he doesn’t want to eat them.  I grew corn last year in one of my raised beds, and it actually did pretty good.  I picked a blue corn because I liked the color.  We ended up with a number of ears, but they were not particularly edible.  Corran does like corn so he picked a yellow sweet corn to fill most of his bed.

matthias gardenMatthias really likes carrots so he mostly went this those in his bed.  The Madhu Ras Melons are a type of honey melon from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  They are supposed to be from India and grow well in hot dry areas.  Our summers are very dry and tend to be fairly hot.  Hopefully, this melon will do well here.

ian gardenIan’s garden has the most variety.  He wanted to do corn to be like Corran, but does enjoy a few types of vegetables that he really wanted to try to grow.

I was able to plant Ian’s garden about a 5 days before his brothers.  Our weather has been nearly perfect for sprouting seeds so all of his plants have sprouted.  He is very excited about his garden, and the plants that are growing in it.




Saturday Ramblings: Washer, Raised Bed, Seeds

Repairing the Washing Machine

We have a Kenmore 110 series washer.

Over the last week and a half I have been working at fixing our washing machine.  It came with the house and I believe it to be around 8 years old.  It is a small machine and not very nice, but I hoped to save money by repairing the machine rather than replacing it at this time.

For about a week before the machine broke, it had been acting up.  A couple of times it didn’t drain fully, but I was able to unplug the machine to reset it and cause it to drain.  On the day it stopped working, it seemed to have been trying to drain all night.  Since the washer was full of water, I deduced that the drain pump must be broken.  I attempted to take the whole thing apart, which was rather difficult due to some corrosion on the spanner nut holding the drum in place.  I ended up having to tip the washer on its back and then I was able to easily remove the pump.  There is a plastic piece in the pump that moves water and it had broken off of its mounting.  I ordered a new pump off of Amazon for around $26.

Two days later when the pump arrived, I immediately put it into the washer.  However, this didn’t fix my washer.  In fact, I started to have another problem.  I could hear a whirring sound, but I wasn’t sure where it was coming from.  I had heard a sound when the pump was broken, but that was different because that plastic piece was bouncing around everywhere.  My dad kindly came over to help me take the washer apart the rest of the way.  Removing the spanner nut from the drum was impossible by myself.  There was rust and gunk that caused it to seize up.  I had to hold the drum still while my dad used a hammer and chisel to bang on the nut to loosen it.

Eventually, we found the pump was still attempting to pump even though there was no water in the machine, and it had been unplugged for days.  I ended up realizing that the control card for the washer had failed.  It seems that the integrated pressure switch failed and the control card thought there was water in the washer and was constantly telling the pump to run.  Since the pump was constantly running that is why it broke, so the broken pump was a symptom of the real issue.  My dad found a refurbished control card online for $88 that I ordered.  I had to wait 4 days for the card to arrive, but it fixed my issues.  My parents and in-laws were kind enough to let us use their washing machines for the week and a half we didn’t have one.  It is great to live by family when you have problems with things.

For $114 and several hours of anger and frustration, I was able to fix my washing machine.

While taking apart my washer, I found that it was filthy.  We had been having clothes get black streaks on them while in the washer.  I think they had been getting under the agitator and there was nasty black stuff under the agitator.  Another dirty spot was the outside of the drum.  The drum is the place where you put the clothes in the washer.  That rests inside of an outer drum.  Between those two drums must stay damp on a constant basis because there was mold on the drum.  I cleaned the entire washer really well while I had it apart.

If you have the time and any mechanical abilities, I would recommend at least taking the top off of your washer to see how dirty it is.  You might be suprised at the dirt lurking in your washer.


Raised Garden Bed

On Saturday I built my fourth raised garden bed out of cement blocks.  This time I bought the smaller 6x8x16 blocks.  They are 11 cents less per block and a fair bit lighter.  It was easier for me to move them around and made my back hurt much less.  My last bed kind of sagged, but this one was much more level.  Unfortunately, I ended up with some large gaps between the bricks somehow.  I am not happy with how it turned out so I didn’t take any pictures.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

On a better note, my Baker Creek seeds arrived today.  So while I have an ugly garden bed, at least I will have some nice seeds to put into them.


These are a large portion of the things I plan to plant this year.

Atomic Red Carrots

I bought these merely for the looks.  I think they will be fun to grow, and the reviews say they taste good.  I enjoy growing plants that are outside of the norm, especially when it comes to color.

Nasturtium Dwarf Jewel Mix

My yard needs color in the worst way.  There is so much brown dirt everywhere.  Nasturtiums grow fast and do not need good soil.  As a plus the flowers and leaves are edible.

Tomatillo Purple

Tomatillos make a great addition to hot sauce and salsas.  This year I want to make purple hot sauce and purple salsa.

Bean Red Swan

Last year I grew purple beans and they did very well.  To mix things up I decided to go with red.  The pictures I saw looked more of a dusky pink than red, but I am sure they will look great growing and should make some good pictures.

Wagner blue green tomato

I had to have these after I saw the picture in the catalog.  The color is striking, and I cannot wait to see what they look like.  Bluish tomatoes with bright green flesh will be striking in salads and cut up on my plate.

Squash Desi

I need a squash that I can put in a raised bed.  Since these are bush squash, I am hoping that I will be able to grow them in a raised bed.  I know I won’t be able to get many plants in, but it will at least be something.

Green Copia Tomato

Another tomato bought just for the looks.  I almost rarely grow normal red tomatoes.  I can buy those in the store; I want to grow something more striking and visually interesting.

Black Hungarian Pepper

These were the genesis for the purple salsa idea.  They are supposed to be a mild pepper like a jalapeno.  I am looking forward to the purple salsa.  I wonder if I will be able to find anybody who will eat it outside of Lynn and I.

Tom Thumb Garden Pea

These are small plants that I can put in pots around my yard.  I think I can also grow them in the cement blocks that make up my raised beds.  These are an experiment to see where I can get them to grow well.

I still have a few packs of seeds on the way.  Now I have to control myself and be patient for a bit longer before planting all of them.  I don’t want to be too early and have nothing grow.


Bathroom Remodel – The Vanity Drawers

I previously mentioned that we would be losing about 4 drawers to the plumbing for the new double sinks in the vanity. Josh and my FIL were able to figure out how to keep all 6 drawers!

This post is from March 2015.

When we decided to refinish our current vanity instead of buying a new one, I was worried about how the drawers would work with the new plumbing configuration.  I knew we were going to lose the top two drawers but I wanted to at least have the two middle drawers.
My father-in-law was able to reconfigure the current drawers (this is when it is great that all of the cabinetry in our house is real wood) and gave us a ton of storage space!
Here is the vanity completely refinished. It has a bit of a distressed look but I love how you can see the grain of the wood. Before it was refinished, the vanity was painted white.
One of the large middle drawers before we put it in the vanity to be used. My FIL did not have to use any new wood.  All the wood you see came from the drawer.
And the drawers work great!
Somehow I have fewer things in the drawers now than I did before.  I think it is because I went through and threw away anything that was too old to use or didn’t belong in the drawers. This is one of the top drawers so we still have six drawers in the vanity instead of four.
The other middle drawer.

At first, I wanted a new vanity, but Josh said that to pull out the whole old vanity would have torn up a lot of the plaster wall. Also, to get the same quality of wood would have cost a lot of money. I think it cost less than $100 to refinish the old vanity and buy new hardware. I am glad we stayed with the old one!


I-Beam table legs

Today I was able to pick up the i-beams that I had purchased for the legs of the table I am building. Originally, the i-beam was one large piece and I needed two 28.5 inch sections cut out.  I think I surprised the metal shop with my request; it sounded like nobody had ever wanted sections of such a large beam to build something out of.

The beam was in the secondary steel section because it was older and has surface rust. I ended up paying 30 cents a pound for the metal, and $125 dollars to get the beam cut.  The shop didn’t have a saw that was able to cut anything over 12 inches (my beam was 21 inches).  Thankfully, they have another shop they work with and regularly send items back and forth.  That shop has a large band saw and was able to cut my beam.  It took two weeks to get the beam back since there is only one trip between the shops each week.

IMG_1680 IMG_1681 IMG_1682

I put some of the wood that I purchased for the table top onto the beams to get an idea of how it will look once it is complete.  My next step is to remove the rust from the beams and purchase the pieces I will need to attach the beams together.


%d bloggers like this: