Friday, May 2, 2014

A Picnic For Two

Or a table made for four. Or six. Any of these numbers would be an upgrade from what we were using as an outdoor dining set before.

The picture might be pretty, but our eating and sitting space wasn't. We have been looking into outdoor seating for a little while now, trying to find something that matches our style and budget. A recent purchase really put this to the top of the list.

 Scott has a new baby, a Texas-style smoker set up that he is hoping to get a lot of use out of, so the need for an eating area right outside was becoming much more imperative. Our little yellow table and camp chairs weren't wearing well in the wind and rain, so we started the online search. A lot of outdoor dining sets seem large, expensive, and a little less casual than we would like. The only thing we found that caught our eye was this set from Ikea.

This didn't seem like a 'this summer' purchase to use, though, even at that price. After debating some other possibilities, such as building a table (for which we would have to buy/build chairs, making it not as cost efficient as we would have liked), we set our sites on what seems like an obvious solution, an $88 picnic table from Lowes.

As soon as we had decided that the picnic table was our path to outdoor deliciousness, I had a mental image of how I wanted to go about making it a fun place to eat. Manufacturers recommend painting and/or sealing a picnic table before allowing it to sit in the elements, so we knew that some treatment would be necessary. I just wanted to make it a little more interesting.

I envisioned using blue stain and a little stenciling to create a fun, colorful space for us to stuff our faces with ribs and corn.

I explained my idea to Beth, who was immediately on board with helping me bring this into fruition. We took her truck over to Lowes, picked up our $88, unfinished dining set and headed home.

We set up inside because it was a gray day, but if the weather hadn't been so wishy-washy, we could have done this outside with better drying conditions. We were able to keep the garage door open, though, so we weren't inhaling many fumes.

I started by giving all of the places that people might touch a good once over with the sander. I'm glad I did because it was pretty rough pine that could have caused many a fragmented fiber in many a bum.

Once it was free of splinters and really rough patches (it's almost impossible to get it completely smooth), Beth took a towel and removed as much sawdust as she could. Then we began covering the top of the table with material to stencil our letters. We ended up using shelf liner (white) down the center because it's self-adhesive and meant we didn't have to use as much painters tape.

When we were ready to start sketching, the table looked like this.

Beth measured and separated the tabletop into three spaced areas so we knew how much room each letter should take up. Using string and this method, we made circles that would be the basis for our letters.

(Notice that the circle for the "a" is slightly lower, smaller, and to the left hand side).

After we found the circles we had drawn to be agreeable, we went back in and free-handed the rest of the letter parts. Thankfully we both had the same blocky font in mind, so when we were done, we had a nice, uniform font to start cutting out.

Because the letters are so big, it didn't take very long to cut them out. I used an X-acto knife and Beth ended up with my pocket knife. Honestly, I think she just liked using my pocket knife.

When we had carefully peeled away the excess, we were looking pretty good. We ran our fingers over the edges just to make sure it was stuck to the wood really well before continuing on to the staining step.

We used foam brushes to apply the colored stain. I purchased Minwax Water Based Stain and had it tinted "Island Water" by the guys at Home Depot. Tinted stain can be a little less watery than regular "off the shelf" stain colors that you might purchase, so I wouldn't do too many coats. It tends to layer more like paint than stain. We did a single coat over the entire top because we liked the wood grain showing through.

We tried our best to squish some of the stain into the grooves between boards, but it didn't really bother us if it didn't make it. The nice thing about this project is that it doesn't have to look perfect. It's a picnic table, not a formal dining room set!

We pulled the letter stencils and were so happy with the result!

I then followed up by painting the rest of the table the same blue and coating the top and seats with 2-3 coats of outdoor-safe poly.

Scott and David showed up juuuuust in time to take it around to the back porch for us. It was immediately hailed as an instant improvement!

Unfortunately, it was a little too cold last night to actually eat at it (stupid Kentucky weather), but it was nice to at least see it in place on the porch. We turned it so that when you walk out the door, the first thing you see is "EAT" when you walk outside. It's just a really fun welcomer to our little campsite themed backyard.

And I can see us drinking many a beer and eating lots of ribs and pork butt here, too.

Seats one to possibly 8, only $88, and super fun, this has to be one of my favorite projects so far this Spring!


  1. Love it!!!!


  2. That is super cute. Love it!