When we moved into our new house, nearly 4 years ago, we installed a temporary island in the middle of the kitchen; an old table top on reclaimed legs, the barrel that Didier made us at one end of it, topped with a circle of chipboard, both pieces covered in plastic tablecloth. The idea was to see if it worked. It worked very well, so much so that we almost forgot that it was meant to be temporary.
However, a few months ago, Nick decided it was time to make the real thing; he’d got enough oak for the frame and we bought some beech blockboard for the tops. Maddy and Dom had brought us a circle of toughened glass for the centre of the barrel top on one of their visits several years ago. It would be an enjoyable project, working with real wood.
The frame construction took a long time as Nick wanted to do it properly; he had to buy a big new planer before he could really get started as his old one couldn’t cope with the oak and started to smoke after only a few passes! Once all the wood was planed to size, he cut mortise and tenon joints for most of the base, which he brought up to the kitchen in pieces, for assembly. He cut curved slats for the shelf and put in a space to store chopping boards and trays on edge, an improvement on the original. The other alteration was a drawer in the end, to store sharp knives and aprons; he had to cut the dovetails by hand as the router wouldn’t behave itself – another tool that’s been used nearly to death!
I varnished the frame while he made a start on the tops; the barrel top is made in eight sections with a space in the centre for the glass, to show off the barrel.
I thought it might be a good idea to have some sort of detailing on the tops, so I ordered an alphabet stencil and researched sayings about wine, finding four of the right sort of length, that we both liked, in English, French and Latin.
Finally the tops were ready, so I sanded and stained them; the stain claims to be light oak, but Nick’s had it for years and it’s darkened over time – oxidised perhaps? Being made up of lots of pieces of beech, the different blocks all took up the stain differently; not at all the finish we’d envisaged, but it looks great, like an old farmhouse table.
I’d drawn out the wordings for the stencilling full size on lengths of paper, to work out the spacings, so I nervously started the painting – I couldn’t afford to make a mistake. Once the lettering was complete, I sanded it all down, to age it, then gave the whole lot a few coats of varnish to seal it, followed by a coat of beeswax.
Hooks for tea towels and oven gloves on the sides, handles on the drawer and it’s finished. I have to say we’re very pleased with it.