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Reader Showcase: Tile Top Provence Dining Table

09.24.13
The Design Confidential Reader Showcase: Tile Top Provence Dining Table

This is the Provence Dining Table, but modified to have tiles set into the top.  I've been dreaming of a table like this for years.  Last year, I built a brick patio with river rock pilasters to beautify my Craftsman house.  This table looks perfect on my patio, under the pergolas!  Can't wait for the wisteria to bloom in spring!

The Design Confidential Reader Showcase: Tile Top Provence Dining Table
The Design Confidential Reader Showcase: Tile Top Provence Dining Table

I had to adapt the plans to accomodate the tiles (which I made myself and fired at a local ceramics studio.)  It was a lot more complicated than the regular Provence table.  I still don't know how it will hold up to the weather, but I live in Southern California, so I don't have to deal with freezing temperatures.  The sun is the main enemy.  And morning dew/occasional torrential rain.  I finished this table in the following way:  First, I sanded it through 80, 100, 120, 150, and 220.  Then I used my creme brulee torch very minimally to bring out the wood grain in the cedar.  Then I used vinegar with steel wool (very watered down!) to just darken and gray the surface a bit.  Then I used Zinsser shellac with a tiny bit of universal brown color, which I applied in about three coats for the base and maybe six coats for the top, sanding lightly between coats.  Then I went over everything with Minwax spar varnish, again several coats, more on the top, sanding very lightly (320 grit) between coats.  All this before I set the tiles, which I set onto Wonderboard Light fitted into the frame on top. 

The way I managed the tile top was that I used 1×6 cedar for the top of the table instead of 2×10, but 2×6 for the outermost pieces, then two short pieces of 2×6 for the end pieces (I cut an L-shaped lip out of the underside and screwed it to the 1×6's from underneath (the 1×6's were accordingly shorter than the full length of the table to accomodate these end pieces.)  The table is therefore the same height as it would have been had I made it according to the regular plan (which I found to be way too tall, see below.)

Problems I had: 

The legs, which I measured carefully according to the plans, were far too long, giving me a table height that I knew would have made me feel like a little kid.  I cut them down by a solid 1.5″, but when I placed the top in the base, the table was still far too high.  The problem was, now I had no reasonable way to cut the legs, since they were now irrevocably screwed/glued in place.  My husband helped me support the base, fully assembled, over the mitre saw (on the ground!) and we cut another 1.5″ off each leg.  It was precarious, very difficult, and the cuts weren't straight in the end.  Ultimately, I screwed some plastic feet into the bottoms of the legs in order to elevate them a tiny bit off the bricks of my patio, so the wood will have less chance to rot in the rain, so I guess the straightness of the cuts didn't matter too much.  

Because my table top has to support all those tiles, I had to give it extra support in the form of more crosswise 2x4s on the base.  Were I to do it again, I would have built the support into the bottom of the tabletop, rather than the base, so that the table top could be removed from the base for moving.  As it is, it is not only very heavy, but it must be moved by holding its base, which is very difficult and awkward.  

All in all, I loved this project!

Estimated Cost 

$600, not counting the tiles

Length of Time 

About a month, not counting the tiles

Modifications 

Modified to create the space for the tiles.

Lumber Used 

Cedar

Finishing Technique 

Sanded, then lightly burned with a torch, then stained with diluted vinegar-steel wool, then shellacked with a bit of universal brown, then spar varnished

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