For a good part of the past year, I've been hip deep in designing and building a new covered porch and deck addition to our house. It's been one of my ambitions since moving into this house over six years ago and I finally had the time as well as the funds to make it happen. With about 3x the square footage of our old - and falling down - deck, we were faced with a novel problem: filling it up. I should say 'thoughtfully' as filling space is all too easy.
The most important piece would be a table that could comfortably seat 8, be sturdy enough to hold up to the 'younger crowd's' challenges, be weather resistant as well as an aesthetic stand-out. I had some heavy walnut slabs left over from another job - which, I'm guessing is how the shoemaker shod his kids' feet as well - but the other half of the operation here objected to a dark wood on a dark deck. Was there a way I could lighten the color? Kind of an interesting challenge all the way around.
First off, aesthetics. Keeping with the heaviness of the slab ends, I needed to find a way to take some mass out of the base, to give it the illusion of lightness and liveliness. I did this quite literally but cutting two very large 'arcs' of wood out of the slab ends. Next I decided to leave the live edges on the slab ends which gave it an organic, 'natural' feel as the lines are curvy, asymmetrical and seemingly alive. As far as the construction and connections went, I kept everything very simple and open: wedged mortise and tenons for the base rail and a dovetail spline for holding the top to the base.
Finally, the color. It's no mean feat to take something dark and make it light especially while preserving transparency so the fabulous display of walnut's grain would not be lost. I decided to use a technique I've never done with walnut but have used successfully with white oak: pickling. What's involved is 'washing' the surface with a watered down white primer and afterward lightly sanding. Then I sealed it with a waterproof exterior oil as this table was designed to stay outside for the year.