A New Picnic Table

Thank You, Mr. Jefferson, for that Declaration

Just in time for the Fourth of Julie, I made a new picnic table! This stylish but economical design is made from nothing but PT 2x4s, some of which are reclaimed. When this green wood dries out some, it will be painted with red flour paint. It’s a great addition to our outdoor kitchen.

This design has been on the interwebs for awhile, but I simplified it, and made in smaller. I also made it more consistent. The 62″ width should probably be 64″. The length is over 4′, which is the most economical use of 8′ 2x4s. Unless it’s roasting hot, my wife and I can hardly keep ourselves from sitting at it.

Besides painting it, I need to level it, as we live on an Appalachian mountainside. That would be Ann Johnson Mountain, to be precise. Not many people can say they live on a mountain named after a woman.

Where are the Burgers?

Fire Pit/Outdoor Hearth

Dutch oven and “Camp” Dutch oven in the Outdoor Hearth Hybrid

This mammoth version of a fire pit actually doubles as an outside hearth, which can be used like a similar arrangement in many colonial kitchens. The key to the set up is the crane from which that dutch oven is hanging.

A Multi-tasking Fire Pit

The crane, like those in colonial kitchen open hearth fireplaces, makes all the difference. The cook can’t immediately control the temperature of a wood fire, but they can control the amount of heat that reaches a pot, by swinging it from side to side, or raising and lowering it up and down via an s-hook. Additionally, the rebar grid at the bottom allows the cook to sit a dutch oven directly over the fire, as in the first photo.

The Holes Drilled in the Bottom are Not Visible

So there are at least three ways to cook here–on the fire, close to the fire, or swinging in the air. And if you just want to use it as a fire pit, the crane is on a hinge, and can swing completely behind the pit.

This was made from an old industrial grade propane tank, so it is recycled as well. An oak fell on it once, and I mean a big one, and it knocked the pit into the ground up to the top of the legs. The only damage was to bend the crane support slightly. We pulled it out of the ground, moved it, and I twisted the support slightly around, and put it back to work. Now that’s rustic.

Red Flour Paint

Red Flour Paint on Top of a Red Cabinet

Cook some paint! Or not, as this really doesn’t have to be cooked. Cooking changes the consistency of the starch used, so do some chemistry experiments, or just throw the ingredients into a jar and shake.

Ingredients

Flour (Rye or Wheat)

Water

Red Iron Oxide

Linseed Oil

I left off proportions, because everyone wants a different consistency with paint. Rye is the traditional choice for flour, but wheat is less expensive. Cook those with the water, then add the pigment–there are tons of natural pigments to choose from, and a very little goes a long ways. My advice is to stick with the mineral ones, as they are fade proof. I use food grade linseed oil for interior paint, and nasty boiled linseed oil for exterior paint. It just dries faster.

Once you get into the natural paint deal, you may never buy prepared paint again. To steal a comparison from Wendell Berry, it’s like the difference between real food and industrial food, industrial food being like industrial sex.

Rustic Cabinet

Another Rustico Original

This cabinet is attached to the back of my brick oven, as there is never enough room to store the gear that accumulates over the years. It’s actually only an old greenhouse bench which I clad in old PT boards into which I cut tongue and groove joints. I also made the paint, which I will discuss later, as some people actually cook this paint, and the top is–drumroll–fireproof! That’s cement board topped with un-gauged slate. The next project is a “Tuscan” grill to be built next to it.

Swedish Butter Knife

Where are the Biscuits?

This is really the far south of Sweden, as the design is Swedish, but the maple came out of my yard here in Alabama. I decorated the handle with some homemade red stain made of iron oxide and food grade linseed oil–very Swedish. It actually gets used more as a jam and preserves spreader than as a butter knife.

Jar Knife

A Jar Knife is not used to Stab a Jar

The Jar knife is the answer for everyone who has tried to scrap the last bit of goodness out of a jar of anything. By design, it reaches into the corner of any rounded jar, so that nothing is wasted. This one was made from green Maple wood from my property, which makes it easier to turn on a lathe, and carve, and then the jar knife was air dried. The finish is nothing, which is free, and available everywhere.

Treen

A Treen Convention

Treen is essentially a word passed down from Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and proto-Germanic, which just means “wooden.” The modern interpretation of the word is “wooden utensil” meant for household use. Before cheap metal and cheap plastic, that meant just about everything in the house, or hut, or shanty, or hollow tree (that last being a reference to one of the founders of Marlinton, West Virginia, who got so mad at his business partner, that he went to live in a hollow tree, instead of dealing with the guy. I doubt he had a Cuisinart in there).

One of my too many hobbies is making treen, using only hand tools and traditional methods. The picture on the top left is a spoon I made that was part of a traveling museum exhibition, chronicled in the book A Gathering of Spoons, compiled and written by the Emeritus University of Connecticut Libraries Director Norman D. Stevens. The rest are all of local woods, including Maple, Dogwood, Black Walnut, and Sparkleberry. I’ll show those individually later, and tell what they all are made for. Cheap metal and cheap plastic are banned from this house, as my wife cringes every time she sees some TV chef scratch up a really nice pan with a crappy imported utensil.