Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Wine Barrel Top Becomes Serving Tray
As a person with virtually no skill using tools or things mechanical, I had reason to rejoice this weekend, not only for not sawing one of my fingers off, but for actually accomplishing what I set out to do, at minimal expense and bodily pain.
If you happen to find the top to an old wine barrel - this lovely one was plucked from the firewood pile among cast off staves at a friend's house (who happens to be a wine maker at Van Ruiten) the process is quite simple. Note it's real French Oak, Nuits-St. Georges.
First, pull the staples out and sand the hell out of it. I have an old electric sander, for which apparently the right size sandpaper no longer exists, but I tore larger sheets up, and it worked. The edges were pretty banged up, so I spent a good hour or more at this. Be sure to inhale the dust deeply. It's therapeutic.
Then you need to stabilize the slats. I did this with strips of oak screwed into the back. Who knew that the only thing holding wine barrel tops together is shims and supernatural radio waves? If you are using an ordinary screw driver, as I did, prepare to spend a few hours of gruelling screwing (hmm - that doesn't sound so bad), after which your palms will be a blistered wasteland and your forearms will feel like limp pasta.
Then buy some drawer pulls. These nice grape leaf pulls cost 3 bucks a piece at OSH. The trick is, since they have to be screwed in from behind (hmm, again) you have to make sure the length of the bolt meets the hole in the pull on the other side exactly. I first thought I could saw down longer bolts. No. And then realized that if I drilled one narrow hole, then drilled a larger hole over it so the bolt would be sunk in about a half inch on the back, it would be just the right length. Prepare to spend several hours mulling over this, replete with curses.
Then I decided, since the whole thing was kind of white and pasty looking, I poured a cup of dark red zin over the top and bottom and rubbed it in. The rest went down my throat. The color came out rather nice. Then I waxed it with a combination of beeswax and mineral oil, which I make once every decade and keep around just for waxing freshly sanded olive wood spoons and such. The nice waxy surface disappears once you cook with it, but the process is exciting.
Eh, voila. And I should mention that I saw similar, though not so nice ones in shops at Napa last week, selling for 100 bucks. Their handles were like silver oven racks, yucky. I also saw them in Sur la Table in Berkeley, but couldn't see the price. Speaking of Sur la Table, I asked them if they had a tamis. They had never heard of such a thing. You know, a hoop sieve. For finely pureeing food? The guy showed me a food mill. Mais non, pas de tout. If anyone knows where to buy one, let me know. I'd especially love one strung with horsehair.
Anyway, this new serving tray is so LARGE, that I can't carry it through the door to the outside table. And WEIGHS so much that I fear if anything were actually placed on it, my arms would be instantly ripped from their sockets. So, for the moment, much labor, and a nice looking tray, that still needs a place in my house. Actually, placed on one of my counter stools, it makes a nice rotating table for parties. There it is!