Patio Table: How it Failed; and how I fixed it

I built this patio table in 2016. The wood came from a mill on Coventry, where I bought a whole pile for around $100. The seller said it was Cypress, and I’ve had my doubts about that, because it is so lightweight. However, it has lived up to its reputation of resisting rot. Anyway, the top is made of two pieces and has breadboard ends. The base is all mortise and tenons. This week, someone must have bumped it pretty hard because the mortises gave out and I figured it would be good to document and share where it failed, as I consider how to salvage the top.

breadboard ends

Breadboard Ends

The first thing to fail was the breadboard ends. The idea, drawboring is supposed to make the joint last longer. In my case, the wood grain split and broke off where the drawbore was attached. See mortise and tenon below. This wasn’t a critical failure and I have left the ends loosely attached for years.

failed tenon
the mortise and drawbore pin are intact

It’s All About that Base

As mentioned earlier, the base gave way and is useless now. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why it failed – the leg isn’t straight grained, so the mortise is only supported by the grain that ran the length of the mortise. Straight-grained wood would help and it would also have worked better with a stronger wood. The leg is 2″, square. The outside of the edge of the mortise is 1/2″ thick and the tenon is 1/2″ thick, leaving a 1″ square inside.

glue joint is fine, it’s the wood that split

Final Thoughts

So, the table lasted five years. I can replace it altogether or build a new base. I’m leaning towards a new base, since the top is fine, but what wood should I use? Maybe some black locust. What construction technique? How thick are legs supposed to be? How long does a patio table last if it is build right?

How I Fixed It

Update 9/24/2021: The original base was flawed by design because the grain wasn’t running straight and the wood was weak (very light). 3″ legs seems a little awkward but, if they has a taper towards the foot, it could work but still; the added girth would only add minimal strength. The solution I chose was practical and promises durability – it’s called a trestle table. The 2 legs are attached to the top with figure 8 connectors (screws that allow for seasonal expansion). The stretcher and the through-wedge-tenon is a rigid solution that allows for easy break-down and stand-up if it is needed. Interesting to me that it should be simultaneously more durable and more aesthetically appropriate.

Toy Room Transforms Into Office

There are several problems with the existing “toy room”:

  • it is a toy room
  • it is a mess
  • noone plays in it
floor plan showing it isn’t a huge room but it has potential!

The Goal

I’d like the room to have a bookcase which flanks the window and heater, a desk, and a console gaming area. I’m using this image that I found online as inspiration. I’ll use maple for all of the woodwork. I would also like to have any moulding match the other mouldings in the house.

this is not my house, it’s just a pic that I am using for inspiration

Vanilla Extract

Polish vodka with Madagascar vanilla beans. Now we wait for 18 months

Time to fix the old foundation

The fieldstone foundation’s mortar is crumbling and leaks when wet, as you can see in the pictures here. I am the two dry pictures are from the basement wall on the south side of the house.

humorous leak
south side walls with, what looks like a more modern patch
another south wall shot. on the right side, you can see a thin outer layer that is more white than the rest.

Refurbished Mid-19th Century Sailmaker’s Scissors

I picked up a rusty old pair of scissors at my woodworking guild’s weekly meeting. They had some extra pressure points for the thumb and pinky, which I presumed might help with cutting difficult material. I cleaned them up and did some research on them – thought I would share the results.


The first step was to disassemble the scissors which were held together with a brass fastener that had two holes that you could grab to loosen or tighten.

Brass fastener

I hoped to get the scissors disassembled, so I took a piece of scrap wood and put two nails in it and sawed their ends blunt. The result was a tool that lined up with the fastener.

Fabricated tool to disassemble scissors
Back of scissors with nut removed

Once disassembled, I soaked the blades in vinegar for a day and then sanded and buffed them to a smooth finish. I sharpened the steel by lapping on sandpaper against a known flat surface. I also buffed the brass fasteners to make them nice and shiny. It appears that the upper section was originally painted black but I left it as-is, with a thin coat of oil to prevent rust.


polished up and super sharp


The scissors were old and the maker’s mark is on the brass fastener but it was worn off. I researched based on some clues and determined that they were made in New Jersey in the mid 1800s by Heinisch and Wiss who had innovated blade construction by laminating hardened steel to for the cutting edge with iron for the other parts of the scissors. More information here>