In the middle of the breakfast bar in our kitchen, we have a wooden trough filled with faux grass that Ash picked up at HomeGoods a while back. It’s really a great piece, since it’s visually interesting, but still slim enough to allow us to work at the counter or eat breakfast while sitting at the bar. The problem is that the faux grass is just a little too “fresh” when fall and winter roll around. Since we love having some sort of decoration in this space, but we wanted something to match the season a bit better, Ash thought it would be fun to build a simple rustic looking box. That way, she could fill it herself and switch it out with the seasons. Of course, when she said it would be fun, she meant “fun” as in, “It would be fun for Greg to build a box for me”. Even with my (extremely) limited woodworking skills, I figured it couldn’t be but so hard to build a box out of a few pieces of lumber, so we started measuring.
Ash wanted the box to be a little chunkier and longer than the faux grass one we have, so she used ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape and marked out how big she wanted the box to be right on the countertop. This is something both of us have started doing with just about any project; it’s way easier than taking a picture and drawing something in Photoshop or simply trying to imagine what something would look like. After measuring (her dimensions ended up being 8″ x 34″), it was time for me to get to work…
I went to Lowe’s and bought one 2×6 piece of framing lumber and one 1×6 piece of whiteboard, both of them eight feet long. Since we don’t own a power miter saw, and my battery-operated circular saw is currently out of commission, I went ahead and asked the lumber guy in the store to cut the pieces down to the sizes I needed for the project: two 34-inch 1×6 boards (for the sides), one 34-inch 2×6 board (for the base) and two eight-inch 1×6 boards (for the ends).
It was just below freezing outside, so I decided to do as much of this project indoors as possible and set up a “work bench” on the peninsula. To protect the counter, I laid down a piece of kraft paper and taped it down with painter’s tape.
It turned out that the 2×6 I bought was pretty warped, so it wouldn’t sit flat on the counter. The 1x6s I had, were nice and straight on the edges, though, so I just made sure they were level and ignored the fact that the 2×6 was up off the counter on one corner. I applied wood glue to each side of the base piece, put each of the side pieces in place, and clamped it all together using two 12-inch hand clamps. At that point, I realized my 1x6s weren’t exactly perfect either, so I flipped the box over and clamped it in the middle to take out some of the bow.
About 24 hours later, the sides were dry. I applied more wood glue to the end of the box, attached the end pieces and let it sit for about 12 hours.
I’ve always heard about the powers of wood glue (how the wood would break before the glue would), but I was nonetheless surprised at how secure it actually was after it dried. If it was going to be used for anything weight-bearing, I’d have probably used a combination of nails/screws and glue, but I’m not planning on filling my new trough with concrete.
Now that everything was dry, it was time for sanding and filling. The 1×6 whiteboard I bought was already nice and smooth in most places, so all I had to do was round off the corners a bit and sand down some of the knots using a combination of some sanding sponges we had lying around, and 3M SandBlaster sheets.
Just to make sure the new box didn’t look too “homemade”, I decided to use some stainable 3M Wood Filler on the outside edges. It went on easily (I just used my fingers), and looked great after everything dried. At this point, I was pretty proud of myself, but the stain really brought the whole thing home.
Everybody knows how much we love our Minwax Dark Walnut stain around here. I think I’ve used it on 80% of the wood projects we’ve done. This time, however, another color caught my eye just as I was reaching toward the Dark Walnut. After calling Ash to make sure she was okay with taking a risk based on my knee-jerk reaction to a new stain color, I picked up the can of Espresso 273 and happily headed toward the car, completely forgetting stain-application tools in the process. Luckily, we had a brush and some rags on hand, and one coat of stain later, and I’d become a true believer.
Seriously–I could not have been prouder of my choice – if I do say so myself. Once the staining was finished, I brought the box in from the cold and set it up on a few large cans of green beans to dry completely.
Once it was good and dry (which took about 24 hours), Ash decided adding a few brass nail heads to the end pieces would add a simple touch of detail. In this photo, you can get a better look at what the wood filler looks like after one coat of stain. If you were using the wood filler on a nicer piece of furniture, you’d want to sand the seams a bit better before staining (I was too excited to apply my new stain color) and maybe go over them with another coat of stain or two to make the whole piece look more uniform. For this particular project, I left it as is after one coat. For a rustic box, it just looks cooler to have some variation and imperfections. At this point, it was time for Ash to fill the box with holiday cheer…
Ash filled the trough with a live greenery garland that I picked up at the hardware store and some extra ball ornaments we had in our Christmas decorations.
For the candles, she filled various-sized mason jars with Epsom salt and placed a battery operated candle in each of them. The texture and weight of the salt really looks like snow.
The countertop centerpiece turned out exactly how we’d hoped. We still have ample work/eating space on either side, and it brings in some fun rustic decorating elements that Ash can change up with the seasons.
The photo above really doesn’t do it justice, but it looks really awesome at night, too. The soft light from the candles glows through the
salt snow. This, without a doubt, is our favorite seasonal DIY project yet – and what’s so cool is that we get to keep it all year round.