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Here is an informative article by Fred Taylor.
Custom Table Pads
While modern taste in dining room tables, like modern taste in so many subjects today, varies considerably from household to household, the traditional
format calls for a flat wooden surface supported by some type of leg
or base arrangement.
In medieval times the surface was just that - a surface - composed of wide boards placed across trestles
to create the perfect tabletop. The condition of the wood surface was
probably not a subject of much debate since it most likely didn't have
any finish at all other than old grease stains. But in today's elegant
formal dining room the condition of the tabletop is of primary importance.
It becomes something of a showpiece and a great deal of time and money
is often devoted to the acquisition and maintenance of that surface.
But over time that entire thought process can become "inconvenient". After all, we are
talking about a flat piece of wood of a size not normally found in nature.
And since it is wood it tends to be softer than most other horizontal
surfaces in the house such as counter tops. So now not only is the table
top made of a large assemblage of a soft material, it is situated slightly
below waist height, just the right place to accumulate books, mail,
the occasional umbrella and a great many hand prints. And if your house
is like my last house, the dining room is situated right in the middle
of the main traffic pattern so EVERYBODY has to walk by it several times
a day. Not much I could do about that so I had to develop a protective
system that would preserve the beauty of the tabletop and still allow
my children the opportunity to achieve adulthood.
The first line of defense was a loosely woven, solid cotton tablecloth that easily hung down to
chair seat level. That was topped by a heavy hand crocheted lace cloth
that, while attractive, also helped deflect minor blows from dropped
or thrown articles. Then the six chairs were arrayed around the table
with each one slightly separated from the table by about three inches.
This helped increase the buffer zone around the table.
Finally, to enhance the sense of protected territory around the dining area we purchased a large Oriental
rug to put in the area that became a "no walk" zone for kids
and pets - well for the kids anyway. The pets continued to what they
had always done. By removing the tablecloths once a month or so to let
the table air out, this primitive defensive strategy worked well - as
long as we didn't actually sit down to eat at the table.
But sooner or later some important event would require the preparation of a lot of things we
didn't ordinarily consume, to be served on china we never used which
was placed on the table where we never ate. We learned very quickly
that the finish on older furniture is not as sturdy as advertised. Our
original dining set was from the late 1930s and while the tabletop looked
nice and clean and shiny, we found out it was just for looks. Forget
about hot dishes or cold glasses. Everything seemed to make the table
turn white and some things made the finish sticky.
We then embarked a trial and error period of auditioning protective surfaces for the tabletop. Since
we decided the table shouldn't be wet we started with a plastic sheet.
On top of that we added the cotton tablecloth, topped off with individual
plastic placemats at each setting. Good start but less than great long
term results. It seems that older finishes (and some newer ones as well)
and certain types of plastic and vinyl have an affinity for each other.
In other words the tabletop finish started to grow to the plastic sheet
during the rainy season. We saw the beginning of a disaster in the works.
Not only that but the sheet and table cloth had not protected the surface
from the normal dinner time trauma of heavy serving platters or extreme
Arriving at the conclusion that professional advice was probably cheaper than having the table
refinished we asked for help. The answer was so simple and so obvious
we were embarrassed that we hadn't thought of it. The answer of course
was table pads. But not just any old table pads. I had seen the old
thin moldy green pads in antique stores and they held no appeal for
me. And where would we find some to exactly fit our old table?
Turns out that solution was equally simple. Have new ones made. The representative of one of the
national brands came our house, measured the table, made tracings of
the corners, let us pick out the colors, took a small deposit and off
he went. Two weeks later our custom table pads arrived.
The new pads were over a half inch thick with a waterproof vinyl top surface, a fiberboard core, a
soft slip resistant supersuede bottom surface and an aluminum heat shield
sandwiched in the middle. Each half of the table had a separate pad
and each leaf did too. The real trick was that there were catches on
the edges of each section so the pads all locked together and stayed
in place. Did we spend a lot of money? It seemed like it at the time
but as the years wore on the investment paid off. The just under $200
we spent for near top of the line pads probably came right back to us
in the form of a higher resale price for our set when we upgraded. The
"new" dining table was a late 18th century Georgian pedestal
table and you know who we called first when it arrived at the front
Good quality, custom made table pads are among the best furniture investments you can make. Don't
shortchange yourself trying to make do with sheets, blankets, quilts,
mattress pads and cheap table pads. Spring for the good stuff one time
and be done with it.
Photo "CS102.jpg" Caption: A good set of custom made table pads can greatly prolong the life of your dining table.
Send your comments, questions and pictures to me at P0 Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Fred's website at www.furnituredetective.com. His book "HOW TO BE A FURNITURE DETECTIVE" is available for $18.95 plus $3.00 S&H.
Send check or money order for $21.95 to Fred Taylor, PO Box 215, Crystal
River, FL 34423.
Fred and Gail Taylor's dvd, "IDENTIFICATION OF OLDER & ANTIQUE FURNITURE", ($17.00 + $3.00 S&H) and a bound compilation of the first 60 columns
of "COMMON SENSE ANTIQUES by Fred Taylor" ($25.00 + $3.00
S&H) are also available at the same address. For more information
call (800)387-6377, fax (352)563-2916, or e-mail email@example.com.