Bethcakes, Breadboard Ends, Hand Tools, TableTop
Comments 10

A Photo Prop for my Daughter

My daughter Beth is a food writer. She got the food writing itch when she was a sophomore at the University of Alabama and developed an interest in baked goods, specifically, desserts. She launched her first blog and named it the Collegiate Baker. The idea was to document learning to bake using the somewhat run-down appliances that came with her dorm and later, her off-campus apartment. Upon graduation, she had to leave the college theme behind and started her current blog, Bethcakes.

One of the important skills when writing a food blog is styling photos. Beth learned that along with a luscious recipe, she needed equally luscious photos of the things she baked. Props are very important when styling photos – plates, silverware, etc.

A key prop is the table on which her photos are taken. Natural light is very desirable when snapping photos of tasty treats, so basically she has to use the kitchen table since it sits adjacent to a large bay window. The kitchen table is a dark stained oak, basic stuff; no quarter sawn white oak, no ray flake; just basic brown oak. She came to me wanting new table options. She envisioned a collection of surfaces with different woods and color. Such options would instantly add variety to her photos.

My solution to her request
I designed what is basically a painted tabletop in which both sides could be used. Beth chose the colors: white on one side and black on the other. One side would be smooth and the other would be more rustic. Due to the large size needed, the tabletop would have to be made in two sections which would be easier to move and easier to store when not in use.

One table top in two sections.

One table top in two sections.

The photo above shows the tabletop after the glue-up of eight pine boards. I routed a tiny cove where the various boards join together. The opposite side is the smooth side and to make it smooth, I got out my #4 smoothing plane.

The most fun I have had with a hand plane.

The most fun I have had with a hand plane.

Since I have been building mostly shop items lately (new router table, new miter saw stand), I have not had a recent opportunity to use my smoothing plane, especially with panels like this. It was a work out which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Since both panels were starting to warp, I decided to add bread board ends. I would need to add four of them.

One bread board end finished – three more to go. This was a tedious process, but my little block plane made it fun.

I learn what Shabby Chic is
The trendy paint treatment these days is Shabby Chic. When we vacationed near Seaside, Florida, I was surprised how many high-end shops had furniture featuring a distressed paint treatment. I now understand this is called Shabby Chic. My daughter specified this look to the painted surfaces of her tabletop. I came up with my own recipe:

  1. Stain the pine a medium brown.
  2. Cover the stain with chalk paint – the white took three coats.
  3. Distress the painted surface using a sander with 100 grit paper.
  4. Using a virtually dry brush, touch up distressed areas with paint as needed.
  5. Coat the surface with a clear protective finish.
Blending the paint after distressing.

Blending the paint after distressing.

The opposite side prior to paint blending.

The opposite side prior to paint blending.

Important in the distressing process is to blend the distressed areas by lightly brushing the exposed wood with a brush only slightly loaded with paint. The protective finish is Valspar clear flat sealer which is available in a spray can from Lowes. My daughter wanted a flat finish and this is the only one I found.

The result…

Beth is pretty good with a camera.

Beth is pretty good with a camera.

Beth creating homemade candles.

Beth creating homemade candles.

This was a quick and fun project; some of the furniture aspects of the construction may be a little over-kill (ex: hand planing, bread board ends) but I wanted to make it reasonably good quality. Beth and I have talked about some nicely grained wood for an additional tabletop or two, but this economy pine tabletop clocked in at $100 complete with paint, so we will have to save up some money to cover the cost of nice wood.

Oh, and the cupcakes were awesome! These are Champagne cupcakes; the icing actually has champagne in it, perfect for New Year Eve. If you are interested see Beth’s blog post with the recipe here.


  1. Jeff,
    That’s a great project for a great cause. Once we get around to an MWA convention, looks like we’ll have desert covered.

  2. Nice job with the distressed look, I would not have a clue how to accomplish it. Also your daughter has a nice bog, my daughter is looking at it now.

    • I have learned with paint treatments like this that you need to keep messing with it until it looks good. i have accidentally sanded through paint more than once working with other projects, so that was the beginning of the recipe.

  3. Pingback: Champagne Cupcakes with Pomegranate Champagne Frosting

  4. Pingback: 2013 in Review | Jeff Branch Woodworking

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