Food is one of our growing passions—if the number of cookery books and television programs is anything to go by—and the social importance of family meals is widely recognized, yet how much thought do we give to the presentation of the daily eating ritual? Making the table look as exciting as the dishes themselves takes just a little thought and effort, and here we suggest one idea to rejuvenate roof slates to make easy but chic replacements for melamine mats bearing images of Big Ben and the leaning tower of Pisa. These slate mats will give your table a new, crisp image, and by scouring skips parked outside properties in the process of being reroofed, demolished or restored, you are sure to find enough slates to make up a table setting for ten or more.
If raiding skips is not your style, another source of old roofing slate is your nearest reclamation yard. The slate will have suffered from exposure to wind, rain, snow and pollution, but it is still desirable. Newly cut slate can be purchased from any flooring contractor, tile shop or builders' merchant, where you will be faced with a mind-boggling choice of colour, size and thickness.
Damaged or chipped roofing slates can be cut down to the required size and the underside covered in felt or baize to protect the table surface. Once cleaned and polished, the slate's inherent insulating qualities, combined with its practical wipe-clean surface, make it a smart table accessory to be admired (and no doubt copied) when you next decide to hold a dinner party.
• Tape measure
• Straight edge
• Marking point or sharp nail
• Slate ripper
• Electric sander (optional)
• Medium-grade glass- or emery paper
• 12 mm (1/2 in) paintbrush
• Glue brush
• Eight roof slates, overall size approx. 40 x 30 cm (16 x 12 in)
• Four larger roof slates, overall size approx. 50 x 35 cm (20 x 14 in)
• Satin finish or floor-grade varnish
• Approx. 2 sq. m (2-1/2 sq. yd) baize or felt
• Rubberized glue
The materials above are sufficient to make a set of eight table mats and four centre mats. Adjust measurements as necessary according to the size of roof slates available. Also bear in mind the size of the table on which they will be placed.
Safety note: We advise that you wear safety glasses or goggles when using any mechanical sanding equipment. Rubber or protective gloves are also recommended for this project.
1 Select your slates carefully, rejecting any that are splitting, are too irregular in shape or have enlarged nail holes. Measure the slates from a good end and score a line across each width with the marking point or sharp nail. Use the slate ripper to cut slates to size, being careful to keep the cut edge as straight as possible. We suggest that the 40 x 30 cm (16 x 12 in) slates are cut down to 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 in) and the 50 x 35 cm (20 x 14 in) slates are cut down to 35 x 25 cm (14 x 11 in).
2 All hand-split and cut slates have one face that is usually flat whilst the other has a chipped bevelled edge. The face with the bevelled edge will be the top of your place mat. Use pliers to trim the cut edge and the original edges to remove any loose material, matching the original bevelled edges if possible. Remove any loose material from both faces and finish with glass- or emery paper, either by hand or using a sander, taking care not to score the top surface too heavily. Wash each slate carefully in running water and leave to dry.
3 When both surfaces are dry, paint with two coats of satin finish or floor-grade varnish, covering any indentations and the bevelled edges. Leave to dry.
4 Cut twelve pieces of baize or felt 12 mm (1/2 in) smaller all round than the size of the slates. Brush rubberized glue onto the underside of the slates and fit the baize or felt onto the bottom surface; this will prevent your table mats scratching the table surface.
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Excerpted from Recycle! by Moira & Nicholas Hankinson. Excerpted by permission of Kyle Cathie Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.