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Nostalgia, Part Deux…

November 28, 2014

Pallet Wood Circa 1972

Pallet Wood Circa 1972

My maternal grandfather and I shared the same birthday. He was also a hobbyist woodworker, so that’s two things we have in common. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was very little, so I don’t really have any memories of him, just pictures and stories.

I don’t have any of his tools, either; I’m not really sure what happened to them, but maybe I have something just as good. I grew up playing with things he made for me and my older brother – a workbench made out of recycled maple pallet wood (oh, wait… is THAT where I got this infatuation with reclaimed wood?) and 6” cubes hand-painted with letters and numbers in several fonts (he was an artist by trade), also made out of reclaimed maple pallet wood, with storage trays. The subsequent generation of kids still uses all of these items when they visit the farm. The workbench is too light and not quite sturdy enough for actual woodworking, but it has served well as an art table for 4 decades, a good indication of my grandfather’s skills.

Down in my mom’s kitchen, in the cabinet below the sink, is a walnut and maple cutting board. Painted on the underside, still present after all these years, is the phrase, “DO NOT SOAK”. It, too, was made by my grandpa and apparently we’ve done a good job of heeding his words, because after 40-some years of weekly use, it is still in good condition – another testament to his abilities.

I only know of one other thing he made that is still around. About the same time he made the blocks and workbench and cutting board, he added a 7’6” counter top to the kitchen of the 100 year old farmhouse I grew up in. It, too, was made out of reclaimed maple pallet wood (I guess the pallets back then were made with better lumber than they are now). Unfortunately, it didn’t hold up to the water and abuse of kitchen life quite as well as the cutting board did; my younger brother recently removed it and replaced it with a newer one.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m a sucker for nostalgia. So when I found out the counter was still in one piece and sitting in storage, I thought I might try and resurrect it, putting it back to work in my shop.

Freshly Rescued And Wiped Down...

Freshly Rescued And Wiped Down…

I rescued it from the machine shed (I don’t know about other farms, but on ours every out building has a unique name – potting shed, tool shed, grainery, old chicken coop, machine shed, and so on…) and cleaned it up. Once again, I transformed my versatile Venza into a small moving van and I was able to haul it up to my house. It stayed in the garage for a few months until last weekend, when my need for more space in the garage coincided with an increased motivation to get some storage built in the shop. During the little man’s nap, I quietly maneuvered the 7.5’ behemoth into my lair…

A Bit Of Water Damage...

A Bit Of Water Damage…

I have a somewhat uncomplicated plan for a base that involves 4”x4” Douglas Fir posts for the legs and some clear 2×4 material from the box store, all of which has been acclimating in the shop for several months. As you might see in the pictures, I have some issues with the top to deal with, as well – a split towards the left end and some glue joints that have come undone need to be repaired. I’m not totally sure how I’m going to go about fixing them just yet; I was thinking of shoring up the bottom with a few battens and then filling in any gaps with some epoxy. I don’t need this to be a rock solid workbench; I need a relatively flat work area where I can make notes, work on drawings and project ideas, set my coffee cup, and store some tools and fixtures and jigs underneath.

Mostly, I want to take something my grandpa made and give it new life. I want a reminder, every time I walk into the shop, of what came before me.

I think my grandpa might have liked that, too.


8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2014 4:30 pm

    Wonderful story.
    Not being a grandfather, but having been a father for 28 years, I’m sure your grandfather would appreciate that your family is still using the things he made for you.


    • November 28, 2014 4:44 pm

      Thanks for the comment! I’ll be sure and keep the camera handy while I’m getting it built and post an update of my progress.


  2. November 28, 2014 5:04 pm

    Such a wonderful post! That connection with previous generations that we can experience through maintaining the craft is so important (and something I’ve written about a couple if times).

    Looking forward to reading about how you go about using this kitchen counter!


    • November 29, 2014 12:08 am

      Thank you for the kind words, Kieran! I hope to make some progress on it this weekend; I’ll be sure and post an update!



  3. corgicoupe permalink
    November 28, 2014 10:06 pm

    I think you should consider butterfly inserts rather than battens
    Bob Newman


    • November 29, 2014 12:23 am

      Bob, that’s an interesting thought. So pull the joints tight with some clamps and then keep them tight with the butterfly patches, right? The top itself is only 5/8″ thick; I suspect 1/4″ thick patches would work.

      And, of course, I’d have to use walnut, right? I have some reclaimed walnut barnwood I picked up from a local source about eight or so years ago; that might work. Or I have some smaller pieces of walnut scrap I got from my little brother, who works in a cabinet shop.. Either way, I have it covered.

      Thanks for the suggestion!



  4. November 30, 2014 6:14 pm

    I think the butterfly inserts are a great idea. Great story!



  1. Nostalgia, Part Trois… | thekiltedwoodworker

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