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Making Space, Part 2

June 24, 2016

I spent about three hours throwing around boxes of tools and lumber the other night. It didn’t feel like I made much progress, unfortunately, but I have to remind myself it will feel like that at first and I just need to keep plugging away.

I’ve decided the first order of business is to get a proper workbench made. The workbench will be the foundation upon which everything else is built, both literally and figuratively speaking. As previously mentioned, I have acquired lumber for several different benches (now down to two). One group of lumber consists of reclaimed heart pine from a local barn. The beams have been planed to even thicknesses, but they aren’t jointed well so it will take some work to get them to glue-up point. These were the pieces I’d set aside for my workbench.

Bench Lumber 03

An old picture of the barn beams in my now-gone workshop.

The other bench is one I was planning on making for my son. But what I might do is make his first and then after I’ve organized the shop spaces a bit more and have the room to maneuver the unwieldy barn beams, I’ll build the second one. One of the reasons I want to build the smaller one first is because the top is mostly done; it will be just two pieces of wood that are already mostly flat and surfaced on one face. With limited shop time, the more I can do to save time, the better.

Checkerdome Slab 05

Three slabs of old growth Douglas Fir courtesy of the Checkerdome!

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love wood with character and history. I love wood that can tell me a story. These are sections of Douglas Fir ceiling joists from the old St. Louis Checkerdome. My friend (Scott Wunder, of Wunderwoods, by the way) who secured the reclaimed heart pine beams for me is the same one who had these sections of Douglas Fir in his lumberyard (he mills lumber as part of his woodworking business). I saw them and immediately visualized a bench top. The only problem is they are just 6’ long, which is a bit shorter than what I wanted for my workbench. But it would make a great bench for my budding woodworker son.

Checkerdome Slab 04

A little short, but look at that tight grain!

Built in 1929, the Checkerdome’s original purpose was as a livestock hall. But over the years it had been home to the St. Louis Blues and the St. Louis Steamers (soccer or, rather, proper football) and hosted monster truck shows, circuses, and figure skaters. And concerts. Lots of concerts. About 500 or so, between 1967 and 1994, including Performances by Prince, Queen, The Who, Van Halen, and so on. Billy Joel reported that the acoustics were pretty terrible in the place. I don’t doubt it! It was a livestock hall; sheep don’t need to hear their own bleating!

Old Checkerdome

Unfortunately, it’s time had passed. Leaking expense and upkeep costs like a sieve, a series of 70 explosive charges rocketed through the Checkerdome on February 27th, 1999, bringing it down on itself. I’m not really sure if the beams were removed prior to the explosion in order to help bring it down or if they were removed from the rubble (and maybe that’s why they are only six feet long). The long edges on them are not parallel, so they will need some slight trimming to square them up.

Old Checkerdome Imploding 01

But with just a few cuts of a (borrowed) Festool circular saw, I’ll be able to join one of the larger pieces, at 15” wide, with a 6” wide section of the smaller one, giving me a 21” wide top.  Keeping with the recycled theme, the legs and stretchers will come from some old Kubota tractor pallets I salvaged many (15?) years ago. They are some unknown species of pine, 3.5″ square, and averaging about 5′ long.

Pallet Legs 05

I should be able to cut around the bad parts and have enough for legs and stretchers.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the other pieces from the Checkerdome. Technically, I guess I could make a second workbench top. Or the top for a joinery bench. Or I guess if I really wanted to, I could double it all up and have a top that is just a little narrower (20”) but 6” thick!

Now there’s an idea…

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2016 6:08 pm

    The best part of those beams….you are now part of the story.

    Like

  2. June 25, 2016 8:44 pm

    Glad your back, Great wood and great history lesson, Looking forward to the build.

    Like

  3. June 27, 2016 8:09 pm

    Glad to see you finally found a use for that timber!

    Liked by 1 person

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