For the most part as a craftsman, you rarely get to design and create projects completely to your own liking. There’s this little thing called “The Owner” that is contracting you for their future piece. Surprisingly, they nearly always have an opinion about how it “should look”. I’m teasing… They always do 😉
Now don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate these heroes for supporting my life. Heroes? Well, how else could I justify buying fancy designer dust making machines? Or the fire breathing, steel bending types that can take a limb off faster than the pants you’d then need to change?… These Heroes allow me to play with these machines everyday. So thank you!
But — every once in awhile, we get a project that our imagination can run away with. This happens to be one of those times.
A couple years ago we designed and built a tiny home. The first obstacle we faced was how to fit an entire livable home under 400 sq. ft. Nearly everything inside will need to be dual servicing. A bigger closet will just take away from the tiny living room or bathroom you already have. Ergonomic designs are a difficult thing to manifest quickly, and time was not a luxury. We delegated different aspects of the home between us and took off to the races. My favorite piece I worked on was the living room table.
Pretty spiffy, ya? I thought that was clever to make the table capable of cranking vertically, parallel to the wall, now allowing you to walk within the tiny home in a more open layout.
Like those gears? Pretty massive for a tiny home. Those suckers are closer rated to lifting the whole house than just this table. Which leads us to the next obstacle. Not only was this time sensitive, there was also a lean budget. Buying new gears, chains and the other hundred parts you’d need to build this as ergonomic as possible were just out of the question. What wasn’t out of the question, was the boneyard! I forgot to mention we built this tiny home on a vineyard out in Prosser, Wa.
This boneyard was absolutely beautiful! Countless years of retired rusty no good tractors and every other machine once used to develop this land. Sitting there year after year, storm after storm. Paint chipping, rusting away with each season changing the patina every shade of red. On a side note, if you can’t get ahold of any of us for an extended amount of time, it’s most likely we just discovered a new (and by new I mean old, really old) boneyard. We love them! they hold stories, such of blood and sweat. Tools that made many farmers way of life. Tools they relied on to sustain their farm and families. Most of their equipment was very expensive. Maintained each season in hopes to make it through another. Yet they always reach that point where it’s no longer worth the headache replacing that part again and finally replace her. Casting her to the boneyard, and this boneyard was full of stories.
One of the many lessons that the Ol’ man has taught us kids is creativity within our work; often found when “the plan” reaches a standstill. Going into a project, we still have a rough plan of how to build it. Like anyone that tries anything, it doesn’t always work out as it should. Try harder, smash it in, force it.
I had a boat trailer winch that I was forcing to work as my lifting and weight distribution mechanism. I just didn’t have the proper equipment with me to make it work the way I wanted. I next find myself wandering the depths of the boneyard and stumble across an old fertilizer spreader (the big gear up top, attached to the axle). The handle was a similar score. It had an old stop mechanism preventing a slip, and from the whole table top hitting someone on the head.
The next issue was mounting it to the wall. I must have spent over an hour searching for a slightly larger metal tubing to fit overtop of the handle rod servicing as a type of pillow block (like the one above, mounting the axle to the metal trailer). Getting more frustrated by the minute not finding such a simple item, Pops reminds me of thinking outside of the box rather than forcing. He simply finds two thick chunks of hard maple and drills the proper size hole for the handle rod to slip threw and lags them straight to the wall. Perfect. Well, not yet. “Everything is old and rusty, this white maple wood looks too new, lets torch it and throw some lacquer on it”! If I forced that boat winch to work, this table would look nothing like it turned out. Instead we were able to reuse old equipment that was once thought to be useless and past its life.
It certainly is not easier to sand, grind and grease these parts back to life, but when you sit down to have breakfast in the morning, you look up and see the parts and the stories of how that spreader fertilized my crops for fifteen years. A tool well worth its value is now servicing me yet again as I eat my meals that it likely once fertilized. That emotion is not something you can simply buy. This is one of the main reason why the reclaimed style is our favorite when making furniture. It’s why we get lost in boneyards, countless “could be” pieces shooting through our heads. Collecting our favorite rusty items to our own boneyard that has now grown bigger than most we look through, full of “could be” furniture. This blog was about a table, yet was more telling of our love of boneyards.