It’s been almost 4 years since I quit my previous job, a bittersweet. I worked for a garbage/recycle trucking company, which gave me access to many glorious finds.
One of these finds were 100+ year old, nearly petrified, Douglas Fir planks. One of the buildings in the downtown Nanaimo area was being torn down, also a bittersweet. While I can’t remember which building it was, I do know that it was the last standing building which survived TWO city wide fires on Vancouver Island – the planks I received were the floor boards.
Each board was over 2 1/2″ thick, over 7 1/2″ wide and nearly 11′ long – the worst part is that each board had to be cut in half to fit into the recycle bins, meaning each board was 22+ feet long. Either way, 11′ long boards were amazing to me!
These boards were so old that they nails still stuck in them, were the old square stamped nails. If you’re not into anything reclaimed, or wood in general, I’m sorry you can’t quite appreciate the glory of this find.
There were approximately 200+ (total guess) boards that came from this building. Normally, everything would get sorted and the wood would be chipped up, but that would have been a travesty! I pulled every single board out, one by one, and placed them aside. When the owner of the company came by, he gasped in shock at the find. Thankfully he let me take a few!
It took me all of one second to decide I would be building a table to last for generations. Six boards made the table an easy 4′ wide, and my wife would only permit an 8′ long table (obviously still large).
At the time I owned a two door Honda Civic Si, so I made several trips, carrying only six boards at a time (my poor car!!!). I finally got them all home though, and the planning began. I knew exactly what I wanted, but I knew nothing about woodworking (well that’s a lie, but I certainly wasn’t skilled).
So, I planned how to join each board together since I didn’t have a jointer. Even if I did have one, there’s absolutely no way I could managed this on my own. Each board was an easy 50, 60 or 70+ pounds. I would have had to set up multiple stands, both in and outfeed, just to join it. My solution? I bought a belt sander and went to town.
I’m getting ahead of myself. First I had to remove all the nails, this took a few days (no joke). The wood was beyond hard, that the nails were not coming out. I broke off nails and bent a hammer. So instead I straightened the nails, as best as I could, and I hit them INTO the wood, yup. That was the only thing I could think of.
My next step was to sand each edge that would be joined together, this also took a few days. I also had to periodically stop, so I could hit the nails in further, as I tore a few sandpapers that way.
Next step was to lay the boards together and line them up. I drew a chalk line across the boards (width) approximately 12″ apart. Each board then had a 1″ hole drilled in place, to accept a dowel. This, in my thinking anyway, was to help keep the boards lined up, assisted with keeping the boards tight together (as they were also filled with glue), and to provide some rigidity once table top (vertical) pressure was applied.
Once the glue dried, I snapped another chalk line to cut the ends flush. I almost destroyed my circular doing this, as the wood was just so strong!
Next I needed to figure out how to flatten this beast. After many hours sifting the internet, I came across Nick Offerman’s router sled. The jig itself wasn’t so hard to complete, however, doing one that had 10 foot rails was quite tricky. Also, all garages have a slight grade to drain any water. This meant I had to PERFECTLY level my actual table, as well as the jig – THIS WAS SOOOOOOO NOT EASY!! You’d think a few shims and away you go, nope, not even close.
I set up my jig and blew up my router. Seriously. So I bought a new one. I ended up buying a 3 1/4 horse power Titan router – this thing was a monster. Also, it didn’t fit the sled I built, being that it was so much bigger. So I built a new one. But I had to use some serious material and bracing, as the router itself was heavy and the width was 48″ – any sagging would destroy my table. Suffice to say, several months later, I finally figured it out. This was all done during evenings and weekends.
It took many, many, many passes with the router to level the top. I then had to flip it over and do the same on the other side. I was so covered in dust and I’m allergic to it on top of that -but it was all worth it!
Hours and hours of sanding and more sanding, a few layers of oil and lacquer (at least I think I used lacquer, I actually don’t remember) and my table was complete. Now for the legs.
I used Fir legs as well, both legs were just raw cut tree. They were squared using a chain saw and then flattened, all six sides (just imagine the amount of work that went in to this please. I had to set up the legs, position the jig and have everything 100% true – six times for each leg, twelve in total) before being fitted to the top.
Here’s the underside of the table. Those four braces provide a little more rigidity (okay I get it, I went over board!). If I had to guess, I’d say with the legs included, my table is easily over 1,000 lbs. My mover’s hated me.
Here;s my youngest taking her first steps, on the table I built. So many good memories. I had ten boards left. My plan was to make a bench for one side, four chairs for the other side and a “King and Queen” chair (for me and my wife).
Big goals right? I was willing to put the time in. BUT…I changed careers. My new career meant I had to move. I cannot afford a house in this new city, as the average house price is $1,000,000. I have no garage. I had to store everything in a shed I bought. I held out for as long as I could, but all of my tools are now beginning to rust and the wood will go bad.
So here’s my sad truth: I put up my wood for sale on craigslist today. I had so many immediate responses. I parted ways with the remainder of my wood. And I cried a little bit inside. But they are going to a better home now and will become part of someone else’s dream.
I’m saddened even further as I will be cataloging and selling all of my wood working tools as well. I will cry even more. I just don’t have the space or the ability to use them anymore.
So long good friends, you will be missed…:(