Row your Boat

I’ve got to tell you.  I love taking something that has been or is about to be discarded and making something useful.  I find great purpose in giving the outcast a new chance at life, or finding the seemingly useless and repurposing it to something cherished and loved again.   This is why I started the Southern Reclaimed Wood Co.   I also love it when something surprises me in a totally unexpected way and I look at things a little differently afterward.  I cherish it when those two elements of life come together and transform something already beautiful, into something profound.  

I recently had the opportunity to completely dismantle an old garage.  Yes, an old garage.  You might wonder “why an old garage?” Well, this was not just any old garage it was really more of an old storage building next to a cute little cottage style home in downtown Southern Pines.  It’s an old property that was built in the 1920’s back when construction materials were solid wood and sturdy.  It was a time when craftsmen still abounded in the home building business.  This particular home was staying put and getting a face lift but the storage building was being demolished to make way for the construction of a new home next door.  You see, though this home was owned by one person, it sat on two lots and the storage shed was on the property line between the two and thus had to go.  The house sold and the second lot became highly desired by a local resident wanting a lot near the coveted down town block of quaint little Southern Pines.  

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I was called in at the time when the lot was being sold and my close friend doing the renovation on the original home let me know his plans to remove the structure.  He said a bulldozer would be in on Monday and I had the weekend to remove as much wood as I could get out.  I quickly jumped on the opportunity once I had the chance to inspect it.  I found a considerable amount of useable lumber for a small operator like myself.  Old pine!  Yes, it was built with old yellow pine studs and flat sawn pine tongue and grove siding.   Very nice stuff and most was in great shape.  There was a metal façade on the exterior which had helped preserve the wood to some degree.  The building was approximately twenty feet long by fourteen feet wide and stood sixteen feet tall and the peak. 

I started the removal process and targeted the highest value woods first.  The removal took approximately ten hours total but I ended up with a really nice pile of fine old pine wood with minimal bug damage, or nail damage.  The construction of the structure was so impressive.  It was not more than a simple storage shed yet the nails were precisely spaced and meticulously well placed to insure a very stable and long life.  A feat it achieved with dignity considering that the first three to four feet of the whole building had been attacked by termites at one point in history.  Fortunately the bugs were long and I didn’t have to deal with them today.  

Well, my first project with this wood came really quick.  I have some friends from Church who are expecting their first child.  They have a little boy in on the way and they were looking at decorations for the baby’s room.   I was asked to make them a boat shaped set of shelves.  We emailed about dimensions and once we found a  reasonable style, I was off and running.   

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I was initially excited about this project for the mere fact that I have long dreamt of making a wood strip canoe for my own family and secondly I have always thought that for our first child I would love to make a fun and unique piece of furniture for his or her room.  The intrinsic rewards were two fold already so I quickly jumped on the project with great enthusiasm.      

As the project unfolded I was finding the rich colors of the old pine siding to be very favorable to a natural finish.  The boards, though rough in some areas, produced a vibrant amber and red wood tone that only comes from the years of crystallization in the sappy wood of the pine.  This coloring and wood grain was absolutely beautiful and got me more excited each time I turned on the sander or ripped another stud. 

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I had to design the size and shape from my own imagination and from looking at pictures.  I have never seen a boat shelf as large as this one was going to be and the shape needed to be realistic to an actual boat.  I played around with the angles but also incorporated some of the knowledge I’d retained from reading about the wood strip boat building and watching youtube on the subject.   Also, the plan had been for my customer to paint the whole thing, but I started to think that it might look better with a natural wood interior with a flat white hull.  So I took some liberties and my artistic nature took over despite what they told me.  

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Well, the boat shelf came together really nice.  I learned a few things for when I will be making my own wood strip canoe some day and this was now another project in the books.  I needed to arrange for delivery so I texted Jarrod, my friend and customer on this project.  When I received a reply message he said he was surprised that I was finished.  They are still three months away from delivery and had just that weekend finished painting the baby’s room.   I must admit that I did jump the gun a bit.  It was so much fun, my wife was out of town and it was my only project in the shop.  

 Jarrod and his wife, Faith, were on their way over to pick it up.   I started to get a little nervous.  I ended up making it a little taller than they expected and I had painted the whole exterior a white color called “Dogwood Blossom” which they did not ask for either.  I wasn’t sure they would like it like I did and I realized that I was having so much fun building it that I’d forgotten to consider that it was a special order. 

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When they arrived I took them to the shop and they both just stood there in front of the shelves.  Faith just stared at it with blankness in her face.  Jarrod kind of looked at me and then back at the shelf.   My heart sank; I started to explain why I painted it in a bit of a panic, thinking they must be surprised at the color and not really sure about it.  Then Faith turned and I saw tears in her eyes.  She apologized for getting emotional but said it was exactly what she had envisioned then corrected herself and said it was even more than what she expected.  They loved the color and agreed completely that the natural wood would likely stay natural.  To my hearts joy they loved it!  

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As Jarrod and I loaded the boat shelf into the back of his truck we talked about their pregnancy.    He shared that it had been a long road for them and they had been trying for two years.  I shared with him that we had also been trying for two years and that we’d just recently had a letdown in our efforts when we experienced our first miscarriage.   I explained to him that in my excitement when I first found out we were pregnant I started planning wood projects to make for our baby’s room.  I wanted to make a bassinet and had even started pulling special pieces of wood.   When the miscarriage happened I put all that away…… but now, for some reason, I think I need to pull it back out and get started on it anyway.   

Something lost, something reclaimed, something shared, something hopeful….

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