I have often been asked how I got started building furniture (and especially harvest tables) out of reclaimed wood. Well I actually began building benches and then progressed from there.
The rough farm bench has historically been the single most requested piece of primitive furniture at Shady Lawn Antiques.
These benches are not easy for me to find. When I do find them they are dirty, rough, splintery, loose, and are stained by paint and/or oil.
I did so much repair work on each bench that it was essentially the same as building one. When I couldn’t find enough old benches, I began building them out of reclaimed wood.
Fifteen years ago I sold these benches (and a whole line of other items) at the Walla Walla Farmer’s Market. A couple admired my benches and asked me if I could build a table to go with them. I agreed to build them one and told them that if they didn’t like it they didn’t have to buy it.
They loved the table and that was the beginning of a line of tables and benches that I build out of reclaimed wood.
The majority of my pieces are made from historic barn-wood.
The long relatively narrow Harvest Table is an iconic piece of Walla Walla County farm furniture. These tables were knocked together from whatever old wood was available and handy at the time. They were used to feed harvest crews that worked the fields back in the 1800s and 1900s. There was nothing special about their construction and after harvest they were knocked apart as quickly as they were knocked together in the first place.
Therefore there are none of these harvest tables around.
The Shady Lawn harvest tables are similar in construction and style to the tables found on local farms.
I even use the old style slot-headed screws that are aged to look old.
The table tops are sanded just enough to be flat without removing all of the old saw marks and character. A smooth satin varnish finish is then applied to the tables.
Over the past several years I have begun to re-purpose old metal carts and tables acquired from farms and factories.
The metal bases are cleaned and are then clear coated to prevent rust or old paint from flaking off. Cart or table tops are fashioned from reclaimed wood and are finished like the harvest table tops.
A future column will be devoted to a description of the barn wood used in my creations.
Dave Emigh is the owner of Shady Lawn Antiques and is a fifth generation ‘Walla Wallan’. He writes about antiques and life in the ‘Valley of the Two Wallas’ on his blog: www.wallawallalocal.wordpress.com.