I don't normally get real personal with this blog, but for a number of reasons I spent the better part of today at home, sitting on the couch watching whatever was on TV, and accomplishing very little. Normally, a day "off" like that during the week would drive me nuts.
But as is the case more times than I sometimes admit or recognize, there are more important things - sometimes - than working. Today was one of those days.
Today I got a new roof put on the house. The old one was trash, and with water coming through the ceiling in my bedroom after the last heavy rain we got, it was (very obviously) time for a roof replacement. Having a bunch of roofers climbing all over the house isn't reason enough to not get any work done, but there were some mitigating circumstances.
And by "mitigating circumstances" I mean Roscoe, my 6-year-old dog.
I've had Roscoe since he was about 6 weeks old, and when I got him I was told that he was a lab/Rottweiler mix. As it turns out, he's about 98% lab and 2% Rottweiler. We've been on more adventures together than I could ever begin to count. We've spent a LOT of time together, and as a result (make no mistake, allowing him to occasionally eat pizza and ice cream doesn't hurt), he's fiercely loyal, obedient and maybe more than anything else, protective of me, the house, and everything in it. That protective part, that's the 2% of the time when he's very Rottweiler-ish. When he hears noises - voices, car doors, etc. - outside and close to the house, he growls like it's his job.
Today, with people climbing up ladders and bouncing all over the roof, and then the nail guns...he laid in his guard-the-house spot on the couch and growled, intermittently, pretty much all day long. I don't mind the growling - it's in his genes to be a "guard dog" - and trying to keep him quiet would have been a losing battle. Had I left the house and gone to work in the general contracting field, or had I gone to the shop or garage and spent my time there building furniture, he'd have been fine, but I didn't like the thought of him being worked up all day long. So...I spent the day on the couch, right next to Roscoe, listening to all the commotion outside (and Roscoe growling), and doing my best to let him know that I was going to weather the noise storm with him.
After the roofers left, I headed to the shop to deal with a coffee table build. I got the coffee table frame all welded up yesterday, and it turned out pretty well. I cleaned up a few welds today, and added a few for good measure, and then turned my attention to the barn wood being used for the top of the coffee table as well as a lower "shelf" of sorts.
I really enjoy working with any kind of reclaimed material; there's something extremely satisfying about giving new life to something that might otherwise be discarded, as well as in trying to figure out how to make the material usable without getting rid of all the character that makes the material unique and desirable in the first place.
Of course, until the satisfaction part...there's usually a lot of frustration.
Most of the time, especially with barn wood, the lumber is twisted, warped, cupped, bowed, crooked, damaged, rotten...you name it, it's the polar opposite of "perfect". In some applications, those imperfections are tolerable. For example, in an accent wall application, one can generally get away with leaving the imperfections as-is (within reason), as they add character and visual interest. But for something more structural in nature, like a tabletop...things can get tricky.
If I'm building a table out of, say, brand new walnut, the surface of the wood looks the exact same as it does 1/4" below the surface. If I go to my hardwood guy, buy a bunch of walnut and it needs significant milling to get the boards flat, straight, square, etc., I can use any number of tools - jointer, planer, bench plane, table saw, etc. - to remove as much material as I want without sacrificing anything in the way of how the lumber will look. This is definitely not the case with barn wood; the top 1/16" or so - complete with old saw blade marks, rusty nail holes, ghost marks where an old hinge or piece of lumber covered up a portion of the board, etc. - is what most people requesting barn wood want, and once you cut away any more than that top 1/16", barn wood looks just like any other piece of brand new lumber you can buy off the shelf somewhere.
Unfortunately, more times than not, the lumber is twisted or cupped or bowed or whatever - out of square and shaped more like a banana than anything flat - by way more than 1/16". Therein lies the challenge when using reclaimed lumber to build something like a table top, which needs to be relatively flat and sturdy: figuring out the bare minimum amount of lumber that needs to be cut or shaved to yield something usable, figuring out the maximum amount of "character" that can be cut away without losing the barn wood look and feel, and then figuring out which combination of tools can be used, and how they can be used, to connect the dots between those minimums and maximums.
When it's all done, it'll look great.
Until then...a little frustration.