Today has been an eventful day.
I started my morning by heading up to the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood to meet with a couple clients to go over an upcoming build, a custom steel & wood coffee table. Normally, a quick site visit and get-together with clients isn't all that big of a deal...but not all site visits take place in houses on private streets with insanely ornate gates, or on land that was surveyed by the lead engineer for Forest Park, or in neighborhoods designated as city landmarks.
It's the kind of place where, if it's not something you're entirely used to, you drive past the gates a few times to 1, make sure you're even allowed to go through them and 2, that your car will actually fit.
Those gates (and houses), they still very much exist. And while they were certainly not designed with 21st century vehicles in mind, I was able to squeeze mine through.
The desired coffee table, it's going to be fairly comparable to some that I've built in the past: steel frame, wood top, wood lower shelf. The design consideration driving the wood choice is color; the room the coffee table will go in is relatively formal, and the idea - I think - is to warm it up a bit with some pieces that have a little character. The desired wood color is one that is typically only found in lumber that Mother Nature has beaten on for a little while, and given my experience with reclaimed wood, I think we'll be able to come up with a suitable material.
Following the site visit, because I was so close to my favorite steel yard, I went ahead and picked up the necessary steel, 1.25" square steel tube, for the build.
If I remember correctly, my phone said it'd be a 9-minute drive from the client's house to the steel yard, pretty much a straight shot north on Union Blvd, a street that dates back to the Civil War. It was an interesting 9-minute drive; one of the common sayings about St. Louis is that you can go a handful of blocks from any point in the city and experience the best of the best, while going a handful of blocks the other direction will take you to the worst of the worst. Sometimes that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not when driving north from DeBaliviere Place: 9 minutes is more than enough time for the scenery to change from private streets and mansions to blight and despair. Given that - a long time ago - I spent a few years in the city planning field, those scenery changes always sort of fascinate me.
Anyhow, I wound up at Shapiro Metal Supply, and I'm still enough of a novice when it comes to metalwork that I get pretty excited to go look through all the metal they sell, and dream up stuff that could be built with it.
With the steel picked up, I headed back to the shop so I could send some wood sample pics over to the coffee table client. I have a handful of various species of wood laying around the shop, and rather than guess as to what the client wants...it's best just to present some options and go from there.
This is when I made a bit of an unexpected discovery.
I figured I'd send over a few sample oak pics: weathered grey, unweathered brown/tan, something in-between. When digging around for the "something in-between", I cut off a chunk of what I thought was a 2x8, reclaimed oak barn joist and started dressing it up a bit (sanding, poly, etc.).
A while back, I came across a guy selling barn lumber really, really close to the shop. I bought as much as I could afford - with no purpose for any of it at that point - just because it was good stuff and, in the rarest of rare situations, only a couple miles away. The wood was pretty dirty so it was tough to identify it, but it looked like oak, the guy said it was oak, and more times than not, around St. Louis, barns were made with oak. So I assumed it was oak.
The piece of wood was definitely a 2x8, and it most likely came from an old barn (if the guy I bought it from is to be believed), and there are pretty good odds that it was a joist of some type. But oak? Not at all.
I'm still not 100% sure that I know what it is, but the more I research the subject, the more I think that it's chestnut, a species of tree that's borderline extinct (there was some kind of chestnut blight in the early 1900s that wiped out the chestnut tree population). American Chestnut, to be exact, otherwise known as Wormy Chestnut. If it is in fact Wormy Chestnut...I stumbled upon some REALLY cool lumber. Makes me wish I'd have bought more of it.
So...the day included mansions, beaux-arts gates, blight, steel and what I think/hope is Wormy Chestnut. Normally, I'd say that a Monday this unusual and adventurous just means that the rest of the week will pale in comparison...except that today I was also able to finalize plans to deconstruct and salvage, later this week, the lumber from this little meat curing building...
...should be a pretty fun week.