Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 3, Issue 6
   July 2009
   Creating Furniture From Architectural Finds

When a small corner of the world is shaped precisely as we wish, a magical feeling happens—a feeling of enchantment. This is the feeling I get each time I build a piece of furniture using the miscellaneous bits of architectural salvage that I feature in my designs. I find myself enchanted by both the process and the end result.

Salvaged door
This less-than-beautiful architectural find is transformed into an attractive table.

In my shop, old doors, windows and hardware are staples. Let me explain. After deciding it was time to do something that I had always been interested in, but of which I had little experience or knowledge, I enrolled in a heritage carpentry program at a local college. I intended to work at restoring some of the lovely old properties in Ottawa, Ontario, where I live. Maybe that was a little naïve considering the amount of work it entailed, so I scaled my aspirations down a bit. I turned my attention to salvaging and using the doors and windows from vintage buildings, which hold a special appeal to me. I appreciate the craftsmanship of each piece. There is something romantic about the old-time carpenter toiling with hand tools and fitting each door and window without the aid of modern conveniences such as air nailers and power miter saws. Doors were of any and every size, whether they were little cellar doors or grand old entrance doors. Nails were crude by today's standards, and the only screws around were those frustrating slot-heads. As glass was usually mail ordered in the 1800s, windows were smaller and, depending on the technique used in its manufacture, a lot of the glass was either wavy or bubbly. I consider these imperfections to be character-defining elements and try to incorporate them into my designs. Also, I have been a recycler from way back, so what better way to incorporate my environmental awareness with my newfound woodworking ability?

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