Burl Table

Waiting for wood to season is like waiting for a kettle to boil. Times 100,000,000.

I’ve been eyeing up this burl for years. And once I saw what the slices looked like, I HAD to build something with it. Immediately.

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Apparently bar-top epoxy is an impatient girl’s BFF.

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Each pour is the equivalent of 60 coats of poly. This burl table has been topped off twice and is as smooth as glass while sealing the burl.

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Burl Tables: LIMITED stock – let me know if you want to place an order with this precious tree. You’ll not only get a one of a kind piece but also help me manage my wood hoarding. Win-win.

The table pictured is a 20″ end table. Larger and taller tables can be ordered from the burl slabs pictured above!

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Posted in Reclaimed wood, rustic table, Wood slab

Bottle Bird Feeder

There was a glorious stretch of warm weather (50’s and 60’s) recently that melted all of the snow. The birds and I came out of hibernation mode. And, keeping with my basic instincts, I naturally had to feed the wildlife ASAP.  (I know they are probably worse off because I feed them. BUT. Can’t. Help. Myself.)

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The birdies were a bit confused as to how to get to the seed in the bottles. Some spent a concerning amount of time pecking at the glass bottle before finally figuring out where the food was coming out.

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These bird feeders are just downright fun to make from things found around the woods, in my shop, and in the recycling bin. The bottles easily slide out to fill with seed.

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I highly recommend putting bird feeders by a dirty window. Trust me. You’ll thank me later, unless I just have a bunch of groggy birds around these parts.

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Bottle Bird Feeders:  $25-$35 (food and birds are not included)

Posted in bird feeder, Reclaimed wood, rustic decor

Pallet rack w/ earring holder

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A modern twist on a classic pallet rack!  I got back to my roots a bit this week and repurposed some wooden pallets. Over the years, I’ve worked with pallets to transform them into wine racks, magazine holders, book racks, hat/scarf racks, bath racks, etc.  I lived and breathed pallets for a loooong time. So long that I started to lose interest in working with them. I even (gasp) burned some HT scraps instead of using them for signs. I KNOW.

Sometimes it requires stepping away from something to get a fresh perspective on it. Like the other day, I was lamenting to myself about the mess of tangled-up earrings and hair bands I store in a small dish.

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Yeah. Not pretty. And also not practical.

And then it hit me. By adding small dowel rods to a standard pallet rack, you can not only organize your earrings, bracelets, and necklaces, but also have designated spots for toiletries, nail polish, and much more.

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Posted in pallets, Reclaimed wood, rustic decor

Lincoln Log Bench

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I have a super power. For some odd reason, my brain automatically combines idioms. I don’t have to even think about it; it just happens. Not sure when it started, but it’s second nature to me now. When I consciously try to stop it, I can’t. And when I just let it go, I somehow combine two ideas/sentences/idioms and create some warped hybrid. For example, I’ll say, “I am beating around a dead horse.” People look at me, knowing some part of that sounds sort of true, but they can’t quite figure out where I botched it. Yeah, people. I get it. It baffles me as well.

I’m used to the weird look, followed by, “How the heck did you do that?”

I blink. Crap. A ‘Melanism’ must have struck again. “No idea.” I am no longer surprised when people ask me what country I grew up in.

It may be stretching it to call it a super power because I’m also quite aware that, when this happens, I sound like the offspring of Yoda and Dory.

This ‘trait’ of mine makes story telling…unique. It’s not my gifting. I am well-aware of my shortcomings. Doesn’t mean I stop trying, especially if I’m not afraid of potentially sounding dumb around someone.

“Hey, did you hear the story about the old eagle?” I said to a friend recently.  I went on to recall a story my mom told me about what happens to eagles when they get older. But as I recounted the story, my facts seemed a bit fuzzy. Even to me. And they blurred as each sentence droned on.

“And then the old eagle flies waaaaaaay high in the air and dive bombs down to the earth” (I’m certain by this point I’m looking about as crazy as I sound) “…and loses ALL of its feathers.” Wait. This doesn’t sound right. Think, Mel, think! Oh well. Gotta finish the story at this point. Just go with it! Wait, is this it? “And then it hides out on the mountain until the feathers grow back.” Big finish. “And THAT is why it’s called a bald eagle.”

Said friend bursts out laughing. “MEL. NO. That’s not accurate.”

I take some comfort in knowing that the original story passed on to me, while uplifting, was proven to be false.

This is the story my poor mom tried to drive home to me:

The eagle has the longest life-span of its species. It can live up to 70 years. But to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision. In its 40′s its long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food. Its long and sharp beak becomes bent. Its old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, become stuck to its chest and make it difficult to fly. Then, the eagle is left with only two options: die or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days. The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountaintop and sit on its nest. There the eagle knocks its beak against a rock until it plucks it out. After plucking it out, the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then it will pluck out its talons. When its new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its old-aged feathers. And after five months, the eagle takes its famous flight of rebirth and lives for 30 more years.

Yeah. I wasn’t even close.

While false, it still inspired me as I’ve been intentionally seeking renewal on this cold and quiet mountain. I’m doing what is instinctual right now because I have hope that I can finally, FINALLY be healthy from a 16-year battle with a disease that I have let rob me of so much life and happiness. Whether the facts of the story are fictional or my version of it is far from accurate, Psalm 91:4 holds a promise. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

I have benches scattered throughout the woods. From those vantage points, I have watched the eagles soar above the Battenkill valley in all four seasons. If there are more benches in the world, maybe more people will take the time to pause and see the beauty all around them.

So my current mission is to build more benches.

Mission accomplished. Now to figure out how to move this to its new home. How quickly I forget that I told myself I’d start building lighter pieces. Instead, I once again build something that resembles Lincoln Logs on steroids.

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A beautiful reclaimed wood slab treated with Waterlox, reclaimed rough walnut 4×4’s, and black walnut chainsawed logs make up this piece.

Sam tried running off with a log (really, Sampson, REALLY?) until I scolded him.

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When I see those eagles flying overhead,  it’s a reminder of my own painful process of change. I don’t regret the growth process for one moment; I regret not being honest about my daily battle and abuse of food for the past sixteen years. There is so much vulnerability in authenticity that sometimes YOU can’t even handle yourself, let alone admit to others just how bad it is. Because you know some can handle it. And others can’t. And that’s ok. It’s unfair to place unrealistic expectations on people in your life. It isn’t necessarily about who is going to try to pull you out of the abyss when you fall; it’s about who is by your side while you are there in the darkness.

I fell into a trench in Africa a few years ago while running through the village, away from harm,  snapping back and breaking all of my toes at once while a mob scene formed in front of me in the darkness. I was terrified. No, beyond terrified as I lay four feet down in the dark, covered in the filth that those trenches served a purpose for. I don’t know who pulled me out. I was told a group of local men did, and I’m forever thankful to those kind people who helped a stranger. But I will never forget the few friends who wouldn’t leave my side while I was in that trench, who knew the dangers of the scene unfolding around us, who quietly let me lean on them when I could hardly walk on my own after I was pulled out, and who guided me home without ever chastising me for my mzungu ways.

Lauren Bogess wrote recently, “The ghost of voices long past rise up to meet me decades later, in the midst of the darkest season. And I struggle to hold on to what I know is TRUTH. Because this wraps its black fingers around the hearts of all those who are bound to the afflicted. It hurts the entire family. The thing I know most about seasons – is that God made them to change. And it is in the passing through them, the move from one season to the next, that true beauty is brought forth.”

Winter is ending.

And if you see a bench? Why not take some time to sit on it…because as busy as you think you may be, you do have time. Stop looking at your phone. Just be present. You may be surprised to see what you’ve been missing.

Lincoln Log Bench: $175 (seats three people)

If interested in purchasing this one of a kind art piece, please let me know before it goes to a local store!

Posted in bench, Reclaimed wood, rustic decor, Wood slab

Growth Chart

Until recently, there was an old apple tree that stood alone on a hillside overlooking the Bennington valley. If you’ve ever been apple picking or you’ve seen an orchard with these gnarled specimens, you are aware that apple trees are not known for their straight trunks or branches. If you need a straight plank for a project, it’s best to look elsewhere.

But if you fall in love with the twists and curves that made it possible for this tree to bear the weight of its fruit, then there is a lot of potential to turn its wood into something as unique as it was before it left the hillside.

I acquired this unique slab during a wood swap before the harsh winter settled in. I was standing on the hill one morning at a local woodworker’s place, watching the fog that had settled around the monument. As woodworkers tend to do, we talked about the history behind the planks we were exchanging. There is great pride and an equal amount of excitement when talking about these treasures. I have yet to figure out if this is just a New England thing, the company I keep, or  if it’s just a general characteristic of a woodworker. Whatever it is, it’s contagious.

“See over there?” Richard said, shielding his eyes and pointing to his neighbor’s property by the tree line. “My neighbor heard I was in need of apple wood. He just happened to be taking down his old apple tree. I can’t use these pieces if you want them.”

Richard knew me well enough to know this was just a formality; I had trash picked (with no shame) through his burn pile previously to save scraps similar to these.

“YES!” I have stopped trying to hide my excitement over such gifts.

When a close friend asked for a growth chart for her son, I knew that this apple tree would be the perfect medium for it instead of using a typical straight piece of wood like I’ve seen for other growth charts.  My childhood and teenage years consisted of my sisters and I congregating randomly in the bedroom closet doorway and fighting over who grew the most while my parents marked off the wall with a pen or pencil – whatever was the closest. That bit of history is still there.

For Andy’s chart, I added a piece of black walnut shelving and drilled holes for pens/pencils so his parents could always have one handy for charting his growth and so he’d know where to find one easily if he wanted to draw or do homework.

The chart is mounted on a wall with two screws, two feet off the ground.

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Why use a wonky-looking plank for a project that calls for a straight ruler? As apple trees mature, they need to be pruned. As I learned the hard way with my peach tree, I wasn’t doing it any favors by letting the limbs grow any way they wanted. The first time I pruned it, I was embarrassed for the poor tree. It looked like Edward Scissorhands had moved into the neighborhood. But that next year, the tree produced the most amazing peaches I had ever had.

Pruning throughout the life of the fruit tree is essential in order for the tree to be healthy and bear the best possible fruit it can bear.

“I am the vine…”

I can’t think of a better tree for a growth chart.

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Posted in Reclaimed wood, rustic decor, Wood slab

Finch House

Well, I didn’t see my shadow. But Phil’s handlers determined that the ornery groundhog did.

After road tripping to Punxsutawney, PA back in college to witness the phenomenon that brings that podunk town to life one long weekend each year, my view of Groundhog Day changed forever.

It was snowing. People came from all around, bundled up in warm clothes and weird hats that you couldn’t help but gawk at, to catch glimpse of the most famous groundhog in America. (You may want to fact check that.)  By the time 7:25am rolled around in Gobbler’s Knob, most people had pulled an all-nighter, passing time or passing out until Phil was dragged out of his cage and held up for all to see. I remember losing my voice and getting sick soon after. And I also remember the spotlight on Phil.

Yes, it was snowing. Common sense told me that Phil should NOT have seen his shadow. But because of artificial lighting or something that the mayor knew that I didn’t (why is spring late the majority of predictions?), Phil’s handlers declared that year that spring would once again be late.

Best part of the road trip? Anyone celebrating a birthday on Groundhog Day got this awesome gift. It’s still my favorite mug.

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Whether Phil legitimately saw his shadow or not, I saw a glimmer of spring a few days ago. It was a crisp winter morning and I woke up to the song of a cardinal piercing the air. After only hearing wyotes cry at that hour for months, I was pretty ecstatic. After all, it’s been a cold and dismal winter. When you get excited by a patch of blue sky, knowing that there’s a chance that the sun will peek out, and you contemplate driving to where you see the sun shining like you’re chasing a pot o’ gold at the end of a rainbow, you know it’s been a long season. And maybe you need to get out more.

While I didn’t see the cardinal, the song gave me hope that spring will come. It always does.

This finch house was a custom Christmas order for a dear family I grew up with in New Jersey. It was built specifically to attract finches and provide a shelter and safe nesting place for those beautiful little birds.

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There are surprisingly many requirements needed for a finch house, from the size of the opening to ventilation to the necessity for rough wood on the interior.

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Made from reclaimed cedar and other wood remnants, the house was finished with a naturally-felled branch perch, black walnut bark lid, and moss.

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It’s been a rough winter for many, and for many reasons. Even though the air is now quiet, void of any bird songs, and it’s snowing again, I know that the sun will eventually shine, the birds will come back, and there will be new life. (Hopefully in this bird house.) But for now, on this particular morning? Life is good. I’m thankful for another year, despite being harsh to this aging vessel that houses my soul, and for another day drinking coffee out of my favorite mug that has shared too many sunrises to count with me.

Hold your head high, heavy heart.  “Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.” ~George Iles

Hope is such a beautiful gift.

Posted in Reclaimed wood

Adir-onic Sofa Table

The Hudson river not only separates Vermont and New York, but the Adirondack and Taconic mountain ranges. And while custom Adirondack furniture has saturated stores west of the river, I rarely see it across the state border in my neck of the woods.

Curious to attempt this style, I invested in a new tool that has quickly become my favorite.

Meet Big Red:

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It’s a gloriously oversized pencil sharpener on steroids.

Once I got over my fear of the torque (visions of my shoulders dislocating gives me a healthy respect for the RPM’s on this beast), I realized quickly just how incredible this tool is. Even more awesome? It’s from a lumberjack website. Yes, there really is such a thing.

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I’m officially hooked. Between Big Red, my new drawing knife and an endless supply of downed trees from a harsh winter, once the weather warms a bit in the shop, there are endless options. (Wearing gloves while wrangling Big Red is a disaster waiting to happen.)

Here is a little glimpse at my next project with these new tools:

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The commercial interruption is over.

I love the look and stability that the ol’ tinker toy assembly method lends to Adirondack-style furniture.

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Since I’m in the Taconics and not Adirondacks, I’m not sure if I can call this an Adirondack table. Soooooo…Adirondack style + Taconic trees = Adir-onic table.

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It’s the perfect height for a sofa or loveseat.

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The top is finished with linseed oil and 300 grit sandpaper, showcasing the beauty of the natural slab.

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Love the look of Adirondack furniture but not the hefty price tag that comes with it? Shop across the river with me. This sofa table is the first piece in a new furniture line by NATURE CALLS.

It’s amazing what you can do once you have the right tools. Yep. Another life metaphor.

Adir-onic Sofa Table: $275

Posted in Reclaimed wood, rustic decor, Wood slab