The Honest Work

When someone uses the phrase “honest day’s work,” it’s meant as earning a living other than conducting unlawful activities. Most of these avenues were meant to carry burdens of sweat and toil to the common laborer. Fortunately for me, I’m not a stranger to such exercises and this is merely another evening bathed in saline. The family motto has always been “if you want it done, do it yourself.”


There’s the last bit of varnish. It wasn’t removed with the chemical stripper and now must face the wrath of sandpaper.

For as battered as it was, the sander has put a nice smooth surface on the tops. I’ve not yet the opportunity to sand the legs as it’s currently drying from the varnish removal. Tomorrow will herald the testing of stain. I’m going to patch test a few different stains underneath the table top itself. That way I can choose what road to take with the finishing and no one will see it.

I’ve stared at the wood grain for a while, and began to wonder a few things. How old was the tree when it was cut down? How long did it stay in my grandfather’s garage before it was used? Was it growing around my mother’s childhood home or was it taken from another lot? It certainly wasn’t purchased, because my grandfather came back from World War II three years prior. He had little money to rebuild his tools let alone purchase pricey timber. I’ve noted several “Dutchmans” underneath the table top where he has moved the hinges for the leaves. In woodworking slang, a Dutchman is a wood patch to plug an area of damage. I never met him, as he died two years before I was born, but I can read his mind. This wood wasn’t something to waste.

Juglans nigra, or Black Walnut, is native to the eastern United States and used for a plethora of different products. The nutmeats are my favorite at Christmas, but almonds come in a close second. This was definitely an urban tree, as it has plenty of knots and imperfections in the hidden areas (i.e. underneath the leaves). That means it stood alone and had a lot of room to branch out (pun intended). Someone was probably getting rid of a tree, and he took the scraps.

I wonder if my grandfather would approve of my work? Would it be too little? Overdone? If anything, it’ll give me some experience if I ever need to do something like this again.

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6 thoughts on “The Honest Work

  1. It is good I am not alone in wondering such things about a piece of furniture…….and he would be proud.

  2. kerbey says:

    Of course he would approve.

  3. Furniture that has been passed down through a family gains patina. This quality can’t be bought, it’s earned through time, love and respect. It’s already a fine table into which you’re breathing some of your life.

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