This c.1920 sideboard, assembled just 5 miles from here, was recently set to curb pending a house sale. Beneath that paint is wood is too good for landfills. With help from an enthusiastic octogenarian passerby – is there any other kind? – we load this treasure into my truck. I cart it home, knock it apart, and study possibilities. The two drawers are deconstructed into a tidy pile.
First project, we fashion a small box for our buddy’s book store counter. Rabbeted corners reinforced with old violin pegs. The base rests within a dado without glue, too tight to shift.
From the sideboard even carcass wood is appreciated, the drawer runners. Unseen, deeply grooved after years of rough duty. We’ve saved these bits from the fireplace and begin to reclaim their beauty.
There is a bit of a learning curve. Without an actual bench, we fashion a Moxon Vise of sorts with our kitchen table sliding end leaf, eight clamps, and an underfoot cat. The boards are flattened; the grain appears. While planing three boards to consistent width, they transform into quadrilaterals. Wedge-shaped. The table is re-rigged, boards clamped singularly, each planed to true parallelograms. The ends we square, reducing the effort to rectangles.
This interestingly aged mystery wood now appears to be poplar. Getting the scrap down to usable stock seems the entire project, but the it’s only just started. We take fight with tenon saw, chisels, and mallets. After much blood, gouged palms, multiple redesigns to accommodate mistakes, a box smaller than planned is completed. Poplar sides with dovetail corners, red pine base pegged in place.
Wow, that old poplar sands up slick. At 320 grit, it’s mirror smooth, hard, cool. After a few weeks, the wood should darken a little as air hits it. Then my go-to, diluted spirit varnish. Violin varnish, to go with the four violin pegs sunk through the sides into the base.