By the 17th century, Great Britain had depleted its forests and looked to the colonies for satisfaction of its timber supply. Of particular interest were the old growth pines, hundreds of feet tall and branchless for many, rot resistant, easy to shape and finish. As one might expect, New Englanders took exception to the King’s claim that the best of these trees—one of their most important economic assets—be marked for exclusive use by the crown. In some cases, trees were felled and milled in secret. Furniture Maker John Lomas tells us that “certain boards were hidden in places like floors” to prevent them from being discovered.
Last fall Lomas received a commission request from friends renovating an historic Chittenden County home. In one of the bathrooms, the couple discovered antique floor boards believed to be this ‘Defiance’ pine. When the homeowners realized they were in possession of something so historically significant, they asked the craftsman if he could transform the wood into a custom dining table. “The ironic fact that I am British but have just become a US citizen was not lost on any of us,” John reported with a smile.
notes on the project…October 28, 2013
“It was necessary to prepare the boards while maintaining their original character. First, I marked them to see how much yield there was. Could I make a 96″ x 42″ table? Only 78″ of straight, clean board existed. We decided to put bread-boards on each table end; an attractive addition to the overall design and solution to the length ‘problem.’
Next, to ‘square’ the 3 main pieces. Not an easy process, as there were old nails hidden in the boards and I didn’t want to ruin the blades of my saw! Still working to preserve the wood’s original character, I tenoned the edges to help align the irregular surfaces. Once the boards were tenoned, glued and clamped, they sat overnight to dry. The next day, I removed the clamps and sanded the top surface to remove 100 years (!!) of accumulated dirt and floor wax. This revealed the mellow nature of the beautiful old pine.
The underside of the top was lightly sanded, but the old dry surface was left mostly undisturbed. The top was then cut to size, bread-board ends added and the table top secured to its farmhouse cherry base. After many hours of design and fabrication, I created the rustic look Sean and Nicole wanted…a table that looked as though it had always been a part of their home. The couple received their ‘historic Vermont’ table in October. The entire family met me on the delivery day with beaming smiles, kids already debating who would ‘inherit’ the piece. From 1700’s contraband to bathroom floor boards to an heirloom dining table, the project was a wonderful journey.”
Special thanks to the Vermont & Chittenden County Historical Societies for fielding a few questions on the topic. Thanks to Guild member John Lomas for sharing the experience! It’s a valuable example for collectors and craftsmen living in an age where reclamation and repurposing is not just fanciful.
If you have a reclaimed wood story, share it with us! If you have material you’d like to repurpose, email any of our members to discuss the possibilities. You’ll find inspiration on our site in reclaimed cabinets and built-ins and custom dining tables. Remember, buy handmade for health, happiness and local prosperity! www.vermontfurnituremakers.com