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The day finally came. I needed poplar drawer stock for a project I was building and there was nothing usable on my lumber rack. But sitting peacefully in the corner of my shop was a poplar project I was not too fond of , it was a relic from my early days of woodworking.

How early? When I was in high school (the doweled construction had to give you a clue), I built a small chest for the girl I was dating. She was very happy with the piece, so I decided to build a shelf unit to sit on top. As happens with high school dating, we broke up , before I finished the unit. The incomplete bookshelf stood in my parents’ basement for many years before moving to my shop.

Once it was in my garage shop, I used the unit to store things. Over time, cobwebs collected at the base and there were numerous spills, scratches and whatnot on each shelf, so the idea of actually finishing the unit was not in the cards. The outer surface was working back toward the dirty brown color of yet-to-be-milled poplar.

Since rearranging my shop, I discovered there was no practical use for the unit , no place to hang the unit and certainly not enough coveted floor space to sacrifice. And, I had long ago gotten past the idea that the girl and I would some day hook up again.

And because the pieces were a full 7/8″ in thickness (back then I believed that building thicker meant building better), I knew I could salvage 1/2″ stock from these 30″-long fatties. So the shelf met its demise.

I have another project from my early days of woodworking taking up space in my basement. There’s no high school connection, but it was my first attempt at cabriole legs and that bad boy may meet this terrible fate next.

After knocking apart the unit, I wondered if I was the only woodworker de-building a project from their past. There must be a few others like me. Fess up. Post a comment. I need to know I’m not alone.

– Glen D. Huey

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Showing 13 comments
  • Mike

    When my fiance (now my wife)moved into my home, she brought her king size waterbed frame and headboard, but no mattress. It was the typical factory spray-on walnut finish that I totally hate; lots of dings and scratches, etc. She absolutly wanted to keep the bed because, being single, my bed was only a single size. It took me several months of scraping, sanding, cutting new pieces to replace ones that were too far gone, installed recessed lights. It was a project that I wasn’t ready for, but patience won out and she loves it: which makes it all worth while.

  • Jim

    I hate to admit this – but I have picked many of other peoples projects and discarded furniture off of trash piles. Items they were throwing away. Most of the time it for for salvaging the wood. Much of it I reuse in building something for the shop or parts that will not be seen. My wife purchased an old end table from a garage sale – $5.00. I looked at it and my first impression was, what a waste of 5.00. I kept looking at it and realized that with a few repairs and some cleaning and refinishing it might not be too bad. I looked at it as a challenge. Short version – as finishing it, I could probably sell it for $100.00 easily. Of course my wife loved it and now it sets in our family room. There are some real treasures out there if you take the time to look. Thanks.

  • Tom Hargrove

    I built a desk in 1978 when I was in college, since the house we were renting was unfurnished. Most of the the desk was later used for my first workbench. Later, the legs and top were re-used and incorporated into the workbench I use now. Other pieces became shelves for my daughter’s bedroom.

    I am currently working on my interpretation of Bob Lang’s 21 Century Workbench, using recycled oak beams I got from a friend’s remodeling project. When the new bench is finished, my old friend will once again be recycled and become part of a mobile tool storage cabinet/table saw extension table.

  • Ian Stewart

    I had an entertainment unit in my previous home that comprised a top and a base. It was 1930 mm (about 76") wide. The base part was 950 mm (about 38") high and the top, which was open shelves, another 700 mm (about 27.5") high and 380 mm (15") deep. the top was located on the base via large dowels and the back was screwed fixing both pieces together The whole unit was built from timber 30 mm (1 1/4" approx) thick so it was very solid. It was custom-made to fit the space in which it was located.

    When we moved house the base part was fine to use, but had we kept the top part in place it would have blocked a window. So we just use the base section and the timber in the top section will be de-constructed and form the basis an low-line entertainment unit to house a flat screen TV in another room. I intend to start making the new unit before Christmas.

  • George Paraskevas

    Guys, this is just basically recycling in the new era. Why throw good useable material away when it can be put toward something useful. I’ve taken other furniture I have owned and deconstructed to make something else. It beats throwing it out on the curb. I am not ashamed to say I’ve dumpster dived a few times to salvage wood or other materials for future use. Glen, just remember you’re being green. Keep on repurposing.

  • Donna

    You mean that project from my very first woodshop class — that I realized at the end of the semester would not be suitable for its intended purpose, and I have been duitifully moving around my shop ever since — I don’t have to finish? I can just disassemble it (easy, since I only got as far as dry fitting the pieces) and use the cherry for something else? Are you sure this is OK? And it doesn’t make me a failure in some way? Wow, what a concept.

  • Stephen Kirk

    I’m nearly through building a new chicken coop and as I was cutting up some of my stack of oddly sized 2×4 chunks (can’t ever seem to throw them away) I realized that some used to be the legs of an L-shaped desk that started out in a farmhouse caretakers room and was eventually passed to us. Now, the chickens will enjoy some of it too.

    Many years ago my first failed attempt at a rolling base for my table saw eventually turned into my rolling drill press cart which I’m still using now and have no plans to get rid of.

  • Guy Forthofer

    When in college, I built a weight bench from dumpster 2x4s. It worked pretty well until a frat brother hoisted a couple hundred pounds up on the bars and the whole sorry mess collapsed.

    At the time I was miffed that he broke it. Later, I realized how lucky that my stupid, ill-concieved project didn’t seriously hurt anyone.

    It got de-built to the fireplace.

  • Bjenk

    Hehehe, funny post. I am a de-builder! My early attempts at woodworking was to try and replicate Ikea furniture years ago. I know, its sad. I recuperated the wood recently.

  • Todd Mitchell

    I don’t know that you would consider this de-building but I’ve re-purposed a slew of solid (well almost) oak desks. I found them at the local thrift store for 30 dollars each.

    Each desk consisted of 3 large drawers (face was 24" x 8") and 1 small drawer(face was 24" x 3")

    In the end, i ended up with:
    1. a very sturdy twelve drawer miter saw workstation about 10′ long
    2. a hidden 6 drawer dresser for my closet
    3. a 5 drawer router table (using the smaller drawers)

    I saved a ton of time in construction and since these were from oak desks, they’re quite sturdy.

  • Chris C

    I made the most hideous entertainment center not
    long after we moved into our current home. Not
    having had a garage in some time, I suddenly had
    enough space to build something. I had only a circular
    saw, a router, and a few hand tools. It was truly
    awful, and my wife put up with it for about three years
    before I was able to get a chance for a "do over".

    The parts from that project are all over the place: jigs,
    a couple of picture frames, and firewood for an outdoor
    chimney. Good riddance!

    It still haunts me now and again in the occasional
    photo of the Christmas tree, etc. There it is in the
    background next to that bad sweater I’ll never wear. And
    I thought I got rid of the evidence!

  • Dave

    Well usually, I try to throw unfinished pieces (or finished pieces I don’t like/want)away.

    Mostly because unfinished pieces seem to just get in the way and you spend more time moving them. Finished pieces you don’t want just seem to gnaw at you. (you look at it and pick it and yourself apart)

    But more often than not when trying to donate these items to Rumpke someone looks and says "You’re not throwing that away are you" and it finds a new home. Or if I successfully get it to the curb, someone tries to trade their trash for mine….

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Some of my earliest projects were end tables for our home in Lexington, Ky. They had painted pine bases and redwood tops covered in clear finish. The tables were ugly, but the redwood was clear and had perfectly straight grain.

    When I realized the tables were ugly, I built new ones. But I couldn’t find any nice wood for the tops. Hmmm. A few hammer taps later (yes, I needed a hammer — don’t ask why) the tops were mine again. And they graced my new tables, until I concluded that those suckers were a different kind of ugly.

    The redwood was cursed. I dragged the tables to the curb.


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FIG. 4-52 The relationship between diners and each other and between the table and the room should be considered when sizing a table. A narrow width is intimate, but there may not be room for the turkey on Thanksgiving.