Last week I taught a class on how to design and build furniture using reclaimed and scrap wood at Snow Farm School of Crafts. Some students brought a trunk full of scraps from their own shops, while others brought reclaimed barn wood such as old-growth joist and posts. One of my students, Pam, decided to mill her scraps of different wood types and glue them together to create what I call a “wooden quilt,” but is also known as wood tapestry or reclaimed canvas. By utilizing small scraps of miscellaneous sizes and shapes, homogenizing them into the same thickness and then gluing them together in a pattern, we can create a geometrical board or panel from which new furniture will emerge.
There are many ways in which we can arrange these small scraps together. In my book: Working Reclaimed Wood, a guide for Woodworkers Makers & Designers, I lay out a few patterns for amalgamating these scraps into beautiful wooden quilts. I also showcase works by talented artists who excel in this technique.
In the case of Pam’s furniture, after she told me that she wanted to build a step stool, I showed her the plans and images of a step stool that I designed, and that many of my students have built over the years. In fact, I have blogged about this step stool and you can read these past blog entries in the links below.
Instead of using wide store-bought boards, Pam began milling her scraps into identical thickness. Because some of her scraps were longer than others, we decided to incorporate the length discrepancy into the design. To add more interest to the quilt, she diagonally trimmed the ends of some of her scrap strips. When this was completed she glued all the strips together. Then she waited for the glue to dry, scraped off the extra glue and passed the part one more time through the planer.
After this she created all the necessary grooves and dados to let the parts support each other. Following this we assembled the step stool parts with glue and clamps, and secured the beam under the seat to the back leg and front legs with screws and plugs.
As I show in my book, quilt-making can involve scraps that constitute the full thickness of the future panel or board. In this case we need to make sure that the edge-to-edge glue up of the segments is done to the highest standards, and that the individual building block overlaps with sufficient portion of long grain to long grain connection to its neighboring scraps.
But quilts can be formed over a substrate such as MDF and plywood, and in this case the structural stability of the board depends mainly on the substrate.
After Pam finished her step stool, she picked up a few short segments of scrap walnut and maple and glued them together to make a panel, to which she connected a clock mechanism. On the last night of our class the clock, together with other items that were made by students and teachers, was put for a benefit auction to rase money for the youth program that Snow Farm run.
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