Secret Obsession: Reclaiming Cutoffs

It sounds like I'm talking about making a new pair of shorts, but I'm not.
That's fun too - my best pair of cutoffs used to be black corduroy pants.
In carpentry, cutoffs are scraps left over from a project, usually cut from dimensional lumber like two-bys or decking boards.  The most exciting scraps come from larger lumber and timbers.
(bookshelf from found wood)

here is my view across to the nearest mountain ridge
(Interesting . . . not only is my phone filled with sawdust -note fuzzballs- it has also started suffering from some serious data transfer disturbances.  YAY!)

So, I'm eying a stack of material by the driveway behind my new apartment, cutoffs from a deck project.  With only a drafting table and no chair
I need to build a floor-sitting table for reading, eating, writing, and surfing.
A three-point base is best since reclaimed material is often irregular.
Additional challenge: use the scraps as found - no cutting or sanding allowed.
this pile was left long ago when the decks were completed on the rowhouses along my driveway.

On closer inspection the wood is older and moldier than expected.
Even so, digging around yields results.
I come away with only an armload and leave the rest to the elements
(or someone more desperate than myself).
Some of the pieces I've chosen have tiny mold spots, but these boards are pressure treated so a wipe-down with mineral spirits should keep spores at bay.
Turpentine and other solvents are great for cleaning off dirt, grease and grime.
Plus they penetrate and then evaporate to expel much of the moisture gathered while sitting outside.
Downside: this also off-gases the harmful chemicals from your material
and of course the solvents themselves are mild neurotoxins.
I soak the endgrains and knotholes in case critters have gone in to lay eggs.
After the very thorough cleaning, I arrange the boards into a rough design layout.
Here, the layout is shown as I decide how the pieces will fit together to form a table.
"I love it when a plan comes together!"
—Colonel John 'Hannibal' Smith, The A-Team

I've banned cutting and the only leftover is 72" long, so finish nails are out of the question without material for nailers or blocking.
Pilots and countersinks are drilled to receive screws.As detailed as I can manage with poor lighting and a camera lens full of sawdust, screws are being set after the holes are piloted and countersunk.

Assembly provides a few hiccups but I get through it.
Technology failure continues to haunt me: the NiCad batteries are finally showing signs of memory burn and hold almost no charge at all.
Looks like I need to buy a new drill and upgrade to Lithium Ion.
The table is shown near completion (for this round of design).

The table is shown leaning against the wall to illustrate the method of framing, similar to concepts used in framing carpentry.
Now I have a place to sit and eat oatmeal at 5:30 every morning!
Here I can sit, eat, drink and surf.

It's a better bench than a table.  Tiny legs are in order; I will be vigilant.
Carpe lignum!


  1. Mark and I both loved this post. Great info along with a very interesting, nearly no cost project. I've added you to my RSS reader and am waiting with baited breath for the next post!

    1. Coming from a Rockstar blogger couple (your sister's words not mine) this means a lot to me.
      Anyone who reads this should also read Walden Effect, if you don't already. If I ever have a blogroll it will top the list.

  2. Your use of the language is very lyrical, deep, and aware of the senses, Jeremiah.

    Your Auntie Maggie