The mother beam
During a remodeling project in the fall of 2016, one of my family member decided to remove a load-bearing wall that divided a living room and kitchen. In order to maintain the structural integrity of the three story building, my brother, a civil engineer, worked his magic and came up with a solution that involved a 17ft x 19in x 7.5in parallel strand lumber (PSL) beam, commercially known as Parallam. Had it been covered in gypsum, the beam could have been slightly smaller in width and depth (to account for the fire retardant properties of gypsum), but PSL being a beautiful engineered wood product, leaving it exposed greatly enhanced the appeal of the room it was in.
As delivered, the beam had an extra foot of length that was removed using a chain saw. My cousin wanted to toss away the left over part, but interested in the looks of the material, I picked it up with the intention of turning it into a piece of furniture. This summer, I finally garnered enough free time to get to it. PSL being very porous and brittle, it took severe belt sanding and 13 coats of polyurethane varnish to get a decent finish. Four legs later, I had myself a curious looking side table that since then has never failed to catch people’s curiosity (even more so than those other tables).
Two years ago, we had to fell an old apple tree from my parent’s garden. Wanting to experiment with this unusual variety of wood, I gathered the best logs and took them to a sawmill to have planks made and let them dry for a year in a shed.
Fast forward to last Christmas, not wanting to buy gifts and being left with very little time to come up with something before the 24th, I had the idea of making balanced wine bottle stands for everyone out of that old apple tree. It’s a simple project, it’s can be made in batches, can be gifted along with an actual bottle and would make an awesome souvenir of that tree we had so much fun climbing onto and playing around during our childhood.
Apple tree is a pain to work with, the grain is highly irregular and convoluted and the density of the wood varies widely within the same piece. However, the end result is spectacular, especially on the more weathered down parts of the tree, which have turned multiple shades of pink, brown and black due to parasites and moisture. From log to plank, there was a huge amount of loss but through keeping the project small I managed to get something workable out of all that wood.
Last out of the workshop are four knife blocks made from cherry, oak (not obvious), walnut and two exotic flavours: padauk (red) and purpleheart (purple). To keep cost low, the large cherry/oak pieces were laminated from scraps bought for cheap at the lumber yard.
The design is somewhat unusual as the poor precision of my tools would not allow me to build a completely enclosed block like is most often seen. An added benefit however is that the slots are all of a similar size, so no need to look for the proper spot when dropping a knife in.
A table made to compliment my coffee table and two side tables. The top is a 10mm thick pane of glass and most of the table is made out of walnut except for one leg, which is made from maple. Just for the looks, I added brass inserts and rods, but everything is held together using dowels.
I now have a complete living room set.
Two side-tables made out of walnut and maple or yellow birch and finished with danish oil. The top is glass and they both feature brass inserts and rods. These additions hold no structural responsibility, everything was attached using dowels.
The pair got their name from the fact that they are mainly crafted from walnut, but each feature one leg made of a lighter-colored wood joined as it the table was mutating. They are of a very similar design to this project and this other one because they were made to compliment them.