Part 2: A (relative) bum nearly gets eaten by a grizzly
As I mentioned in Part 1, Ben’s vision involved aged barn wood for portions of the bar. Following a hot tip I visited this guy in Williamson, NY. When I pulled into his farm country property, I was instantly in love. A miniature barn on my left was surrounded by a small herd of goats. Up ahead was this beautifully restored old farm-house. Beyond that, some farm land, trees, a couple more really nice old barns.
As I stepped out of the car, my host greeted me from the porch. “This place is awesome!”, I blurted out. “We like it”, he said. I asked if he would show me around and he humbly obliged. I only managed to squeeze off a few shots because it felt funny to act like a tourist. He showed me all sorts of self-made works: sweet vintage furniture, stamped concrete floors, and the stone entry to his basement that he was making entirely by hand-stacking—no mortar. Beautiful.
He knew I was looking for some old barn wood, so he showed me around his outbuildings. In addition to lots of great randomly salvaged lumber, he had at least 2 complete disassembled barns, stacked up like Lincoln Logs and waiting to be reassembled. (You can see one against the wall in the shot I sneaked in below.)
Now, I’m talking to this guy, and he’s telling me all the stuff they do on their farm—he, his wife, and five boys from 18 years on down to very young—and how they raise goats, make cheese, harvest rocks and timber and sell them, grow some crops, buy old barns at auctions, disassemble and reassemble them at home, and on and on, not to mention the fact that he runs his own full-time small construction business building stuff for other people…and I suddenly realized: I am a bum. Well, at least relatively speaking. I know not to dwell too long in the mire of self-deprecation, so I quickly translated that energy towards setting my own sights higher concerning what I could achieve.
Well, I finally selected some great old timbers, which I later came to discover were white oak. No wonder those old barns stand for so long. When I left, I told my host that I REALLY wanted to be there for his next barn raising, and he promised to let me know when it was happening. So, here’s hoping!
Back at Joe Bean, we made a cut plan to maximize our use of the wood and save as much for future use as possible. We made the rough cuts and I squeezed the hefty stack into my tiny Scion xD and headed over to Rochester Makerspace to do some precision cutting and planing.
I just recently joined the Makerspace, which is something I am really jazzed about. (I donated the logo to help with the cause.) Just having access to the planer has already justified the cost of membership. This old oak is so hard that, if I had to sand instead of using the planer, I would still be at it.
Wyatt, the VP, gave me some quick pointers on using the Grizzly and headed off. I was left alone with it. He told me that if it tried to eat me, I should scream really loud and hopefully someone else in the building would hear. I promised to be careful. And I was. But I still had a close call. If you will refer to my handy diagram, you will see that the power switch and feed are on one side and the output is on the other. Well, you stick your board in the one side and Grizzly grips the board really tight, pushes it under the blades which shave off a thin layer from the top, and then it spits it out the other side. I was focused mainly on being extra careful on the feed side. What I failed to consider was the fact that as the board comes out the back side, it is still tightly gripped by the internal rollers. So, if you are wearing gloves and you are catching the board as it comes out the back side, and your finger tip is under the board and above one of those back rollers, and your finger gets caught there, (here’s the bummer) the board keeps coming. And the power switch is way over on the feed side where you can’t reach it. Fortunately, I managed to yank my finger as soon as it caught and only ended up with a small blood blister.
Here’s a few shots of the progression from raw board to finished bar top. One of the tricks with old barn wood is deciding how much of the old grunge to keep while balancing that against the desired level of smoothness and gloss for the application. These pieces had a considerable amount of peeling white wash and thick grunge that was not going to work well on a counter top. So I shaved most of it off and kept just a few hints of grunge where it worked well. I also had a few issues planing and wound up with a few digs, but I didn’t sweat it because some rugged imperfections fit right in for this application.
And here’s a few shots of finishing the concrete and bringing it all back together. I am tired of writing. You are probably tired of scrolling. Click any image to see it bigger.