In 1969 or 1970, my father helped my grandfather build a rental house that my grandparents saw income from for the next 24 years. He came home at the end of the project with a truck bed full of spare/cut lumber and building supplies. Lumber was not wasted in our house. We didn’t go and buy a new 2X4 for a project… We rummaged through the cut-off bin or wood storage shelves for a piece that was the right size or that could be cut, planed, or trimmed to work – Wood was not wasted or thrown away in the Talley house! It is a lesson that I have taken to heart and most of the things I build for my own home are made, at least partially, out of used or recycled materials.
Anyway, Daddy took some of the lumber and built a set of bookshelves that in the next nine years held everything from encyclopedias to technical manuals. Four 12-inch shelves sat on a box base that my father stained and varnished with whatever color he had left over from the rental kitchen cabinet build. It sat in our living room and in the shop. In 1980 we moved back to Houston and somehow my aunt and uncle ended up with the shelves. They put them in their living room, knocked the bottom shelf back, drilled a hole for a cable and sat their 19″ TV on the base. It remained in their home until 2010, when my uncle passed away. My mother asked to have the shelf unit back and brought it to me when she moved to Seattle. It is the only object that I own that my father built with his own hands and I feel so very lucky and proud to have it.
I decided immediately give it an update to make it an everyday part of our home: add a little something here and there to update it and make it that much more useful. Plans are one thing and actually doing the work is quite another – it sat relegated in my overcrowded shop for almost a year before I finally got a chance to work on it. I put the knocked out shelf back, glued all the joints, added reinforcement and screws to hold it all together, and built a base with turned wooden bun feet for it to stand on. The original base box was 12″ X 30″ and I wanted to both maximize the space and add my own signature to the piece. I carefully cut an 8″ X 24″ opening in the front and added rails for a drawer. It was amazing working on the piece. I found my father’s 42 year old pencil marks, a divot from a hammer, saw marks, and I found part of a fingerprint from when it was stained – just on the inside of the bottom. Finding and touching these this tangible proof of my late father brought me more joy than I have words to describe.
I also added a face frame, edge trip, and crown mounding. The piece was sanded down with 120 grit, then all the holes and gaps were filled, sanded with 120 again and then with 220 grip. I then primed with two coats and finished it with 3 coats of white Benjamin Moore ultra-tough cabinet paint.
I think it turned out really nice and I think my dad would be really proud of the work that I did to it. I am taking the original brass corner trim and a piece of original shelving and turning it into a picture frame to hold my favorite picture of my father. I think that he would approve of that as well…