February 28, 2012

Heirlooms (Tomatoes and Otherwise)

Hand-made. Home-grown. Timeless. Lasting. Sentimental. Simple. Treasured.

I used to be the type of person who loved trinkets, doo-dads, and held on to random stuff with blatant disregard for space constraints (my dear husband might argue I'm still a little like that, but I've gotten much better). I'd make thoughtless purchases because items were cheap and they fit into my current craze. My life held a lot of meaningless clutter.

Oh, am I so glad I've grown up.


These days, I seek out hand-crafted objects, and put thought into the things I buy and bring into our home. Is it something we need? Is it produced in a thoughtful way? Is it going to last?

Ryan has always encouraged more simple living. Our decor at home has become a pretty nice (we think, that is) combination of both our styles. He's a fan of modern lines and clean, simple silhouettes. I like a warm and inviting color palette and a more homey feel. They come together surprisingly well.

But we both honor an appreciation for those things that are built to last, now more than ever before.

This all started with a Pin on Pinterest. I wanted a table just like that, and I also wanted to learn some woodworking and fit in some quality time with my dad. Badda bing, badda boom, we started planning via text message.

My dad is a master with all things building-related. He has a great set of tools and has made beautiful pieces my whole life. I have a small step-stool with hearts carved as handles that he made when I was a tot. He built our kitchen table growing up, and soon after, a hutch. And as a graduation gift from college, he made me a butcher block for the kitchen, which you can see in my "slow home" tour at Re-Nest. He also brought over the 10 power tools we needed to cut a space for our dishwasher to be installed. All this to say, the man knows what he's doing and holds himself to very exacting standards. Must be where I get my perfectionist tendencies (which only show themselves in particular circumstances, how funny is that?!).
The new dining table, ready for her inaugural meal!

So we started planning. A few weekends ago, we set to work to build the table top out of reclaimed pine he'd had for close to ten years. The wood began, weathered and worn. As he taught me how to use the different tools in the shop, from the planer to the joiner and the biscuit cutter to the router, we worked to take this old pine and turn it into something new—something that I will treasure for many, many years.

As I started this project, I kept emphasizing to my dad, "I want it to look old and imperfect." But as we built, I realized that this craftsmanship—all the effort we were putting into it—deserved to look more perfect than I'd thought. Initially I wanted it to look just like the picture, and then suddenly I was so proud of its unique grain, its routed corners, its... general heft...

It wasn't until I saw the final piece, which we handled with latex gloves until I got it sealed, that I realized this wasn't going to be something that we use until we find a nice $400 dining table in some catalog. This table began to mean a lot more to me than that. Ryan and I began to imagine, years down the line, our kids doing their homework at the table. I envisioned Thanksgiving dinner being served to our families around this table. We came up with ideas to update the legs, so that the table top would always fit into our decor. It took me three weeks to decide on how to stain it. (That part of the project wound up being most expensive as I kept changing my mind—since my dad had the wood, I spent a total of $65 to build this, which includes the four different stains I bought and tested but didn't even use.)

This very simple tabletop, which took 12 hours of shop time and another weekend of finishing time, went from a project I took on with my dad to this big life metaphor that maybe, as this blog post illustrates, my brain wasn't ready to process just yet.

So yes. It's a simple table and we'll dine on it tonight. We'll welcome guests at our hand-crafted table, and serve them a home-cooked meal that we grew in our backyard.

That's what Sustainable Diet is all about, after all. 

You see, it's so much more than a table. It is an heirloom, a treasure, a mindful and timeless piece that I look forward to sharing meals at with family and friends. It's a table that we'll make memories at, and as each nick in the wood begins to show, we're excited to leave it be... so that this table will have its own stories to tell.

My dad has already heard from me that building this with him was so very meaningful and special for me. It's been a great learning process, and I look forward to more building in my future. In fact, we already have plans for a bench to go along one side of this table. It'll be a metaphor, too. :) Lucky blog readers.

Have you ever built a piece that made you feel this way? Or anything close to it, since I realize I've nearly written a novel about six pieces of wood glued together...


Beth said...

The table is beautiful and I love that you will forever have the memories of building it with your father. You can tell your kids about it and someday they can tell their kids. The whole things is just beautiful!

I think sewn items may become that way for me - I have plans to make a hand sewn quilt at some point and I could see that becoming a bit of a family heirloom, or at least a blanket of memories. :)

Welcome to Sustainable Diet! said...

@Beth... Thanks so very much. I think your sewing plans sound amazing. There is so much to be said for taking the time and patience with a hand-crafted item, no matter what it is. Happy creating!