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Photographing Scenic Walla Walla Valley Vineyards…

May 20, 2014

When I am out in the country or on a farm my camera automatically points at rusty equipment and weathered wood.  This Spring I seem to noticing blooms, blossoms, and scenery more than ever.

Today I had a mid-afternoon appointment to look at some antiques for our store, Shady Lawn Antiques.  After my appointment I grabbed my camera and headed east of Walla Walla toward the foothills.  As you can tell I was able to get some great shots.

This first vineyard is just off of Cottonwood Road.  This is actually the first picture (out of 125) that I took this afternoon.East of WW (23)

We haven’t had significant rain in a week or two so the fields and hills are still green.  Today I noticed green peas, alfalfa, wheat and other grains, and of course grapes.  Soon the natural grasses will begin to turn to yellow.  As for now the foothills of the Blue Mountains almost look like water-color paintings.East of WW (67)

This final picture is just off of Russell Creek Road.  I think that I’ve heard that the American Flag is in a Leonetti Cellars Vineyard.East of WW (14)

 

Building Furniture with Reclaimed Wood – Aldrich Barn

May 20, 2014

In the fall of 2012, I was asked to write a column/some articles about antiques for our local newspaper, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. I intend to post each column after it is published in the paper, along with some photos that may or may not appear in the paper. 

Here is my latest column on reclaimed wood creations.  Longtime readers may notice that I have addressed this topic and some of the ideas in previous posts.

 

 

Building Furniture with Reclaimed Wood – Aldrich Barn

 

My Harvest Tables are built out of reclaimed wood, which in this case means barn wood.  Throughout the years I have acquired wood from at least six barns.  Most of this wood was from barns that were deconstructed and no longer exist.

2011 Photograph of the Restored Aldrich Barn

My favorite wood came from a barn that was restored by my friend Doug Saturno.  The barn was built in 1864 by the Aldrich brothers near the present town of Dixie in what was then the Washington Territory.  The Aldriches lived in small cabin that was no bigger than a living room.  Their barn was huge by comparison.

During the barn restoration, Doug could not use the barn roof sheathing boards because they were full of nails (as the roof was shingled two or three times).  The sheathing boards were a full one inch thick, 12 to 18 inches wide and they were up to 22 feet long.  It goes without saying, but you can’t get wood that size any more.

One of the great things is that I was able to acquire this wood. The second great thing is that Doug also restored the barn in a historically sensitive manner.  I realize that not everyone is able to restore these old barns.  It is sad to see them crumble to the ground or be torn down.

The Aldrich Barn was built out of old growth Red Fir.  One day I counted the growth rings on the end of one of the extremely wide boards. It appears that the fir trees were growing at the time of the Revolutionary War.

Curved circular saw marks are clearly visible on the surface of the boards.  I measured these marks with a yard stick and determined that they were cut by a six foot diameter saw blade.  While steam powered saws may have been available in the east in 1864, it seems certain that these boards were cut with a water-driven saw mill.  Further adding to this assumption is the fact that Dry Creek flows not 100 yards from the barn’s location.

Over time, this wood has taken on a wonderful amber orange red hue.  The shingle nails rusted and a black ring formed around each nail hole.  When I finish this wood, I sand it smooth but endeavor to leave as many saw marks and as much character as is possible.  I do not use any stain. I just varnish the wood, which enhances the qualities that the wood has taken on over time.

My son, Nick, varnishing a table top...

My son, Nick, varnishing a table top…

I can’t even begin to imagine what life was like when the Aldrich barn was built in 1864, 150 years ago, in the western United States.  Walla Walla was officially established in 1862; it was the largest city in the Washington Territory; bigger than Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane; and the American Civil War would rage on another year.  Telegraph communication with Portland, Oregon would not be established until 1870.  I think that it is safe to say that it was difficult time and place to care for and raise a family!

I feel honored to be able to give a second life to this Aldrich Barn wood.   The Aldriches originally cut this wood to cover the roof of their barn so that they would have something to attach their shingles to.  I’m sure that they could never imagine that one day these boards would be made into tables and benches.

Using this wood for furniture conserves the energy that “Mother Nature” expended in “growing” it and that the Aldriches expended harvesting it and cutting it for their use.  How Green!!!

Dave Emigh is the owner of Shady Lawn Antiques and is a fifth generation ‘Walla Wallan’. He writes about antiques and life in the ‘Valley of the Two Wallas’ on his blog: http://www.wallawallalocal.wordpress.com.

Walla Walla in the Spring…

May 14, 2014

The Walla Walla Valley has had the most incredible blooms and blossoms this Spring!  The weather has also cooperated to allow them to linger for a while.

I have been slowly walking to and from Shady Lawn Antiques and taking pictures along the way.  These three photos from the end of April.

Pink Dogwoods may be my favorite blooming tree...

Pink Dogwoods may be my favorite blooming tree…

This Victorian house has a wrap-around porch that anyone would love.

Walla Walla Victorian house

Walla Walla Victorian house

This nice Arts and Crafts Bungalow house that is just up the street.

Craftsman Bungalow house

Craftsman Bungalow house

Walla Walla is still in bloom and is a riot of color!  Please visit us and see for yourself.

Walla Walla Union Bulletin Column on Reclaimed Wood Creations…

March 25, 2014

In the fall of 2012, I was asked to write a column/some articles about antiques for our local newspaper, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. I intend to post each column after it is published in the paper, along with some photos that may or may not appear in the paper. 

Here is my latest column on reclaimed wood creations.  Longtime readers may notice that I have addressed this topic and some of the ideas in previous posts.

IMG_5056

Reclaimed Wood Creations – the Walla Walla Harvest Table

 

I have often been asked how I got started building furniture (and especially harvest tables) out of reclaimed wood. Well I actually began building benches and then progressed from there.

The rough farm bench has historically been the single most requested piece of primitive furniture at Shady Lawn Antiques.  These benches are not easy for me to find.  When I do find them they are dirty, rough, splintery, loose, and are stained by paint and/or oil.

I did so much repair work on each bench that it was essentially the same as building one.  When I couldn’t find enough old benches, I began building them out of reclaimed wood.

Fifteen years ago I sold these benches (and a whole line of other items) at the Walla Walla Farmer’s Market.  A couple admired my benches and asked me if I could build a table to go with them.  I agreed to build them one and told them that if they didn’t like it they didn’t have to buy it.

They loved the table and that was the beginning of a line of tables and benches that I build out of reclaimed wood.  The majority of my pieces are made from historic barn-wood.

The long relatively narrow Harvest Table is an iconic piece of Walla Walla County farm furniture.  These tables were knocked together from whatever old wood was available and handy at the time.  They were used to feed harvest crews that worked the fields back in the 1800′s and 1900′s.  There was nothing special about their construction and after harvest they were knocked apart as quickly as they were knocked together in the first place.  Therefore there are none of these harvest tables around.

The Shady Lawn harvest tables are similar in construction and style to the tables found on local farms. I even use the old style slot-headed screws that are aged to look old. The table tops are sanded just enough to be flat without removing all of the old saw marks and character. A smooth satin varnish finish is then applied to the tables.

Over the past several years I have begun to repurpose old metal carts and tables acquired from farms and factories. The metal bases are cleaned and are then clear coated to prevent rust or old paint from flaking off. Cart or table tops are fashioned from reclaimed wood and are finished like the harvest table tops.

started with an old green painted metal stand...

started with an old green painted metal stand…

A future column will be devoted to a description of the barn wood used in my creations.

 

Dave Emigh is the owner of Shady Lawn Antiques and is a fifth generation ‘Walla Wallan’. He writes about antiques and life in the ‘Valley of the Two Wallas’ on his blog: http://www.wallawallalocal.wordpress.com.

the re-purposed Yardstick Table…

March 2, 2014

A couple of weeks ago our son, Nick, was hanging out in the Shady Lawn Antiques workshop here in Walla Walla.  ‘So what are you going to do with that little table dad?’  I am planning to rip off that old plywood top and make a top out of yardsticks…

By the time that I got back with some coffee, Nick had removed the old table top.  He then glued and clamped the base to make it sturdy.  Next it was time to sort through my yardsticks…

making the table base structurally sound

making the table base structurally sound

(Here is where I have to confess that I am somewhat of a yardstick collector but maybe that should be another blog post…)

I was thinking about using old scuffed up yardsticks but I have a kind of a soft spot for yardsticks.  It was easier to ‘sacrifice’ a bunch of newer ones that were the same, than the older ones that were all different.

Nick laid out the yardsticks and a pattern immediately came to mind.  My Aunt Audrey, who is an expert quilter, called it the ‘Log Cabin’ quilt square pattern.  Essentially the yardstick pieces kind of flowed around in a ‘spiral’ toward the middle.

cutting and fitting each piece

cutting and fitting each piece… Nick look at that piece again.  It is in the wrong place or maybe it is upside down.

I didn’t watch the whole cutting and fitting process but the result was a pattern that was at once both symmetrical and random.  The black lettering lined up on a diagonal for some symmetry.  The wood grain is a different color in each yardstick which is the random bit.

There has been some talk that if older scuffed-up yardsticks had been used they would have blended in with the old scuffed-up table base.  That is true but everyone knows that the yardstick top was added to this table.  So the crispness of the top makes a nice contrast with the base.

Nick and the yardstick table

Nick and the yardstick table

Different people have different tastes but the fact is that this table is absolutely unique.  There can never be another one exactly like it.  That is what makes re-purposed pieces so fun!

So how many yardsticks did it take to build this table top?  Look at the pictures and you can almost count how many were used…

there is also a slightly different picture of the top on facebook

there is also a slightly different picture of the top on facebook

How big is the table?  You can just look (in person) at the longest yardstick on the table and tell… and in answer to the question above, it took eighteen yardsticks to make the top.

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Column on Antique Restoration…

February 17, 2014

In the fall of 2012, I was asked to write a column/some articles about antiques for our local newspaper, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.  I agreed and my intent was to write one article a month.

Early in 2013, I wrote two articles and then I promptly ‘lost my voice’.  Even though I tried and tried, I couldn’t write another article.  During the ensuing months I read several other new columns that were published in the WWUB.   It then became obvious that I should just write like I always have written on this Blog… and I once again ‘found my voice’. 

I intend to post each column after it is published in the paper, along with some photos that may or may not appear in the paper.  Here is my latest column on antique restoration.

Antique Restoration

Restoring furniture is one of the most satisfying things that I do at Shady Lawn Antiques.  There is no greater thrill than to totally restore a piece that was literally on the way to the landfill.  It is my way of preserving and therefore honoring the work that craftsmen put into the original construction of the piece.

I’ve found that I have to talk myself down from doing the total reclamations that I have done in the past.  Sometimes they just don’t make economic sense but emotionally every once in a while I still sneak one in.  That being said, every January the Shady Lawn Antiques sales area is closed I spend the month (and a bit of February) restoring furniture.

Anyone who has watched the Antiques Roadshow on television has heard… ‘this piece of furniture would have been worth a lot more if it hadn’t been refinished.‘  Further, even a cleaning that removes the patina or the rich, mellow, old look a piece acquires over time will reduce its value.

This is especially true for furniture built by individual craftsmen prior to the age of mass manufacturing (about 1850).  However it is always better to leave original finishes intact even on pieces built in the 1900s.

It is these late 1800s to early 1900s mass produced pieces that I restore.  Repairing them and extending their functional life another 100 years is my focus.  My philosophy is to ‘use the lightest hand possible’ when restoring furniture.

My first priority is to make any piece structurally sound and functional.  For example a dresser should be solid and not wobble when you touch it.  The drawers should slide easily and the drawer bottoms should be solid with no cracks or holes.

Then I evaluate the finish.  When the original finish is in good enough condition to protect the wood and is still visually attractive I keep it.  When the finish has completely deteriorated or is extremely damaged I repair or replace it.

Here are several examples to illustrate how I put my philosophy into effect.

First is the case of two China Cabinets that I restored.  I bought both of them at the same auction and they were very similar.  Both were built between the late 1800s and the early 1900s.  They were both oak, had curved glass sides and doors, oak shelves and an interior mirror near the top.

The first cabinet had several minor issues that required attention.  The glue blocks supporting the legs were loose and had to be re-glued.  All of the glass was loose and needed to be re-installed.  The original finish was in good condition but needed the ‘barn dirt’ to be lightly cleaned off and then it was waxed.

The second cabinet required a complete restoration. All of the glass was falling out, every glue joint had failed, and the finish was dry, flaky, and in poor condition.  In that condition it was worth no more than what I paid for it. I took the entire cabinet apart, removed the finish, lightly sanded each piece, and then re-glued every joint.

deconstructed China Closet...

deconstructed China Closet…

I applied a new finish, waxed the cabinet and re-installed the glass.  A cabinet that was in shaky condition, at best, should now easily last another 100 years.  This time the refinishing actually increased the value of the piece.

This is a case where I purchased two similar cabinets at the same time.  They were both in entirely different condition so one had minimal restoration while the other was completely restored.

Another case was an oak Arts and Crafts era desk built by Stickley in about 1910.  In good original unrestored condition it would have had a value approaching one thousand dollars.  However it had been used in a Service Station and the top had over thirty-five cigarette burn marks on it.  I had to totally sand the top flat and refinish it to have any chance of someone wanting it.  It took a restoration to sell it, but only for three hundred dollars, far less than if it had been in original condition.

Remember in many cases ‘it would have been worth a lot more if it hadn’t been refinished’.  Well sometimes it would be worth a lot less if it hadn’t been refinished.  Consult with a professional if you have any concerns before you restore an antique!

Dave Emigh is the owner of Shady Lawn Antiques and is a fifth generation ‘Walla Wallan’.  He writes about antiques and life in the ‘Valley of the Two Wallas’ on his blog: http://www.wallawallalocal.wordpress.com.

Pendleton Round-Up… shopping at Hamleys

October 25, 2013

Hamleys western store in Pendleton, Oregon stays open late during the Pendleton Round-Up week (the second week in September).  So my daughter, Carolyn, and I wandered in after experiencing the Main Street Show (my previous post).

Hamley and Company is a store that specializes in Western wear, Western art, custom saddles created on site, leather goods, and accessories.  Hamleys is one of my favorite stores ever.

Personally it is not because of the Western wear, but it is because of the store itself.  In 2005, Parley Pearce and Blair Woodfield purchased Hamleys and began totally remodeling and outfitting the store.

Vickie and Parley Pearce, co-owners of Hamleys, seemed to take the design lead.  There was an outstanding, remarkably clear vision for the store layout and decoration that was developed and they set out to implement it.

Carolyn flanked by Vickie and Parley Pearce at Hamleys

Carolyn flanked by Vickie and Parley Pearce at Hamleys

The Pearces traveled the entire west to search for and acquire late 1800’s to early 1900’s store fixtures.  Oak was the wood of choice when these fixtures were originally built and is therefore featured extensively in Hamleys.

Furniture and fixtures made from oak convey a timeless sense of strength and durability.  The golden honey colored oak mixes remarkably well with fir and pine pieces.  The overall effect is warm and comfortable.

Parley shared their plan and vision with me during his search and I was able to find a number of pieces for him.  I also restored several of his pieces and even built a couple of pieces from reclaimed wood.

Thus when I am at Hamleys I get to ‘visit’ some of my old Shady Lawn Antiques (Walla Walla) friends.  I’d like to share some of them with you.

The first piece that we encountered was a table that I built from 100 year old reclaimed fir.  In our shop, I call these ‘Harvest Tables’.  They are inspired by the long straight tables that the old-time harvest crews ate dinner on, at the farm.  Perhaps it should be called a ‘Bunkhouse Table’ at Hamleys.

Nestled under the table was a railroad cart that I restored for Parley.  This cart needed to be clean, free of splinters, have a smooth finish, but yet retain its’ vintage character and it does!

a 'Dave-made' table and restored cart

a ‘Dave-made’ table and restored cart

Carolyn is checking out the selection of saddles (but maybe she needs to get a horse before she gets a saddle).  The saddle making shop is through the doors in the back.

Carolyn and the saddles

Carolyn where will you keep a horse in Seattle?

This is a dome topped trunk that I restored.  When this trunk was built there was green painted canvas between the slats.  The canvas added strength and some degree of water proofing.  Since the trunk won’t be traveling out in the weather anymore, I removed the canvas.  The exposed wood was then sanded and refinished.

restored trunk - circa 1890 - 1910

restored trunk – circa 1890 – 1910

I built the bench in the local farm-style.  That design features “V” cut legs with a “keyhole”.  The keyhole eliminates stress at the point of the “V” and reduces the potential of the legs cracking.  Next to it is a flat top trunk that I also restored.

a 'Dave-made' bench and another restored trunk

a ‘Dave-made’ bench and another restored trunk

It was fun to ‘visit’ all of my old pieces and see how they contribute (in their own small way) to the overall look of Hamleys.  Even if Western wear isn’t your thing, you should visit Hamleys sometime, you’ll be glad that you did!  Plan your visit around a meal because they also have a great steakhouse!

I leave you with this selection of Western belts! IMG_8434