05/19/2019 Given a 120 – 140-year-old chest, I have not only been sanding, refurbishing, replacing a lot of old, but also finding a lot of old that holds great beauty. The cedar lined – so I thought – “box” had experienced early stages of refinishing. Trying to remove old varnish/stain revealed the outside was covered with a thin veneer. Efforts to recapture a shine unfortunately caused chipping, cracks, and pretty much lost hope of ending up with a glossy piece of furniture. “Hey Mr. Smith, I’ve got an old chest I’m gonna toss – you want it for the wood? It’s an heirloom from great grandma, but…”
“Sure, I’ll grab it – probably make a new entry chest out of some of it. Thanks.” So, a dark, musty, ‘what can I do with this thing’ came home with me one day and a real adventure began. A belt sander ground through the veneer, slowly and surely with a little elbow help. Then came the thick, grey glue that puffed dust everywhere but in the collector bag on the sander. The cedar on the inside was not a “lining.” As the outer layers came off, solid ¾ inch in-near-perfect-shape- still-aroma-ing-the-air red cedar appeared. The ends, the back – all the same. A mysteriously covered burgundy-ish and white-ish solid board appeared. I have not quite figured out the top since with great expectation the grinding exposed – thin poplar boards edge glued and stuck atop the cedar. Time will tell on that piece. The antiquity certainly gone, I do look forward to the hand rub oil to follow – the 220-grit sanding for smoothness – the finishing touches of decorative trim and perhaps a contrast stain. But the heart of it, the heirloom of it will remain. The foundation remains aromatic cedar. Old, some nicks, a scratch or two – but solid and strong. A soul of old-fashioned craftsmanship held with tongue and groove or pegged connections. Never repaired in all the years. Strong.
I wonder what treasures this box held? Handmade comforters or table cloths? A dowry? Bed sheets? Baby clothes left behind as the kids sped forward? Dolls? The old family Bible? Regardless, whatever came out certainly scented moments with a woodsy and “isn’t this a great smell” idyll. Treasures. When I toil on the project, my mind slips into a reverie of trying to hear the cedar reveal secrets. I like the language of old things, the voice of dad in the hammer I use, its leather strip wound handle still intact though spattered with paint and darkened with perspiration. The rasp with hardly any “rasp” left. Rod clamps and the fractured handle screwdriver one dasn’t remove without putting back. This chest was made with corner gussets cut to perfectly hide the tops of lag bolts holding on the feet. Corner seams also had the same treatment – a very narrow, 45° angle cut on both sides, glued in place into a piece of amazing.
I’m not quite sure why I think so much about this particular re-do. Maybe the discoveries as changes emerged. Maybe the happy in finding solid nature, the sense of heart put into the creation, the soul in the things it held. Like many, I have lived my years in times of incredible change. From no TV to a wrist band that allows me to chat long distance. From an “outhouse” to, wellll…. I guess an “inhouse.” Neil Armstrong likely looked for Alice Kramden on the moon. Landscapes and country sides – so much “long time passing.” I’m pretty much glad about the aromatic cedar that still solidifies my days in all this. That well-built, grace and love foundation that knits together we Christians’ lives. What God created, what Christ gave, and what the Holy Spirit uses to guide us prayerfully escapes change, remains strong for the faith we have in it. We might lose it once or twice, but if we dig and scratch around, its beauty will emerge. submitted by Dave Smith