10 August 2016

66 – Garbage into Gold

I’ve been working on several carpentry projects recently.

I’ve also had several chats with different folk about making good use of both junk and mistakes. And those things inspired this essay.

I tinker with woodworking projects during weekends. And weekend weather has been agreeable recently, so I’ve been able to act on some decent ideas. What can I tell you? Sometimes The Cosmos aligns itself in our favour.

I’m not a master carpenter. I’m just an inspired amateur who likes playing with his wood. I’m also a writer who chooses his words carefully.

A few people have asked me why I’ve never become a carpenter. Two reasons:

1) I’ve gotten more than my fill of formal education. Trust me. I’ve talked about it here, here, and here. I’ve learned that there are plenty of better places to learn than a classroom.

2) Woodworking is a very Zen activity for me. I find a lot of peace in it. I’m simply following my bliss through the sawdust in my own time.

I’ve made a number of things the past few years. Most pieces are functional. Some are strictly ornamental. None will ever be featured on The New Yankee Workshop or Rough Cut.



Inspired professionals playing with their wood.


Everything I’ve made has two things in common. First, making them has always been fun. And second, all those pieces have been repurposed from the salvaged scrap wood of things that were deemed old, broken, or both.

One of my life goals is to live in a home where every furnishing is handcrafted by me. What can I tell you? I agree entirely with Frank Costello on this score

It'd be hard not to. He can be rather persuasive.


He says who has a fuckin’ problem.

Anyways, everything in my home is handcrafted except for the bedroom dresser.

The bookcases, coffee tables, and entertainment centre are made from scrap ply and cabinetry I found in the basement of a flat I once lived in.








I've made several deck benches using scrap 2x4 and rail board from an old fence I helped my friend, Clay, and her boyfriend, The Macho Farmer, tear down and then replace. 





The office desk is made from the remains of three old office desks that were sent to the curb.



The office workbench was born from those same computer desks, scrap 2x4, and old stair balusters from Clay’s house. 



The bathroom TowelRackShelf and entranceway CoatRackShelf are made from scrap 2x4, ply, and pallet board I’d salvaged from work. 




The decorative pieces were jigged out of scrap ply provided by The Macho Farmer. 







The storage crates / portable shelving units I made for Clay were broken Adirondack chairs in a former life. 



And the pottery drying rack and crate I recently made for Clay come courtesy the remains of a GarbageRecycleBox. 





In a previous life that GarbageRecycleBox used to be a treehouse. What can I tell you? A treehouse just ain’t the same once a hurricane blows it out of the tree.

There’s no such thing as garbage in woodworking. No material is ever really useless. Scrap wood can always be turned into something useful and new again.

Mistakes are like broken, useless things. They leave us wondering if they could’ve been avoided, and what or how we can replace them. We’re left helplessly searching for help in their wake.

We all make mistakes. Some we can avoid. Some we can’t.

Mistakes are a part of life. So they’re also like shit. They happen.

Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are big. Some are small. But the worst mistake of all is to dwell on those mistakes that we do make.

Don’t get me wrong. Dealing with the consequences of a mistake sucks. Some mistakes break our heart and soul so badly that they’ll never set properly again. Mistakes remind us that sometimes we have no choice but to adapt and change. They remind us that dealing’s a part of life when you strive to be a respectable, proper human.

There are valuable lessons to be found in the wake of a mistake. Taking a wrong turn often helps us find our bearings. Putting a broken thing back together can teach us how the thing works. We often gain wisdom through acting stupid.

It’s easy to beat ourselves up over our mistakes. It’s easy to write off broken things as junk. But easy roads seldom lead to reward and have little ripple effect on our lives.

Walking through life unscathed doesn’t make us better people. Pulling ourselves up when we fall and learning to carry on with the limp does.

Garbage can be made into gold.


*** *** ***

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone

- Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia

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The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at bobharding80@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.