Furniture that Tells Tales

Furniture that Tells Tales

People come from Duluth and beyond to buy reclaimed lumber products from us because they love a good story. Among other things, we are grateful and happy to offer you high-quality tables that “tell tales”. Someone may ask you “What is this mark on your table? ” You can smile and say “That’s not a mark. That’s history!”

To the trained eye, our pickle barrel wood tables reveal lots of history. The first thing you will notice is how high-quality the wood is. This old-growth wood came from a time when trees took their time building dense rings and incredible strength. After taking ages to grow, the wood selected for the barrels had to reliably hold acidic liquid for a long time. To accomplish this, the best wood was used—virtually free of all but microscopic knots. After noting the wood’s natural beauty, you can further consider its history by examining its man-made “marks.”

To help you play the Indiana Jones of Wood at your next family function, we left you some props. Although our finished tables look much different than pickle barrels, we left plenty of “marks” on them as clues to their former lives.

“I’m a big fan of leaving in evidence of the history of what the items originally was, ” said Lake Wood Designs Co-Owner Devin Garrett. 

Before you can become an amateur pickle-barrel-table archeologist you should know a little bit about the history of our pickle barrels’ wood. The wood in this next photo comes from a pickle barrel between 60 to 150 years old. We are currently using it to make tables.

Pickle barrel staves which will be made into tables. Note the notches.

This pile used to be pickle barrel staves. They were placed vertically and formed the wall of the barrel. 

“All the staves would come together and they would place a steel band around it,” said Devin. “When you look at the outside of the tank staves you can see where they would put the band.”

In this next zoomed-in photo of the stave you may notice the outside (notched side) is more brightly-colored than the inside side.

Close up of staves. Note the color difference between notched and un-notched side.

“Because this wood is from a pickle tank, the inside will be darker,” said Devin. “For the first inch and a half, the inside of that tank stave is much darker that the back half, which is really cool to see.”

When you go into your dinner-party table exposition you can start with the leg. Here the band notch is impossible to miss. 

Notched leg of table using pickle-barrel wood.

Ok, here’s a chance to test your skills as a furniture historian. In the following photo there are at least three clues that tell us something about the history of this table’s barrel-parent. What clues to the barrel’s original construction can you spot?

Top of pickle-barrel table.

Ok, time’s up. The first thing we can see in the upper left part of this table top photo is a clear black mark shaped like a drill. 

“The dowel holes are very prominent,” said Devin. “You can imagine what sort of drill they used.”

Second, at the bottom right you can see the same dark drill shape with a light arrow superimposed. This is piece of the original dowel rod. 

“This is from a tank bottom and they used light oak dowels,” said Devin. “Sometimes we are able to keep the white oak dowel in the table. You can see they made the dowel like an arrow so it’s not getting caught on anything. “

The third clue you can see on this old table top is evidence of old nail stains. This confirms the existence of the highly-acidic liquid which once filled the barrel this wood came from.

While preserving evidence of this table’s history, we also memorialized what was probably a tough moment for a previous owner. Returning to the leg, we can see part of the leg’s bottom is made of some sort of translucent material. This is actually epoxy filling in a part lost to fire.

We could have taken this “flaw” out, but then you wouldn’t be able to sit around and theorize about how, why, and when in the distant past this piece of wood burned. Now instead of an archeologist you are playing detective, opening up a very old cold case with your table as evidence. 

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