Recycled Wood

Not sure why, since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be a builder, a tinkerer. I’m a dreamer. If you missed Tomorrowland in theatre, the George Clooney romp remains one of my favorite movies, not for the film’s greatness, but rather for the needed theme and tone in an ever-challenging world. To preface, I’ll also say, “Most of my ideas rarely work … take longer than they should.” Sigh. However, I always try. This is important. Document your failures. Challenge the in-between moments. We don’t do this enough; instead, we live in a harsh fear of what happens if we make a misstep. I understand, but note, folks want the raw realism. You’re better for showing your mistakes if only to learn.

On to the little things, I love to fiddle with oak …

Hard. Unforgiving. But with the proper stain leaves an impression. Looking back, I was terrible in high school shop class, a D- student with a forgiving man leading the class. Yet, I still try. I built the desk I work at despite the imperfections. If I taught High School Shop, I’d give myself an A- here. My dining table from yesteryear? C. Maybe. The frustrating piece of furniture fell over when a slight breeze right blew through the kitchen. Another sigh.

And so, this beautiful piece of craftsmanship is a failure of sorts, never to be used for long games of Risk or Thanksgiving dinner. But ah … the tabletop looked the part. The perfect Instagram post. In the our evolving work from home age, your background is immediately noticed. Is that statue of the Colosseo? What are you reading? What color are your walls? Do they match the books? Watching the occasional late-night political show, I laugh at the high-minded types when their copies of Shakespeare color coordinate with the wall paint. Have they read the Tempest? Or, only the Hamlet highlights?

On a conference call moons back, a team member noticed a shelving unit, paused, and then laughed, “I think my grandma has one of those in her house.” Not sure why, but I felt offended. Everyone is too thin-skinned these days. Still, I couldn’t let that stand, in my own head (never let them see you sweat), and sketched out a new and improved version.

So, a quest began – to build a shelf not imported from across the world and made from flimsy particleboard scratched and painted for that certain authentic look. With the cast of Friends being reunited on HBO, I remembered a certain episode and refused bowing to the power of Pottery Barn. To begin, I made a trip to the local Home Depot to grab missing parts. Before inspecting each piece of wood for straightness and quality, I noticed the price. This is why the housing market has gone on a tear. Lumber is up 200 percent and some change; so, the only prudent step was to transform my wobbly table.

A few simple steps (feel free to skip ahead):

  • First, I removed all of my pocket holes, ensuring a gnarly nail wasn’t missed. And, I went to great lengths, drawing from the memory banks of three years past, to find my carefully hid camouflage holes. Up close, they’re easy to spot, but I did admire my work of mixing glue and sawdust, a far superior trick to buying off the shelf wood filler. The blending worked. Finding these shards prove an essential step because loose metal can make your life complicated. Playing in the workshop, I’ve stabbed myself inadvertently pulling nails or stripping wood. Typically, your standard table saw will plow through a missed nail, but there is also the low odds of an errant happening. No sense in having a tip fly through a car windshield or worse. Eyes are irreplaceable.
  • Then, I fired up the sander. I probably didn’t have to but wanted an even finish.
  • Saving the sawdust, I rehashed my glue paste recipe to patch imperfections.
  • For a final step at construction, I stole a metal flange design from the folks at Pinterest. Note, oak is a solid wood, not the highest on the IBF scale, but far harder to work with than balsa. Back in the day, MTV had these bad claymation movies called Celebrity Death Match. Schwarzenegger vs. Sly. Jack vs. Leo. In the final build stage, what happens when wood screws battle red oak? Made in China, they break. Even if one pre-drills the holes, they collapse. I’ve visited Chinese steel factories; they are enormous in size and scope. But in 2021, they are sending the leftovers or struggling with quality control. There are no other answers as I broke a half dozen, spinning them to a kaleidoscope of brittle metal mess. So, I ordered genuine, high-quality screws from a shop in the ole USA instead of the big box retailers, paying extra, which made a tremendous difference.
  • And to close, stain four times for effect. I’m not sure why, but I take great joy in finishing wood. Each piece tells a story, recycled or not.

A place to hold your stuff:

The finished product turned out. Functional. Not as striking as the original. Yet, still holds my marble collection, playing cards, and functional books I look at depending on need. What’s on my shelf now? Mindset. Washington Biography. Tools of Titans. Plato’s Republic. The Magic of Thinking Big. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Elements of Style. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Draft No. 4. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy. And a host of others with non-coordinating covers, most are tattered and abused.

One ring to rule them all …

Having leftover wood, I moved to wearable rings. In my mission to find one to bind them from Tolkien lore, I’ll say this project wasn’t really worth the time compared to the end result. I felt like a version of Frodo, who climbed atop Mount Doom, dropped the ring into the fire, but it wasn’t hot enough to melt and save the realm. Frustrating.

Why? Unsure. I do try but never read a trendy pandemic article on how best to fill time in the brave world with a new hobby or by running to lose weight. While in my makeshift wood shop, inspiration came, so I sprinted to the wrong finish. I entered the 50 yard dash but crossed the 10K event line. I basically made a cut and then used a 3/4 inch drill bit. I didn’t size anything for perfection, only found a finger that fit.

What I wasn’t expecting was the tremendous amount of sanding required. Even if I used a jigsaw, the small slabs of wood became challenging to handle; therefore, I pivoted to a Dremel attachment and eyeballed the result.

My first attempt turned out rough in places. I like to call my artistic style rustic because I never found the rhythm or approach to obtain perfect. Round? Nah. Close? Not really.

For round two, iteration is key, I tried to hack the sanding by using a thinner grade of wood. This cut the time; however, the flimsy cost me. Yes, the ring broke while fine-tuning. Turns out, there is a reason why professional stone carvers start with a massive rock and work their way into a finished product. Shortcuts and hack jobs can lead to regret. This reminds me of a particular communist country stealing secrets from NASA, reading the plans, and launching a giant rocket into the global sky. Notice how their rovers and technology look remarkably similar? The party can claim how fast their society built a rocket, achieving a higher level of intellect than the demonic west. But learning and iteration can lead to a responsible outcome. I often judge the stealers of intellectual property harshly; yet, interpretation is lost in data dumps. Ever ruin something, even with the directions. There is a reason for the journey. And why the road trip matters.

This is why hacking rocket development, stealing to gain an edge, leads to consequences; it’s good to model the re-entry instead of simply winging it like a frat guy at the local pick-up bar. Respect and care matter in all fields of importance. Science. Genome. Virus research. Artificial intelligence. Speech. Until this improves, shouldn’t the world demand a higher level of accountability to those who desire a seat on the world stage? Hold those cutting corners to account.

I digress; I’m making lightweight wood rings, not Mars rovers. Onward.

For my third try, I found marginal improvement. Looks wondrous when the light comes in from the perfect angle. Fit is questionable. Still, I doubt anyone is going to see me touring the local country bars and say, ”That ring looks astonishing! Where did you get it?” As much as I’d like to smirk confidentially and reply, ”I built this with my bare hands,” I know these don’t look cool. But that doesn’t matter if you love the way you look. Remember, awesomeness and style remains a state of mind.

Wooden Rings, Round 1 and 3. And yes, “You’re going to love the way you look.”

Always tinkering.


  • If I had found this handy sizing guide ahead of time, I might have saved a little time.
  • There is a ranking system for wood strengths.
  • For those wanting to craft a true word ring, don’t use my winging it guide (fine for crafts not so much for re-entry) but check out the following book.
  • There is a Jason Sheridan Easter Egg hidden in one of the pictures, I’ve received questions on progress, slow and ongoing. Writing is a journey.
  • Using the word fiddle shows one’s age.
  • And yes, the rocket did find the ocean. Based on probability theory, one can win at roulette too.