Stumps: Natures End Tables
I’m a sucker for dumps. Yes, they’re smelly, terrible places where all the ugliness of our wasteful culture is gathered in one shameful spot. But sometimes there is gold to be found in those hills of garbage.
First off, I don’t go digging. It’s dangerous, not allowed, and you wouldn’t find anything useful anyway, since everything has either been covered in last week’s left over tacos, or crushed by roving heavy machinery. The trick is to pay attention to what others are dropping off. There is a no-man’s land between the backs of everyone’s cars and the pit where you can score treasures that have no business ending up at the dump.
I’ve found everything from chairs to mirrors to weird bits of art painted on scraps of plywood that have ended up becoming cherished household treasures that are either still with us, or have gone on to new homes altogether.
One of my favourite pieces though, was a chunk of log I once found. Sure, I could probably have found another appropriate log in a more savoury place, but when I saw it at the dump, something clicked and I thought to myself, “hey, it’s nature’s end table!” Glancing over my shoulder to make sure nobody was watching, (you’re not suppose to steal from the dump for some reason) I quickly hauled the 30kg monster into the back of my truck after dropping off a load of trash and made for home with my ill-gotten dump log.
I think the piece was alder, and when it was a tree, it clearly had vines clinging to it, making it all the more beautiful. My job was made easy by the fact that whoever cut down the tree from which it came, did so incredibly neatly, slicing out chunks roughly 18″ tall, and perfectly evenly, so that it sat on the floor without wobbling with an almost perfectly level surface.
After letting it dry on my porch for a few months, I hauled out my orbital sander and went to work, starting out with the heaviest grade of sandpaper I could find (80). It took me a solid, dusty hour, but by the time I was finished, my stump had a beautiful finish. I used the vacuum to clean the dust out of the cracks on the surface, gave it a good wash, and once it was dry, I coated the surface with a semi-gloss latex clear coat.
It lived in my sons’ room for a few years, and recently after a move from Vancouver to the Kootenays, we were lucky enough to reclaim it for our living room where it now sits, and people still ask me where we bought it.
I think we’re going to need a few more of these around the house.