As I have mentioned before, people out here build things. And one of the things we seem to build somewhat frequently is outdoor furniture. The style employed is what I call Beachwood Amalgam. It’s a fusion, kinda.
Basically, BA is made from natural driftwood such as trees and branches and logs. Some of it is made from what was formerly finished lumber that has returned to its roots, as it were. Gone awol. Made a break for it. Awol lumber was originally used in docks, old buildings that fell into the water, flotsam, jetsam, dunnage and various other sources from man-made structures all over the coast. Awol lumber is the best of the free-floating selection as it usually comes with the attractive patina provided by washed out painted surfaces and irregular thicknesses. It also has the added convenience of a relatively flat surface.
You would be surprised at how much of that latter category there is. Of course, much of the wood is ‘somewhat natural’ as in trees-with-roots-and-branches-attached and some of it is processed in the sense that a lumber company cut it, boomed it and then lost it. But it would seem that a small percentage of the wood in the water is the stuff that was once used by others for some kind of construction.
Judging from the sea-wear and rounded edges, from the faded paint and the bent nails, this stuff has history. Lots of it. It definitely has character and it often smacks of the distant past. Much of it consists of pieces of a size that are not even milled these days. And some of it is even ‘rough-cut’, meaning that it is milled by some guy with a chainsaw or a rudimentary mill. This is the stuff that furniture-maker salvagers prize highly.
Processed logs are next on the most sought-after list with bent ones being the best. The big ones (over 12″ in diameter) are of little use to us, though. They are too big and too heavy and we don’t have the equipment required for ‘wrangling’ them. The medium sized ones are good for winter heat if they are straight, but some of the severely bent ones may have an attractive section to cut out and utilize in a roof-line or something needing an aesthetic touch.
We prize most highly the slim, so-called ‘pecker-pole’. These are the thin poles and the bent branches that are not much bigger than thick arms and legs. These and the old lumber are the raw material for furniture-making.
Of course the most common effort at furniture is a bench of sorts. They range from the simple to the marvelously intricate and can be found all over the coast. Many of them are built using nails and lag screws but I am a bit partial to the ones fastened together from coarse dowels carved and used as spikes. Thumb-thick, hand-carved dowels with a tapered end roughly one-inch in diameter will, when coated in glue, hammer in and tighten a join nicely.
Carried away, a guy can furnish a whole house with this stuff and, if finished nicely, it looks fantastic. But that is not common. Most people make a foot-stool or a side table to go with a bench. Next on the list might be a beach table to accompany a fire pit or a barbecue. I’ve seen quite a few garden arbors made in this style as well.
Personally, I think the best use – other than the odd bench and table – is a small building like an outhouse or garden shed. Seems to fit nicely with the surroundings and, despite it’s unusual structural style, will likely last a long time.
I’ve made a few small pieces. A bench or three, a side table or two, an arch…….kinda. My wood shed is partly Beachwood Amalgam, too, but not enough to qualify. It’s a mongrel, actually. I bought most of the wood. But I am considering enhancing the BA style for the next outbuilding.
I am really just thinkin’ about it…………….mulling it over…….‘just how funky can I get?’