Category Archives: Wood Pieces

The Weight Is a Gift: Custom Industrial Table, ca. 1900s/1930s

At Dorset Finds, we like a table. No surprises there. But a hefty, solid work table we love all the more…

Exploring the boundaries within this realm, it was decided that a heavy-duty workbench would be constructed out of salvaged pieces: a set of 90-pound, cast-iron lathe machine legs paired with a 2.25-inch-thick, 1930s work tabletop. Neither item was embraced with joy when negotiating the transportation to my third-floor walk-up. During the move, there may have been a curse or two hurled in the direction of the 30-year-dormant freight elevator, but the effort paid off.

Scale and proportion are always considerations when undertaking a project such as this. The finished piece needed to be dimensionally generous while also being manageable enough to place in any average living space.

After a thorough cleaning and light sanding, the true character of the timber surface was revealed. Scratches, crude saw cuts and paint stains mark its history beautifully. Therefore, plans were abandoned to strip the item down to bare wood. Instead, three layers of clear-coat were applied, preserving each flaw and blemish.

Heavily distressed, the patina of the green iron legs mirror the war wounds of the workbench’s surface. Once again, the imperfections were entombed rather than being sanded away. The marriage of the iron legs to the wood top has resurrected the table, now ready to host many decades of meals, conversations… and perhaps one or two backaches.

Beg, Borrow and Steel: Foundry Mold Collection, ca. 1940s

The appeal of old factory items is easy to grasp, especially when they’re repurposed to fulfill a new duty in a modern setting. They’re durable, show their wear well and perform a function.

What then, when objects — such as this collection of wood foundry molds — are presented as purely decorative? Generally, I would instinctively shy away from this concept. My preference is to gather useful, purposeful items. That said, there’s always room for exceptions to the rule.

This collection is a tribute: an assemblage of trophies commemorating the successful engineering of… something. These wooden parts were carefully designed and then put to use creating casts for what would become steel products utilized in machinery. The molds needed to be precision-made, because any miscalculations or flaws would render the resulting part incompatible with corresponding components.

Unexpectedly soulful, these patterns are mounted on heavy-gauge, steel bases. The paint hues are muted yet still draw the eye  to the elevated presentation of each mold, creating the illusion of them hovering above the table’s surface.

Rite Here, Rite Now: Sit-Rite Adjustable Drafting Stool, ca. 1940s

Much fuss has been made on this blog extolling the virtues of the industrial stool. Their hardened steel frames fared well in unforgiving factory conditions. Not so common, however, were their wooden counterparts.

The über-rare Sit-Rite stool was manufactured in solid birch wood by the Edward L. Koenig Co. in Chicago during the steel-rationed WWII era. It’s credited as being the first American-made ergonomic stool. The seat height is shifted by loosening two, 10-inch bolts that run through the base’s platform, while the backrest can be shifted several inches forward, backward, up and down.

This example retains its original finish with the added beauty of many layers of muck, which have, over time, darkened the wood and given it a patina to die for. You can almost smell the worker who once sat on her…

The Square Route: Heavy Duty Industrial Shelving, ca. 1920s

Storage is always a challenge, especially in cities where square footage comes at a premium. Finding pieces that hold a good deal of items while making sense visually is a tall order, which is why I love this modular shelving system.

These mistreated-to-perfection, 1920s shelves began their lives as factory carts with iron casters before being converted into shelving. They can be lined up, stacked or placed long-ways under a window with a few throw-pillows for seating.

Which ever way you slice it, these shelves are beaten to hell and there isn’t anything you’re going to do to them that hasn’t been done, with more severity, in the past.  Some furniture wants to be mistreated and these pieces look all the better for having obliged.

Each of the 4 sections is 48″ x 18″ x 18″.

Top This: Walnut Spinner

Having the right desk top distraction is not an option these days, it’s a necessity.

With so much screen time given in an average day, you need something to distract you from work (that isn’t an iPhone). Facebook is well and good but if you simply want to zone out and be entranced, sans status updates, there’s nothing quite like a good, old top.

I like this Frank Lloyd Wright-esque version from pucci Manuli in walnut. It’s got a nice weight to it and spins…forever. A great idea for X-mas too!