Renovation & Design

One man's junk, another man's treasure

Breathing new life into old wood

Reg Sawatzky built a bench out of old wood that used to be part of a bridge ac ross the Long River near Holmfield.

You know how I like preserving the past.

But not everything rescued has to serve its original purpose. Repurposing is just fine with me, whatever it takes to keep something worth saving from going to the dump.

My buddy Reg Sawatzky of my old hometown of Killarney not only shares these sentiments with me, he turns what some would consider garbage into some pretty amazing, and useful things.

Take for example the gorgeous old wooden bench you see him with here.

Along with Reg and zillions of other people over the decades, I used to drive over that timber when it was part of a bridge that crossed the Long River, a mile west of Holmfield.

One fine day back in the 1980s, Reg and his dad Nick arrived at the bridge only to find it was being replaced (with culverts). The old bridge was dragged off into the ditch.

Nick asked the foreman what they were going to do with it, the foreman replied: "crush it up and take it to the dump." Long River story short — that didn’t happen.

Nick and Reg saved all the useful timbers from the bridge and even got the 12’ by 12’ square cedar timbers that had been sunk vertically in the ground (and river) to build the bridge on. Reg says even though the bridge was built back in the 1930s, the part of those posts below ground/water was excellent, in even better condition than the part above ground.

Reg comes by his rescue and re-purpose hobby honestly. His father made gorgeous fireplace mantels for people from those old pillars. Then he used the timbers from the bridge substructure, there were a few layers of these criss-crossing each other, to build the world’s strongest foundation for the deck at his home.

And there they stayed until Reg’s brother Clarence tore the old deck apart this spring. He was going to cut the timbers up but his wife Betty said, "These aren’t bad. Maybe you better ask Reg if he wants them first. You know what he does."

So Reg, who I think has earned the title The Lone Ranger by this point — comes over and saves these precious old growth timbers from destruction... again!

My hero!

He hauls the timber home and wonders, "Hmmm, what to do with them? Benches, they’d make great benches." So he grabs his measuring tape, pencil, saw and gets to work. By the time the sawdust settles (he also ran them through his planer), he has created four of these handsome benches, three four-footers and a six-footer, given each three coats of Helmsman Min Wax (high gloss clear) and placed them artfully about his beautifully landscaped yard, which is the loving creation of Reg and his wife, Jill. A talented pair.

Of course, he doesn’t keep all of them. The six-footer was given to friends whose teenager loves to stretch out on it for a snooze, and another, he gave to me! Thanks, Reg, love it, and so do the cats.

Of the two remaining, my guess is he’ll probably keep one if he’s lucky.

There’s another piece of local history built into these benches. The cross braces holding the seat to the legs come from Killarney’s last wooden elevator, which was torn down earlier this year.

I should have bought it to build my retirement home. Missed it by that much. The cats would have played with the rats. We’d have been one big happy family.

I don’t think I’ve told Reg I was given a whole barn to take whatever I want from. A big barn. I wonder if it’s still there?

If it is, Reg is going to be one busy boy. And he’ll LOVE every nail-pulling, beam-hauling minute of it.

Anyone out there need a bench?

Comments or feedback, love to hear from you!


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