Restore, Recycle, Remember

I am moving offices.  Our school just brought a community pastor on board, and we want her to have an office with good visibility and high traffic.  My home for the last 9 years fits the bill, and so I was asked if I would be willing to move.  I am very happy to do this, and was offered a couple of offices that have recently emptied.  The one I choose has good light, is a nice size and is set back a bit from the traffic.  It will serve me well, and I am glad to have it.  I was invited to move my furniture upstairs, or to leave it behind and get something from university stores (good, gently used goods).  I asked to see what was in the office of the retiring colleague vacating my preferred location.


I had never really noticed before, but he had an old wooden desk with a matching credenza.  I was taken by them, and asked if I couldn’t just keep these two.  The Principal Dean agreed to this, and I seconded my wife to help me cart these old masters home.  The following picture tells a little about the desk’s history.




In 1973, the Lutheran Church sold its university to the province, and Waterloo Lutheran University became Wilfrid Laurier University.  Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, where I work is the founding institution of the old and new WLU, and is now a federated college.  The sticker lets us know that the desk dates from at least that time, and possibly earlier.  The cuts of the design hint at 60’s Scandinavian style, but the following photo from one of the desk drawers tells us that the desk was built locally.




I am currently stripping the finish.  My wife is the wood expert in our household, but I have taken on this project with her advice as needed.  I really wanted my work of mind to take place on a piece of furniture in which I have invested the work of my body.  It seems right.  It also seemed like an act of retrieval because old desks like this are often junked in favor of the modular furniture that serves the cubicle culture of the modern office.  My office is a little old school, and so a 50 year old desk seems fitting.


I must say that I feel a little like I am in the midst of a holy task as I strip and sand and stain.  I find myself thinking about the sacred conversations that occurred across this desk.  I think of the professors writing articles, preparing lectures, and mulling over sermon ideas.  I think of the craftsmen who first put together this work of art.  I feel honored to be included in the history of this desk, and its credenza.


In working on this work of art, I find myself oddly at peace.  I don’t think I’ll give up my day job and take this up vocationally.  All the same, when I look down at the desk, it strikes me that as I caress this tree rendered in service of homo sapiens, the grain of the wood smiles at me, and I smile back.


18 thoughts on “Restore, Recycle, Remember

  1. perrymj says:

    You have reminded me a great deal of one of my non-Christian heros, Pete Seeger, who said “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”

  2. Marie Taylor says:

    Working with my hands has always been a source of comfort to me, a form of therapy for the over-active and always-fretful mind. Objects that have been lived with for a long time seem to acquire a personality of sorts and are imbued by the energies of all who have been in contact. I envy you your task. 🙂

  3. silverliningsanddustbunnies says:

    Beautifully crafted wood furniture is a joy to many generations. Your restoration is now part of its history. You’ve helped bring out the best and deeper tones from the wood, now it’s the desks turn to reciprocate.

  4. I love this. Love the history you took up in the labor of love over the desk. Holy indeed. All work is sacred, esp when taken up with such grace and care.

  5. Denise Hisey says:

    What a treasure, Allen!

  6. diannegray says:

    I love refurbishing and fixing old furniture. It has so much more personality and beauty than modern furniture. Don’t forget to take before and after shots, Allen. I can’t wait to see the finished product! 😀

    • agjorgenson says:

      Alas I am already to late on the before and after picture. But as shoreacres notes below, perhaps it is the before and after of the craftsman as much as the craft that is changed! I have a before picture of me, but I’m not sure the after will catch the interior change.

  7. shoreacres says:

    I had to laugh at Dianne’s comment about before and after shots. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has said, “Oh, my gosh! We should have taken some “before” photos!” I never think of it when I’m beginning a project. Then, at the end, it’s too late. On the other hand, I always think it’s the process that’s more important — or as important — as the finished project, and you can’t capture that with a camera.

    All these “re” words got me thinking, and I found three more: renew, revivify, and resurrect. Of course, they may apply more to the woodworker than to the wood by the time the process is over.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Yes, I am already too late to the draw on this. Also, the before pictures would a bit lackluster. It isn’t that the furniture looks horrid, just tired. Besides, I’m not sure the desk would approve As for your latter paragraph: Amen!

  8. jannatwrites says:

    There is something satisfying about restoring something ourselves. I’m glad you are able to give the desk new life!

    • agjorgenson says:

      Satisfying is the perfect word. As I was working on the desk today, I was asking my wife for some advice (she is the wood expert in our house). And then I said (mostly to myself): “I’m outside of my comfort level here.” Oddly enough, that is part of the satisfaction, to push myself and set aside perfection in favour of exploration.

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