A Piece of Family History

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We love it when a piece of furniture has a story behind it. There’s something so captivating about a piece that has been through years of use, seen different places and people, and has the marks to prove it. It can evoke a real sense connection to the past, and we find such beauty in that!

Recently, we were lucky enough to work on such a piece for a customer of ours. Sandy brought us an old trawl door that she wanted to transform into a desk.  Here’s the story behind this unique piece as told by Sandy:

Sappho's plans and the old door before arriving at the shop.

“My father was the manager of several seafood processing plants in rural Newfoundland in the late 70s and early 80s. He obtained this old rectangular slab of wood, known as a trawl door, when we lived in Grand Bank for a few years. It is a weighted pine slab with brass handles in adjacent corners, and is quite heavy. These trawl doors (sometimes known as otter boards) were used on fishing vessels known as trawlers or draggers, and they fished the Grand Banks during the heydey of the Newfoundland fishery.

Refinishing the wood door at the henhouse workshop.

A large funnel-like net, or trawl, was towed/dragged behind the trawler to catch the fish, and the trawl doors were positioned vertically at the front of the net, with chains through the brass handles, to prevent the net from closing shut. Sometimes, the trawl doors also acted like a plough. They tore up the seabed as they were dragged, creating a cloud of muddy water to hide the net, as well as generating noise, which attracted the fish. It is likely that this slab was dragged along the Grand Banks, well below the surface of the sea!

The new metal legs are added! Metal smith Chris Joyce custom made them to match the original brass handles.

My father had the slab refinished and had some legs added, and it became our coffee table all during my childhood and teenage years. I moved out when I turned 17, but when he passed away in 1997 at age 48, I had the task of sorting through his things, and I held onto this. It came with me during all of my moves to various universities and places of employment over the years…. from BC to PEI to Halifax, to New Hampshire to Arizona to Halifax again. This table has been all over. It is one of the only items of his that I have, and definitely the only article of furniture. It is of great sentimental value to me.

A detailed view of the restored surface and original handle.

Over the years and travels, the legs disappeared and the wood got a little banged up, but it was solid and I knew that when I had the time someday, I would do something with nice with it.Fast forward to today: I own a house in the Hydrostone and I’m picking away at renovating this 100 year old piece of history. It was time to do something with the slab of wood and I was keen on having it converted into a desk. I wasn’t sure who to bring it to….. a carpenter? A furniture clinic? I didn’t want country kitchen legs on the thing. I wanted an authentic look that highlighted the story behind the table, yet was modern enough to suit my decor.

The finished piece!


Henhouse seemed like the perfect choice, and, it’s right in my neighbourhood. When I brought in the slab, I let Sappho use her creative license to come up with some leg ideas, and she suggested metal to match the brass handles. I was all for it. She contacted an artist/metalsmith friend of hers and he created a clean and modern set of metal “legs” while Sappho took care of the table itself. It looks great. I think Dad would be happy.”

We are so happy to be a part of the ongoing story! We had a great time working on this piece. Thanks for sharing your story with us Sandy!

2 Responses to “A Piece of Family History”

  1. John

    Fantastic! I know this old door/table. What a beautiful job you all have done. Looks terrific.

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