HARPSWELL CRAFTSMAN BILL GREENWOOD points to the grain in a 200-year-old slab of “pumpkin pine”he fashioned into a tabletop. The top, along with the rest of the table attached to it, will be raffled as a fundraiser for the Elijah Kellogg Congregational Church in Harpswell.

HARPSWELL CRAFTSMAN BILL GREENWOOD points to the grain in a 200-year-old slab of “pumpkin pine”he fashioned into a tabletop. The top, along with the rest of the table attached to it, will be raffled as a fundraiser for the Elijah Kellogg Congregational Church in Harpswell.

HARPSWELL

It all started with some very large, very old wood.

To raise money for their church, a Topsham couple and a Harpswell craftsman turned an ancient piece of “pumpkin” pine into an elegantly modern, Shakerinspired dining room table.

Nancy Schlieper donated the wood — an eight-foot-long, 32-inch-wide, 80-pound hunk of pine which, she said, had been passed down from her timberjack great-grandfather.

“His name was Albion Jack, and he was a lumberman,” Schlieper said. “He brought down six of the boards he had, and they’ve been preserved all this time.”

Exactly where they were “brought down” from is unknown, and further backstory of the wood has been lost to history.

“I only know what my grandmother told me, that [Jack] brought it down from ‘up country,’” Schlieper said, then laughed at the absurdly wide range of topography that implies.

Could have been the wilds of Bowdoinham, the Upper Allagash or the Laurentian mountains of Québec. Hard to say.

Because of its size and color, Harpswell woodworker Bill Greenwood speculates that the wood is from firstgrowth pine. That would place its age as predating Maine’s admission into the Union in 1820.

Thomaston retired forester, Pete Lammert, confirms that the pumpkin-colored finish is as old as the state’s forest itself.

“It’s written all over the history books of Maine,” Lammert said. “It’s the result of a fungus that’s in the heartwood of old growth pine, which turns the wood golden-dark as it ages.”

More recently, the boards lived in Schliepers’ barn while she and her husband Dave, a military man, moved around the country.

Schlieper’s father had one slab made into a coffee table, which currently stands in Dave and Nancy’s Topsham living room. Three other boards remain, but nothing specific is yet planned for them.

Each slab is rough-sawn to eight feet long and 32 inches wide.

The Schliepers and Greenwood both attend Elijah Kellogg Congregational Church in Harpswell Center. Three years ago, Greenwood built an elaborate doll house that the church raffled off as a fundraiser. Because of the success of that project, another old-world craft project seemed like the way to go.

“The board is easily more than 200 years old,” Schlieper said. “We decided a table would be another good raffle for the church.”

So Greenwood spent six months, working on and off, to turn the eight-foot-long, 32- inch-wide single pine slab into an elegantly simple, Shaker-inspired six-foot-long table.

“I cut it to six feet to make it manageable, because you can’t lift eight feet of it,” he said. He sanded and filled small cracks and fissures, then applied 18 coats of polyurethane to protect it and bring out long, serpentine oscillations in the grain.

Then Greenwood shaped and shaved hard maple to craft the legs and cradles which carry the colorful top. He cut mortise-and-tenon joints in the legs and center beam. Those are held together by trapezoidal pegs driven through the bitter ends of the beam. Contrasting with the naturally faded top, the underpinnings are covered with an opaque off-white milk paint very similar to what old-world craftsmen used. Milk paint — which, yes, actually contains milk — absorbs into the wood and bonds to it to form a much stronger, more durable covering than conventional paint which floats on top of the wood and bonds only to itself, rather than the surface it covers, Greenwood said.

The top itself floats on steel clasps attached to the legs, which allow for expansion and contraction of the wood during seasonal changes in temperature and humidity without causing stress or damage to it.

Greenwood built the table from sense-memory, not drawings.

“I didn’t have a plan for it,” he said. “I made it to be like one my grandmother had.”

Every morning after breakfast, he recalled, his grandmother’s table would be taken apart and stored, leaning upright against the wall. As was common in those days, whether because of large families or smaller homes or both, “every room was a bedroom,” he said.

This table, too, easily can be reduced to four pieces and two pegs. Even shortened by a couple of feet, the table still comfortably will seat eight people.

It originally was built for sale at auction.

“But the auctioneer came and looked at it and told us to raffle it instead,” Schlieper said, “because an auction would never bring the price it is worth.”

Raffle tickets are $5 each, six for $25. A winner will be drawn on Nov. 3.

The table can be seen every Wednesday morning until the drawing, from 10-11 a.m. and every Saturday from 1-3 p.m. at the church, located at on Route 123 in Harpswell Center.

Greenwood will be a little sad to see it go.

“I feel sort of attached to it,” he said. “Maybe I should ask the winner for visitation rights.”

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