In 2010, massive naval timbers made of live oak were discovered while crews were prepping the site for the ongoing Sapulding Rehabilitation Hospital in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Intended for the use of the USS Constitution and other vessels like it, the enourmous timbers were found buried in mud.
Pictured is the USS Constitution setting sail for the first time since 1997 in the Boston Harbor on August 19, 2012. Next
The wood had been stored in a salt-water pond to preserve it for the eventual reconstruction of either the USS Constitution, a frigate launched in 1797 and widely known as Old Ironsides, or the above pictured USS Constellation, which launched in 1854.
But in the mid-1880s, the shipyard began making all-metal boats, and then, in 1914, on the brink of World War I, the timber pond was covered to make room for diesel storage tanks. Next
Then the wood was all but forgotten — until three years ago.
Brett Stevens and his business partner, Peter Sellew, bought 13 tractor-trailer loads of this irreplaceable, once-in-a-lifetime inventory.
To make the giant timbers more manageable, they are cut in roughly 5-foot lengths with a chain saw, then milled to 2 inches thick. Then, Stevens works on them with various sanders and ultimately finishes them with boiled linseed oil.
The largest size bench, which weighs 83 pounds, takes eight hours to complete.
Stephanie Blunt (left) and Brett Stevens (right) are pictured above in the Acton workshop of Weathered Benches. Next
Stevens said he is intrigued by the material’s story and its qualities. Each piece yields differences in lightness, darkness, number of knots, edges that are permanently darkened in different shades, and spots by its bed of mud for all those decades. Next
Stevens, a Groton resident who has been in the furniture-making and lumber business for 33 years, has created 100 pieces and said there’s enough wood to make about 1,000 more. Next
Other than benches, Stevens crafts tables, picture frames, candle holders, and lamp basesmade from the unique live oak and white oak dating back to the 1800s.
“It’s history, and it’s limited, so only a few people will have one,” he said. “The pile’s already getting smaller.”
The plan is to eventually make smaller pieces from the scraps left after the benches, which will sell for anywhere from $1,000 to $1,600. Back to the beginning
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