The Cheshire house was for years located on a residential street here in Watkins Glen. It started out quite small, just a seed of someone’s vision of streets lined with maple trees.

The tree grew large as time marched on, and became a favorite destination for all the most fortunate bugs, mice, birds, squirrels, and nuts in the neighborhood. In this summertime town, It buzzed and chattered with activity year- around.

As so many good things, this too came to an end. It can be hypothesized that all the resident critters celebrated their last party on the eve this spring’s late snowstorm.

The tree is gone, but the Cheshire House lives on, patiently awaiting the smile of a special guest.

Bob Tilden, Montour Falls NY



The Cheshire House
a feline fun house
on display at O'Shaughnessy Antiques, in Watkins Glen NY.

It is now October 2012, and this project with the working name of "the cat house"has lingered in the shop yard since April. Louise O'Shaughnessy would beg me to finish it, and I would faithfully promise to start on it. All fun things must wait their turn, I suppose.

Actually, the project started in April when a backhoe operator gladly loaded the entire fork section of a very hollow maple tree into my truck, and thanked me for taking it off his hands. The chunk of tree was taken home, chained to my truck,and I drove my truck out from under it. After righting it, I was a big hit with the chickens...

The chickens feast on the bugs and seeds that were inside the tree.

Since the tree was spring- cut, the bark slipped from the trunk with only little difficulty. I stripped it clean and then cut the smaller fork from the trunk. It took a bit of studying to decide if- and where- to make the cut. I wanted to save both pieces.

The tree trunk is stripped and cut. This is how it stayed for months.

In the background of this picture, you can see that the leaves of the distant trees are just starting to say "Autumn". After cleaning the hollow tree trunk with a wire brush and a sandblaster, I set it into my small lumber kiln for a leisurely bake at 145 degrees to kill any remaining bugs and their eggs.

It is so hard to spend time cleaning the yard when people are begging me to do fun stuff.

Once the trunk was brought into the shop, the interior was sprayed generously with polyurethane to stabilize and toughen it, and the exterior was wiped with several coats of polyurethane. Three "shelf funguses" were fashioned from figured walnut; they serve as stepping pads for the cat's descent, or as convenient places from which to contemplate. There is a plug just below the top of the hollow trunk, forming somewhat of a crow's nest. The entire structure sits upon a walnut base.

Contact O'Shaughnessy antiques ( for more information.

"Gandalf's Pulpit", on display at O'Shaughnessy's Antiques.

"Gandalf's Pulpit" is in the center of this picture, waiting its turn in the shop. Ahead of it are the barn boards at the left, and on the right is the start of the wood slpitter that was built with junk yard parts. In the center is the start of a quickie chainsaw bench.

In the early months of of 2012, I was salvaging several trees that had been undermined by an autumn floood and had fallen into the creek. On the path through the gully, I noticed an unusual black birch tree that seemed to be growing as if on tippy- toes. The root crown was completely above the ground and the tree was supported by the individual roots which entered the ground separately. My young granddaughter looked at it and proclaimed it a “dancing tree”.

My original intent was to use it as a table base, but the roots were too asymmetrical. Fortunately though, when the tree stump was inverted, the roots could be trimmed up to form fingers that could cradle a desk surface. The desk top is made from two pieces of bookmatched black walnut, and the base is another piece of black walnut that grew locally. These three boards were cut from short crotch sections that loggers leave behind because the wood is “too difficult to work with”.

Fortunately my sawyer friend agrees with me that straight grain is “too boring to look at”; he is happy to spend the time necessary to produce the pretty boards that come from such stubby and ugly sections of large logs.

Enjoy the whimsy… I certainly did. I enjoyed the snowy day in the ravine when I harvested the tree, and I enjoyed the year it spent beside the workshop while I contemplated what it could become. I enjoyed peeling the bark to reveal the character of the wood below,and sanding it smooth to please both the eye and the fingertips.

On second thought, why should it be branded as whimsy? It is a creation of nature, honored with a bit of shine and a new purpose. Contact O'Shaughnessy antiques ( for more information.

Bob Tilden, Montour Falls NY

The stump, brought into the shop an propped up for "thinkin'".

"Gandalf's Pulpit", on display at O'Shaughnessy's Antiques.

Gandalf the Grey


Once upon a time, cast iron was a fixture of home, farm, and industry. Once upon a time wood with figured grain was sought by furniture makers. The pedestal of this table is an axle housing from a Ford 9N tractor. It was cast, machined, and sent to work on a farm just before WW2.

At some point the axle housing ended up in a farm shed or a small salvage yard. It was marked “9N” by paint and brush, and set aside as a replacement part. Today, in 2014, after being in the way for two generations, some youngster took Grandpa’s spare part to the scrap yard. I bought it just a day before it would have been trucked to oblivion.

Grandpa’s wooden furniture was wood, which seems silly to say. Most of today’s wooden furniture is some crazy composite of wood fiber, glue or resins, and plastic. When wood is used at all, the industry wants only straight grained logs.

This table top is cut from a chunk of black walnut that the loggers left behind to decay. Nobody wants it; it is too “difficult” for use in mass production and too crooked to split for firewood. So… This table is a bit of the wood that was valuable yesterday, and a chunk of cast iron that was designed to still be at work tomorrow.

A Ford 9N tractor

The axle housings connect the rear wheels to the center of the tractor.

The finished table,

The table top was cut from a walnut chunk that looked like this.


There is an old story, supported by exaggerated folklore, that on moonlit nights you can trap a raccoon with a shiny new dime. You place the dime in a wire cage with openings just large enough for the raccoon to wiggle his hand into it. The raccoon will reach into the cage and grasp the shiny dime, but won’t be able to retract his hand without letting go of the dime. With the cage secured to a stake, the raccoon will be waiting when you check the trap in the morning.

I have the same problem as the raccoon. I routinely cruise the salvage yard, mostly for tech- related items, but I am always a sucker for shiny things.Recently I came across the engine block that serves as the base for this table. It was already well stripped, and it was fairly clean… it actually had some shiny spots, and I was hooked. I couldn’t help but fall in lust for this beautiful and intricate piece of manufacturer’s art.

I did my best to make it proud. I sandblasted and lacquered it, and mounted it on some of my pretty maple… It is now at a gallery in town, waiting for someone to be trapped by it!