Furniture getting last chance at SIRCH

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Kevin Dunlop stands outside a portable shed in front of the Thrift Warehouse in Haliburton, working on a cedar chest.

He bends over a table doing marquetry – a decorative inlay of a canoe reflected in water.

People might know Dunlop from his days on the Studio Tour, when he was known as the Marquetryman.

As he works on the chest, he says he’s been in the Highlands since 1981.

“My wife’s more local than I am,” he says with a grin that shows laugh lines around his mouth and eyes. “I’d never get that kind of credential.”

SIRCH has hired Dunlop for a new pilot, ‘last chance project.’ Marketing manager, Laurie McCaig, said for the next few months, the warehouse will be accepting wooden furniture that would normally be turned away, and end up in the landfill.

“We’ll determine whether it’s worth it to improve it and sell it by repairing, restoring, refinishing, repurposing or upcycling,” McCaig said.

Dunlop tells the story of the chest. It came in with loose veneer on the top, as it had been water damaged. It was rejected at the receiving door. They called Dunlop over for a second opinion. He was hesitant, recognizing it would be a big job. However, he said staff challenged him, “and I decided to take on the project.”

He scraped the bad veneer off the lid, made the marquetry panel, sanded it, put a new finish on it. It took about three days, but the time was an anomaly.

“For the most part, the pieces I’ve been able to save have been under two hours of work,” he says.

He added he spends a great deal of time in conversation with people while he works, educating them on how, they too, can fix furniture destined for the landfill.

“We’re not only trying to rescue the furniture, but we’re trying to stimulate peoples’ imaginations, so they can now go into the thrift store, look at something that’s not quite ready for main street, and can imagine what they might be able to do with it. They can pick my brain and get some ideas on technique.”

Dunlop said he’s “loving it.” McCaig added Dunlop is the man for the job. “He has a fantastic reputation in the area. That friendly face gets it every time, but his wealth of knowledge of woodworking, with him having a studio tour booth for many years, he was just the perfect fit. We were happy to bring him onboard.”

McCaig said he’ll be there until October. “We’re just trying to divert as much as possible from landfill, and we’re trying to teach, that’s what we’re all about. Someone might see a piece like that and say ‘oh, I don’t know’ and just toss it. Instead of tossing it, either bring it here and donate it, help the community, or take on the project yourself, because maybe Kevin can give you an easy solution for a problem. That’s what the program is all about.”

Dunlop said the public is enjoying the program as well.

“Half the people already are quite interested. They’ve been talking about things they’ve brought back to life. I’ve been inviting them to bring before-and-after pictures. I’d like to put up a bulletin board with peoples’ projects. And, people are really picking my brain for techniques.”

He adds, “at this point in my life, it feels good. In my career as a furniture maker, I’ve been responsible for cutting down some trees, now it feels kinda’ good to be making sure that the one’s with good bones are not going to the dump. For me, it’s a process. It’s been a nice headspace when I’m doing the work. Once it’s done, that’s just a byproduct.”

The Thrift Warehouse is at 128 Mallard Rd. in Haliburton.