Driftwood Fireplace Mantel And Other River Treasures

Earlier this year, I was reintroduced to the Missouri River when my daughter, Mira and I were almost blown off of this planet by a group of reenactors. We were cruising the river bank and wandered in to a not-so-secure, secure area right before the big moment. Luckily, we escaped with our lives and have been able to go back to look for more treasures. (click here for the full story)

Mira with her collection of glass and mussel shells in her ring of rocks.

A few weeks ago, after Mira’s girl scout outing to learn about the river, we ventured out on our own. Mira found pieces of colored glass, mussel shells and special rocks, while I, of course, looked for wood. I found some cool pieces that weren’t too big to take back and was especially intrigued by long slender pieces of wood that were debarked. I don’t know what did it, but I assume it was a small rodent. I don’t think it was a beaver because the teeth marks are small, so I am calling them “Muskrat Sticks” until I learn something different. Every stem was chewed like corn on the cob (the way I do it with all of the corn gone, not like the girls do it with sporadic bites between kernels). I was drawn to them because they were so uniform in size and texture, and all of them were recently chewed down, so the color was consistent too. I don’t know that anyone will use them, but I grabbed them anyway.

The consistency of the chew pattern caught my eye on these “Muskrat Sticks”.

After that, I got thinking even more about wood (I know, it doesn’t seem possible, but I did). Specifically, I was thinking about that giant river running right by my shop and all of the other treasures that it might be dropping in my lap. Since then, I have had two occasions to cruise the river and look for more goodies, and I must admit, I am pretty proud of myself. My biggest/best find was an old railroad tie. It was just floating right next to the bank, and I grabbed it. I almost walked right by it because I was focused on logs and branches. If you look really close, you can see where the spikes went through it originally. Now, the holes merge into the hollowness created by the years of bobbing in the river. Amazingly, it is completely solid, except for all of the wood that is missing. It will make a great rustic fireplace mantel for the right person in the right house.

This railroad tie has transformed nicely into a driftwood fireplace mantel. I wish I knew how long it had been in the river.

While I was searching, I also found a couple of other pieces that stood out in the crowd. One looked like a rock or something unwood (I can sell any wood that doesn’t look like wood – weird, I know), while the other was chewed by a very cooperative beaver. He left just enough for it to be useable and picked the perfect diameter log to make a table leg. I have always thought that it would help to have a well-trained beaver, and he couldn’t have done a better job. Thank you, beaver.

There was a good range of wood on the river bank along with a lot of nuts. Mira even found one delicious pecan (I was the only one that would eat it).

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About wunderwoods

Hi! My name is Scott Wunder and I am the owner of WunderWoods Custom Woodworking. We build wine cellars, built-ins and furniture from local woods, here in St. Louis, MO. Recently, I finished a three-year term as the President of the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild, which had me writing a monthly article for our newsletter. I love to write, especially about wood, and found that I still had more to say. Every day I run into something wood related that I realize some of my customers don't know and this seems like a great forum for sharing what I have learned (instead of telling the same story to each person). The main thing to remember is that I try to keep it light and as my wife always reminds people that have just met me, "He is joking."

3 responses to “Driftwood Fireplace Mantel And Other River Treasures”

  1. thekiltedwoodworker says :

    ” I have always thought that it would help to have a well-trained beaver…”

    That’s the quote of the year right there. 😀

    Hey, why don’t you see if that one guy will take the driftwood railroad tie for a mantle and I can have the two pine tree trunks for my workbench top?

  2. Brian says :

    My boys and I also recently went “river-exploring” and discovered numerous little treasures. Anyone with kids should give this a try. Although we were hoping to find one of the newly-exposed sand-bars resulting from the low water levels we instead ended up on a rocky shore right by the katy trail a t the Page extension. We hiked a couple miles and found mussels, old railroad spikes, lots of cool rocks (endless skipping rocks), and even an old rusted fishing pole sttand that we cleaned up, repainted, and gave to the grandparent for Christmas (To: Grandma and Grandpa; From: The River Rats). My youngest got stuck shin-deep in some mud, and we traversed a concrete tunnel under the Katy Trail that was built in 1910. Overall a fun and educational adventure!

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