March 21, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If suddenly ours was a world without trees, 28-year-old Kyle Petersen would still thrive as a woodworker. Credit his keen instincts for finding lost treasure in other people’s junk. As a favor to a friend in need of a bigger desk, Petersen channeled his MacGyver-like creative energies to make her a completely unique piece. He collected scraps of wood, including discarded shipping pallets and bits of Douglas fir he pulled from the walls of his parents’ home. No worries, his parents were remodeling their kitchen.

He has an affinity for the hot trend of repurposing found items to fill a home. Using found and discarded materials, he has also built a headboard out of pallets, and cubbies out of a piece of plywood.  “It’s not so focused on perfection and how beautiful it is,” he says. “What’s beautiful behind it is the purpose of it.” Although he grew up tinkering in the shop with his carpenter father, Petersen dreamed of a career in audio recording after graduating from Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Neb. But now Petersen is blossoming as a cabinetmaker with a yen for recycling refuse. He works by day at Eurowood Cabinets and finds himself making furniture for friends and family in his spare time. “It’s taking my desire to create and combining it with the knowledge I have in this area and growing it from there,” he says.

First, he collected different species of hardwood material for the desktop. ”They’re not ideal pieces. It is waste essentially,” Petersen says.  He squared and planed each piece, and then assembled the desktop in a butcher-block fashion with clamps and wood glue. He then sanded it down before finishing with an espresso brown stain and a few coats of lacquer. “It’s cool using a bunch of different pieces of wood,” he says. “It will take the stain differently which is kind of a neat effect.”

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For the drawers, he disassembled a pallet, squared and planed the boards to make the front, back, and side panels. He then stained the drawers with the same espresso shade and lacquer.

For the drawer box frame, he used a sheet of maple plywood he bought for $50. He cut a rectangle out of the center of the two sides of the wood to make the box “see through” and mitered the whole box together. For the drawer rails, he used oak. Then he sanded and finished everything.

Finally, he tapered the legs with a band saw. The drawer box and legs both come off the desktop, making it easy to disassemble for transport. The legs are fastened with bolts counter-sunk into the desktop. Total time? About 30 hours. The hardest part? Staying patient.

“I learned when to walk away from it for the day,” he says. He says anyone can do it, especially with found materials. All they need to do is try. “There’s a lot of wood out there. Build something.”