How To Repurpose Cute Knob And Tube Components

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook

I re-purpose stuff.  I primarily use materials left from rehabbing our 120+ year old houses. There are oodles of vintage wood many rehab-ers toss out as scrap, especially the raw stuff from the plaster walls:  lath.  I love it.
Included are those cute, interestingly shaped porcelain parts from replacing knob and tube electrical.  Buckets of them.  As I awoke one morning, several ideas in the form of images, popped into my head.
I had already made some small lath boxes, but what about adding some knob and tube components?  They make great legs and handles adding a unique flair to each one.  The images in my head danced….

The Concept

 When using reclaimed materials, I let the materials dictate dimension rather than deciding on a certain size ahead of time.  Ragged ends, broken and cracked parts must be removed, leaving random lengths.
In the end, for a tray all you need to start is four lengths of wood, two pairs the same.  If all four happen to be the same, you have a square, if two and two, it’s a rectangle.  Here is my process:

 Making Boxes – The Tools:

  • a Stanley hand miter saw
  • a small hammer
  • a set of corner picture frame clamps
  • a multi-purpose screwdriver
  • a cordless power drill

The Supplies:

  • Greased Lightning for cleaning the porcelain parts
  • Nitrile gloves (to protect my manicure – of course!)
  • Wood glue
  • E-600 glue (it will hold anything!)
  • Wood Glue
  • Lots of small brads and screws (estate sale finds)
  • Buckets of hex nuts and bolts (leftovers)
  • Paint samples.  I generally do not paint lath, but there are other bits I may add some color to.

 The Steps

  • Cut the Lath into pairs of the same length.  Most of the time I have already cleaned it, but if needed, I take a wire brush for a final scrub.
  • Place into the frame clamps, using the wood glue as you go
  • Using a very small drill bit, drill two small pilot holes in each joint.  Do not skip this step!  125 year old wood is well seasoned and can be brittle – this will avoid cracking.
  • Nail each corner and let set for a few hours or, better yet, overnight.
  • Measure the bottom and cut the lengths of lath or other wood material for the base.  I have used reclaimed cedar shingles or other bits of scrap wood as long as they are similar thickness
  • Cut, wood glue glue and fasten the base with more small nails
 knob and tube
knob and tubeAt this point the box is complete.  I finish by adding felt pads on the bottom, and fabric inserts in the tray to give a bit of polish.
Adding the insulator  knob and tube bits make  cute legs and handles.  I use E600 and nails or screws to hold these in place.  NOTE:  In the absence of knob and tube, porcelain door knobs and handles can be used.   I use vintage leftovers from our stash.
Here is a simple mini cake stand I made comprised of porch parts with knob and tube for legs.
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I am a former air traffic controller, pilot, Aircoupe owner, married 42 years to a great guy. We live in a 125+ year old historic Victorian, enjoy cats, vintage anything, precious friends. My passion is Giving Lost Stories A Voice – Giving Found Materials Fresh Form and Purpose!

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