From Barn Wood to Farm Table

A look into local farm table makers

By Calli Green

Maybe you’ve seen them — at Greenwood Mercantile or As Time Goes By in Greenwood, MO or Good Ju Ju or Hickory Dickory in the West Bottoms — or maybe not. The “not” could be because these old barn wood Farm Tables by Chuck and Michelle Myers, and builder Lonnie Johnson, from Dusty Shelf Antiques & Repurposed Furniture in Lee’s Summit, MO don’t stay long on a shop’s floor.

VKC: What motivated you to start your business?

Michelle: I’m a special education teacher. The students and teachers I work with inspire me every day. And I had always been an antique/vintage collector, even when it wasn’t as popular as it is today. The tables had always been in the back of my mind from the beginning. I just knew my husband wouldn’t have the time because of a full time job that was requiring traveling. Now, he has become the chief bench maker, because the tables just naturally lend themselves to a bench that uses the same wood as the top. Many people like benches on one side, then they’ll have me re-purpose old chairs that they can use on the other side. We also restore or re-purpose old pieces to be beautiful and loved again. I always try to pass on savings to my customers. The cheaper I can buy, the cheaper I can sell. This allows me to sell more quantity. I have lots of repeat customers. They trust that I’m giving them a quality product as affordable as I can make it. I never sell anything that I wouldn’t put in my home. This continues to grow my business. I also surround myself with quality people.

maker-page-5VKC: Where do you find the materials to build your tables?

Michelle: Finding old barns isn’t as easy as you would think. I have a young man, Josh, in Bates County, MO who contacts farmers, but mostly he runs across people who need old barns torn down to build new ones. My husband [Chuck] and I go to the sites and pick the wood up by the trailer load. We use those massive beams as table legs. We also purchase wood from other people who have torn down barns. The wood is stored at our table builder’s [Lonnie Johnson] house.

VKC: How did you meet table builder Lonnie Johnson?

Michelle: We met Lonnie through some finish carpentry work he was doing for us on our home, and knew he was perfect for our business. Lonnie’s attention to detail and quality of construction is above and beyond what’s expected. He is a creative genius, and early on we decided that no two tables should be alike. So, when he constructs a table it may be the design on top, the bolts, the skirt, or the subtle edging differences; but they’re all different. This way each person who purchases a customers. The cheaper I can buy, the cheaper I can sell. This allows me to sell more quantity. I have lots of repeat customers. They trust that I’m giving them a quality product as affordable as I can make it. I never sell anything that I wouldn’t put in my home. This continues to grow my business. I also surround myself with quality people.

maker-page-2VKC: Where do you find the materials to build your tables?

Michelle: Finding old barns isn’t as easy as you would think. I have a young man, Josh, in Bates County, MO who contacts farmers, but mostly he runs across people who need old barns torn down to build new ones. My husband [Chuck] and I go to the sites and pick the wood up by the trailer load. We use those massive beams as table legs. We also purchase wood from other people who have torn down barns. The wood is stored at our table builder’s [Lonnie Johnson] house. VKC: How did you meet table builder Lonnie Johnson? Michelle: We met Lonnie through some finish carpentry work he was doing for us on our home, and knew he was perfect for our business. Lonnie’s attention to detail and quality of construction is above and beyond what’s expected. He is a creative genius, and early on we decided that no two tables should be alike. So, when he constructs a table it may be the design on top, the bolts, the skirt, or the subtle edging differences; but they’re all different. This way each person who purchases a table knows theirs is an heirloom that no one else will have. Lonnie and I have both used some creativity for tables, but we’re finding a few styles that most people are drawn to. It’s the wood that gives them their beauty and life.

VKC: How selective are you in picking the wood?

Michelle: Very. Once a table is constructed, I pick it up and bring it back to my house. Many times the first thing I have to do is use tweezers to pick the livestock hair out of the beams that we use for legs. This comes from years of animals using them as a scratching post. We don’t remove rusty bolts, gate hooks, square nails. Those are left and we construct around them. I had to laugh. In the beginning, Lonnie struggled with me wanting all that old hardware left and incorporated into the tables. Now, one of the last tables he constructed, he used a barn board that the farmer had nailed a tin can lid to cover a hole in the wood to keep wild animals from getting in. Lonnie used that board right in the middle of the table, rusty lid and all. The table sold within a few days of setting it in the store. It’s so validating to watch others appreciate these tables and their differences as much as we do. VKC: What else do you give special attention to? Michelle: My finish process takes from 5 to 7 days, and it’s proprietary. You won’t find splinters on our tables and most of the boards are never touched with a sander. Each board is hand waxed. Sanding the wood would ruin the beautiful grain and saw marks that make each board unique. These tables are meant to be used in homes. They are fully protected [and they make fabulous blanket forts in homes with children]. That’s why the splinters are all waxed out. Many of them end up in my fingers! I can’t tell you the number of customers, or people who have seen our tables sitting in stores, who say, “We don’t know what it is about this table but we just can’t stop touching it and running our hands across it.” That’s the finish I’m looking for. You can’t get that from a table constructed from new wood. If I had to pick one thing that I hear over and over from people, it’s that. People just want to touch them.

VKC: What are some of the best stories a table owner/buyer has shared with you?maker-page-3

Michelle: I don’t know that I could pick just one. A single mother, whose husband left her, wanted one of my tables to be her first “starting over” piece of furniture. A sweet couple from the West Bottoms area called me on my cell phone a few hours after they had picked up a table and placed it in their home. The husband said one side was higher than the other three. I assured him that Lonnie, my perfectionist builder, checks the tables after he builds them. I check them for a week while I’m all over them, finishing them, and my husband checks them before we load them in the truck to take to a store. The husband persisted very nicely that he was just sure that something was wrong. The couple drove the table back to the West Bottoms and my husband looked at it. Sure enough, we had all missed this. One leg was longer. We fixed it, and drove it back to their house the next day, thankful that we hadn’t passed them off as “crazy customers”. My sweetest memory is a principal at my school, whose husband was a minister, had to leave and moved to another state. My staff all took up a collection to defray some of the costs and Lonnie made a table with the barn wood showing on top and white paint on the underneath side. We all took sharpies and wrote our favorite memories of her underneath the table we gave her for a going away present. She cherishes the table and sends me pictures of her and her friends lying on the floor reading the underside of her table. I’ve had many customers cry when they see their tables finished because they love them so much. One couple was going to remodel their kitchen and decided to design the entire kitchen around the table.

VKC: What do you love about working in the Kansas City metro area?maker-page-4

Michelle: Far and away, it’s the people. I’m so glad you said the KC metro area because my husband and I were both raised on farms south of KC. People in this area work hard for their money and they appreciate quality. This suits me just fine. We’ve delivered tables to folks all over the area and made so many friends who continue to stay in contact. I love when people send me pictures of something I’ve sold them in their homes, and they’ll also ask my decorating advice about other places in their homes. The people I meet make this so fun. Kansas City folks are just genuine.

Dusty Shelf Antiques & Repurposed Furniture can be reached at 816-809-0985.