Posted on February 09, 2013
Some folks might see the reclaimed furniture movement as a lesson in found art. But, that’s not exactly correct. We’re not taking a lamp post or a toilet seat and attaching some deeply profound meaning to it, then putting it on display for all to contemplate. That is much too abstract for our purposes. In fact, there is a lot of work that goes into reclaiming wood and converting it to a piece of useful furniture. It’s actually more like an archeological adventure than anything else.
While an archeologist digs up bones and fossils, we dig around for wood that would otherwise go to waste. This usually takes the form of the demolition of an old structure—a barn with fire damage perhaps, or beams from a building that has fallen into disrepair. Railroad ties and wooden fences have also been used. As long as the wood isn’t rotting, it can be reclaimed. Deconstruction specialists go through it piece by piece to determine what can be saved. The selected pieces are then re-milled into new boards, which can then be used to make headboards, tables, dressers, or bookshelves—pretty much anything that can be made from wood.
All reclaimed wood must be kiln-dried. This is required in order to kill any insects or other micro-organisms that may be living on the lumber. There is also a 6-8% moisture content in almost all reclaimed wood. Before it can be used for anything else, it must be dried completely in an airtight space. Any shrinkage will take place at this point, so you never have to worry about the wood contracting or expanding after it’s already been remade into a new item.
The first step in our process is to get to know what we are working with. Different types of wood are better-suited for different styles of furniture. Maple, Beech, and Walnut are often used for Contemporary furniture, while Oak, Poplar, and Cherry are better for attaining a more rustic look. Then, we take our wood and go over it with a metal detector. We remove nails so that they don’t cause any damage to our machinery, or unexpected injury while handling.
Once we cut the pieces of reclaimed wood to our needed specifications for size, the rest of the furniture making is the same as when we use boards of freshly cut wood. The finished piece may have scratches, burns, or other blemishes. Reclaimed wood does have a past and it is not the point of our efforts to sand over everything to make a perfect piece. This type of furniture has a history and a character which will add a unique and interesting presence to your home.
Reclaimed wood furniture has become quite fashionable. It does have a sense of style in its own right, and it is also better for the environment. According to a study performed by the Global Forest Resources Assessment in 2005, forests are reduced by 60,000 square kilometers per year. Based on tree density, that means three to six billion trees are killed each year. Of course, they aren’t all being used to make furniture. But by the same logic of recycling our paper goods, and even plastic bottles, we reclaim and repurpose wood for our industry for the same reasons—to do our part in providing a more sustainable future.