LumberJocks

Is the 'reclaimed' trend good or bad for woodworking?

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Steve Diogo posted 03-27-2014 04:04 PM 1369 reads 1 time favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The current craze for reclaimed furniture, or primitive furniture, means unique opportunities and challenges for woodworkers. The main benefit is that interest in reclaimed is tied to a desire for handmade furniture, and that’s good for woodworkers. People are tired of prefab, off-the-shelf design and they are yearning for more authentic and unique expressions in their design. We’re seeing major market furniture makers from West Elm to Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware rolling out “reclaimed” and “handmade” lines of furniture, and they’re charging a pretty penny for them.

But what does this really mean for woodworking? Is it a benefit? A curse? Indifferent? Here are my thoughts. Let me know yours.

-- http://chicagowoodworker.wordpress.com/



17 comments so far

View dawsonbob's profile

dawsonbob

386 posts in 501 days


#1 posted 03-27-2014 04:08 PM

Personally, I like the styles. I do “rustic” — whatever the heck that means — based on 300 year old New Mexican pieces. I have fun, and people seem to like it. Also, it’s good for my wallet.

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

4477 posts in 1126 days


#2 posted 03-27-2014 04:35 PM

Imagine 50 years hence, woodworking magazines featuring projects based on the early 21st century pallet craft movement … yeah I can’t see it either. I like the emphasis on recycling and pallet projects have a certain charm but I suspect it will fade away once the economy comes back and decadence returns.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5387 posts in 1978 days


#3 posted 03-27-2014 05:27 PM

There are differing aesthetics that appeal to different people. What I think is absolutely gawdy you might find beautiful and vise versa…

I do like the idea of recycling lumber that would otherwise go to waste. I believe the environmental types will be going for that for generations to come. For what it’s worth, I think that the reclaimed lumber move is a good thing for woodworking, not such a good thing for the timber / milling industry…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

15450 posts in 1084 days


#4 posted 03-27-2014 06:43 PM

At the end of the day, I still believe that each piece (regardless how it’s categorized) lives and dies on its own. If it is seen as quality and beautiful then it becomes an heirloom. Otherwise it is landfill fodder. Time and taste will be the determining factor. I hope in the future that this group of woodworkers as seen as the ones that started the real wood revival.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View dawsonbob's profile

dawsonbob

386 posts in 501 days


#5 posted 03-27-2014 06:48 PM

You bring up a good point, dbhost, about it not being such a good thing for the timber industry. I can’t help but wonder though, how long it would take for a fickle public to tire of reclaimed/rustic, and we’ll be touting “all new wood construction” to customers as a selling point.

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View Ben's profile

Ben

302 posts in 1076 days


#6 posted 03-27-2014 06:52 PM

For woodworking, using reclaimed lumber can be a bit more challenging than using new lumber. I work in architectural salvage and while most of what we take is nicer finished woodwork, once that is all out, I go back for any good lumber I’ve had my eye on. For instance, right now I am building some night stands from tongue and groove bead board that was siding for an old garage. The challenge for me lies in the design. I like to use whatever details are already there as much as I can. I’ll utilize molded edges, beading , fluting, even the old paint that was on the wood. I like to use the contrast of new cuts with the patina of old wood. Things like pallet wood, with nail holes are equally interesting to me to try to use in a way that is pleasing to look at. That all being said, I still do use the best joinery I know how, and add style and details as I would If I was using plain lumber. I do build with good, clean lumber too , but every piece of wood I use is reclaimed from somewhere. This does Not reflect a lack of skill in woodworking at all in my opinion. On the contrary, I believe it take an extra measure of skill and creativity to make reclaimed lumber look the way you want. I.E., a seemingly simple project can take a lot more thought than you might think. Actually, it tends to complicate things a bit, but I think the results are worth it.

-- Welcome to downtown Coolsville, Population: US! --Hogarth Hughes

View natenaaron's profile

natenaaron

377 posts in 543 days


#7 posted 03-27-2014 07:42 PM

Good or bad is beside the point. The question should be, are these “simple”, and “rustic”, pieces being built with enough care to last generations, as all fine furniture should be, or are they being built to Ikea and walmart standards?

I agree with the insane prices though. I saw a stack of pallets and inquired about taking them off the guy’s hands. I don’t use them for furniture. I actually use them to store stuff on. I was informed that they were “furniture grade pallet wood”. A stack of old pallets for 20 bucks a pallet. That was a head scratcher. Needless to say I left without the pallets.

View dawsonbob's profile

dawsonbob

386 posts in 501 days


#8 posted 03-27-2014 07:52 PM

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my stuff is all through mortise and tenon and dovetail joinery: no nails, no screws, just fitted and glued. I would expect a piece to outlast the original purchaser and their children. Oddly, it takes me more work to make it look old and lovingly used, than it would to do it in a conventional style.

Just because you’re making it look “rustic” doesn’t mean you can’t take pride in your work. Sadly, there are those for whom WalMart is a high standard, and plenty of others who just want to take advantage of the current fad and bang out the cheapest, fastest piece of junk they can to make a buck. They’ll always be with us, I’m afraid.

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

View Mainiac Matt 's profile (online now)

Mainiac Matt

4451 posts in 1074 days


#9 posted 03-27-2014 07:56 PM

There are three standard grades for recycled pallets, creatively named #1, #2 and #3. Sam’s Club has their own grade, referred to as “Club” pallets, which is better yet. Anything that doesn’t make the grade, but is the standard 48×40 size is referred to as a core. Odd sizes are not considered marketable and are ground into chips.

“furniture grade pallet wood” Can’t say as I’ve heard of that one…...

But then again, one man’s junk is another man’s garbage.

Just be careful, as pallets may have been used for multiple trips, carrying any variety of loads. I don’t think I want to make anyone a coffee table contaminated with some combination of unknown industrial waste.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View oldnovice's profile

oldnovice

3865 posts in 2113 days


#10 posted 03-27-2014 08:03 PM

I reclaimed a lot of native Iowa red oak from a farmhouse that was built over 100 years ago. It was going to be burned for fire department practice but I was able to remove all of the first floor oak the day before the fire department had their way. I had to weigh it for transportation purposes and it was about 980 pounds, including any nails, but I have no idea how many board feet.

When I build a project out of oak I use this material and, depending what I am going to build, I either cut out clear boards or use as is for a more rustic look.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Steve Diogo's profile

Steve Diogo

87 posts in 338 days


#11 posted 03-27-2014 08:12 PM

“Furniture grade pallet wood” has got to be the single greatest marketing term I’ve ever heard! Wow.

Love the discussion here. Before I ever considered myself a woodworker or was even interested in it, my first project was building a simple farmhouse table out of home center pine, because my family needed a dining table and I couldn’t afford to buy one. I spent less than $100 on the wood and had it cut at the store, then followed a plan I found on the Web. I used drywall screws and woodfiller… skipped the glue because it seemed like bs. Gave no thought to movement because I didn’t know wood moved.

Once it was together, I spent a lot of time staining, adding imperfections, rounding the edges and making it look old, and I loved that process and the result. After that, I started paying attention to how furniture was constructed, and started learning about joinery. That led to hand-tools, which I have been learning and practicing ever since. I have yet to build another piece of furniture because I don’t yet have the skills to build the way I want to, even though I eat every day at a table I built.

Funny how standards change and how this stuff gets into your blood.

-- http://chicagowoodworker.wordpress.com/

View john's profile

john

2319 posts in 3127 days


#12 posted 03-27-2014 08:12 PM

I love using reclaimed wood for building birdhouses. This wood is 100 year old barn wood .

-- John in Belgrave (Website) http://www.extremebirdhouse.com , http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=112698715866

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

4477 posts in 1126 days


#13 posted 03-27-2014 08:42 PM

The question should be, are these “simple”, and “rustic”, pieces being built with enough care to last generations, as all fine furniture should be, or are they being built to Ikea and walmart standards?

This questions assumes all furniture should be fine quality which is not, and never has been, true. A piece should have more qualities than durability to be considered “fine”. I would withhold that distinction for pieces that are truly elevated above what the average craftsman can accomplish, in design, craftsmanship, and decoration. I realize not everyone is going to share that belief; nevertheless, my point being that rustic pieces can be well built and still not be considered fine quality.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5387 posts in 1978 days


#14 posted 03-27-2014 09:44 PM

dawsonbob, you bring up a valid point about the fickle winds of fashion. However I don’t see the trend going away from reclaimed, or at least sustainable lumber. No matter your perspective on the politics of it, the environmental issue has stuck, and the propagation to new generations has been a success. There are even those that don’t follow in the footsteps of the environmental powers that still want to be wise with resource usage. So yeah I don’t see THAT market going away any time soon. Especially if the end product is just as well made, beautiful, and durable as items made with fresh cut timber.

The style of a piece is yet another issue all together. Reclaimed does not necessarily have to be rustic, and rustic does not necessarily have to be reclaimed. The example in the OPs photo for example is what I would call primitive, not even rustic. To me, acronymns for rustic include “Country” “Farmhouse” or “Lodge”, and within those acronymns style varies…

Country for example tends to be very basic shapes, with few cutesy ornamentations. Think of a pine hall rack / shelf with heart shaped openings in the stretcher on the back. That would be rustic. Lodge on the other hand would be say log based / natural edge furniture.

Reclaimed simply means claimed from one purpose, when it was done with that, and put to use elsewhere, You didn’t go out and chop down a fresh tree to mill up for fresh lumber. Reclaimed could be trees that were cut 100+ years ago that went down a river as a log-barge and sank to the bottom on the trip, dug up, milled and put to use now. Or lumber pulled from taking an old barn, house, or other structure down… Or even as I have done more than a few times, dumpster diving for old Waterbed rails to mill back flat and parallel for new projects… You are re using something that was originally used or going elsewhere… The original owner gave up or lost their claim to the lumber…

The primitive style I think of stuff like what I make for the shop, mostly nail knocker type stuff. Lots of butt joints, and nails or screws, very little fine joinery, very little if any surface prep once the lumber is claimed. Think raw pallet wood separated and cut to length and then assembled… Nothing I would be all that proud of beyond function… There is, and likely always will be a demand for that type of aesthetic. I bet if they could still be found easily, the old wooden cable spool coffee / dining room table would still be a fixture in college kid apartments the world over!

Now step up a level from the nail knocker type build, and start using pegged butt joints, and you start getting into pieces that have a chance of lasting, and having an aesthetic that is pleasing to more people… Move on to the rabbet and dado joinery and you step up again into more serious territory here. More material prep including finer ways to accent or preserve the imperfections including epoxy / turquoise or whatever filled cracks and knotholes, or dutchman patches and you are moving away from Andy Warhol type art, into say Salvador Dali… From popular, easily approachable and understandable themes to more esoteric and harder to understand touches…

I mean have you ever tried explaining the advantage of through dovetail joints to somebody that isn’t a woodworker?

I tried once. My wife looked at me like I look at her when she talks about skin stuff…

I guess whatever floats your boat is what will work, fashion and source of material not withstanding, I believe there will likely always be a market for pretty much every style from the most primitive, to the most ornate.

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

15450 posts in 1084 days


#15 posted 03-27-2014 11:39 PM

I also don’t think that people should assume that “rustic” means cheaply built. With my live edge work, as I gain skill, I put more time than ever in every piece. More and more, I want people to look at my work for quality and durability. I don’t know if “live edge” is part of the “rustic” look. But I think that there are many craftsmen that are trying to build good products that shouldn’t be looked down upon because they choose to use reclaimed material.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

GardenTenders.com :: gardening showcase