Any philosophy begins with axioms, ideas that are simple enough that you can build upon them without wasting time and starting over. Figuring out your axioms is easy, and only requires thinking through those ideas you are least likely to change your mind about. My first axiom is that my choices have value. I do things to wood that make them more valuable than simple pieces of wood. Otherwise, what is the point? If a stack of boards in your living room will fetch more value than something you’ve built, you have the wrong calling. In fact, you’re better off leaving them at the store if that is the case.
When I was involved in real estate, there was the idea of the highest and best use. You don’t build skyscrapers in the middle of nowhere, and you don’t tear down a luxury apartment building to make room for a community garden. This idea holds weight because doing the wrong thing has a greater cost, and offers less reward. A similar approach might apply to wood. Nobody gets excited about how much particleboard they could create grinding up exotic hardwoods. I save my best pieces of wood for my most special projects, and you probably do also.
This idea has its limits, as I’m not about to slice a great board into veneer and cover some plywood, even if it produces the most value. This reminds me of the trend with baseball cards in recent years to add thin slices of memorabilia such as bats and game-worn uniforms to create artificial keepsakes. I completely support the effort to make as much money as possible, and my only exception is how much gullibility I can stand among those who might enjoy my work. Is there a market for thin shavings from vintage musical instruments? I’ll let someone else find out.
Overall, I don’t see the value in preserving what something used to be as part of a new thing. I’ve seen chairs made of skateboards, and skateboards made of chairs. Some folks have a weak definition of creativity I guess. My first piece of stereo equipment I purchased decades ago has a big round sticker clearly indicating its “simulated walnut grain finish”. I have yet to determine whether it is a statement of quality, or a disclaimer. I think the absence of a sticker would have been a more effective statement of quality, but even our modern giants of technology haven’t figured this out.
Fellow woodworkers, we add value. We also live in a world that doesn’t recognize quality. Kids with 3D printers call themselves “makers” and consider themselves your peers. I don’t try to understand this warped idea of quality, but we are all forced to be a part of it. My stereo proudly proclaims its fakeness when a real wood finish would have carried a trivial cost. Baseball card enthusiasts will degrade value because of flaws in cardboard attached to a destroyed piece of wood that was once a baseball bat. Will a future generation pay a premium for the vintage or retro charm associated with cheap mass-produced furniture? There will be no shortage of idiots.