What does it mean to reclaim wood. It sounds like the person who rescued a puppy, right? No, you adopted a dog. You didn’t rescue it. You didn’t reclaim the wood. You gave it another purpose. What is the story with reclaimed wood.
I sound super snarky, huh? What does it mean to reclaim something? To take back something that is rightfully yours? To repurpose? To reinvent? To rescue? Oh. It does mean to rescue. If you are using reclaimed wood, you have rescued it. You have ultimately given wood a second chance. Possibly even a third or fourth. You have hereby been given a high-five.
For the last decade, people have been talking about reclaimed wood a lot. It isn’t just because the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC has been hot on the trail of making sure that companies are utilizing sustainable harvesting practices, but it is also because people in general are becoming more aware that the large, mature trees that were here when our forefathers landed on the continent have been harvested down to a fraction of what there once was.
Reclaimed Wood Co. has a fascinating tale of how this came to be on their website, and here is a little tidbit from their story:
The Early North American Timber Industry: The exporting of timber was one of the great staples of trade in North America during the 19th Century. Founded upon European demand, it fostered economic development throughout the United States and Canada. It encouraged the building of towns and villages, the opening of roads, and exploration.
Wood entered 19th century trade in many forms. Large masts cut from the finest trees for the Royal Navy were the most valuable commercial product of the North American Forests; however, square timber and sawn lumber were the major wood staples. Lumber is the the product of sawmills was prepared mostly as planks and boards. Square timber, known as “ton timber”, were baulks or “sticks of wood hewn square with axes and shipped to England where they were often resawn. Strict specifications governed the market.
The square timber industry developed rapidly to meet the enormous demand from Britain, which was at war with Napoleonic France and was also undergoing industrialization. Although small quantities of White Oak, Rock Elm, Ash, Chestnut, and Hickory were squared, Longleaf Pine or “Heart Pine” as it is know today, was the major industrial species.
They go on about much more, and if you’re interested in the details, I highly recommend that you check it out. So, what else about reclaimed wood, you ask. The US Green Building Council loves to feature products which are FSC certified. They love to see that people are responsibly and sustainably practicing timber harvesting and utilizing wood that has been specifically reclaimed from buildings which would otherwise be demolished. Old barns, factories and warehouses are favorites for reclaimed wood sources. Even places in South East Asia, where teak wood is more plentiful you can find good reclaimed wood resources.
- broken down pallets
- buildings to be demolished
- telephone poles
- broken frames
- railroad ties
- Old storage crates
- antique furniture
Terra Mai , a dealer of reclaimed wood from primarily South East Asia defines some of the advantages of using reclaimed wood as follows:
- Beauty – dense grain, all-heart, old-growth reclaimed wood possesses a luster and refinement not available in most new lumber.
- History & Character – nail holes, bolt holes, weathering and other character enhances the natural beauty of wood. It also offers visual testimony of the wood’s unique history. These qualities are not available with new wood.
- Stability & Durability – because it was harvested and milled decades ago, reclaimed wood offers a stability unavailable in new, even kiln-dried, wood. Because it is mostly dense-grain, old-growth material, reclaimed wood is harder and more durable than new lumber.
- Sustainability – as outlined above, reclaimed wood offers a wide range of sustainability advantages over new wood.
One of my favorite reclaimed wood uses is hand hewn beams; they are just sexy. They are the epitome of the masculine strength and rustic character that the cradle of this country balance on. The heart wood of yesteryear isn’t long gone- it is just better found in reclaimed pieces- beams, floors, art, paneling. If you can get your hands on some- enjoy the rich history, character and texture of each individual piece for years to come.