We’ve been talking about reclaimed lumber recently, and I enjoyed reading the thoughts of some very talented creators:John Malecki, Dylan Eastman, and the ever-evolving Diy Huntress, Sam Raimondi. They shared their insightful views and ideas, and now I would like to give mine. To me it is a simple thing: We reclaim so that we do not destroy. It is a sustainability issue, and as a woodworker, I have grown to understand the impact we can make from not using fresh-growth trees. I also have discovered the intense beauty in the ability to change one object into something completely different.
Let’s say a house is built in the early 1900s, or even later. That wood is already part of a bigger picture. It is the glue that binds, the root and the skeleton. It is configured in such a way that the builder’s vision comes together, and the drawings he drafted literally stand in front of him. The building is finished, and a family moves in. Over time an addition is built to accommodate the ever-growing family and their bakery business. The children grow, the family moves, and another family buys the house. This continues for decades. But as the years move on, maybe the neighborhood changes? People don’t care for houses the way they once did, and the houses on the block go into disrepair. They are still owned, by landlords who don’t seem interested in really fixing what needs to be fixed but place Band-Aids on problems, hoping they will all just go away.
You understand my point. We now have hundreds of houses on thousands of blocks that are facing the same demise. The love that was once apparent in these structures has vanished. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s change. These neighborhoods have been bought in bulk by developers looking to gentrify in a big way. And the story continues… Those boards and floors and roof rafters that made up the skeleton are now released. They are taken down and stacked; some are taken by that developer himself. But the rest are bought or traded and sourced out by people like you and me. These seasoned, beautiful pieces of history are given a new life. What was once part of something bigger is now standing on its own, as a table or chair, a new floor or a reclaimed bookcase.
This is what I love—when something that was becomes something else. It continues its history and grows in a way that cannot be described as anything other than magical. We don’t change the atoms, but we do restructure them in our own way to create new life, so that they can continue their journey.