As a woodworker for many years, I have had to make choices in materials and the direction I wanted to go with a project. As you may have noticed, I have an affinity for reclaimed woods. Now, that’s something I do for reasons of sustainability as well as for the look of the final outcome. I have never been able to mimic what Mother Nature has done, so I don’t try. What I can tell you is this: Using reclaimed materials, and creating furniture with it, add a lot of time to my projects.
Furniture is complex. Using sheet goods (veneer ply) does have its advantages. Cost is a major factor when bidding a job. If you make boxes with ply, they’re simple to construct, and the material is readily available. It is also nice and flat and takes finish extremely well. If you build boxes out of solid material (reclaimed or not), the material is trickier to mill, takes more time to glue up, and imposes a learning curve in order to produce a finished product that will please your client. Most of us use solid wood for the doors, so that is a mute point.
Reclaimed wood is a beast all to own when you’re milling it. It has taken me as much as three times the amount of wood I need because there’s so much waste. Depending on the project, I have to gain at least two straight edges to work with, for gluing up and so on. People naturally think that, when they work with such material, they’ll have an easier time of it. In my career as a furniture maker, moreover, I have gone in the direction of a more finished-off look. As a result, while I appreciate the more rustic ways of building, but it’s become harder for me to deal with the inaccuracies that rustic allows.
I have also found that you can mix these mediums to bring your cost to an acceptable level yet not compromise the final outcome. If you use veneer ply for the carcasses and reclaimed for the doors, you can achieve the look that you’re after with little or no sacrifice. I feel that there’s an added benefit to doing so—at least veneer ply squeezes everything out of the tree that has given itself for a cause that will be around for a long time to come.
We will build as long as there are materials to work with. What you choose for yourself or your clients is a choice. I hope you can maintain the integrity of the build you seek, and can look upon the smiling faces of the clients that you work with. Happy building!