When I’ve attempted to “upcycle,” my projects didn’t always turn out perfectly. There’s a special level of difficulty in trying to make something actually work as something else.
Yet, it felt good to take a broken or unwanted item and breathe new life into it. Jen Morin, co-owner of The Lasting Past, knows this process all too well. “I hate to see things go to the dump that are still usable,” Morin says. “I swear by upcycling for many reasons. 90% of the time it is cheaper, it will almost always last longer, and it keeps things out of the garbage dump.”
And upcycling household items is just the beginning.
An entire portion of the woodworking business has become devoted to working with reclaimed materials. While it may take some extra effort, the results are nothing short of stunning.
WORKING WITH RECLAIMED WOOD
Local woodworkers typically source reclaimed materials from either fallen or removed trees or disassembled barns. While both produce beautiful results, working with reclaimed wood is not without its challenges.
At Barn to Table, Damara Humby transforms locally-sourced barn wood into stunning furniture. “Barn wood is stubborn,” Humby admits. “It has been part of some of these barns for over 130 years! It requires a lot of fine-tuning to make it just right.” Keith Tribe tackles similar challenges at Rustic Works, where he has created thousands of décor items out of reclaimed barn wood. “You don’t have the luxury of only picking pieces that are nice and level,” says Tribe. “The most challenging part of working with salvaged material is actually sourcing it,” adds Mark Allen, who handcrafts “live edge” tables at Beaver Hardwood. “We have had logs that are 18 feet long, 10,000 pounds heavy, and we’re working within a fraction of an inch to get it out.”
Despite these challenges, Humby, Tribe, and Allen agree that reclaimed wood furniture is worth the work. The history of the wood gives every piece a striking sense of character, and the quality of their work guarantees that it will be enjoyed for generations.
Three Reasons To Use Reclaimed Wood Furniture In Your Home:
Reclaimed wood furniture is truly one-of-a-kind. No two trees are the same, and so, says Humby, “No single piece is exactly the same. Each piece is a statement.” Plus, Mother Nature is an exceptional designer. “Our products are a century in the making,” says Tribe. “Mother Nature has spent more time on this wood than I have been alive. Who am I to change what is so beautiful already?”
Reclaimed wood displays its history. “All of this barn wood comes from buildings that were built up to two-hundred years ago,” says Tribe. “This is a wonderful piece of Canadiana being preserved in your home.” And using locally-sourced wood means that each piece likely has a story behind it, says Humby. “We actually have some wood from a barn that was taken down at a nudist colony—you don’t get that just anywhere!”
Live edge furniture shows its history in a literal way. “It has a history that you can see in the rings of the tree,” says Allen. “I have clients that have actually counted back to find the ring from the year they were born.”
Custom-made reclaimed furniture promises lasting quality. These are the kinds of pieces that you’re going to be passing on to your kids and grandkids. “Even as your decor and style changes, it’s always going to have a place in your home,” says Allen. “It’s a product that you’re going to buy once and your great-grandkids will still enjoy it. It’s actually a bad business model. We sell you a dining table and you have it forever.”
by Emily Bednarz
Barn to Table
The Lasting Past