It may have started with paint and pretties, but making sure we choose the perfect reclaimed wood for your crafts, became the most important aspect of our business. Today I want to take you on a journey of sourcing reclaimed wood.
Importance of Reclaimed Wood
A key part of our experience is selecting a piece of wood that speaks to the customer. All of our wood has a bit of character and shows evidence of its prior life, so when it’s turned into a finished craft the story continues. Our wood may have nail holes, milling marks, and other marks of character that show that the wood did not just roll out of a factory but has been used, and reused, over the years. Some wood has signs of early forms of milling when steam-powered sawmills shaped the wood to be used on barns and cabins over a hundred years ago. Other wood has trim marks showing its prior use as wall paneling. Still more wood has ax marks, where the wood was shaped by a craftsman using hand tools. On the back of each piece of wood, we place a sticker and note the source of the wood which preserves its history. All of this character and history combine to provide a truly unique crafting experience, where the finished craft a customer takes home is truly one of a kind.
Sources of Reclaimed Wood
- Wood Reuse Centers:
Our primary sources of wood are local partners like Second Chance, Community Forklift, and The Loading Dock, Inc. These organizations receive donations of materials leftover from renovations, building demolitions, or excess building materials. We select wood that makes the most sense for crafting projects, often reclaimed wall siding, flooring, and other woods that are between 1/2″ and 1 1/2″ thick.
- Urban Wood:
Urban wood, sometimes called urban lumberjacking, is harvesting wood from trees that naturally fell or needed to be removed from urban locations. In large cities like Baltimore and DC, there are thousands of old-growth trees, and every year several fall. In the past, those trees would have been used as firewood, or hauled to the city dump; however, we now know that these trees are a valuable source of high-quality lumber. This wood is often hardwoods like oak, maple, paulownia, hickory, and other fine woods. The trees are often milled on-site, and laid out to dry. Once dry, we turn the planks into high quality crafting pieces.
- Reclaimed Barnwood:
Reclaimed barn wood is wood that is recovered from barn and other structures when they are torn down. Barnwood can be hundreds of years old and was often sourced from trees on the same property where the barn stood. Urban barnwood can be in the roughest original condition, and may show many signs of age and wear, including nail holes, knot holes, and saw marks that are evidence of primitive wood milling techniques.
Types of Reclaimed Wood
Hardwoods we typically work with are oak, maple, mahogany, cherry, hickory, and other “cabinet woods”. These are often used for decorative purposes, or in the case of barn wood, were readily available at the time the barn was constructed.
Softwoods like pine, fir, spruce, and cedar are commonly available as reclaimed wall paneling and barn siding. Also, softwoods are lighter than hardwoods, less dense, and easier to work, but the softer material can dent more easily.
Commercial pallets can be made out of both softwood and hardwoods, depending on what was available at the time of manufacturing. We consider them a separate category of wood. Often pallet wood is very weathered, and may have very distinctive character marking. The wood usually is clear, without strong grain patterns, and very light.
Selecting the right wood is an art. And the most important part is to identify the wood that has a pleasing grain with attractive character features, but is also straight and solid enough to make a good crafting surface. While the heavily weathered finish available with some barn wood may look great as a wall panel in a home, our craft projects require a very flat surface. We try to select wood that is free from cracks, is reasonably straight, and is between 3/4″ and 1 1/4″ thick.
Once we have picked our wood, the next step is shaping and sanding. The wood is cut to the desired size for a specific crafting project. For larger wood blanks, several pieces of wood may be glued together to join them into a larger board. Then the wood is sanded, first with coarse grain, then medium, then fine-grain sandpaper. We avoid wood with major cracks or major character marks like knot holes that would get in the way of the stencil. A clean and smooth surface always makes the best craft.
As you can see, the care and thought put into our wood selection is often the most important part of the entire process. I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scene peek into the finished products you see on our shelves.