June 29, 2022

From waste wood to sustainable designs

Parkman Woodworks Image Maintenance

We talk a lot about food waste, but what about wood waste? About 35 percent of the wood cut to make products like tables, chairs, floors and stairs is wasted each year, according to the Forest History Society. We can therefore be grateful for the growing presence of furniture in raw or reclaimed wood; this aesthetic trend is perhaps what we need to develop a more sustainable attitude towards wood.

Sustainable woodworking: making the most of raw materials

In France, furniture maker Jean-François Belk has noticed that in recent years, making rawer products has a double advantage: not only do they meet the demands of a trend, but they also generate less waste.

“Beautiful forms are preferred in art, and therefore in woodworking, and natural forms, like that of wood, do not need to be worked to become beautiful,” he explains. “You just need to transform them. “

Besides keeping his wood as natural as possible when turning it into furniture, Belk also creates smaller items with whatever needs to be removed.

“For something big, like a staircase or a doorway, you’re going to want to use the beautiful part of the wood – the knotless part that’s nice, straight, square,” he says. “I use everything else to make small decorative items, like a coat rack. This is how we use as much wood as possible.

But Belk goes further. With things that would once have been considered flaws or imperfections, like knots in wood, he creates small objects like coasters and votive holders that display the natural beauty of these unique characteristics of the material.

reclaimed wood candle holder
Image by Jean-François Belk

“Before we started reusing these parts, we estimated the raw material loss was around 30%,” he says. Today he only has 10-20% left, and even those parts he uses to heat his workshop, to reduce power consumption and ensure that even sawdust is not wasted.

Find a home for wood “waste”

In England, meanwhile, Richard Mehmed is trying to prevent what is widely regarded as scrap wood from being dumped and buried – to the tune of 750,000 tonnes each year in the UK alone. Much of the remaining 4.6 million tonnes of unused wood is shredded and sent to biomass stations in Belgium and Germany.

Mehmed runs a wood recycling program to educate construction workers on how to sort wood on site and protect untreated solid wood from destruction. His project has launched 25 non-profit reclaimed wood businesses across the UK, which supply wood for DIY projects and furniture makers like Chris Knipe, who uses pine pallet planks to make tables. inexpensive cooking.

“The pallet carriers are marked with grooves half an inch to an inch deep, to provide a structure that the pallets can rest on,” Knipe told the Telegraph. “A lot of construction companies think these grooves make the wood useless, but I fill the grooves with some other kind of wood, like oak, and it creates a scratch all the way down the leg of the table, which really adds individual character. “

Reclaimed wood: a vintage feel and a lasting outlook

American furniture makers are also contributing to the trend. Parkman Woodworks is a Los Angeles-based collaboration between Graham Taglang and Jonathan Snyder that brings reclaimed wood back to life.

reclaimed wood
Parkman Woodworks Image Maintenance

Turning to reclaimed wood as a medium happened almost by accident, according to Snyder: a purely aesthetic choice, at least at first.

“When you use reclaimed wood, there really is life – each piece of wood has its own characteristics and each of those characteristics comes from its previous life,” says Taglang.

“When you introduce it to somebody, when you take it home, and they run their fingers over the little scuffs and nail holes and things like that, and they can really enjoy those parts… that” is so unique. “

Perhaps it’s no surprise that both men come from creative backgrounds: Taglang in acting and screenwriting, and Snyder in music. It was the desire to create something more concrete that led the two men to work with wood.

“When you play music, the value is very theoretical,” says Snyder. “Making furniture seemed so much simpler and drier to me – you are doing something, it has apparent value, and it was just a lot more fulfilling for me. “

Of course, their choice also creates a more sustainable and environmentally friendly product. Not only do they use wood from pre-existing sources, eliminating the need to cut new trees, but they also pay attention to how they work with the salvaged pieces of wood to avoid creating waste.

“We hardly throw anything away,” says Taglang. “There are little pieces that are cut into whole blocks that also have a kind of character – we turn them into smaller items that we can then gift, like candle holders.”

“I would say we use between 95% and 98% of what we bring back,” Snyder adds.

The partners also decided to keep their local sources in Los Angeles, reducing their carbon footprint and working with pre-existing cultural heritage in the area, adding even more life and spirit to each unique piece of furniture.

Jill Ettinger, editor-in-chief of EcoSalon and resident of Los Angeles, was looking for a vintage table, but couldn’t find anything that matched the exact dimensions she needed for her space. When she discovered a table made by Parkman Woodworks, her decision was made almost instantly. “It was so, so pretty!” she says.

“Even though I was vintage-minded, the idea of ​​a custom table from sustainable wood really struck me as a viable solution to my problem,” she says.

“Every time my 3 year old daughter sits down at the table to eat (which is about 90 times a day), I remember that no matter how small they look, our choices make a difference, and we can making exciting, beautiful, high-quality ‘new’ things with less impact on the planet when we choose reclaimed or recycled products. “

The one-of-a-kind look is something so special and worthwhile, Ettinger says, and often just as affordable as mass-produced items, “but most of us overlook that possibility when shopping. buying from big box stores (furniture or otherwise) – we choose convenience over character, and that choice often comes with many side effects – from damage to our planet to shoddy products that we still have to buy and more, ”she said.

“We’re happy to go to a local bakery for a freshly baked loaf of bread instead of the plastic-wrapped stuff at the supermarket, but we forget that we can make similar choices elsewhere in our homes and lives. “

By supporting small local artisans, customers who choose salvaged furniture also make sure they get the real deal. Especially given the growing trend for reclaimed wood, Snyder warns that many mass furniture makers are adding reclaimed veneer to their products, hiding the compressed wood underneath.

“We like to kind of think of us marrying the aesthetic trend of salvaged furniture with a sort of trend of the maker movement of crafting and building things by hand and things that last forever,” says Snyder.

And if there is one choice that is sustainable, it’s choosing a beautiful piece of furniture that you never have to replace.

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Key words:
carpentry, parkman woodwork, recycled wood, wood waste, woodworking
Emilie Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind the ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so consumers can make informed choices. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies and Serious Eats.