Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scrap Wood Wonders

By Bob Ferris

When my wife and I lived in Vermont a local fellow built a house on the slope across from our abode. As he was nearing completion of his dwelling he started a fire and was burning many of the odds and ends of wood he had laying about the construction site. I grimaced a little when I first saw him doing this because the burning of trash in our Valley is illegal and it was also a huge waste of wood in a land often starved for heat.

The second time I looked across the field I saw a tiny figure sitting by the roaring fire. It took me a while to figure out what was going on and then I realized the person was roasting marshmallows over the open fire. Mystery solved: It was my wife who will generally use any excuse to make s ‘mores. And why waste a good fire?

The incident made me once again respect my wife’s boldness and resourcefulness, but it also drove home my feelings about wood and waste. I simply love wood and rarely throw it away until I have squeezed out the last project and all that remains is sawdust which I then burn for heat or compost if it is not plywood. I am not a great craftsman but wood often speaks to me. And luckily my wife puts up with my well-meant but primitive creations like my night stand made from old chicken coop boards or cooking spoons carved out of wooden pallet scraps or wood harvested by local beavers.

Found wood in the forest or salvaged scrap from construction sites or by the side of the road, it does not matter much to me as long as it is rot and pest-free. I learned my lesson on the latter when I made a set of bookshelves and speaker stands out of found wood in winter only to find termite frass (poop) all over the floor when the wood warmed. My wife supports my scavenging as she dabbles in rustic furniture making and the perfect combination seems to be a co-creation marrying her art and architecture background and my sketchy woodworking and problem solving skills. These collaborations are not without their challenges, but the end results have been wonderful and cherished.

My hope is that others start looking to squeeze all they can out of scrap and found wood. I am encouraged in this regard whenever I see floors or cutting boards made of 2X4 ends or hear about architects developing designs to minimize cutting and wood waste. All good stuff and hopefully more and more folks will take the time to do more with wood that otherwise would go to waste. Good luck and have some fun.

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