I get teased around here for looking for reasons to buy a new tool. (That might be true.) But my last purchase – a chainsaw – was necessary. I’d found a local tree company who hated getting rid of the wood when they cut down trees and were too happy for an eager woodworker to take some off their hands.
Every so often, I load the chainsaw in the back of my RAV 4, grab a tarp, and go find out what they have. So far, I’ve gotten oak and eucalyptus wood with birch brought to me from out of state. I don’t think these are the only reclaimed woods I’ll work with, but they’re a good start.
Often called Florida Live Oak by the locals, I’ve got a big stack of oak in the shop that I really enjoy using. It’s a nice, solid hardwood that can be difficult to work with because of how hard it is. When you get it going, turned oak makes beautiful pieces. I’ve used it in everything from pens to bowls. By far the most interesting thing about oak, to me, is the interesting bark patterns that show up when I turn natural edge pieces like some of the bowls I’ve made.
My dad lives in upstate New York and at Christmas time I asked him to bring me any wood he had and couldn’t use. What I received was a huge stack of birch. It’s a cool wood to work with because the color is different from piece to piece, from white to a light tan. Sometimes, you can see the color change in a single piece of wood. Birch is a wet wood which means that when it spalts, new colors are added to the grain which changes the appearance of the wood and adds an extra dimension to it. So far, I’ve made a box and tea lights.
Okay, to be honest, I haven’t actually had a chance to use my stash of eucalyptus yet, but I’m looking forward to it. What I find fascinating is that eucalyptus is so diverse. The oil can be used for respiratory problems, in aromatherapy, and as an essential oil that I use in my homemade pre-shave oil (yes, I make that, too). All that makes me wonder, what kind of wood have I got here? I’m really excited to try it because the pieces in my shop have really interesting branching patterns which should translate into unique grain patterns.
I’ve always felt better when I re-use something or find a new use for an old thing rather then throwing it away. Using reclaimed wood lets me take something unwanted, forgotten, and destined for a wood chipper, and turn it into something useful and beautiful. I still love the exotic woods and the acrylics I use, but using reclaimed wood makes me feel good.