Loving Salvaged Wood Down to the Last Curl

Jacquelyn Ottman Posted by Jacquelyn Ottman.

Jacquelyn is the founder of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., which helps businesses develop and market the next generation of products designed with sustainability in mind.


Loving Salvaged Wood Down to the Last Curl

Even the smallest scrap of wood can be crafted into something special (Image: Horn Designs)

In memory of my father and the curls I used to play with, wood is something that I hate to waste. When I was a little girl, I used to watch my father as his strong arms and hands pushed a plane again and again along the grain of a piece of wood. The plane would skim off a thin layer of the wood, which for some reason always curled up rather than just hang in a long peel.

WHTW link to save energy water tips 110414My father’s curls of wood were of different sizes and colors with wonderful, earthy aromas that I used to inhale as I picked them up from the floor. I used put them on my fingers like rings. Walnut had a peppery smell; Pine had the traditional smell of fresh and outdoorsy; Redwood, the old growth redwood, deep red in color, had an earthy smell, much like truffles that grow underground.

Storing Salvaged Wood for Projects – Even Tiny Scraps Can be Used Creatively

Artist, Jeff Smith, creates sculptures from salvaged wood scraps

Boston artist, Jeff Smith, creates sculptures from salvaged wood scraps (Image: jeffsmith.org)

I watched as my father constructed tables, dressers, lamps, and beds – all beautifully hand made with exquisite care and attention to detail. I also watched him as he carefully stacked all leftover pieces of wood by size and variety. Over the years, I saw more items emerge from my father’s shop, some as small as salt shakers made from a last small scrap of walnut.

Making Handmade Toys From Saved Wood that Will Last a Lifetime

When my youngest child began preschool, I enrolled in the local community college and took woodworking courses. I had seen handmade wooden toys that I liked but could not afford. The teacher was patient, and the tools were familiar to me. I happily cut, planed, glued, and clamped salvaged wood. My grandchildren are now playing with some of the toys that I made.

Respecting Our Precious Wood Resource While Using Every Bit Of It

The chicken coop that Tamara built with nothing but wood scraps (Image: Tamara Maren)

The chicken coop that Tamara built with nothing but wood scraps (Image: Tamara Maren)

A few years later, I began building my house. I worked alongside the contractors, and when my house was completed, I stacked the abundant salvaged wood in my shed. Over the years, I have used the wood I saved as I constructed a chicken coop, a playhouse, a tack box, saddle racks, picture frames, and other items. Each time that I use wood from that now quite diminished stack, I think about how many years a tree grew before it was cut, milled, and hauled to the lumber yard. I am still making use of every bit of it; I never throw any usable piece away until it’s so small it becomes firewood.

I would love to know if there is anyone else out there who continues their family tradition of making things from saved wood by hand. What projects have you constructed from wood that you’ve either saved yourself over time or salvaged?

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