Upcycling: How Furniture Can Be Beautiful and ‘Green’

Upcycling is an easy and innovative way to minimize your footprint on the environment, and the practice is a common one among the members of the Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers. It is always incredible to see what beautiful creations our artists can make with materials that were previously discarded.

The use of salvaged wood in furniture is on the rise. And it isn’t just a great way to support the environment — salvaged wood often adds unique character to furniture.


Sideboard by Doug Clarner made from reclaimed old-growth Rheingold beer vats

There are four primary ways our Guild members acquire and use salvaged wood:

Old beams from demolished buildings: This is probably the most common source of salvaged wood. Dave Hurwitz explains that the primary source is “large industrial buildings that had very large wooden beams, but also other sources, like old water tower tanks, beach boardwalks, stadium bleachers, etc. The beams are sawn into lumber. They can be different kinds of woods, including chestnut, which was wiped out about 100 years ago by the chestnut blight. Often times wood from old salvaged beams can have very dense grain where the growth rings of the tree are very close together. That’s because the beams were originally sawn from old-growth trees that had grown very slowly in dense forests. ”

Post and Beam Pool Table by Dan Mosheim

Old logging runs: More than one hundred years ago, rivers and lakes were used for the transport of logs by the lumber industry. Sometimes a log would become submerged and eventually sink to the bottom of the body of water, where it was ignored — until now. Some companies are now fishing out these old logs for use in lumber.

Recycleed Chestnut Farm Table by Dan Mosheim

Urban forestry: In order to beautify urban areas, companies specializing in urban forestry are becoming increasingly common. In many cases they fell trees, and in the past these trees have been considered low worth and chipped or chopped into firewood. Recently, some companies have been selling the wood to small sawmills to be cut into lumber. Hurwitz explains, “these often yield unusual grain and figure, and often unusual wood species besides the ones typically used in furniture making.” Urban-sourced wood can give your furniture a unique quality.Burlington trees

A quick Google Earth search will show you that Burlington is one of the greenest cities in the US

Tap hole maple: This is one of our unique local methods of obtaining wood for upcycling. Tap hole maple comes from trees that have been tapped for sugaring, leaving a hole. Hurwitz explains that tapping the tree “causes the grain around the hole to turn a dark brown color, resulting in a brown streak in the grain. It’s has become a signature wood for some Vermont made furniture in just the past few years.”

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Tap Hole Maple Door in progress by Ray Finan

And many more: Although these are the major methods of finding reclaimed wood, they aren’t the only methods. If you’d like to use reclaimed wood for upcycling, as your furniture maker what is available.



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