Wood is undoubtedly one of the oldest and best building materials in the world. Our ancestors already knew how to make sturdy huts from branches to protect themselves from wind and weather. And how about a hollowed-out tree trunk as a canoe, or a raft of pieces of wood tied together. Certainly in earlier times, where the world population was considerably smaller and even entire continents were unpopulated, wood was a cheap and virtually available material that was also easy to work with by hand.
During the bronze and iron age, the possibilities became considerably greater to extract and process harder types of wood for all kinds of applications, ranging from housing and weapons to tools and even the first vehicles.
But wood was not only used to make something out of it, it functioned in the first place as an excellent and reliable fuel.
Anno 2018, many thousands of years later, wood still plays a major role in most societies on earth. Of course, the exact application differs per climate and many new materials and techniques have been developed, so that wood is used on a smaller scale. For example, materials such as stone, concrete and plastics have taken over many of the original functions of wood, as they have now proved to be more suitable, cheaper or more sustainable. Nevertheless, wood still finds many applications in the construction industry, especially when it comes to lighter constructions, but also in the further finishing indoors, such as window frames, doors, stairs etc. Wood has proven itself as sturdy, relatively light, durable and flexible material.
In addition to construction, wood is nowadays mainly used for somewhat more luxurious consumer goods and furniture. At a time that is characterized by mass production and cost savings, wood (no matter how cheap) is no longer a matter of course, think of many IKEA furniture, laminated office furniture, etc. Often, compressed residual materials are used here. look somewhat attractive, but qualitatively often just not good. Yet many consumers seem to have little trouble with this, because we live in a western society in a disposable society, where fashion is often considered more important than buying good-quality products that last a lifetime.
In recent years, however, there has been more interest for ‘real’ materials such as stone, steel and wood for a wider public. Of course you have enormous quality differences within these product groups, a pine table is after all a lot less solid than a solid oak wood variant. However, this also goes hand in hand with a considerable price difference and of course it depends on which application the wood is going to get and what the consumer thinks is beautiful. Apart from these, not unimportant, details, it is in any case a positive trend that consumers carefully choose for more qualitative and less processed materials.
Despite the fact that wood is a natural product, it can last for decades, if not for centuries. In order to achieve this enormous lifetime, it must of course also be properly maintained and treated. The fact that wood is a natural product also means that it must be extracted from nature. A tree needs sufficient time and nutrients to grow, after which it can be cut down. The fact that this has been happening in a fairly irresponsible manner worldwide over the past centuries may be clear, so that certain areas are completely deforested, animal species are expelled or even extinct and even natural disasters are encouraged. Fortunately, consumers and therefore also companies are becoming more and more aware of these abuses, with as a result increasing control over the origin of wood. Organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) have been established to promote responsible forest management, particularly in tropical areas. In most Western European countries, such as the Netherlands, FSC-certified wood is happily becoming the standard.
As a result of this awareness, the interest in used wood is also growing. Not only in the construction industry is the recycling of wood becoming more and more normal, especially individuals are buying more and more often used wooden objects. The most obvious examples are old, often heavy and darkly stained, wooden furniture that is completely made hip again with a new layer of paint and / or elements. Often these old wooden furniture from the late 1800’s / early 1900’s of very solid and good quality, but the design or the finish is totally outdated, so even the thrift store does not sell it anymore. Fortunately, more and more people and companies are realizing that this old, discarded furniture can be completely revived with a little love and attention. In addition, they can also be sawn to be able to take out new wooden parts for use in, for example, new furniture.
But not only old furniture is creatively transformed into new furniture, old wood is increasingly becoming a completely new destination. For example, old doors can be used as the basis for a tabletop, old wooden floorboards can be cut into seats or steps and an old mooring post can serve as a unique base for a vase or work of art.
The recycling of used wood is therefore in the first place a lot better for the environment, because less new wood needs to be cut down and less pollution is caused by transport, processing etc. Why should you have to produce new wood, while there already significant quantities of old but useful wood are present? Here, though, there is a little more creativity and customization, because existing wood often needs to be sawn back, bad parts may need to be removed and it must be collected. From this point of view, this production process is at present somewhat less efficient and probably financially less interesting, but our planet would be considerably spared in a large-scale application.
However, using old wood also has another great advantage, namely the unique appearance. Used wood is of course actually used and that is clearly visible in many cases. For example, old floor parts have been run for decades and thus also show clear signs of use and wear. Old beams show beautiful ‘marks’ of nails and screws and the planks of an old barn door show a peeling and whitened layer.
This natural patina has great appeal to many people and is also very difficult to replicate artificially. Authentic traces of use are usually arbitrary and are caused by years of exposure to weather, dirt, human use, etc., which are almost impossible to imitate.