Monday, August 25, 2008

Ponder This

Ah-Ha moments, much like Ta-Da moments, can seem magical. The difference is that an Ah-Ha moment can change your life profoundly. I experienced one of these moments this weekend. In a Make: magazine article about the “consumption facts” (how much energy is used to make an object) of a simple plastic bottle, the author used the example of a dining table to prove his point. He said something to the effect of “it takes the same amount of energy to produce a cheap IKEA table that will last only 7 years, as it does to make a hardwood table that will last 20 years. Therefore the hardwood table uses fewer resources, because its consumption is amortized out over many years.” This goes along with a quote from James Krenov, “Much of our life is spent buying, discarding, and buying again, things that are not good.”

When the concept of conserving resources and purchasing durable objects converged in my mind, it changed the paradigm through which I view my woodworking projects. My goals for Wisp Woods now include the desire to take this concept one step further by reversing the consumption model by reusing discarded wood. This will serve as a way to achieve an even more ecologically responsible end product when combined with time tested construction techniques.

This concept is not new to Wisp Woods. Examples can be seen in many of my projects, especially the early ones. When I started woodworking, my stock of raw materials primarily consisted of plywood left by the previous occupants of our first house. I even used the wood from an old box spring when first getting started.

This is not to say that I have not worked with “perfect” wood. Wood that is the antithesis of a sustainable consumption model, being surfaced four sided and sanded by the factory before being wrapped in plastic, for what reason I do not know.

The best example I have of a project that I made that is consistent with these values is the Baby Changing Table seen below. The only things I had to buy for this project were the hardware pieces like the drawer glides and pulls. The solid wood and plywood was salvaged from our house, the main source being the shelves and dated built-ins that we removed.

I encourage everyone to look around them for sources of wood that could be reused. Many industrial companies throw out a vast amount of hardwood and plywood that are used in the transport of their raw materials. If you have a motorcycle dealer in your area, you could be sitting near a gold mine of exotic hardwood, since the pallets that those machines arrive on are often built overseas.

When working with this wood, it is often fun to use the flaws that are inherent to enhance the character of the finished product. This isn’t a way to hide your own flaws, but rather to leave the piece a bit of its history and to allow it to tell its story, to those who will listen to its “Wisp-ering”.

David J. Ulschmid
~ Wisp Woods ~

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