Turning Deadwood into Furniture

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 14, 2010

What would you say if you knew Americans tossed aside nearly 30 percent of the hardwood timber grown in the country each year? It sounds infuriating! But according to the U.S. Forest Service, some 3.8 billion board feet of "un-chipped logs" every year are put to waste. The United States Department of Agriculture claims that more than 200 million cubic yards of so-called "urban tree and landscape residue" ends up in dumps and landfills. That's good hardwood that comes down in heavy winds, from insect infestations, or by death from a natural cause, and Americans pay to have it picked up and cast away by municipal or private tree services.

Recycling Natural Hard Woods for Consumer Use

The Department of Agriculture also reports that at least 16 projects run by private firms, governmental agencies, sawmills, and partnerships between all parties are working to salvage dead-fall and other castaway hardwoods. Dead candidates for sawlogs are being turned into high-quality flooring, cabinets, and furniture. Some wood is used as pulp for paper products, chips are used for mulch, and dead park trees or fallen street trees are converted into residential or commercial heating fuels.

In Wausau, WI, the city forester is charged with maintaining 26,000 street trees. When they fail--no matter the cause--he contacts local loggers to have the damaged wood delivered to paper mills and quality woods taken to the sawmill. The proceeds brought the city $78,000 and the wood was put to good use. Other timber is re-used in building park and recreational shelters.

In Lompoc, CA, wood destined for destruction and big trees beyond their life expectancy are chipped into mulch, while some logs are turned into park benches or milled into lumber. A recent effort reduced the city's landfill fees by $40,000 and the wood was used for park signs, ball-field bleachers, indoor paneling, and decorative municipal sculptures.

In Santa Barbara, Kathy's Remodeling Blog reports, residents had their neighbor's acacia trees milled and used as a breakfast bar and cabinets for their living room and two bathrooms. The acacias had reached the end of their natural life cycles and were going to come down anyway. The total cost for the milling and new cabinets came to $18,000--roughly what forested wood products and carpentry would have cost the family anyway. But the project saved a considerable number of board feet from the forest.

Think of that when you shop for wood for your replacement cabinets. If you can't afford new cabinets now, consider cabinet refacing.

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