Re-using Lumber: Snapshot of the Process

Re-using Lumber: Snapshot of the Process

Titus Gilliam

Repurposed lumber--love the look--but how does it happen?  Just as many city kids today are fascinated to find out their milk comes from cows on farms, here’s a quick look at the history of some of these beautiful projects we see out there today.

We recently purchased some hardwood beams that had been used as crane mats.  We had never heard of crane mats before coming across this load--but think about it.  How do they get that heavy equipment out to work on our canals and rivers?  The answer, crane mats.

Ideally in the eco-friendly, green world of reclaimed wood, the lumber for projects is sourced close to home.  However, here in the Pacific Northwest we have plenty of softwoods such as pine and fir and yet the hardwoods can be hard to find. 

This load (one of seven) arrived in our lumber yard last week from eastern Oregon.  Who knows the miles these beams have had put on them in their first life as crane mats.  Many are looking rather the worse for wear.  We love the challenge of creating a “diamond” from these roughed up lumps of coal.

It’s hard to tell from the photos, but the mats are made up of sets of four beams lashed together with four foot blots about every four feet over the full length of the beam.  Several off this load were over 40 feet long and were too heavy for a standard forklift to move so it required two working in tandem.

Once unloaded, the beams had to be split apart and metal detected—a  job we were hoping would take just a few days but turned out to be much bigger.

They were pretty full of mud, dirt and rocks so each beam must be pressured washed.

Much work goes into inventorying each beam and assessing its highest and best purpose.  Some are so rough their highest and best might be firewood while others are the diamond in the rough and need to be sawn down to reveal their beauty.

And finally they are sawn to the client’s specifications.

That is a quick snapshot of these beams as they progress in their life from hardworking tools to beautiful artwork.