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Woodworking Trends from Emilee Rigby

Woodworking Trends from Emilee Rigby

Woodworking Trends from Emilee Rigby

2022 Woodworking Trends: Eco-Conscious Material Sourcing

One of the most exciting woodworking trends of 2022 is a shift towards eco-conscious material sourcing. With the supply chain uncertainties of the past few years, local and sustainable wood sourcing has become a resilient option for people making small to medium scale projects. These options offer high-quality materials for very reasonable prices (sometimes free!) if you know where to look and are willing to do some extra leg work. This article explains some eco-conscious wood sources and gives some project ideas and tool recommendations for each. Although the term “eco” can mean many things, and no source is perfect, this article celebrates material sources that are small-scale, independent, and favoring local and/or salvaged options.

Source 1: Local Independent Sawmills

If you live in a region with abundant hardwood forests (the Midwest and the East Coast), then you likely have an independently run sawmill in your area. Many lumberyards across the country rely on packaged lumber to be shipped to them, that they then sell to customers. Local sawmills harvest from their region and often mill and cure the wood on site. This smaller scale model can lead to higher prices, but they are also much more resilient in these changing times. My local sawmill has done so well this year that they have begun to supply other lumberyards across the country. Since they rely on local trees, be prepared forever-changing availability in dimensions and wood types. You can often find good deals when they have a surplus. You can find interesting and highly figured finished or rough-cut dimensional lumber, and sometimes live edge slabs. I often look for the “paint grade cherry” because it usually has a higher percentage of sapwood and interesting character (and it’s often half the price!). This source offers mostly cured and kiln-dried wood, so it’s best for more traditional woodworking and construction projects. Some of my favorite projects to make with wood from the local sawmill arecharcuterie boards, geometric wall shelves, coat racks, plant stands, and woodburning projects. For these projects I recommend a good set of hand planes and some accurate hand saws.

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Source 2: Salvaging Logs from Arborists

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If you live in an urban area and primarily work with green wood, this is a great wood source to investigate. Trees get cut down for many reasons every day, and they are often turned into firewood or woodchips, or simply left to rot on the side of the road. These are all perfectly fine outcomes, but they can also be rescued and turned into green woodworking projects. Arborists are usually happy to give away an entire tree worth of logs, especially if you trade them something you made. I have also sourced wood from people who clearcut land for developments, and by asking homeowners who have had trees cut down or trimmed by the power company. This source can lead to a healthy obsession with local tree speciesso that you can correctly identify the logs and learn which treesare good for which projects. To get started, I recommend emailing your local arborists, or searching the free section of your community’s Facebook, Nextdoor or Craigslist pages for logs or firewood. Some cities also have a service called Chip Drop, where you can sign up to get either whole logs or woodchips delivered to your house. To process these logs, it will be helpful to have a froe, a chainsaw or folding saw, and wedges to split larger logs. Some of my favorite green woodworking projects are wooden spoons, bowls, butter knives, salad servers, coat hooks, chopsticks, and spatulas.

Source 3: Mobile Mills

Using a mobile chainsaw and bandsaw mill

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If you enjoy making larger projects out of salvaged wood and can’t fit a 300lb log in your car, let alone process it, this is a great option for you. Mobile chainsaw and bandsaw mills have become much more accessible in the past decade and are a great way to process these larger logs. If you don’t want to get into the mobile milling business, there are plenty of people with mobile mills that produce beautiful specialty slabs. One of my personal favorites is Windwood Milling, run by Mark Dubac in Portland, OR. He mills salvaged street trees and offerscured or greenbowl turning blanks, burlwood, and specialty slabs. Try searching online or asking at the local sawmill for a mobile specialty slabmill near you. They are great for tables, chairs, stools, charcuterie boards, turnedbowls, pepper grinders, knife handles, and large cabinets.

Source 4: Harvest it Yourself

If you live in a more rural area and either own land or have friends that do, this is a great source for you. Many woodworkers harvest their own trees for their projects in a respectful and sustainable manner that improves the forest where they live. However, this source can either be the most eco-friendly option on this list or the least depending on your knowledge and practices. Legality is the first thing you need to consider before harvesting trees yourself. The best place to harvest trees is from your own property, or the property of someone who has given you permission to do so. Quite often, there are sick or dying trees in the forest. Removing them allows younger, healthy trees to have more light, water, and nutrients. With some ecological study, walks in the forest, and chats with local experts, you can learn to identify which trees are best for removal. It is very important to never harvest a tree that is too large for your skill level, or one that may be habitat for local wildlife. When in doubt, stick with trees that fall over in storms. A good rule of thumb for determining when a tree died is to look at the twigs. A good candidate will have either leaves, flowers, fruit or buds still visible (if the twigs are too deteriorated to tell, the wood is likely too rotten to use). If a tree has dead flowers still attached, it likely fell last spring; leaves and/or fruit then it fell between summer and fall; and if the twigs have buds only, then it likely fell in winter. If you are a green woodworker, this is especially important because you will want to harvest the freshest trees for your projects.

There are many other woodworking materials that can also be sourced sustainably, such as leather, hardware, paints,and finishes. If you are unsure about a supplier’s sustainability policy, try reaching out to them! I have had many wonderful conversations with people that I buy my materials from and am often pleasantly surprised by how thoughtful their answers are. Woodworking projects, like any handmade item, tell a story. Being connected to the source of your materials enriches that story andcan ultimately deepen your connection to the craft.

One of the most exciting woodworking trends of 2022 is a shift towards eco-conscious material sourcing. With the supply chain uncertainties of the past few years, local and sustainable wood sourcing has become a resilient option for people making small to medium scale projects. These options offer high-quality materials for very reasonable prices (sometimes free!) if you know where to look and are willing to do some extra leg work. This article explains some eco-conscious wood sources and gives some project ideas and tool recommendations for each. Although the term “eco” can mean many things, and no source is perfect, this article celebrates material sources that are small-scale, independent, and favoring local and/or salvaged options.

Source 1: Local Independent Sawmills

If you live in a region with abundant hardwood forests (the Midwest and the East Coast), then you likely have an independently run sawmill in your area. Many lumberyards across the country rely on packaged lumber to be shipped to them, that they then sell to customers. Local sawmills harvest from their region and often mill and cure the wood on site. This smaller scale model can lead to higher prices, but they are also much more resilient in these changing times. My local sawmill has done so well this year that they have begun to supply other lumberyards across the country. Since they rely on local trees, be prepared forever-changing availability in dimensions and wood types. You can often find good deals when they have a surplus. You can find interesting and highly figured finished or rough-cut dimensional lumber, and sometimes live edge slabs. I often look for the “paint grade cherry” because it usually has a higher percentage of sapwood and interesting character (and it’s often half the price!). This source offers mostly cured and kiln-dried wood, so it’s best for more traditional woodworking and construction projects. Some of my favorite projects to make with wood from the local sawmill arecharcuterie boards, geometric wall shelves, coat racks, plant stands, and woodburning projects. For these projects I recommend a good set of hand planes and some accurate hand saws.

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Source 2: Salvaging Logs from Arborists

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If you live in an urban area and primarily work with green wood, this is a great wood source to investigate. Trees get cut down for many reasons every day, and they are often turned into firewood or woodchips, or simply left to rot on the side of the road. These are all perfectly fine outcomes, but they can also be rescued and turned into green woodworking projects. Arborists are usually happy to give away an entire tree worth of logs, especially if you trade them something you made. I have also sourced wood from people who clearcut land for developments, and by asking homeowners who have had trees cut down or trimmed by the power company. This source can lead to a healthy obsession with local tree speciesso that you can correctly identify the logs and learn which treesare good for which projects. To get started, I recommend emailing your local arborists, or searching the free section of your community’s Facebook, Nextdoor or Craigslist pages for logs or firewood. Some cities also have a service called Chip Drop, where you can sign up to get either whole logs or woodchips delivered to your house. To process these logs, it will be helpful to have a froe, a chainsaw or folding saw, and wedges to split larger logs. Some of my favorite green woodworking projects are wooden spoons, bowls, butter knives, salad servers, coat hooks, chopsticks, and spatulas.

Source 3: Mobile Mills

Using a mobile chainsaw and bandsaw mill

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If you enjoy making larger projects out of salvaged wood and can’t fit a 300lb log in your car, let alone process it, this is a great option for you. Mobile chainsaw and bandsaw mills have become much more accessible in the past decade and are a great way to process these larger logs. If you don’t want to get into the mobile milling business, there are plenty of people with mobile mills that produce beautiful specialty slabs. One of my personal favorites is Windwood Milling, run by Mark Dubac in Portland, OR. He mills salvaged street trees and offerscured or greenbowl turning blanks, burlwood, and specialty slabs. Try searching online or asking at the local sawmill for a mobile specialty slabmill near you. They are great for tables, chairs, stools, charcuterie boards, turnedbowls, pepper grinders, knife handles, and large cabinets.

Source 4: Harvest it Yourself

If you live in a more rural area and either own land or have friends that do, this is a great source for you. Many woodworkers harvest their own trees for their projects in a respectful and sustainable manner that improves the forest where they live. However, this source can either be the most eco-friendly option on this list or the least depending on your knowledge and practices. Legality is the first thing you need to consider before harvesting trees yourself. The best place to harvest trees is from your own property, or the property of someone who has given you permission to do so. Quite often, there are sick or dying trees in the forest. Removing them allows younger, healthy trees to have more light, water, and nutrients. With some ecological study, walks in the forest, and chats with local experts, you can learn to identify which trees are best for removal. It is very important to never harvest a tree that is too large for your skill level, or one that may be habitat for local wildlife. When in doubt, stick with trees that fall over in storms. A good rule of thumb for determining when a tree died is to look at the twigs. A good candidate will have either leaves, flowers, fruit or buds still visible (if the twigs are too deteriorated to tell, the wood is likely too rotten to use). If a tree has dead flowers still attached, it likely fell last spring; leaves and/or fruit then it fell between summer and fall; and if the twigs have buds only, then it likely fell in winter. If you are a green woodworker, this is especially important because you will want to harvest the freshest trees for your projects.

There are many other woodworking materials that can also be sourced sustainably, such as leather, hardware, paints,and finishes. If you are unsure about a supplier’s sustainability policy, try reaching out to them! I have had many wonderful conversations with people that I buy my materials from and am often pleasantly surprised by how thoughtful their answers are. Woodworking projects, like any handmade item, tell a story. Being connected to the source of your materials enriches that story andcan ultimately deepen your connection to the craft.

Written by Emilee Rigby

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