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Musings of a Lumber Hugger

Published on: Mar 01, 2021

First, I have to admit that I am not a woodworker, nor do I have a woodshop in my garage. However, I do love wood. I always have.

I first appreciated the beauty of wood while admiring sculptures carved by my uncle, Bob Knauer, who, in his sophomore year, placed third in a juried show at the Cleveland Institute of Art. His entry was a sculpture of his left hand carved from exotic wood collected during his travels as a WWII foot soldier. For my eighth birthday, he gave me a 15-foot high, hand-carved totem pole complete with winged beasts and other critters. (I always accused my older sister of modeling for one of the beasts.)

Now, more than a half a century later, I am in the deconstruction business salvaging lumber—among other things. While I get a kick out of seeing an old craftsman window, or a beautiful 1930s porcelain pedestal sink, seeing a unit of old 2x8s salvaged from a deconstructed house really turns me on—weird huh? I guess it’s the memory of those beautiful things Bob carved that gets me imagining the next life a piece of that lumber might have. Windows and sinks don’t have much choice in their afterlife. They may be used as decorative hangings or planters, but their form doesn’t change. A chunk of lumber has infinite possibilities.

TRP sells the lumber from deconstruction projects into a myriad of markets. Sometimes a chunk of lumber becomes a framing member in a remodeling project. Truthfully, that’s probably where the vast majority of lumber goes. Even without the proper grade stamp, salvaged lumber can be used for framing, as long as it’s a non-structural element, or if the local inspector or structural engineer signs off on its use. But even the lowly 2x4 can generate some excitement. It might go into a new green construction project, or wind up as part of a decorative display in a LEED Gold building, such as the project we did at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen, Texas.

Other uses are more glamorous, of course. Talented woodworkers turn our old growth, Douglas Fir into beautiful furniture. A mill produces tongue and groove flooring from some of our lumber. A post-and-beam builder uses larger dimensional beams in the construction of new custom homes. Old double teardrop and shiplap redwood siding is often expertly resurfaced to match the siding on existing period homes.

Straight-grained Douglas fir and maple bowling alley lanes and gymnasium floors have wound up as floors, tables, countertops and bars from Ketchum, Idaho, to North Haven, Connecticut—from Bahia de Los Angeles in Baja to the Tonga Islands and beyond for all I know. Still, for me, it doesn’t matter the species, dimension or grade. It’s wood, it’s got warmth and its going to serve another great purpose for someone, somewhere. So, for a former investment banker what’s the bottom line? Hell, I don’t know, but for an old lumber hugger it means a great big smile and maybe another story.