Sure sure, using reclaimed wood does not in fact save the planet - but thats OK. We like using reclaimed wood because 1. it just plain looks cool 2. it help reduce the demand on new cut wood 3. adds credibility and style to the concept of using recycled material and 4. it tends to be more stable than fresh cut timber (less cracking). There's a whole host of other social and environmental ills related to logging (especially in cambodia... see here. ) but thats for another story over several drinks.
Maybe we should start with what reclaimed wood is. Its pretty simple. Reclaimed, repurposed, recycled wood is another way of saying wood that has already been used for its original purpose (like building a house) and salvaged when that original purpose is no longer around (the house has been demolished. Rather than being thrown into the dump or the bonfire, the wood is 'reclaimed' to be given a second life. The wood we find usually comes from boats, buildings, houses, that are being deconstructed because they have reached the end of their useful life. We purchase the wood from the owner or a re-seller, show it some love, and transform it into something completely new (like a table top).
As mentioned above, the benefits from using this reclaimed wood are pretty distinct. The wood brings with it a history and cool story that visible in the old saw marks, nail holes, notches, and paint. It means no two boards (and no two tables) look exactly the same. There's a character to the product that is as unique as its history. We think this character adds some style, and we think that showcasing these character marks lends credit and interest to the concept of reuse. Not everything needs to look brand spanking new, in fact, the uniqueness might even make it more attractive.
Since the wood is being "reused", we don't have to go to a lumber yard and ask them to mill up some brand new boards from freshly felled timber. This plays in to both less demand for new wood and in turn, less movement in the wood itself. Trees contain as much as 50% moisture in their wood fibers while living. Once the trees are cut they gradually give off moisture through evaporation. As a result, the wood usually contracts with the loss of moisture. Joining, gluing, and nailing new wood that has not yet released all of its moisture (through evaporation or kiln dried) tends to warp and crack as it reacts against the new shape its being forced to take. Using reclaimed wood that has either aged for several years or already been kiln dried means that the wood has usually already finished moving and stabilized to its current shape. Ideally, this means less cracked, warped, useless products.
Maybe later we can get into the environmental and social ills of new wood in Cambodia, but for now we'd rather highlight why we love reclaimed wood. We are proud to be a furniture maker in Phnom Penh that is committed to using reclaimed wood.
FYI We're also happy to source reclaimed wood material like flooring, cladding, wall treatment, etc if you're interested in making something yourself!