Early last week I finished up a set of shelves for the shop. I salvaged white and red oak fence boards that had been left outside in a stack for probably the better part of twenty years. I picked through the pile looking for those boards with enough density and a tight enough grain to be useful. About half of the boards were useable, the rest of them went to the burn pile. After a thorough scraping and a treatment with a wire brush I had material ready to send through the planer. After that was done to get the material ready for the shelves I had to cut a straight edge along on edge, then cut them down and square them to that straight edge. Each piece had to be measured and cut according to the dimensions of the board as they were all slightly different. Each shelf is comprised of two boards laid one in front of each other. The pictures reveal some of the process and the design elements that I’ve preserved through the process of salvaging the material.
I guess my question is what do I call this process. I think it’s different from traditional fabrication where you have essentially uniform raw materials that you cut down in the same way, to the same measurements in a relatively mechanical way. It’s not restoration because I’m transforming the materials rather than repairing them to an original condition. And upcycling and repurposing seem to imply transforming an object with a previously defined purpose to a different purpose. Doesn’t seem like cleaning boards and reusing them has the transformative implications of those terms. It was an involved process though with a lot of consideration for the limitations of the materials and tweaking the design and measurements to fit within these confines.
I kind of like the idea of “bespoke salvage”, custom tailored design and fabrication from salvaged material. That about sums it up. Although it lacks a certain succinct appeal it’ll work for me, for now.