Talk about reclaimed wood with a connoisseur and their eyes glow. They talk about character marks, tight ring patterns, unique aged patinas, extinct or rare woods, and the story of the piece. They wax eloquent about the founding of this country and about the sweat of labor required to hack the wood out of the wilderness by hand. It’s hard to avoid when studying the subject.
What they’re really talking about is antique reclaimed wood. We typically define reclaimed wood as antique when we date it from the 19th century or earlier. This has more to do with the historical landscape of wood harvest on this continent than a standard definition of the term antique, as we will see.
During the frontier era, buildings in North America were constructed of hand-hewn beams and hand-sawn boards using the abundant stands of trees in the local vicinity. The tools and methods of modern millwork weren’t available, and the hand-wielded methods left their mark on the wood. Adze and ax marks hatch the surface of hand-hewn beams and tell a story of countless hours of hard labor to square a log with hand tools.