Whether you are working with repurposed wood or reclaimed wood, one thing will become clear quickly. You need good tools, varied skills, and lots of patience. Your wood project is unlikely to be a quick and easy job that you can bang out in less than an hour.
Before you begin any project, make sure you have a specific goal in mind. Will you construct a bookcase? A wine rack? Or, will you just be crafting and experimenting to become familiar with the properties and characteristics of different types of wood? Take all these questions into consideration before you start.
Repurposed vs. Reclaimed
First, a quick lesson on the differences between repurposed wood and reclaimed wood.
- To repurpose wood, sometimes also referred to as upcycling, is to take good material and reuse it for something other than its originally intended purpose.
- To reclaim wood is to salvage material that has reached the end of its existence, revitalize it so that it is usable again, and either use it for either its original purpose or for a new purpose.
In short, reclaimed wood may require more steps to prepare it before you get a finished product. But, more importantly, by working with either type of wood, you save materials from ending up unwanted in a dumpster and, eventually, in a landfill.
Ready, Set, Repurpose!
The first step in tackling your project is to determine which type of wood — reclaimed or repurposed — you want to work with.
Pallets, crates, boxes, and doors are great base materials to get your project underway. But unless you have a ready supply of such items, you will need to get creative in locating the necessary supplies.
Tip: Retired barns, shipping crates, salvage and boatyards, garage sales, and auctions are great places to acquire old wood or furniture pieces needing some TLC or a complete rebirth.
If you’re new to the world of reclaiming and repurposing, building shelves is a great way to hone your woodworking skills while adding storage to your living space. And if you’re a veteran craftsman, the endless possibilities of shelf design can offer sufficient complexities to challenge your skills.
Whether increasing your kitchen capacity, improving access to files and books in your office, or enhancing your living room décor through the display of accent pieces, open shelving provides a great alternative to bulky furniture — saving you money and precious living space.
A desk is a necessity for any home — and not just homes with students.
Building a wooden desk can be a little more involved if you are unable to find one large piece of wood to reclaim or repurpose for the desktop. And you’ll need multiple pieces. Again, you’ll find a wide variety of possible desk designs to challenge even the most experienced woodworker. And your hard work will be rewarded when the final product is transformed into your home’s control station where daily household business is attended to.
While this project may look difficult at first glance, it is actually one of the simpler woodworking projects that will improve your home’s curbside appeal. Because you’ll be working with smaller pieces of wood cut from larger pieces of reclaimed or repurposed wood, you’ll have endless options to consider. And, depending on the design you pick, walkway pavers can be a very forgiving project, allowing you opportunities to restart if you make mistakes along the way.
If you are already handy with a hand or power saw, your biggest challenge will be deciding on a design. Once you’re started, this project can take shape quickly, setting you on a different path in no time.
Still looking for inspiration? A first-time wood crafter or seasoned artisan looking for other project ideas? Here are some additional ideas for ways to reclaim or repurpose wood:
- Accent pieces (art, mirror, tray, wall hangings)
- Furniture (bookcase, chair, coffee table, nightstand)
For more project ideas, check out this guide for new woodworkers: 50 Small Wood Projects That Are Simple and Easy.
Working with reclaimed or repurposed wood not only allows you to save money by building your own furniture and accent pieces, but it also creates a real wow factor to your home’s exterior or interior décor with your personally crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces. Plus, you’ll also be helping the environment by keeping these materials out of the landfill!
Want more ideas? Check out DIY Home Décor out of Pallets: a Beginner’s Guide
Feature image by Anna Shvets from Pexels. Originally published on April 26, 2016, this article was updated in April 2021.