Working With Salvaged Wood – The Process

The salvaged wood constructions generally take the form of wall pieces, although I have made several towers, a sphere that hangs and I intend to make some tower like constructions that hang from the ceiling.

I begin by making a wooden frame for the work usually out of 2×1 and several inches smaller than the piece its self.  When the work is complete it will hang on this frame so it has to be strong.  As the piece will be built up in layers I make the bottom layer a part of the frame which firmly fixes the frame into the piece its self.   The work can be composed of up to six or seven complicated wooden layers.

I begin by selecting the wood.  At the moment I am making a series of pieces which have a gradient of hues, from dark almost black through to rich brown tones and into beiges and whites.  I like to think it’s a bit like being a painter, using colour, considering contrast but with the added pleasure of texture and dimension.

The bottom layer will have the largest segments of wood, they will be cut into shapes and glued together leaving quite small spaces in between.  As I build up the layers the fretwork of wooden pieces will become more complicated and more delicate with wider spaces which allow the viewer either to see clearly or to catch a glimpse of what lies behind.

I cut lengths of wood like floor boards on a Compound saw and then I cut them into smaller more complicated parts on the bandsaw.  Then I glue these shapes together – depending on how many clamps I have available I can have anything up to a dozen parts glueing at any one time.  I often loose pieces that I am gluing – clamp and all – and it’s like meeting a long lost friend when I come across them again.  ‘I wonder what I was going to use you for?’
Fine strips of wood make a complex fretwork that can then hold slightly larger pieces. They are fixed together using a halving joint.  As the piece grows I fix the layers together with ‘uprights’ that will protrude from the work when it hangs on the wall – these not only secure the layers but aesthetically they give the work another dimension.

When is the work finished?  When I think Ive done all I can I hang the piece in our living room and sit on the sofa (usually with a dog in my lap) staring at it!  My partner Nel will give her opinion ‘there’s a big hole here you need to fill up!’ .  But the real test is taking a picture – it’s amazing the amount of faults the camera will pick up that the eye doesn’t.  Then it’s back to the work bench!!  Often whole tracts have to be removed, redone and improved upon.