Tag Archives: reclaimed wood

Windfall Show Installation Shots

Our Windfall show is still going strong at the Craft & Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. Here’s a few new installation shots for you to enjoy. All the amazing details are best appreciated in person so be sure to visit and support CAFAM!

photos by Robert Apodaca


Windfall Show at CAFAM, May 28th

It’s almost here! Our exhibition at the Craft & Folk Art Museum opens at the end of the month and we hope you’ll join us. We’ve been working hard on a diverse body of work for this show, incorporating locally sourced wood from the massive storm that felled many trees throughout Los Angeles in 2011.


Windfall features new furniture and functional objects from members of the Los Angeles-based Box Collective, a group of designer-makers dedicated to creating innovative objects from reclaimed and sustainably sourced wood. The works in the exhibition were fabricated from trees that fell in northeastern Los Angeles during the historic windstorm of 2011. Ten members of the group will have works on display: Robert Apodaca, Casey Dzierlenga, Harold Greene, David Johnson, RH Lee & JD Sassaman, Samuel Moyer, Andrew Riiska, Stephan Roggenbuck, Cliff Spencer, and William Stranger.

The opening reception for Windfall by Box Collective takes place on May 28, 2016 from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. The reception is free for CAFAM members and open to the public for a $12 entry fee.

California Lumber Safari

What did you do this holiday weekend? We took a trip to Santa Cruz, CA to see some friends and decided to stop to visit a unique salvage wood source in Atascadero, CA. About 175 miles North of Los Angeles on the 101, Forgotten Woods has an amazing inventory of exotic and domestic salvaged hardwoods.

Forgotten Woods is ideal for the wood turner, but there are lots of treats for a furniture maker as well.

The figure on the exotic species are amazing to see the least, but we were very interested in the work that Rusty, one of the owners, does in his tree clearing business. Salvaged trees have histories, stories to tell. Like most lumber-philes, Rusty knew the stories of his harvest and shared them with us.

Monterey Cypress

This Monterey Cypress is a map of a battle between two neighbors, where one side of the fence continually cut off the branches and the other side let it keep growing. The tree just grew over the trimmed limbs.

White Oak

This is a seventeen foot long, 3 foot wide white oak tree that would make an amazing dining room table.



If the tree is not slab-worthy, Rusty cuts walnut, myrtlewood, elm and sycamore in to blocks for turning.

Reclaimed Ebony

This is some Ebony that apparently was sitting in a local man’s garage for 30 years, from when his uncle came back from a military post in the Philippines, where the lumber was used for fence posts. The uncle knew it was valuable wood, took it back to the US and distributed it among four nephews before he died. This particular nephew figured he hadn’t used it yet, so he hopes it will find a good home.

Scout and Rusty playing with hand-made wood tops and toys.

Woodworkers come in many types, from salt of the earth to presidential, but they all share a common craziness about the endless offerings of wood.

A Turning (and Pizza) Party

Making furniture as a business, it generally takes an actual project that requires a new aspect of the craft to make the time to work on it. I’m sure most people who take their hobby to a professional level find some version of this. So, I was pretty stoked on this idea for our BoxCo meeting. Meet on a weekend and experiment with the lathe. In our wood shop, we turn legs for some pieces, and bowls from time to time, but (believe it or not) there just isn’t a lot of time to mess around.

The Lathe

Pooling our tool resources, the BoxCo members located two lathes in close proximity as Topher and Cliff work next door. Sam had recently milled a salvaged black oak tree for Gary, and we had some walnut blanks we’d been waiting to use.

Sam turning.

Some bowls.

Casey turning

Pizza. MMMmmm

Turning Tools

No actual masterpiece was completed in the few hours, but it was good practice and great pizza. You can see some more aspirational examples at the Del Mano Gallery in Los Angeles and the Wood Turning Center in Philadelphia.

6×6 Watchman’s Chair

6×6 Watchman’s chair is composed of reclaimed 6”x6” Douglas Fir beams that come from a pergola, deconstructed in Pasadena.  The beams are held together with threaded rod salvaged from a studio lot dumpster.  The architectural detail carried over from the ends of the pergola lend the chair a light footing; and as an added benefit the rounded beams create a curved point of contact just in front of the user’s center of gravity allowing for a delicate balancing act on the front legs.

I make objects that can be disassembled.  Their constituent parts remain distinct, and together they form clear, intelligible wholes.  These composite objects can be broken down to facilitate mobility, adaptation, repair, and future reuse.  The design for this chair is inspired by a traditional African chair known as a “watchman’s chair.”  Like many time-tested pre-industrial forms the traditional watchman’s chair embodies my priorities for flexibility, but being composed of wide boards of hardwood, it is not easily replicated with salvaged or reclaimed wood.  My interpretation of this chair is shaped by a desire to use a fairly common salvaged material—namely construction-grade Doug Fir—and to create a piece that retains the character of the wood from its previous use.

While salvaged and reclaimed woods can be used as substitutes for conventionally sourced wood, I am more interested in employing them in ways that highlight the transformation of the material.  Builders should use reclaimed material whenever available—whether for structural uses or for decorative elements—in order to minimize demand for energy intensive materials and the need for unsustainable harvesting practices.  The collective economic impact of our sourcing decisions is significant, but if the origin of a specific material is not tangibly clear the effect of using a reclaimed material is limited.  In order to change broad attitudes about what types of construction, and which sorts of consumer objects are desirable I seek to promote an aesthetic that celebrates the old along with the new.  6×6 Watchman’s chair is an example of one such effort, combining old material, and an older design, with a new approach to joinery and composition.

–Edward Pine Stevens

Great White Sharks: Story by Andrew Riiska


George walked through the downtown Brooklyn streets where the modern buildings collide with the tree lined old neighborhood brownstones. On the corner he noticed a beat up green dumpster that was too tall to see into. It was seven, and all of the workers had left, but the signs of construction were evident. The boarded up windows and the scaffolding made it clear that there was some serious renovating in progress. The signs were good.  George quickly climbed up the ladder welded onto the end of the dumpster and peered in. His heart jumped.

It wasn’t the usual dumpster full of tuff old goats.  It wasn’t even the rare, but still common dumpster full of cows.  It was swimming with great white sharks.  Thats when I got the call.

The next day George was at my door at the crack of dawn. We wove through the streets south of Houston until we got to a parking lot close to the Williamsberge bridge that I never noticed before. George had the keys to an old van that he borrowed from his friend who was borrowing it from some Guatemalan friends who took it to the farmers market to sell ponchos and sweaters on the weekends. It  was beat up and gold.  It was standard shift with the stick poking out of the steering column and when George pushed in the clutch and turned the key it started right up. Driving down the FDR I named it Goldar.

We crossed the East River over the Manhattan bridge. Traffic was backed up heading into the city but the path to Brooklyn was clear. We turned onto the tree lined street and pulled up behind the dumpster. The morning sun flickered through the leaf canapé. I climbed up the dumpster ladder.  The wind moved the tree above my head and the contents of the container lit up with sunlight.  They were beautiful.  The Great White Sharks were actually 6″ X 12″ X 14′ long Eastern White Pine Beams.  This is the King of all Pines and the State Tree of Maine which has been known to stretch 100 to 200 feet above the earth and reach diameters of up to 6 ft.  I was looking at rare native American lumber that was perfectly cured having dried slowly for at least 100 years in this old brick brownstone.   It was the bingo colada.  The real stuff.  And they were so big they could only be Great White Sharks.
We put on our gloves and started loading the fish into Goldar.  Even with the noses of the sharks pushed all the way up in between the front seats their tales still hung out the back three feet.  They were heavy and un-sanded and covered in 100 years of dark brown dust but the cut ends were a creamy gram cracker tan.  We had three of the beasts in the van and were carrying a fourth towards Goldar.  I tightened all of my stomach mussels trying to prevent the inevitable hernia from carrying such heavy beams when a construction worker walked around the corner with a blue and white coffee cup in his hand.  I  laid the head of the shark on the bumper of the van and introduced myself to him.  I was surprised that he had an english accent.  I gave him my usual spiel about how  underneath all of the filth the wood is actually nice and I explained how we recycled the wood into furniture.  Usually, the construction workers think we are crazy but they let us take the wood.  It makes room in their dumpster for more debris so they are often grateful.  This guy saw an opportunity.

“I know that it is  nice wood I am selling them over in England for $100.00 each.  I will sell them to you for the same price.”  George and I looked at each other.  We knew the wood was worth far more than what he was asking but this had never happened before and paying for the wood was not an option at the time.   I knew the guy was just trying to make a quick buck.  It would cost more to ship the wood across the atlantic.  Plus if it was so valuable they wouldn’t’ have been throwing it in with the other debris from the brownstone like bricks and cement, but their was nothing we could do.  We put the sharks back in the dumpster with a New Jersey address on it.  This dumpster was not going to England.  Just thinking about all of the beautiful Native American white pine rotting in a landfill broke my heart.

We climbed back into Goldar and headed back over the Manhattan bridge when we my phone rang.   It was Jaren.  Together, Jaren, George and I owned a small wood shop in Brooklyn we named Elshopo.

“Did you get the sharks?”  I said no and started explaining what happened but he interrupted me.

“Do you still have the truck?”

“Yea why?”

Dennis and I are installing a kitchen at 169 Hudson street.  The construction workers have pulled out 16″ X 16″ X 16′ long Southern Yellow Pine beams from this old building and they are cutting them into 2′ chunks with a chain-saw and throwing them into a dumpster.  “Stop them!  I yelled, “we are on our way.”  I couldn’t believe this was happening in the same day that  we almost caught all of those great white sharks.  Usually I referred to the Yellow Pine, also know as Short Leaf Pine, as cows, but I had never come across them this big.  These must be something else and since we were fishing today they could only be wales.  Yellow pine is a much nicer wood than Eastern White Pine.  Before the days of the Steam Boat it was one of the most prized woods in ship construction.  Early in the 1700’s the wood was proclaimed by the Royal Crown as the property of the British Crown for the masts of the Royal Navy.    We had recently built a kitchen out of pieces of this same wood we pulled out of a floor to make room for a Cathedral Ceiling.  The wood is striped because its growth rings change with the seasons.  The summer season rings are light tan, slight yellow and soft but the winter rings can be dark brown, with bright yellows that burn into red.  They are thinner rings because of the difficult winter growing conditions and after they dry for a hundred years they are as hard as hickory.  When you cut into this wood the air fills with the smell of what Pine Sol is supposed to smell like.

We pulled up to the loading dock of 169 Hudson Street.  Construction workers were carrying what looked like two foot square stumps and dropping them off the loading dock into the dumpster.   They looked heavy.  Jaren walked us back into the torn out building explaining that they were removing the beams to make room for a entrance way with cathedral ceilings.  The only lights were bare bulbs strung up on extension cords dangling from the rafters.  The floor was covered in debris, crushed bricks and cement dust was pushed into piles along the floor like filthy prairie dog homes.  Lying in a pile were the sleeping giants.  They were huge.  There was no way we could lift them.  They cuddled together, finally resting after laboring for a century holding up the building.  We devised a plan.

We loaded all of chunks of whale blubber we could fit into Goldar, without the bumper dragging on the ground, and George and I headed for Elshopo.  We unloaded all the wood into the shop and built a level platform to lay all of the beams on in front of the shop that elevated the wood above the street and moisture.  The next day we rented a Uhaul.  Jaren had the construction workers cut the 16′ beams in half.  I brought a bunch of blocks and Mr. Bar, my 8′ long steal bar, and by making a simple lever we jacked the whales onto dollies and wheeled them to the loading dock.  The loading dock was two feet higher than the bed of the Uhaul so we got a running start and jumped the old beams into the fully insured truck with a crash.   Jaren also found some smaller pieces in the basement.  With some help Jaren’s friend Dennis we were able to carry the 6″ X 10″ X 119″ beams up the twisting staircase into the Uhaul.  After loading-up all of the whales we were exhausted.  George and I managed to unload the beams in front of the shop without picking them up.  We slid them off onto our platform, chained them to the cement and covered them with a tarp.

A little research revealed that 169 Hudson Street was built by the John A. Roebling Steel Corporation in 1893.  John August Roebling was a German born civil engineer  famous for his wire rope suspension bridge designs.  At the age of nine he built a model bridge and later this bridge was noticed to be similar to the Brooklyn bridge which he also designed.  169 Hudson was built very well to handle a lot of weight because it was used as a storage facility where heavy cables and other materials used in the construction of bridges were stored.  That is why the beams we pulled out of the building were so large.    In 1867 he started design on the Brooklyn Bridge.  In 1869 he was standing on the edge of a dock, working on fixing where the bridge would be built when his foot was crushed by an arriving fairy.  His injured toes were amputated and he refused further medical treatment and wanted to cure his foot by water therapy(continuously pour water over the wound.)  He died of tetanus 24 days after the the accident.  His son Washington Roebling continued work on the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was completed 1883.
The wood that this reinforce storage facility was made of grows from New York southward to most of the southeastern states as far as Florida and eastern sections of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.  Large groves of these native American Yellow Pines grew right up against the Hudson River.  They were most likely felled, dragged to the river and floated down in huge bunches and finally used to build New York City.  One of my colleagues said he saw vintage photographs in a Brooklyn museum of the Hudson river clogged with so many of these trees that it looked like you could walk across the river on the logs.  We counted 300 growth rings on our biggest beam.  Since a pair of growth rings is 1 year we estimate the tree grew for at least 150 years.  Since these trees were know to reach diameters of 5′ to 6′ these could have been a much older trees. They supported the building from 1893 to 2000 for a total of 115 years. Therefore, we can estimate that the wood is at least 265 year old but possibly older.  I am no dendrochronologist but I do know that one section of the beams that we saved from 169 Hudson Street would make a perfect “tree cookie,” which is a cross section of a tree.  Through the study of these samples they can not only determine the age of a tree but the environmental conditions the tree grew in.  By studying the different chemicals in each layer of the wood they can even tell when I volcano erupted on the other side of the globe or document the increasing levels of mercury we are releasing into our world.

These trees are the Great Grandfathers of the United States. They are old souls that watched over the world as they grew. The droughts, the storms, the cold winters that glazed their branches in ice and the hot muggy summers the trees thrived in are all recorded in the grain of their wood. As construction materials they are intricately connected to New York City History. They are books that we can read to understand are environment. They belong in the Natural History Museum or at least given another life were their beauty is revealed through the honored tradition of crafting furniture.  They do not belong in overcrowded landfills rotting with moldy garbage.  So the next time you are walking past that big green dumpster, don’t be afraid, take a peek. You might just  find some barn animals inside or if you are lucky you might have to blow the whistle and get all the kids out of the swimming area because there are sharks in these waters!

Panel Discussion : reduxiture at New Puppy

On October 11, 2009, we participated in a panel discussion, as part of the reduxiture show at New Puppy Gallery in Los Angeles, with four members of our newly formed a group of professional Los Angeles based furniture makers committed to environmentally conscious design and production, LA Box Collective. The first public appearance, we discussed our philosophies for building sustainable furniture.

The hour and a half long discussion was moderated by Harold Greene, president of The Woodworker’s Guild of Southern California, himself a furniture maker with 30 years of experience. The panel of William Stranger, Leigh Spencer, Topher Paterno and Sam Moyer discussed the cycle of consuming disposible furniture, salvage wood sources and FSC certification.