“So, as a manufacturing activity, it is as green as it gets, while producing the same economics as a historically ‘virgin’ extraction industry. The construction and demolition disposal industries, in comparison, produce around one-sixth to one-tenth the number of jobs as the ‘recovery’ industry does,” says the deconstructionist – who recommends the Reclaimed Wood Council, the Forest Stewardship Council and Building Green as good sources for general information on the movement.
For the Balogs, the whole notion of working with reclaimed wood just seems organically right.
“I’ve been making furniture for 15 years,” Daniel says, “but my family’s been recycling for 42 years. We’re a bunch of hippies from Florida. I didn’t grow up with a whole lot of money. We don’t approve of anybody throwing anything away…. ”
As Amy Balog points out, starting 11th Hour was as much about lifestyle as it was about business for the family. “We wanted our (four) kids to grow up close to nature, with fresh air, and we wanted our dogs to be able to run. So we moved to Tennessee from Cleveland. …
“When we came here, we started taking down the barns themselves,” she recalls. “We started going around talking to people and asking about their old wood, and they thought we were weird at first. We got a lot of strange looks. ‘We were just going to burn it!’ they’d say. But look at Ebay for barn wood now. People are selling their old barns for $20,000. They want you to come and take down their barn and you pay them $20,000! Our goal is pretty simple. We want to make it (reclaimed wood furniture) accessible. If you want something one-of-a-kind that’s healthy for your home, that’s good for your environment, it should be affordable.”
She says it’s also a source of infinite pleasure and gratification for their family, including her father, who periodically comes down to help with smaller pieces – coat racks and side tables. The business has become a true family affair – and that, itself is a form of recycling energy, a holistic approach that keeps the circle, as it were, unbroken.
“The kids like to be part of it. My daughter, Gabby, is 8, and she uses the biscuit’er when we do ‘biscuit joiners,’ and Daniel (junior – left) likes to put the ‘biscuits’ in the hole (little wood disks that hold joints together). When people commission something, we have the pictures of the barns that we took down, and we can show them where it came from. We can say, ‘This barn is made from the trees that grew on this farm a hundred years ago, so people know where it comes from, every step of the way. We can say, ‘This wood is from Tennessee, it’s never left Tennessee.’”
Which leads back to the rallying cry, ‘buy/use local.” Companies like 11th Hour minimize their carbon footprint by keeping it local.
“I like bamboo for instance,” says Amy, “but I don’t like the idea of shipping bamboo all the way from China and putting polyurethane on it, then calling it green because it’s bamboo. The wood is already here, and most people say, ‘Take it. We’ve got to put up a new barn. We need the room. It’s gonna rot. There’re snakes in there, there’re bees in there.”
Which is part of the allure of salvaged wood.
“It has so much character, there’s bee holes, nail holes. Some of the stuff they don’t want, the things that have the prettiest character, are the scraps in this industry,” she says, pointing out the poetry in the grains. “Walnut gets purple and white streaks when it grows close to water, and some people “think of it as flawed, but it’s the prettiest stuff.
One woodworker we know says, ‘That’s what we call God’s color. That’s the way the tree was when I found it.’”
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