Here at Lake Wood Designs in Duluth, Minnesota we don’t just “produce” wood products; we “curate” wood. Now we know “curate” is one of those buzzwords spreading around the web like wildfire. But it really fits.

Even though we aren’t preserving the Declaration of Independence or the Mona Lisa, our workshop is a whole lot closer to a museum warehouse than your typical highly-automated industrial lumber mill.  For instance, right now we are carefully inspecting and carefully deciding how best to use a stack of wine-barrel staves which have been dormant for a long time, waiting for us to breathe new life into them. 

In another article, we mentioned how we recently made some pickle-barrel tables. We are now carefully cutting and examining wood from wine barrels. Long ago, these barrels held wine at Wente Vineyards in California. Before the cuts began, co-owner Devin Garrett was anticipating how this wood may differ from the pickle-barrel wood. 

“The nice thing about tank stock is they always used the best of the best wood,” said Devin. “I can’t speak right now about how big of a color variation there will be in redwood from a pickle tank versus a wine tank. We will know that tomorrow because we are going to be cutting into some wine-tank wood.”

This wine-barrel wood sat near the docks of Duluth for about 20 years. There is no way of telling how long this wood held liquid before its bands were taken off and its staves were stacked up. After starting the process of cutting these timbers into strips (the lamella), Devin was considering the best way to put this high-quality historical wood on display. 

“This wine-tank redwood is a lot lighter than the pickle-tank wood,” said Garret the next day after cutting and inspecting the wine-barrel wood. “It will still be used in our engineered products, like the pickle tank wood, but will also be used for solid wood skirting, breadboards, etc.”

Of course, customers wishing for a lighter color might consider choosing this wood for their custom-made tables as well.

Like museum curators, after carefully choosing the correct wood for the correct application we must decide how to best display the wood while being respectful of the wood’s past. Before presenting these tables to the general public (you), we make sure to preserve much of the history of the wood. 

“I’m a big fan of leaving in evidence of the history of what the item originally was,” said Devin.

When you bring home one of these tables with its original dowel and nail marks, as seen in the previous article, you also become a curator of history as you turn your home into a sort of a museum. We love to see our prized creations go to a good home. 

Though we use some powerful machines, our furniture is the product of an artisan’s touch and careful consideration. We take our time and are always seeking to perfect our craft. 

“With reclaimed wood in general, you don’t know what you are getting until you cut into it,” said Devin. “Then you have to be willing to make mistakes, move on, and learn from those mistakes. Once we have done it a number of times we can make more educated guesses on which wood will work for which application.”

With our engineered wood products, we further display the historical wood by joining it to high-quality Baltic birch plywood (which has also been carefully curated). Even if the word “curate” is overused these days, “curators of wood” is a very good description of what we do. 

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