As old-growth wood makes its journey from a tree to a barrel and finally into one of our high-quality tables, it is shaped by many stops along the way. Let’s dissect a table we’re selling at our showroom. First, imagine the California wine barrel it came from 100 years ago. Later this wood sat on a Duluth dock. Finally, we restored it to its former glory in a new form. The wood’s journey from a California barrel to a Duluth table is a fascinating story.
Hundreds of years ago, the first and most important step happened apart from human intervention. Before modern forest management and modern levels of CO2, trees matured slowly as they grew strong.
“For example, pine trees used to grow about an inch a year,” said co-owner Devin Garrett. “Now they grow an inch a month.”
The same was true of the redwood we used to make this table. Redwood is especially prized, because now it is illegal to harvest old growth redwood trees. This means it is wood only available through reclaiming it. Old lumber was used in many ways. The redwood in this table happens to have spent some time as a wine barrel, because 100 years ago Wente Winery decided it was a better wood for their products.
“They wouldn’t use Douglas fir or cypress to make a wine barrel,” said Devin. “Redwood would be more flavor neutral.”
Not just any piece of wood was chosen to form the walls of one of these ceiling-high barrels. Holding back thousands of gallons of liquid is a demanding task. The wood for the barrel had to be the “best of the best.” After reliably holding liquid for many years, the barrel was decommissioned, dismantled, and the pieces sold.
“Wente Winery was established in 1883,” said Devin. “Those barrels could have been easily built in the early 1900’s. They were dismantled in the 90’s. So, they were probably in service for somewhere between 50 to 80 years.”
The winery’s decision to sell these pieces of wine wood to a company in Duluth probably wouldn’t happen today. At this time, plastic containers were becoming popular and Wente was selling off a lot of old barrels. Also, back then only a few people were buying old wood and even the wineries were happy to get rid of this old wood fast. Now that most are aware of tank wood’s value, wineries tend to save old tanks for display or sell the wood to local artisans.
After the wood was sold to a Duluth company, it changed hands a couple of times and it recently came to us. We then started the process of deciding which wood would go into each particular piece of furniture including the table we are currently building. After we had some experience working with this batch of wood, we were able to better decide how best to use the wood. It’s a complex process.
“You can just look at the boards and tell whether or not it is worthwhile cutting them down to lamellas [thin sheets],” said Devin. “Now, we are going to be more particular about what we use for lamellas with wider boards being more interesting. We also look at how unique or tight the grain patterns are. We can use the lower grade wood for other solid wood products.”
In this case, the wood made the cut to be a lamella. We carefully kiln dried it to a specific moisture content. After this, we glued the lamella to high-quality Baltic birch plywood to form the engineered wood product we are using in our tables. Besides the table you see above, we are building many other tables as well. Each table-building processes is similar, with lots of options.
“There are lots of variations,” said Devin. “Right now, we are building ten different tables. They have different thicknesses, lengths, widths, and grain patterns. They also come from different species of trees or are combinations of different species.”
Every table has its own story. And we can also custom make them any way you like. Stop by the showroom to see what we have to offer!