Reclaimed Wood is Cool. Here's Why.

Are you thinking about using reclaimed wood for an upcoming project?

Or maybe you're just looking for a piece for the house that has a unique aesthetic?

In our last post, we discussed why reclaimed wood is a more eco-friendly choice for our planet than brand new construction, but there are other reasons to consider this material as well!

Did you know that, on average, reclaimed wood is about 40 points harder on the Janka Hardness Test than its non-reclaimed counterpart?

Okay, we can already hear the questions banging around in your mind:

What the heck is the Janka Hardness Test?

What are these “points”?

Are they worth anything, or is it like Whose Line is it Anyway where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter?

Bonus follow up question: Why is there a hardness test for wood? It’s wood just…wood…and it’s all pretty much the same?

Fear not…we’ve got answers. Prepare for some science!

To conduct a Janka test, examiners take a 0.444-inch metal ball bearing and drive it halfway into the selected wood specimen. The purpose is to measure the amount of force it took to drive it in. Here’s what it looks like:

The measurement used is pounds-force (lbf). In other words, how many pounds of force do must be applied to the metal ball to drive it halfway into the wood?

The test is repeated on all kinds of different wood species, and the resulting data is compiled into a chart that looks something like this:

 

Generally, you’ll find that the cost of wood increases in direct relation to its hardness rating. Harder wood is sturdier, more durable, and has more uses. It stands to reason, then, that if reclaimed wood is up to 40 points harder than non-reclaimed wood (or virgin wood), it’s inherently more valuable.

 

Why is reclaimed wood harder than virgin wood?

Reclaimed wood generally comes from older structures (or “old growth”). These structures were made from wood harvested from older trees which, due to their age, were dense and strong—thus yielding a higher-quality product. Wood cut from newer growth hasn’t had the same length of time to mature and harden.

At this point you might be thinking, “Hold on…I’m with you on the green movement, and the hardness stuff makes sense…but I’ve seen some janky old wooden structures out here in the countryside. They don’t look very sturdy to me. In fact, it looks like the wood is good for nothing more than a nice bonfire.”

Well, astute reader, that very well may be the case. Not every piece of old wood you see is going to make nice cabinets or new décor in your study. When wood is reclaimed, it’s triaged into three quality grades: low, mid, and high.

Low grade reclaimed wood goes right into the furnace. It might look something like this:

Image Source

 

Mid-grade wood is a bit better, and is frequently used for making shipping crates or pallets.

 

High-grade reclaimed wood, on the other hand, goes to making stuff like this:

 

Depending on how sentimental you are, there’s also the “story” element to consider. Subject to wherever you source your reclaimed wood, you may be able to learn a bit about its history. Did it come from a church? A secret bar raided during Prohibition? A barn raised in the 1800s? At the very least, using reclaimed wood is a surefire conversation starter.

Looking for a new centerpiece for the room? Check out what we have to offer.

Until next time!