totstimbersThese massive reclaimed Douglas Fir timbers (approx. dimensions 17 x 22 x 18′ — toddler, 35″ tall) were originally cut from the world’s second largest conifer tree (after Redwood). It’s lumber and timber began arriving from the Northwest in the early 20th c., as the Longleaf Pine forests of the Southern U.S. were reaching low levels. Today, reclaimed Doug Fir timbers yield beautiful framing members, wide plank flooring or in this instance, bound for exterior bench seating at the Highline in New York.



The Domino Sugar factory was primarily built with steel and brick, with a finishing coat of sugar and molasses over the eras. But demolition of the building still yielded a large volume of antique Longleaf Pine, used for the sturdy industrial decking.

Following the Civil War, New York City became the biggest provider of refined sugar to the U.S. and for a period, the Domino factory in Williamsburg was the largest sugar refinery in the world. After 150 yrs of service, it closed.

Most recently, it’s housed an unlikely sugar product, an epic sized sculpture by the artist Kara Walker. Her “Marvelous Sugar Mama” is a tribute to the individuals in distant lands that harvested sugar cane and a statement about the exploitations and sacrifices that trailed the 3 million pounds of sugar that were processed each day.


The Beech tree has been a reliable barn timber through the eras, as it’s logs yielded hard and large beams. Resawn, Beech makes exceptional interior flooring and furniture stock. It’s fine reddish-white figure and interesting grain patterns, along with the character marks picked up over eras of service within agricultural structures. The tree also has a special place in the hearts of many young lovers, who have engraved their feelings for one another into its smooth grey bark.
Antique Beech from barn beams produces a stunning reclaimed figure that is often a substitute for Oak. Beech has a range of character marks within it’s light-colored honey and golden hues with hints of pink, along with natural scratch marks, some knots and sound cracks and insect tracks that provide evidence of it’s age. Our hand selected reclaimed Beech can also include a beautiful mix of hardwoods that work well together, such as Maple and Oak.

hacker-580The New Yorker this week brings together reclaimed wood history and the tech moment.  A Short History of Hack  Blog entry by Ben Yagoda. Illustration by Jordan Awan from a scene in the back yard of a Bushwick frame house c. 2013. 


Situ Studio unveiled their new food truck design for the start up Drive Change, that serves up a Maple centered menu – grilled cheese dripping with maple syrup, maple-bacon doughnuts – with a side of social action with each order. The mobile restaurant employs formerly inprisoned young people, helping them to learn new skills and re-mobilize their lives. 
Inhabitat describes the design as an “transformation of an old Con-Ed truck with an abstract snowflake design that echoes Snowday’s fun, arctic theme. Recycled materials such as approx. one inch reclaimed cedar and reclaimed Redwood from an old cooling tower (supplied by Sawkill Lumber Co.) were used to create the multi-colored, 3-layer snowflake pattern that wraps the vehicle…” Photo:

mohawk_001Sawkill Lumber Co.  is featured in issue no. 2 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly. The focus is “Mastery of Materials”, and the spot include’s a pic of the Bellboy Watertower Chair for the 12 x 12 exhibition and a load of salvaged timbers. Some other makers in the Mohawk piece include  DODOcase,  Almanac Beer Company,  Brooklyn Slate,  Mast Brothers Chocolate, and Juniper Ridge





‘Individuals and organizations from around the world who have confronted environmental emergencies ranging from the Fukushima nuclear disaster and Hurricane Sandy, to forest fires and climate change, were honoured on 2 September 2013 as recipients of the third Green Star Awards.’ The City of New York was among those honored for their recycling efforts in the months following last years super storm. As mentioned in an earlier post, the city coordinated a broad line up of public and private groups for the task. The salvage work at the Rockaway and Coney Island Boardwalk woods, which Sawkill helped to plan, was central to the city’s entry for the award. Green Star was started by former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev as a way to create a “Red Cross for the environment”. 

It’s not only what you’re wearing—it’s what you’re wearing it on. Harvested decades ago from the South American jungles, and hauled by elephant and ox cart before being milled into New York areas storied beachfront walkways, the salvaged tropical hardwoods now turn up at the forefront of American fashion—an unlikely but appropriate transformation for the times.

Sawkill will reclaim all woods from J.Crew’s Fashion Week installation, per the apparel firm’s request.


A new UN climate report reveals that human activity is a main cause of global warming – the odds look higher and more certain than ever, as reported in the New York Times . Despite a front page story, it doesn’t sound like breaking news – five degrees higher and we’re looking at “…melting land ice, extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food, massive changes in plant and animal life, and probably a wave of extinctions.”

There are doubters, but every major scientific association now warns that it’s a big threat, and may endanger some great cities — including New York, London, Shanghai, Venice, Sydney, Australia and New Orleans. The prospects sound potentially dire, but the real consequences from most windows can still feel removed – otherwise, why hasn’t there been dramatic change? 

Saw-kill, a Dutch term for Sawmill Creek (a 1620’s sawmill on Manhattan island) also expresses an environmental and social reality, and is a response to wishful thinking that we’re putting the warming trend on ice, or to greenwashing, which misleads consumers by playing fast and loose with terms like ‘eco-friendly, sustainable and green’. Photo: NY Times.

“What is laid upon us is to accomplish the negative; the positive is already given.” – Franz Kafka




Public agencies, private companies, unions, non-profits and individual citizens took part in the work of salvaging damaged boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy – FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), NYC Parks Dept., NYC Office of Debris Management, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Ashnu International, Local 173, Armster Reclaimed Lumber Co., Sawkill Lumber Co., YANA (You Are Not Alone) and local citizens.  

The boardwalk is made from Rainforest hardwoods, sourced in the jungles of Guyana and Brazil – species like Ipe, Cumaru, Greenheart and Angelique – woods that are among the hardest on earth, with almost supernatural resistance to insects and rot. 

Over three miles of the shoreline walkway were thrown off moorings by the storm, with large volumes sent to landfills before a coordinated effort was made to salvage the valuable hardwoods. Awareness that boardwalk woods are a cause of Rainforest destruction, and a potential link to the super storm, made reclamation among the symbols of local renewal and global environmental change.

Photos: Beach 106th St., Rockaway Boardwalk. (l) Reclamation work after the storm. (r) rebuilt comfort station with steps constructed from salvaged boardwalk. 

tribecanyc_001Circular bar installed within a Tribeca, NYC restaurant space involved extensive glue up, and use of a darker Walnut tone stain, without losing the natural look and feel of the dense figured antique Pine. The 3″ profile displays a beautiful edge grain.



Two new Stumptown Coffee locations build out much of the interior space with new wood, taking a pass on salvaged woods. There may be at least a few reasons why the vanguard artisan coffee maker made these material choices.    

The design choices may not have easily allowed for reclaimed – At the Mhtn location, they used Black Walnut in a herringbone pattern (keep a look out for this growing trend). In Bklyn, they used an alternating color stain on a wider plank Oak.  Or they were looking for cleaner modern lines, It could be that weathered antique woods have become almost a cliche for cafe design, that they were looking for a new design direction, while still retaining the natural warmth of wood. Or they were simply looking to save money up front – Probably not the overriding issue, but also added to the fact that reclaimed woods can be more prone to installation challenges and cut-off waste. 

Many coffee chains use wood as a building material for the same reason, though with less distinctive designs. Stumptown also chose some funky cross cut tree trunks for their small tables and a semi-distressed blue finish on paneling that set the public space off from the work area. The design seems to come together well, with the new woods mixed with low lighting and tin plate (reproduction painted black). All and all, they seemed to pull off a difficult design aim with new woods – making them feel modern with a nod to the vintage, down-to-earth and still professional – and retaining the coveted look of authenticity – at least in the near term, since there may be a few trade-offs relative to reclaimed. 

Sustainability – Are the woods FSC certified or do they just look good? 

Shelf life – How will the woods look after a year or two? Scuffs, dents and wear tend to detract from the new floor look- and enhance a reclaimed floor. 

Story – Do the woods carry a back story? Newly harvested woods from fast growing tree plantations don’t offer much of a compelling narrative, especially in relation to century old woods from virgin forests.

Without more information on the wood choices, we’re stumped.

lesecology_002webThe collatoral damage of the technology revolution happens before and after use. The manufacturing of a phone or computer involves a complex mix of toxic materials, sweatshop labor and non-renewable/non-recyclable/non-reusable resources. The troubles may only get sensed when it’s time to retire a product. There once were two options – hope that city services find a way to responsibly discard the item, or establish a personal archive of technology in an area storage unit.  

Now there’s a third option. Lower East Side Ecology Center‘s electronic waste recycling is a unique and innovative program that allows residents to dispose of working and non-working electronics in an environmentally responsible way. People can bring unwanted electronics to e-waste collection events that take place in neighborhoods throughout the city, or drop off items at the Gowanus Brooklyn location.

The electronics warehouse will utilize some reclaimed wood from Sawkill Lumber, connecting materials that were once centuries apart. 

photo copy 2Annie Proulx’s  “Rough Deeds” (New Yorker mag, June ’13) takes us to the heart of early 1700’s logging in the Northeast. The short story centers on a Frenchman named Duquet who amasses vast timber tracts (20,000 acres at 12¢/acre) during the era. While he and an associate are surveying the territory, they come across a crew of men cutting down their towering White Pines. One of the poachers meets the gruesome fate of Duquet’s ax through his skul. An owl witness’ the scene – a signal that the deed will later be repaid. Proulx’s Colonial backwoods noir brings the old growth forests alive.



Ada Louise Huxtable (March 14, 1921 – January 7, 2013) began her career at the Museum of Modern Art (curatorial assistant for Architecture and Design 1946-50) before becoming the first architectural critic of the New York Times (1963-82). She wrote over ten books and was considered a central figure in creating the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission in 1965. In 1970, she won the Pulitzer Prize for architectural criticism. 

A love of both historic and modern architecture, and the city that swirled around it, helped her to understand how the built environment can elevate our public and private lives. She responded in criticism that was hard hitting and humor filled, scholarly and street smart, advocating for the best standards that each successive era could attain. What would the city look  like without the remarkable work of Ada Louis Huxtable and others, keeping the delicate tension of old and new alive? More historic ruins hauled to the landfill and far less of the architectural marvels that have been built in modern times. 

Her academic training was in architectural history and one of her early books, “Classic New York: Georgian Gentility to Greek Elegance”, helped to inspire research and a landmark campaign that began in 2002. A few years ago, I had an opportunity to meet with Ada Louise Huxtable to discuss the 1832 Greek revival warehouse at 211 Pearl Street and the designer of it’s architectural type, Ithiel Town (1784-1844). Even at ninety, her critics edge and poise showed little signs of being dismantled. (photo: NY Times).

miked_bklynThe New York Times featured the transformation of a Cobble Hill townhouse by Beastie Boy Mike D. Reclaimed woods were used sparingly, but nonetheless rocked. Mike D also is helping to reclaim the Rockaways after the hurricane disaster, jump starting a food truck that put out over 19,000 meals to hard hit residents. The project rolls on, with food truck job training to area residents. Donations can be made at Rockaway Plate Lunch. photos: NY times 

pier57_001Salvaged scaffolding planks (6/4 x 9″ x 10′) are made from a mix of Hemlock, Spruce and Fir. The reclaimed material here, sourced at the Henry David Thoreau School in Queens, was part of a design for the Pier 57 art installation.   


Ben McGrath at the New Yorker mag covered post-Sandy salvage work at Rockaway Beach in the Talk of the Town section- June 7th issue. It’s a whimsical exchange with Bo Bricklemeyer (FEMA), Rion LoBrutto (NYC Office of Emergency Management) and Jordan Smith (NYC Parks Dept.) at a remote backwoods site, where a mile of the boardwalks tropical timbers and decking are now stored. Sawkill along with associated Armster Reclaimed Lumber Co. were contracted to dismantling some hazardous sections of elevated boardwalk near comfort stations and to pick through the debris piles at Riis Park – the temporary and sprawling dump area for hurricane refuse. Sawkill doesn’t appear in the text – only the drawing – where burly workers tote 150 lb tropical timbers. 



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Congratulations to Mat Driscoll (aka Bellboy) – with his ‘Water Tower Chair’  chosen as a pre-emminent work of furniture design, featured on the May 2013 cover of American Craft magazine. Produced from the salvaged Redwood of a Park Ave., NYC water tower, it was created for the 12 X 12 furniture exhibit at Wanted Design during the Spring 2012 Design Week. The event – promoting modern sustainable design and collaboration – was co-sponsored by Sawkill Lumber Co., Build-It-Green and 3rd Ward with proceeds to benefit wood shop job training in NYC through the non-profit Brooklyn Woods. More info at



Basil Walter Architects was asked to design a modern residence on a 90-acre farm in upstate New York,one that would feel connected to the landscape, and reflect the latest in green technology. One of the primary materials employed was a natural wood skin made from the tropical hardwoods of Northeast boardwalks, supplied by Sawkill Lumber Co. The house is adjacent to the Hudson River with a spectacular view. Other sustainable elements include geothermal wells around the site, and photovoltaic solar panels on the roof.

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Sawkill Lumber joined with Brooklyn Woods at the IDEAS CITY street fest, organized by the New Museum on the Bowery. The event explored the future of cities around the globe with the belief that arts and culture are essential to a cities vitality, making them better places to live, work, and play. This year’s theme hit on reclaimed lumber directly – called Untapped Capital, participants focused on resources that are under-recognized or underutilized in our cities. 


photo copy 2The sections dismantled by Armster and Sawkill were originally slated for demolition and landfill, before FEMA, NYC Office of Emergency Management(NYC OEM, U.S. Army Cor and NYC Parks determined to salvage the tropical hardwoods.



This years choice for the Times Square Valentine’s Heart Design went to Heartwalk, by Brooklyn based Situ Studio. The salvaged lumber for the heart shaped installation – some of it supplied by Sawkill Lumber Co. – was salvaged from storm damaged boardwalks at Atlantic City, Long Beach and the Rockaways. 

Heartwalk, was unveiled on Tuesday, February 12, 2013, and will remain on view until March 8, 2013. The jury included Barry Bergdoll, The Museum of Modern Art; Susan Chin, Design Trust for Public Space; Sherry Dobbin, Times Square Alliance and others.

Situ Studio took inspiration from the collective experience of Hurricane Sandy and the love that binds people together during trying times. Heartwalk begins as two ribbons of wooden planks that fluidly lift from the ground to form a heart shaped enclosure in the middle of Duffy Square. Visitors can enter the installation itself and literally stand in the heart of the world’s greatest city.

“This heart is a frame for lovers and a great civic gesture commemorating the outpouring of support and help in the wake of Sandy. said Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, and jury member. Heartwalk is a heartwarming stage on which to pause for a moment in the heart of the world’s busiest intersection—a swell of emotions that can dialogue with the TKTS pavilion and the great cacophony of Times Square.”

The dialogue may also bridge any remaining split in our thoughts about global warming. The lumber for the design was originally logged in the South American Rainforests and includes exotic tree species such as Ipe, Cumaru and Angelique – woods that are three times harder than Oak and prized for nearly supernatural resistance to rot and insects. Controversy over their use led New York City, the largest consumer of tropical woods, to essentially ban their use for boardwalks and other parks uses. The Heartwalk installation is also a hopeful response to Rainforest destruction, an expression of love and it’s powers of transformation.

Bradley Samuels, Situ Studio partner, said, “We were interested in creating a room within the city—a public space that was simultaneously interior and exterior. Taking inspiration from the collective experience of Sandy, Heartwalk is a reflection on the things that bind us together, ephemeral and permanent.”

Cheerios is the official sponsor of Heartwalk. Additional Support has been provided by Arup Acoustics, Renfro Design Group Inc., Two Trees Management, HD MADE, JPR Lighting Group, Electrical Lighting Agencies and Sawkill Lumber.

Visit these sites for more information and public images.







Situ Studio of Brooklyn will drop a love bomb into Times Square in the form of a giant illuminated heart, constructed from the salvaged lumber of hurricane ravaged coastline areas. When the project was short of the required material, Sawkill Lumber Co. supplied the balance. 


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