Reclaimed? Recycled? Repurposed? Salvaged?

Or, what’s all the hubbub, Bub?

There are a number of words that all try to describe how something old is used to make something new. Those used to describe the reuse of wood products can be particularly confusing. There has also been a fair amount of controversy on what each term really means. We aren’t the word police (if there is such a thing), but we thought it would be helpful to explain what these words mean to us. It should make what we post on our website more clear – and you might find it a wee bit interesting as well.

First a brief side trip

Language is not something that is permanent. It evolves and changes both regionally and with time. New words are created. Old ones take on new or expanded meanings. Who creates these new words? People. All kinds of people. We all do.

Lexicographers are people who define words. Kory Stamper is a well-known lexicographer for Merriam-Webster. Her TEDx talk, You speak you, on dialects and linguistic identity is a wonderful peek into the wild world of word creation and how it impacts people.

Here’s the link if you’d care to watch (11 minutes):

And another one (9 minutes) about how new words actually end up in the dictionary. Spoiler alert: they aren’t always “proper” words.

Both are more interesting that you probably expect. End of side trip.

Words that describe reusing materials

Here’s four common terms and what Merriam-Webster says they mean:

  • reclaimedTo rescue from an undesirable state. Or To obtain from a waste product or by-product. Examples include using wood leftover from guitar manufacturing to produce something else and using wood harvested from naturally fallen trees or limbs to make something.
  • recycledTo pass again through a series of changes or treatments, such as recycling aluminum cans. Plywood is an example of recycled wood.
  • repurposedTo give a new purpose or use to. Examples include repurposing old shoes to plant pots in, using an old train car as an office, repurposing discarded drawers to build bird houses, and milling wood from old barn timbers or discarded furniture to make ukuleles.
  • salvaged To rescue or save, especially from wreckage or ruin. Examples include getting car parts from the junk yard, old barn timbers milled to create flooring and using wood from discarded furniture to make something.

Note: There is overlap between repurposed and salvaged. For wood products, they are nearly synonyms. Some woodworkers do use the word salvaged. The word salvage, however, has connotations of greasy, junkyards that don’t apply to our products. We prefer the term repurposed.

How we use these terms at HMI

While we do use some new wood, the two primary wood sources we use are reclaimed and repurposed.

  • Our reclaimed wood is typically the wood remnants from production of much larger items like furniture, cabinets, or guitar making. Those little, leftover pieces are sometimes just the right size to make a ukulele or two. A cabinet maker’s measuring mistake can become our boon.
  • Our repurposed wood is typically old furniture that’s no longer useful but constructed of high-quality wood. The drawers from a broken chest of drawers could be used to make whimsical bird houses.  Part of a maple table top or an old barn beam can be milled down to ukulele size.

Our point

Both reclaimed and repurposed wood that was almost certainly headed for the landfill can instead become a beautiful ukulele. Sourcing wood this way is time consuming, but it is less expensive. Which allows us to pass along more favorable prices to our customers.

Good for the environment.  Good for us.  Good for you.