The onset of the Gold Rush in California in 1848 brought thousands of prospective people to the state, hastily setting up structures and settlements in short periods of time. Looking up at the massive redwood trees foresting Northern California, the gold prospectors must have thought they struck gold in terms of building material!
Sawmill Oak is sourced in the eastern and midwest regions of the U.S. from structures that have outlived their usefulness and are slated for demolition or deconstruction. Agricultural buildings, like barns and outbuildings, are a primary source of domestic hardwoods, as well as factories, warehouses and other structures.
Tough as nails, greener than Ipe: The story of reclaimed Dinizia
It started with a notice from one of our sourcing partners in the Midwest: a tropical hardwood sound barrier was being removed to widen a highway in the Chicago area, and the contractors needed to dispose of it. Specializing in reclaimed and sustainable wood flooring, cladding & tables, Anthology Woods is always looking for high-quality and unique woods ready for a second life, and the silver-gray weathered patina was beautiful. Once we had a sample in hand, the discoveries started:
Our wood anatomist determined it to be Dinizia excelsa, a Brazilian native prized for impressive durability, hardness, and resistance to insects & decay.
After 40 years exposed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the wood was in amazing shape – only boards with direct ground contact showed any significant decay.
The fasteners were going to be labor intensive to remove, but we could work with it. Milling costs would be a bit higher than that for most of our products because of the hardness, but it machined smoothly and finished well.
Beyond the stunning silver-gray patina that would be gorgeous on walls, the wood underneath could be used for decking, flooring, and siding. The rich wood color was similar to Ipe, and performance was similar to Ipe, as well. We fell in love with the rich color streaking and interlocked grain patterns.
The Dinizia wood polishes to a rich soft sheen (ironic because it is so hard!).
The verdict? We took the plunge with this distinctive and rare tropical wood and bought every board we could track down – and have now created a line of decking, siding, flooring, and wall cladding around it – and even built table tops with it, too! For a limited time, Dinizia will offer a very sustainable alternative to Ipe in applications where hardness and durability are critical.
Please contact us for information or samples pertaining to your next project!
This story begins with a tip we received about a unique source of reclaimed wood: Reclaimed Teak timbers sourced from a dismantled Indonesian prison. The prison had been built maybe as much as a century earlier, so we knew it was likely to be amazing old-growth wood. We decided to investigate.
I met up with my contact in Jakarta, who would be helping translate and navigating to the location of the wood. We had to drive across town to pick up the his local contact. If you’ve ever been to Jakarta you know that a simple trip across town is never simple. After zipping in and out of the swarming motor-bikes, dodging a sea of pedestrians, and navigating through uncontrolled intersections we arrived at a plaza in the heart of the city. After a quick circle around the block we locate our contact, who excitedly jumps into the backseat next to me and without introduction immediately begins speaking rapid fire Bahasa Indonesian. He is really excited and animated and they engage in a quick back-and-forth. I can tell something is up, and we rapidly pull away from the plaza. I finally interrupt to ask what is going on.
You have to understand, my contact is a very soft-spoken, demure young man. As I ask my question he develops a pained expression on his face as he searches for the right words to explain the situation. It’s obvious he is trying to soften the impact, convey that I shouldn’t really be alarmed… But it turns out there was a bomb threat on the plaza. To this day I’m not sure if there was actually a bomb that had been found, or only the threat. But of course I think about all of the people on that busy Jakarta plaza, and of course I think yes, we are truly on an adventure now.
We drive for a while down narrow back-alleys and side streets with various twists and turns, and I realize that I have no idea where I am now. As dusk is setting in we arrive at what looks like a very small wooden shack-like structure with a recessed portico that resembles a car-port. Behind this opening sits the Teak. Beautiful, premium, old-growth reclaimed Teak. There is at least 5000 board feet of material here, and it is stacked 10’ high and the beams run 20’ long easily. Long lengths like this in reclaimed wood are rare. They are big timbers: 8”x8”, 10”x 10”, and larger. I realize as I look at this pile of wood that it appears that the wood was here first and the house was built around it! I can’t imagine how we will ever remove the wood without first removing the buildings that surround it.
After a brief introduction I begin inspecting the wood. I borrow a small flashlight and in the growing darkness start climbing a ladder to the top of the pile of wood to get a better look. These are very tight quarters as the 10’ tall pile is surrounded by the house and various lean-to structures, a chicken-coop… There is also a tree growing right up through the middle of the stack, and one end of the pile is under the low-hanging roof of a neighboring structure. To reach the end of the pile (so that I can measure the length of the beams) I have slide along my belly on the top under this dark recess. As I begin inching into the darkness I think to myself “I wonder how many poisonous snakes live in Indonesia?”
After some inspection and a verification of the dimensions and quantity we settle in to negotiate the purchase. We sit down at a small table in the “outdoor” room under a single incandescent light bulb hanging from a wire. It is very warm and humid…sweltering is the word I’m looking for. As I sit down I realize I have seen this setting before… It is uncannily like a torture scene from the latest action-adventure movie. Of course my guests are quite hospitable, and I have nothing to worry about, but nonetheless the ambiance is unsettling.
My hosts bring a cup of lukewarm, insanely strong and sweet coffee and offer me clove cigarettes, which they are chain-smoking during my entire visit. The combined affect is intoxicating. I'm having a hard time thinking straight....