A History of our Tables
Our Source Material
All of the tables we make are created from discarded doors.
The door that inspired the journey was found among the remnants of a local renovation. Its finish was peeling and there were signs of water damage. The wood, however, was still completely intact. Upon discovery of the door, we quickly and carefully brought it home. It would take a few weeks to see more than just potential.
Once the opportunity to re-purpose the old door as table tops for a living room furniture set revealed itself, the focus became deciding on the materials to use for the legs and hardware. We wanted a material that would complement, but not distract from the original wood. The decision to use copper lent itself to developing these pieces around a circular economy philosophy.
We focused on sourcing discarded copper; however the process of finding pieces of appropriate size frequently presented challenges. Where we were not able to locate discarded pieces we supplemented with new. The other key components are stainless steel & brass (new), cork (re-purposed) from wine bottles and glass (new). All of these materials have existing recycling streams therefore our products need not ever be sent to landfill.
Since the decision to upcycle the first discarded door, many doors destined for landfill have been diverted to our back yard. In line with our philosophy and the goals of circular economy, the focus of our design and manufacturing process is to continue to divert materials from waste streams and to consider the life-cycle of our products.
The Making Process
The first step was to remove the finish on the table using a wire brush by hand. This stripped the majority of the finish as it was already peeling and significantly enhanced the grain of the wood. Once brushed, the original cedar aroma of the wood was released once again.
Next, we started planning the optimization of the material based on the dimensions of the individual pieces that made up the door. The sizes of the cut pieces would have to be within a range that would maintain the structural integrity of the table top, while befitting the purpose of the pieces as coffee and end tables. The goal was to maximize the material reclaimed.
I enlisted some resources from our share economy to cut the pieces without the benefit of my own workshop. With a couple of saw horses, clamps, a straight edge as a guide and a circular saw, all borrowed from the Toronto Tool Library and transported using a surprisingly spacious Car2go, it only took a couple of hours to isolate the different pieces.
Even with the wood ready and some knowledge of copper water pipe, planning the assembly was a time consuming step. Although a readily available product with many over the counter options, and easily worked with hand tools, using copper as a structural component required experimenting and learning.
Assembly was a further consideration for water pipe. Typically, joints are soldered. However, soldering is a process that is both chemically messy and energy intensive. Solder leaves unpleasant residues and would make disassembly further challenging. Instead, we employed stainless steel screws for their look, ease of dismantling, and their compatibility with copper. We've also begun to work with stainless steel and copper rivets for parallel reasons, as well as a more subtle aesthetic.
Old, solid wood doors are comprised of routered and bevelled wood pieces, so the final finish is not a flat, smooth, or easy to clean surface. However, adding a finish to the wood would introduce an unwanted chemical to the final product. Instead, a sheet of glass, one of the most recycled products in existence, would be used to complete the furniture. The flat, smooth, clear surface allows the warmth and beauty of the unfinished wood to be showcased. Cork, rather than silicone buttons, from used wine bottles, spaces the glass from the wood tabletops and beautifully adapts to the appearance of the wood.
Copper changes appearance quickly and under different circumstances. Copper recovered from use in buildings ranges from nearly shiny in appearance through all levels of oxidation to dark brown, and eventually green. Heat can bring in a range of hues from the copper from reds and blues to greens and nearly yellow. We've been experimenting with different treatments, from lemon and salt to remove the oxidation and return the sheen of untarnished copper to pre-aging it and heat to bring out a variety of different appearances. As all of these processes are time and energy intensive, without a guarantee of how the copper will appear in the furniture pieces, we only offer these as premium treatments. Ultimately, all copper left exposed to the air will continue to oxidize. Applying finishes will only defer the process and leave another product that will eventually need to be removed and managed. To this end, for the time being, we will not put an extra finish on the copper, and we hesitate to polish or heat treat.