Turning Scrap Wood into Works of Art

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Photo Credit: Scrap Wood Designs

What is retired wood?  It’s like reclaimed wood, but better.  Retired wood is wood that has a long history of work behind it.  Maybe it was an old fence, or a barn, or the floor in the local pub.  It might be older than you or me.  It’s been around the block.

Jaclyn Miller’s love of woodworking began while working with her father, a general contractor. Scrap Wood Designs began in a garage. Now, from these humble beginnings, Scrap Wood Designs has become the place “where wood goes to retire” – where wood can receive a new life within a work of art.

“We’ve used cargo plane flooring, bowling alley wood, sauna room cedar, old barn wood, and interesting siding & molding,” said Miller regarding the types of wood that go into the artwork. Each piece of wood is transformed through a process that includes sanding, painting, and staining. Some of the works are brightly colored, while others retain shades more similar to natural wood. All of the artwork is made by hand and one-of-a-kind.

Recently, Scrap Wood Designs began accepting Bitcoin for all of their work, and I had a chance to interview the couple behind the company, Jaclyn Miller and David Montgomery.

Emily Braun: What inspires your artwork for Scrap Wood Designs? Who is your ideal customer?

Jaclyn Miller: It all starts with the wood. Every piece of reclaimed wood is unique and has its own story, so we’re starting with a canvas that is already interesting, before we’ve even added any color. The colors are mostly inspired by nature and places I’ve travelled. I try to match the colors to the wood, so that they complement it but don’t overpower it. We use older, more beat up wood for rustic pieces and wood with less wear & tear in more modern looking pieces.

Our ideal customer appreciates the flaws and imperfections in reclaimed wood. They see dents, scratches, insect trails, & nail holes as character and will hopefully add a few dents of their own over time.

Braun: How do you find the wood to use for your work? Are there any specific requirements you look for when selecting wood?

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Photo Credit: Scrap Wood Designs

Miller: The wood comes from all over. We use scraps from other wood shops, as well as scraps from old piles of wood people have sitting around their home. Some we get from the ReStore; old barn wood and hard woods we get from various lumber outfits in the area.

We really like to know what the wood was used for before it got to us, and those stories can inform our work and inspire new pieces. We’ve used cargo plane flooring, bowling alley wood, sauna room cedar, old barn wood, and interesting siding & molding. We look for a mix of newer and older wood, but the older wood is usually more interesting. We like a lot of damage and character, as long as the wood is still structurally sound. We avoid treated wood, rotten wood, lead paint – anything that could potentially be unsafe for us to work with.

Braun: How did you turn your hobby into a career? What challenges did you face, if any?

Miller: I started out painting in our spare bedroom in 2011 while still working my 9-5. I would be thinking of ideas at work, and then I’d go home and sketch or paint. We found that it’s really hard to start a business in your spare time, so once we were able to get by on just my husband’s salary, he basically made me quit my job (which I was ok with) so I could focus on making art full time.

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Photo Credit: Scrap Wood Designs

Braun: Do you still make artwork as a hobby, separate from your business?

Miller: I do! I was doing stained glass for a few years and would love to continue, but I haven’t recently had enough time with our move and other home improvements we couldn’t put off. I also sew, cross stitch, and knit at various times of the year. But we’re expecting our first child soon, so I will have less and less time to myself in the future.

Braun: How has your artwork grown and changed since Scrap Wood Designs first began?

Miller: The business started out as me painting, since I love to paint, but I found it hard to stand out in the highly crowded painting market. I got discouraged with the painting process and began spending more time in the garage making the stretcher bars for the canvases. It didn’t take long for me to realize I enjoyed working with wood more than paint and canvas.

My dad is a general contractor, so I grew up with him always making improvements around the house. I worked with him for a few summers building houses. I also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in college and have since read a lot of woodworking books as well. So, it wasn’t a big jump to start painting what I was painting on canvas onto wood. I experimented with stained wood panels in different arrangements and slowly added brighter colored paints, trying different designs. People also suggested making some useful pieces that are always found in houses, like mirrors, coat hooks, & tables, and that expanded the business even more. Now that my husband works with me, we’re constantly brainstorming to come up with the next idea.

Braun: What are your hopes & dreams for the future of Scrap Wood Designs?

Miller: We are just thankful that we are able to do something that we both enjoy. Not everyone is that lucky, and we keep that in mind every day. I feel like we’re already living our dream, so we’re really trying to appreciate that and not get caught up chasing the next milestone. Our goal for the business is to make a modest living, while keeping the business small and the work fun. Our hope is that it will be just the two of us (and eventually our children) building art and furniture in our shop until we’re too old to run the table saw.

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Photo Credit: Scrap Wood Designs

Braun: How did you first learn about Bitcoin? Did you know right away that you wanted to accept it?

David Montgomery: I’d heard about mining Bitcoin long before I understood it, though I can’t recall where exactly. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started following it more closely – and realized I’d missed out on the gold rush.

I didn’t think about accepting it for payment until I saw on Reddit that Baron Fig was accepting Bitcoin through their Shopify store. Once I knew that it was that easy to implement, we immediately wanted to accept it. It just took us a while to move our website to Shopify.

Braun: What aspects of Bitcoin are most interesting to you?

Montgomery: I like that it takes banks out of the picture. That’s one less hand in our pocket. BitPay still takes a small percentage, but they never crashed the world economy, so we’d prefer to do business with them. The concept of magic invisible internet money also appeals to the science fiction geek in me. It’s very cyberpunk. I just wish people would start calling them “credits” already.

Braun: Have you ever had someone purchase your designs with Bitcoin?

Montgomery: We’re still waiting for our first Bitcoin sale, but we’ve only been accepting it for a few weeks. It will happen eventually.

Braun: Have you ever purchased something with Bitcoin? Do you hold any?

Montgomery: Not yet; I’ve always been afraid to buy it because of the volatility, but if we get paid in Bitcoin and never convert it to dollars, then I (hopefully) won’t obsessively follow the price. We’ve set up our account so that any Bitcoin purchases will be transferred to a Bitcoin wallet. I’d like to hold it and spend it as Bitcoin, using it to support other small businesses that accept it. Most likely though, I’ll just use them to buy video games from Humble Bundle and PC parts from New Egg. Don’t tell my wife.

Braun: What do you see in store for the future of Bitcoin?

Montgomery: It would be nice if we had a lot of customers pay with Bitcoin and then the price increased 1,000% again. Really, I’d just like to see it more widely accepted. I’d like to be able to buy groceries with Bitcoin.

– Emily Braun

To check out more of the work from Scrap Wood Designs, click here!

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