We recently reclaimed 67,000 board feet of Chicago’s manufacturing and industrial history from the A. Finkl & Sons steel mill. Douglas Fir timbers were extracted from the 1890s manufacturing plant that was centrally located in the Windy City along with several other steel forging factories. In 2007, an overseas firm purchased the company and the manufacturing plant moved to the southeast side of Chicago, leaving many of the historic buildings covering over 25 acres, vacant. As the demolition wrapped up in late 2014, crews ensured that nearly 90% of usable material was recycled.
Over 450 of the reclaimed A. Finkl & Sons Douglas fir timbers were recently repurposed for a large timber frame project in Michigan. Available currently from this reclamation is a collection of 5 x 11 timbers. They are free of heart with original ‘sandblasted’ surfaces.
Along with our new-reclaimed Douglas fir, flowers on the property are also finding new homes. Beds of lilies and hydrangeas have been transported to other historic locations in the Chicago area to celebrate the once industrial valor of the area.
A. Finkl & Sons was founded by Anton Finkl, a German-born blacksmith that arrived in Chicago in 1872. In 1879, Finkl developed a new kind of chisel to clean bricks from buildings destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, creating a new business opportunity. As the business expanded into steel products, the company moved around the Chicago West Loop area, absorbing several existing properties along the way. Buildings that were constructed for Standard Oil and Cummings Foundry Company became additional puzzle pieces in the web of plants utilized by A. Finkl & Sons.
Let us know if you’re interested in the 5 x 11, free of heart, ‘sandblasted’ timbers.
I was watching a documentary over the weekend about plastic and waste. Among the many eye-opening pieces of information in the film, there was a discussion about recycling and how much of the material that we think is recyclable or is being recycled ends up in the waste stream, or worse – in our natural environment. I consider myself to be pretty educated about these kinds of things, but it really made me consider the waste I make that doesn’t go away. As I was watching images of plastic scraps swirling in the Pacific Ocean, it got me thinking about what we do here every day and the fact that I can see exactly what happens to the wood products that we reclaim. It all starts at the very beginning of our process: when we reclaim material from an old barn or industrial demolition site it instantly prevents a large volume of wood from heading to the landfill.
This exotic Indonesian hardwood blend is a perfect example of what can be created with the rough, as-found faces of recycled wood. Here spaces are divided and texture is created by these walls of a popular coffee shop.
The character in our reclaimed wood floors and other products is not only part of their beauty, but it also allows us to maximize our use and minimize our waste. Our wide plank floors come from large agricultural and industrial timbers, the mid-sized planks come from smaller items, or those pieces with damaged edges that can’t be saved. Our rustic flooring grades make use of the original faces and saw marks that history has provided, celebrating this patina rather than throwing it away.
Our Dust Collector pulls the sawdust from the shop and chipper so it can be sent for processing into pellets.
And with the waste – the broken ends, the boards with knotholes that are too big to salvage or the dry-rot we find when we cut in to something – we fire our clean burning, high efficiency boilers, we power the kiln that dries our wood and we heat our offices. The sawdust and small scraps are ground down and sent to become the compressed pellets used in pellet stoves. Even the metal scraps our de-nailers remove from every piece of wood are recycled.
All metal must be removed from our wood prior to any other processing. These old nails, nuts and bolts are also sent for recycling.
So while I slowly work to try to minimize my own dependence on the disposable, I’m thrilled to look around every day and know that we are taking care to account for the waste that we generate and ensuring that we’re not contributing to a landfill or litter.
We’re pretty proud of it- 21 Million board feet (and counting)!