Texas City company gives new purpose to salvaged woods
Don Gardner, general manager of The Woodshop of Texas, looks around the huge warehouse in Texas City and points out that some of the wood piled in the building is older than our nation. Some of the wood, in fact, dates back to trees planted in the 1500s.
You could call the The Woodshop of Texas the ultimate recycler. Nothing goes to waste at the shop, which is a purveyor of repurposed, reused and rejuvenated wood for floors, walls and furniture.
A huge 10-foot-long watering trough carved from a single tree trunk and rescued from inside a Ohio barn dates back to the 1700s. But one of Gardner’s co-workers spent a morning counting the circular growing rings on the end of the trough, stopping after 200 rings, which indicates it was sapling in the 1500s. A tree “notes” a year of growth with a distinct concentric circular ring.
“This is old, very, very old,” Gardner said of the trough. “We are not sure what we are going to do with it. It’s been sitting here more than 10 years.”
The Woodshop of Texas started 20 years ago in Houston and moved to its present facility — in one of the original McCoy’s Lumber Yards — 15 years ago after it was hired to dismantle five, old factory buildings on Galveston Island, where the county courthouse now stands on Broadway at 59th Street.
The amount of wood — floors, walls, shelves, ceilings and beams — was so massive inside those old buildings where cotton was loaded onto railcars, it didn’t make sense to truck it up to Houston, especially when many Galveston-area homeowners were requesting reclaimed wood for their house restorations, Gardner said. The Woodshop team harvested the wood, fumigated it, removed all the nails and unnecessary hardware and made it available for a new purpose in a new place.
Old wood possesses quality and characteristics that new growth wood lacks, Gardner said. Fast-growing yellow pine, which is grown and sold in local lumber yards and big-box stores, is considerably different from longleaf pine, now
considered endangered, and which had been used as flooring for decades. The Woodshop doesn’t sell plywood or construction materials or lumber. It only specializes in reclaimed, recycled old woods, such as oaks, chestnut, maple, hickory, cypress, mahogany and other salvaged woods.
“The old wood is stronger and it looks different than new wood,” Gardner said. “The design of the grain and the knots are interesting. The growth rings make it strong and these beams have been curing inside a barn for more than 100 years. They are tough.”
Homeowners go to The Woodshop, 6001 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, for flooring but also want fireplace mantels, ceiling beams and unique pieces of furniture made from the rough-hewn barn siding and doors. The showroom displays a room full of woods: from almost white to dark hues, smooth as well as rough surfaces, thick and thin. Some of the wood is distressed from years of use, bug infestations and earlier cuts. And the really old mantel beams still have the original rounded edge — indicative of the trees’ trunks, Gardner said.
The recent popularity of do-it-yourself shows has increased the public’s interest in using reclaimed wood, which is as affordable as new wood for flooring. Specialty pieces range in price.
“We are only limited by the materials and our imagination,” he said.
Does he fear his inventory of recycled wood soon will be exhausted?
“Every time I think that the supply will run out another old building becomes available and more lumber can be reused,” he said. “There is no science to what we are doing — just reusing wood in a new way. But every piece we have here has its own story.”
The company mills the wood on the property to make the ¾-inch flooring or intricate table tops, but all of the nails and screws that are removed are sent to a metal recycling plant. The Woodshop collects shavings produced by its machines and distributes them to several local horse stables that use it for bedding among other recycling efforts.
“This is a messy business and it is not easy, but you have to have a passion for it,” he said, noting the deep sweet aroma of a freshly cut piece of old wood. “But it is environmentally friendly.”