Furniture-maker carves out niche with used wood

Juliet Amott

WOODWORK: Juliet Amott and furniture-maker James Jagger of Rekindle Furniture are recycling wood from demolished buildings in Christchurch.

It’s surprisingly hard for furniture-maker Rekindle to get wood from buildings that are being demolished, founder Juliet Arnott says.

The “social enterprise” recycles the timber into furniture and along the way pays disadvantaged youths to learn useful skills.

In Christchurch “one might assume there is an abundance of wood to be reused, but no”, Arnott wrote on the Rekindle website.

“It is a somewhat complex situation. Hasty demolition timeframes, health and safety concerns and complex insurance-related bureaucracy ensure that much reusable timber is being crushed by diggers and loaded into trucks for disposal at landfills.”

Last week, Rekindle took the first step in a “highly experimental” effort to access timber. It took possession of an entire truckload of unsorted materials – gib, glass, metal and hopefully a good supply of timber – that came from a home being demolished.

Starting this week, young people will sort the load and then salvage and de-nail the wood. It will be sent to Rekindle’s wood shop in Sockburn, crafted into furniture and sold to the public.

Rekindle’s chairs, tables, stools and side tables and artworks often feature surviving paint or stain, although it recently started shaping furniture from stripped wood, Arnott said.

Timber from the floor of a Lincoln community hall, complete with stiletto-heel marks, had been stripped. On the other hand, almost none of the rich red paint on timber salvaged from a Mt Pleasant church had been removed.

Where possible, Rekindle tells buyers where the timber came from.

“We’re also still sensitive that this timber comes from people’s homes,” Arnott said.

“I feel it’s important to respect that.”

Arnott showcased furniture to Prince Charles and wife Camilla when they visited Christchurch last year.

Series 2 weatherboard chairs cost $280 plus GST, while more complex Series 1 weatherboard chairs cost $480 plus GST. Trestle tables retail for between $600 to $1500. Rekindle will soon start selling blocks for kids and rocking animals.

By the end of the month, Arnott hopes to start selling from website and buyers can visit an office and showroom at No 8 New Regent St.

Rekindle is somewhere between a profit-making corporation and a not-for-profit charity. It uses “business methods” to manufacture and sell furniture at a profit and reinvests them to grow the enterprise and address the issues it espouses – recycling timber, employing youths and teaching skills.

“If we we’re doing this to make money, we’d probably choose something other than furniture,” Arnott said.

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