Materiality

Wisnowski Design’s reclaimed furniture line prides itself in preserving the historic imprints of figured reclaimed wood. Our craftsmen bring new life to this natural medium with innovative furniture designs. Each in-stock or custom-ordered item is unique, with its own distinct characteristics. All pieces are designed to accentuate the natural details of the wood and other materials.

CHATTING ABOUT WOOD WITH WILLIAM WISNOWSKI

What is it about working with historic wood you find so intriguing?

Historic wood is far more challenging to work with than new factory-spec materials. When our great-great-grandfathers built their barns, they didn’t say, “Let’s consider what Bill is going to need 150 years from now.” Different generations and regions had very different milling styles. It’s not all just about barn wood; we have started working with industrial brine barrels from the pickle industry. Each new batch contains new discoveries.

How does historic lumber differ from newly milled lumber?

Historic lumber is air-dried, as opposed to newly milled lumber which is kiln-dried. Yes, we put historic lumber in a kiln to take out the rainwater and condensation, but this is much different then kiln-drying to take the moisture out of the sap. Kiln-drying collapses the cell walls and changes the structure of the wood. Acoustical instruments and fine furniture are superior when made with air-dried materials.

You have worked with wood almost all your life. What continues to surprise you?

I’ve worked with wood for 47 years, starting when I was 13. What continues to surprise me is how trees are affected by the environment they grow up in.

What really brings out your “wood nerd” ?

The growth rings.

What makes Wisnowski Design’s finishes so unique?

We are open to using old techniques as well as new, and often combine the two. For example, we use a lot of hand-mixed shellacs as the base coat along with newly formulated water-borne lacquers. We also are experimenting with a two-part vegetable-based epoxy that creates an incredibly durable finish.

Are there any woods that are especially difficult to work with?

We have a good supply of Ipe, a really hard wood salvaged from the original Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, N.Y. End pieces have big holes where they were bolted together because the wood was too hard for regular nails, and embedded sand can damage saws. But the beautiful and distinctive tables we’ve made so far have been worth the time and effort.