Old wood gets new life in handmade furniture
Salvaged Hardwoods owner reclaims wood, creates custom pieces
Clinton Milton remembers tinkering around with his dad in the garage as a boy. He wasn’t building much, he admits, but it gave him the skills and confidence as an adult to build modest sample tables from salvaged hardwood pieces to sell at yard sales.
That was 10 years ago, but friends started to take notice and requested his tables and furniture.
“I love working with my hands. I thought, ‘Might as well take a crack at it,’ ” said Milton, who works as a registered nurse on weekends. “It was just a side gig I would do here and there, but I started getting really busy.”
Five years ago, he decided to make it official. He got his business license for Salvaged Hardwoods to turn his craft into a legitimate operation.
Although he focuses mostly on custom orders for homes — his piéce de résistance so far is his work for The Bradley, a restaurant and craft bar in Richland. He built 17 tables and a 14-foot long bar using reclaimed century-old wood from bleachers at Columbia High School — a remnant of wartime Hanford.
“It was taken down in 1977 at the end of the baseball season and the wood was used to make a deck for a home in Richland,” Milton said. “My friend bought the house a couple of years ago and told me he would be removing the deck, as it was rotting out and asked me if I wanted the wood.”
It took almost four days to tear it down and three trailer loads to deliver it to his 900-square-foot home shop.
Then it took him four months to complete the project.
Milton’s unique salvaged hardwood tables are for sale at Gathered Home in downtown Kennewick. His pieces also are on display at Robinson Tech, Wright’s Surgical Arts and Kennewick Dental.
He said reclaiming materials and hardwood is especially important to him.
“I love salvaging material and making it into a new piece of art. It’s a perfect opportunity to salvage something that was probably going to a landfill,” Milton said.
He has transformed old tree stumps, pallets, hardwood flooring from a bowling alley and old furniture into dining tables, coffee tables, shelves, mantels and even urns and rolling amp cases. He also can breathe new life into heirloom tables and furniture by refinishing them.
Sometimes Milton has to get creative in sourcing hardwoods.
“I try to source everything locally to keep prices low,” he said.
He partners with arborists in places like Spokane who alert
him to trees that might otherwise be chopped into firewood or incinerated due
to hazard or disease.
But when the wood is salvaged from cut down trees, the wood must be left to dry from one to three years before it can be used.
Milton’s tables sell from $1,600 to $1,800, and he usually makes two to three a month, depending on the complexity of custom orders.
“The thing for me is creating a piece that is unique and you can’t get anywhere else,” Milton said. “I love the creative process and the people I get do it for. I like to get inside the customer’s head, making diamonds out of coal, creating stuff that is not easy.”
Milton said he loves the design process involved in bringing clients’ vision to life — but he’s not a designer, it’s something he’s had to learn on the job.
“I let the wood speak to me. I get to have fun with the design aspect. I get to shave a corner here and sand a corner there; that’s the part I love,” he said.
He worked with a client over a span of two years to turn a cherry tree stump into a distinct design element on wooden bookshelves.
He also sources and welds the bases of the tables and other furniture himself.
“The nice thing with what I have going on is that I will work with you from start to finish, from salvaging the wood to storing it, and designing the piece according to the specific color you want down to the metal bases,” Milton said.
As for what the future holds for Milton and Salvaged Hardwoods, he said he would love to have his own shop someday.