H&H Woodshop Manager Dan Palmer shares details on picklewood tables.
The Hammer & Hand woodshop uses a variety of materials for the assortment of projects that come through the shop. One interesting material they’ve been working with lately is something called picklewood. The picklewood, originally clear (no knots) old growth Doug Fir from the Pacific Northwest, is reclaimed from decommissioned Wisconsin salt brine pickling vats. “The salt brine is an important distinction,” said H&H Woodshop Manager Dan Palmer. “A vinegar brine would have rendered the materials virtually useless – your space would forever smell of pickles!”
Table made from picklewood in the H&H woodshop.
It’s the salt brine that makes this wood both unique and difficult to work with. “The salt gave us challenges,” said Palmer. “But we were able to work around them.”
One issue is a water-based finish cannot be used on the wood because it draws the salt to the surface which causes salt crystals to form. To combat this, Palmer first seals the picklewood with an oil-based product and then covers it with VOC compliant Bona Traffic 2-part water-based commercial floor finish in a satin sheen.
The other big issue is that the salt corrodes metal. Only stainless steel screws and fasteners and other metals with extra protection against corrosion can be used with this wood. The salt is also rough on tools. “The salt is no joke,” said Palmer. “But it’s what gives the wood its interesting patina.”
Picklewood has a lot of variation in coloring. The side of the wood that faced inward during its time as a salt brine pickling vat typically features a patina with a lot of deep reds, which highlights the grain of the wood. The side that faced outward usually has more brown shades.
Palmer recently used this wood to craft tables for two different clients: the gaming company Electronic Arts, and a family in Arlington, VA.
Electronic Arts Tables
Palmer and H&H carpenter Josh Tinker made eight of these 32″ x 72″ x 30″ tables for the EA Sports corporate campus cafe in Redwood City, CA.
Originally designed by bright designlab with collaboration from Palmer and H&H Co-Owner Daniel Thomas, these reclaimed picklewood tables feature wheels with red casters for versatility.
These tables also feature steel fabrication details by Brian Parnell and finish work by Robert McAnulty.
Family Farm Table
After a long period of searching for the perfect dining table, an Arlington, VA family fell in love with a previous H&H table project and hired our woodshop to craft a chunky farm table out of picklewood for them.
The family loved the particularly swirly pattern of this piece of picklewood and requested it for their table.
Sturdy legs give this 36″ x 72″ x 30″ picklewood table a lot of strength and character.
Picklewood is a great material to use for most indoor woodwork projects including flooring, doors, and furniture. Because of the salt, it’s not recommended as a material for outdoor woodwork. Even the most protective of finishes wear down when exposed to wind and rain and over time the salt will rise to the surface and cloud the wood.Back to Field Notes