Aaron Green, Woodworker: Making Old Things New Again

Aaron Green’s woodworking business is called “The Regrainery,” which references the craft of finding elegance in aged and used woods. The Regrainery breathes new life and purpose into these aged materials through creative design and inspired innovation.  Aaron finds the used lumber at salvage stores like the ReBuilding Center. He notes what the wood was once used for: flooring from a torn down house, siding from an old barn, rafter beams from the early 1900’s, etc.  He then planes and shapes the wood to fit into new designs he has created for furniture, shelving, and even jewelry.  These newly crafted products are then sold to local customers, on view at street festivals, and at trade shows. One can see the symbiotic relationship between craft persons like Aaron and the resources of the ReBuilding Center. We sat down to chat with Aaron about his practice, thoughts on sustainability, and revealing the hidden beauty in reclaimed materials. See the interview below.

How did you come up with the title of your business: The Regrainery?

The name “The Regrainery” didn’t come to me right away but was the product of several weeks of brainstorming with my wife and friends. I wanted a name that could represent my business goals, that would reveal what we were about as a business without being a dead give-away, and that had an appealing ring to it. I settled on The Regrainery because I felt it implied a sense of industriousness, it held the prefix “re” (which would allude to our sustainability and creative-reuse values), and because it sounded compelling.

Why do you use old, recycled materials in the products you create? Sustainability? Aesthetics? Cost?

I use old, recycled materials for a few reasons. First, I love how reclaimed woodworking looks when it is finished. When you get a chance, check out what the guys at Stumptown Reclaimed make. They are reclaimed masters! Also, with only a few woody exceptions, I think working with reclaimed wood ends up looking better than new wood (but that’s just me!). Second, a personal value of mine is restoration, and my work allows me to literally take old wood and make it into something new again. I love planing away old, rough surfaces to reveal the beauty hidden beneath decades of dirt and weathering. Third, I believe in sustainable building practices, and since wood can last for centuries, I see no reason to buy new stock if your neighborhood reclaimed or salvage store can sell you the same thing (and at a better price!).

Do you have a philosophy related to your use of recycled versus new materials?

Absolutely. The Regrainery began as a philosophy before it became something practical. It stemmed from my belief that the run-down, the weathered, and the broken can be restored. I believe almost anything (e.g. people, gardens, communities, and wood) can be made new. I also believe that when a little work is put in, genuine beauty has a chance to be revealed. So, by using recycled and salvaged materials in my work, I get to practically explore a very rewarding process that I don’t think new materials can offer.

"I also believe that when a little work is put in, genuine beauty has a chance to be revealed. " -Aaron Green, The Regrainery

"I also believe that when a little work is put in, genuine beauty has a chance to be revealed. "

-Aaron Green, The Regrainery

Did you have any woodworking experience before creating your business?

My Dad made much of my family’s furniture while I was growing up, so I had many opportunities to watch and learn from him. Outside of him, however, I’ve just built as a hobbyist.

Do you have a workshop where you build your products?

Yes, I work out of a garage space that I rent from a neighbor in the NE Alberta area.

How/where do you find customers?

Initially my customers came from friends and friends of friends, but eventually I expanded to a retail pop-up shop (street fairs mostly) model. Last summer I was at nearly every street fair in Portland and had the opportunity to sell directly to customers as well as acquire leads on commissions.

Do you sell any of your products through shops or stores?

Just my online shop!

Do you sell you products at street fairs?

Yes, beginning in 2016 I sold at over a dozen street fairs around Portland. Keep an eye out for us this Spring and Summer at your local street fairs! I’ll be partnering with other small business too, including a painter and a leather worker!

Do you collect materials before you know what you’re going to use them for? Or do you have a design in mind and select materials to fit the design?

Generally, I don’t. As much as I’d love to buy every last stick of old-growth at the ReBuilding Center, my garage space and budget always have the last word. Instead, I buy my wood after having drawn up a design for commissions.

Do you ever wonder about the previous life of the materials you use?

All the time. But, I usually don’t have access to that information. One day I plan to implement the stories of my materials on my website. Personally, I think knowing where something came from, or who may have owned it or used it, adds huge value to the material.

Do you have any employees?

While I have hired friends and my brother to help me with street fairs, I am the sole designer and builder and business guy behind the operation.

Have you gotten any materials from the ReBuilding Center? What kinds?

Yes! I source around 85% of my materials from the ReBuilding Center. I have bought everything from ship-lap, flooring, rafters, ply-wood, doweling, hand-railing, and once even a 19’ glu-lam beam at the ReBuilding Center.

How did you hear about the ReBuilding Center?

I used to live near N Haight & N Mason, so the Mississippi business district was typically my haunt. When I got into woodworking, even as a hobbyist, I found the ReBuilding Center because I happened to walk by. What a wonderful find!