Timber By-products

Timber By-products

Wood is a renewable natural material that is used in a variety of ways. It is seen as a more sustainable alternative as the manufacture of wood products consumes far less energy compared to similar products made from different materials. But with the global demand for wood increasing it is important to understand the environmental impacts associated with creating timber. There is a concern about the amount of wood we currently cut, as we are now harvesting more than we grow each year. By doing this we are not only affecting carbon sinks but also wildlife. Non sustainable lumber practices can damage ecosystems and biodiversity. But there are some designers and scientists who are looking at ways to make this practice as sustainable as possible. One way to do this is to utilise all materials created during the process by creating alternatives from by-products.


Pine Resin & Pine Skins by Sarmite Polakova

Historically, pine trees provided food, medicine and tools in Latvia. But due to mass consumption areas of Latvian forest are now used to create cheap wood. The mass lumbering process destroys the forest fauna and reduces its diversity. This is why Latvian designer Sarmite Polakova wanted to find ways to utilise any waste created from this process in order to try and make it more sustainable. PineSkins is an initiative that uses discarded tree bark to create a leather-like material. Polakova harvests the bark directly after the tree is cut, as she works directly with the tree cutters. This allows her to collect fresh bark and makes sure that none goes to waste. The bark is softened using natural ingredients before it is enhanced with natural pigments and wax. The final material has colours ranging from brown, pink and terracotta. While the patterns created are unique to each tree, with interesting circular formations created by old branches.

Sarmite Polakova has also created PineResin. This material research project explores new and exciting materials that can be created from the byproducts of the timber industry. Polakova found that she was able to make a composite from the waste materials left after the tree had been cut down. It is made from pine resin, sawdust, bark and cellulose. The glass-like composite can be shaped into different structures, and Polakova chose to create a variety of vessels to showcase the different effects that can be created. The recipe can also be adapted by changing the individual quantities of the ingredients and fibre size.




Forest Wool by Tamara Orjola

Designer Tamara Orjola has created adapted processing techniques to show the potential of using needles left over from the timber industry. These processes resulted in a material which replicates the qualities of many materials, including cotton and coir. Traditionally all of the tree would be used if it was cut for timber. But with mass production this knowledge and awareness has been lost. Pine needles account for 20 to 30 percent of the tree’s mass. But these are normally seen as waste, and are thrown away during the lumber process. Therefore, Orjola has looked to use them as a fibre. This fibre has allowed her to create a variety of materials such as paper, textiles and composites boards. These are created using standard manufacturing techniques – crushing, soaking, steaming, carding, binding and pressing. But the needles can also be transformed into dyes, and the essential oils can be extracted. These different outcomes have an ability to be used in a variety of applications, such as the pieces of furniture and carpets that she has made. The final pieces are also completely biodegradable and compostable.



Lennart Heim
Sarmite Polakova
Tamara Orjola