Another new marketing buzzword, but to me it’s just another word for scrounging, something I’ve long advocated to increase profits.

Upcycling is defined as “…the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.”

Over the years I have upcycled tons of stuff – wood, hardware, stones, you name it. It can also be called reusing, repurposing or recycling, if you prefer. But for some reason, upcycling is in vogue.

This ‘new trend’ could either be good or bad for those of us who earn a living making things for people. Every giant wire spool or old barrel that gets upcycled into a coffee table or stool represents one less commission for some maker. On the other hand, upcycling requires bit of imagination and some ability to work with one’s hands and tools, so there can still be some opportunity for us.

Recently, I was asked to make and install a curtain rod. Not an earthshaking project by any means but still a few bucks were on the table and these days, you take it where you can get it. The thing is, the request was accompanied by a minuscule budget. There was a lot of bamboo available and that was deemed to be consistent with the aesthetic sensibilities of the client. A quick trip to the hardware store produced two hooks and 15 minutes with a saw and some sandpaper yielded a reasonably smooth bamboo rod. The total materials cost was under five bucks, which left enough on the table to pay me for my time. The client was pleased to solve the dilemma at such a low cost and doubly happy to have upcycled something in the process.

A win/win all around!



  • Chuck R says:

    UGH! If we have fallen to this level, heaven help us all!!

  • Al Fortunato says:

    Isn’t “upcycling” what those of us who make things have been doing for years? We take wood (or some other material) and upcycle it into tables, chairs, cabinets, etc. Why just because someone comes up with some new buzz word is it something new and great? I really get tired of the latest fads and terminology. I build things out of wood and that is all I do. I don’t repurpose, upcycle, recycle, or whatever else is in vogue. I don’t follow the fads. I don’t follow the designers latest visions. I wear redwings, carhart, and no-name jeans. I don’t need some designers name embroidered on my but.

    So to those who follow the latest trends; don’t come to me to repurpose or upcycle. But if you want something built, I build things and that’s all I do.

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