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The Pi Table

Scrapile—Pull up a chair to one of Scrapile’s impossibly elegant dining tables and you’d never guess that the materials used to create it had once been destined for a landfill. Founded in 2003 by Carlos Salgado and Bart Bettencourt, Brooklyn-based Scrapile repurposes cast-off scrap wood to create crisp modern furnishings. Salgado and Bettencourt met in the mid 1990s, doing installation work at the now-defunct SoHo branch of the Guggenheim Museum. “We were both appalled by the waste at the Guggenheim,” says Salgado. “Between exhibitions everything got demoed, and it was still good material. It just sat on our consciences.” Years later, they found themselves at a studio staring at a pile of wood, wondering what could be made from it. The query yielded two benches—the seeds of Scrapile. The collection has been growing ever since.

Carlos Salgado and Bart Bettencourt stand in their Brooklyn studio, where they invented Scrapile’s signature striated wood surface out of salvaged scrap wood.

  • Dumpster Diving

    The first step in the Scrapile process is to acquire raw materials. Salgado and Bettencourt are beggars, not choosers: Any wood—from cherry to walnut—will do. With help from a local nonprofit, NY Wa$teMatch, they’ve found a number of mills, lumberyards, and other businesses happy to offload their detritus. It helps that Scrapile’s studio—–a 5,000-square-foot space they share with Bart’s other business, Bettencourt Green Building Supplies—is in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, home to considerable light industry. “We’re literally surrounded by hundreds of woodworking shops,” says Salgado. “It’s a cost-benefit for them: They don’t have to fill up their dumpsters as much.” Over the course of a year, that can add up to a substantial savings for the donor, and a windfall in free material for Scrapile, to say nothing of the environmental benefit. Everyone wins.

  • Building a Block

    With raw material in hand, they painstakingly assemble their scraps into a solid, ten-foot-long block that is eight inches square. To achieve the striated pattern of cascading bands that is Scrapile’s visual trademark—which Salgado calls the “waterfall effect”—pieces are cut to size and arranged by wood type before they’re bonded together with nontoxic, water-soluble glue. “There’s a lot of math involved,” says Salgado, but the result is “a very clean piece of wood.”

  • Photo

    A Design Emerges

    All of Scrapile’s sharp modern forms come from the solid block of wood. The pieces have evolved from basic, boxy shapes to more complex lines as Salgado, who does most of the design, has become more comfortable as a woodworker. “Initially the idea was to keep the designs as simple as possible,” says Salgado, a sculptor by training. “But the more I got involved in the making of the material, the more I wanted to push the structure and the language of the design into being a little more contemporary. I’m not a traditional woodworker. I’ve learned it all on the job. I’ve never adhered to the rules.” The Pi table, shown in progress here, is one of Scrapile’s simplest, but still displays thoughtful, subtle detail.

  • Putting It Together

    With a design in place, the block is trimmed down to size, planed, sanded, and edge-cleaned. Planks are cut with precision, to ensure the waterfall pattern aligns exactly, and pieces are glued and clamped down to dry. Then they’re patched if needed (no more than two places per piece), re-sanded, oiled, branded, and carefully crated for shipment. “Sometimes you forget that we have hundreds of little pieces glued together, and they’re alive,” says Salgado. “Wood breathes depending on the weather, the temperature. It does what it wants to do.” Scrapile are also doing what they want to do, and the results are nothing you’d ever consider throwing away.

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