Archive for July, 2012

One man’s junk is another man’s musical instrument

Guest post by Doug Banner

Doug Banners instruments on display

Doug Banners instruments on display at The RE Store in Bellingham

I am always surprised at how often people tell me that they are not artistic or creative. In our culture you must have exhibited in a gallery or performed to be called an artist. I play at playing music and music keeps me sane or at least as sane as I can be in this sometimes-crazy world. I am therefore a musician and so are you. Your heart keeps great time. Music is a great way to come together in community and share joy. I have played with people in Japan, Thailand, and China where our only common language was music and everybody had a great time.

In making instruments from recycled and repurposed materials I achieve several goals:

  1. I take stuff out of the trash stream. My wife laughs when I wont let her throw out old salad bowls and wooden spoons.
  2. I make instruments that sound good, are relatively easy to learn to play, and are affordable. Many people shy away from learning to play music because cheap instruments usually sound bad and good instruments are too expensive.
  3. I have fun creating usable art for public consumption. If it’s not fun, why do it, Right?
Doug Banner's Satori flutes

Doug Banner’s Satori flutes     Photo by John D’Onofrio

The RE Store is my primary source for materials and I draw my inspiration and design ideas from indigenous instruments from around the world. I spend a fair amount of time in the plastic pipe section. My didgeridoos are the least expensive and easiest to make and the most difficult to play. They’re made from 1.5” to 2” PVC pipe. I have heard $100.00 didgeridoos that don’t sound as good. My Santori Flutes, modeled after Native American Love Flutes, are made from ¾” PVC. I add wooden mouthpieces turned from wood I find in the scraps bin. The great thing about the Satori flutes is that they are indestructible. Throw one in your backpack and you’ve got music in the wilderness. Practice 15 minutes a day and you’ll be sounding pretty good in just a month. The Fujara, a Slovakian overtone flute, is both difficult to make and difficult to play but it’s so odd that just having one will draw attention.

I am always looking for 1” x 12” boards and door skins or thin paneling to build box drums known as a Cajon (sounds like ka-hone), tongue drums, or anything else I am inspired to try. I also use paneling and large plastic drainpipe to build great sounding conga drums. Reclaiming wood is a lot of fun for me. The instruments seem to have a special feel to them. It’s almost like the wood is saying, “Thanks for not throwing me in the fire.”

I find my greatest limitations to creating and playing instruments is my own imagination and my willingness to try new things. My bamboo Zither is an example. I didn’t know how to play it or even if it would sound good, but I gave it a shot. It worked and sounds great. I am sure more of those are on the way. Even if it sounds trite, you don’t know what you can do until you try.

~ Doug Banner

You can view Doug’s musical instruments on display in the Meridian windows at The RE Store in Bellingham through August, 2012.

Doug Banner is a professional storyteller and multimedia artist that plays music weekly with the Monkey Puzzle Orchestra. He also uses many of my instruments in his storytelling performances and can be found online at

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project, Recycled art and trash fashion, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, You can do it yourself

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“Sink” your teeth into this: brand new Caroma’s at The RE Store!

The Seattle store just received 25 pallets of brand-new, in-the-box Caroma sinks last Friday – that is about 500+ sinks!   There are 10 varieties of both wall hung and pedestal style sinks, and most are either white or off-white in color.  They are priced to sell – at $90/94 – and would be great for anyone in the market for one sink – or quantity for an apartment building or similar project.  Caroma designs stylish fixtures, while manufacturing with sustainability in mind.  They just needed to offload this lot due to warehouse space reduction in the Seattle area, and we were at the right place at the right time (we met their spokesperson at an outreach event).  Bellingham will be receiving a shipment of these next week – so spread the word, and come check them out in both stores!

Posted in: Stories about stuff

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Deconstructing a House in Five Easy Steps – Notes From the Field

by Ryan DeSales, Seattle Field Crew Member

The RE Store’s Seattle and Bellingham field crews teamed-up this June to deconstruct a house in West Seattle, and yours truly lived to tell the tale.

Yes Virginia, there is a difference between demolition and deconstruction. Conventional demolition operations use heavy equipment to raze a structure. This process typically destroys all reusable building materials, and the resulting debris is sent to the landfill. Deconstruction, on the other hand, is just what it sounds like. A structure is carefully disassembled by hand, or sometimes with the assistance of a machine. This allows most reusable materials (fixtures, flooring, lumber, bricks, etc.) to be salvaged. Anything that can’t be reused is recycled, or disposed of appropriately.

So, how do you deconstruct a house by hand? Just get a couple of experienced and hardworking field crew members of The RE Store and follow these five easy steps:

Step One: Working from the top down, remove shingles and underlayment; toss gingerly from roof while taking care to avoid hitting those working below. Next, remove plywood decking and pull skip sheeting. Repeat as necessary to achieve desired result.

Step Two: Remove all interior fixtures (plumbing and electrical), cabinetry, doors, windows, flooring, and other hardware. Ensure water and electrical power supplies are shut off prior to beginning this step.

Step Three: Working from the interior, pull drywall to expose studs. Working from the exterior, remove all siding to expose plywood sheeting. Next, remove sheeting and wave to crew members working inside.

Step Four: Cut roof trusses and lower to ground level for disassembly. Cut and remove wall studs; do not remove load bearing wall studs prematurely. Repeat until sky is clearly visible overhead.

Step Five: Cut and remove remaining wall studs. Remove flooring material to expose floor joists. Cut and remove joists. Load all salvageable materials onto The RE Store trucks. Dispose of any hazardous materials (fluorescent lights, etc.) appropriately. High five team members accordingly.

You too can deconstruct a house in just eight days using this proven method! Or, you can call up The RE Store in Seattle or Bellingham to learn more about our green deconstruction and salvage services. Seriously though, deconstructing a house by hand requires a tremendous effort by a dedicated group of individuals. The result, however, is well worth it. This West Seattle deconstruction project netted thousands of dollars in salvaged lumber and other building materials that would have otherwise entered the waste stream.

Posted in: Notes From the Field, Stories about people, Stories about stuff, Transforming the building industry

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