Can mountains of bark be used for furniture?

During a visit to Troldtekt, Tommy Mosgaard Jensen was inspired by the large piles of bark, a by-product from production. Completely in line with Troldtekt’s Cradle to Cradle approach, he decided to investigate whether the bark can create new value as a material for furniture production.

Troldtekt, CSR report 2017

Each year, Troldtekt produces huge amounts of bark when spruce logs are debarked and chopped up to produce wood wool. Unlike the rest of the tree, the bark cannot be used for acoustic panels, and therefore ends up in large piles on Troldtekt’s factory site. It is then sold to be used as bark mulch and for soil improvement.

The sight of all the heaps of bark, which is essentially a waste product, got Tommy Mosgaard Jensen (44) thinking when he came on a company visit to Troldtekt as part of his training to become a production technologist. He decided that, as part of his final examination project, he would look at the possibility of using the bark to create new value within, for example, the furniture industry.  

Huge potential worldwide
Tommy Mosgaard Jensen has worked with wood and furniture production for over 20 years, and therefore knows a lot about production with chipboard and MDF. At the same time, sustainability and the Cradle to Cradle principles feature prominently in his syllabus, so he quickly saw the potential in saving resources and creating added value by finding a new use for a residual product.

“I’ve previously toyed with the idea of making furniture from crushed wood, so finding an alternative use for the bark was a natural follow-on from this line of thought. I spoke, for example, with a master of a guild from the wood industry who said that it’s not just Troldtekt but businesses all over the world that produce large volumes of surplus bark. So there’s huge potential,” says Tommy Mosgaard Jensen.

Troldtekt, CSR report 2017

Bark in the blender
Tommy Mosgaard Jensen then started experimenting. He spent much of the time in his own kitchen, because the bark first had to be chopped into smaller pieces.

“I tried using the kitchen blender first, but it was too hard on the machine. Then my son suggested that I cook the bark first and then blend it, like when we make vegetable soup. This had the desired effect, and soon I had a raw material very similar to dried tobacco. My first thought was to use glue to turn the bark into panels. However, the natural resins and fibres bind the bark together beautifully, so only pure natural materials are needed,” says Tommy Mosgaard Jensen.

Troldtekt, CSR report 2017

Helpful advice from Troldtekt
The compressed bark can be shaped and clad with different materials to create a kind of veneer. During the process, Tommy Mosgaard Jensen met with Troldtekt’s product developer, Niels Kappel. Niels Kappel provided additional input for what Tommy ­Mosgaard Jensen could also try to do to make the bark more useful.

“Troldtekt is not involved in furniture production, so Niels Kappel saw the greatest potential in the pure, blended bark. If it could be mixed with cement, it might be possible to create a product to supplement Troldtekt’s existing range. I therefore contacted Aalborg Portland, and was given various cement samples to experiment with,” says Tommy Mosgaard Jensen.

Today, Tommy Mosgaard Jensen is fully trained and working full-time as a product developer and production technologist. In parallel he runs his own business, working with furniture design as a hobby. However, he is still trying to develop the idea of recycling bark.