Monday, March 6, 2017

How to Work with Reclaimed Wood

Hello there! I'm in the middle of a new project that I'm dying to show you. I'm some building shelves with reclaimed wood. It's still in process, so the meantime, I thought I'd talk a little about how to find reclaimed wood and how to work with it.

What is reclaimed wood?

It's wood that has been retrieved from it's original use and repurposed for a new use. Most reclaimed wood is salvaged from demolished buildings (houses, barns, warehouses). There are so many things I love about reclaimed wood. The texture and variations in color make each piece unique. Plus, when wood is reclaimed and reused, it doesn't end up in a landfill--and you save a few trees. It's a win-win-win situation.

Where can you get reclaimed wood?

There are many sources. There are businesses that specialize in selling reclaimed wood. For example, Stikwood sells self-stick planks of reclaimed wood. It comes in uniform sizes (5" wide and 3/16" thick). It runs $14 per square foot. This is a good option if you want the look of reclaimed wood without doing a lot of work.

However, if you're like me and are up for a DIY project, the best source for reclaimed wood are salvage yards. My favorite is Community Forklift just outside of Washington, DC. There's a huge selection and the prices are unbelievable. For example, I recently bought a whole trunk full of wood for $11. That included a 5 foot 2" x 12", a 4 foot 2" x 12",an 8 foot 2" x 8", an 8 foot 2" x 4", and a few smaller pieces. In addition to lumber, they have other cool stuff like this mantel I picked up for $85! (You'll be seeing more of this mantel in future posts!)

What do you do with the wood once you get it?

If you're dealing with wood from a salvage yard, you'll have a little work ahead of you, but it's all pretty straightforward.

1. First things first.
Cut the wood to the size you need. Remove any loose or protruding nails. If you can't remove the nails, then hammer them flush with the surface of the wood. Also remove any large loose splinters. If there are large splits in the wood, you may have to use some glue to hold it together. I used Liquid Nails, but any good wood glue will do. I like the rustic look of the wood, so I didn't attempt to repair holes or rough spots.

2. Give your wood a bath.
Reclaimed wood is often very dirty. So before you do anything else, you'll have to clean it. You will need heavy rubber gloves, dish detergent, warm water, and a scrubber or brush. Give the wood a good cleaning on all surfaces. Be careful--not only is the wood likely to be dirty, but it will probably have a lot of splinters. That's why you need the gloves--or a good pair of tweezers! When you're done, lean the wood up against a wall and let dry overnight.

3. Now that your wood is nice and clean, thoroughly sand all the surfaces. This is best done with an electric sander. 

4. It's time to add some finish. I like to enhance the wood but keep a natural look. I used Danish Oil in Medium Walnut. Because the surface of the wood was uneven, I found it easier to apply it with a brush rather than a cloth. The oil really soaked into the wood, so I went through quite a bit. It really brought out the texture and depth in the wood. 

5. Extra Credit.
For my project, I needed a five foot 2" x 12" board and an eight foot 2" x 12" board. Although I had no trouble finding the five foot board, they didn't have an eight foot 2" x 12". So I decided to fabricate a 2" x 12" using a 2" x 8" and a 2" x 4".  

Because I'm going for a very rustic look, I decided to use 4" mending plates to attach the boards. 

To give them a more rustic look, I sprayed them with Rust-oleum Flat Metallic Soft Iron Spray Paint. Huge difference! I also picked up some black self-tapping screws. 

Next, I laid the two boards next to each other and applied Liquid Nails to the sides where I wanted to join the boards and pressed them together. Then I arranged the mending plates along the joint at regular intervals and attached them with screws. I didn't want to make it too perfect, so I just eyeballed it.

I let the glue dry overnight and my fabricated 2" x 12" was ready to go. I can't wait to show you the finished project (yeah, once it's actually finished, that is!). Stay tuned.

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