Bringing New Life To Old Wood

Bringing New Life To Old Wood

Johnny Williams
Aug 23, 2010

Reclaiming old wood is a tiresome task — before milling barnwood or salvaged flooring, woodworkers must arduously de-nail the boards and strip off the chippy paint or finish. So is recycling hardwood worth all the hard work?

It's frustrating to pay top dollar for timeworn wood. Thankfully, the previous owner of our house left behind a large stack of old flooring, the remains of a renovation. Much of it is century-old red and white oak, warped, stained and littered with rusty nails. But with reclaimed wood, defects are desirable — dents and blackened nail holes signify the wood's age and authenticity, like badges of honor.

This week, I began building three board and batten doors with the old oak. First, I used stripper (no, not a stripper) and a 3'' scraper to remove finish from the flooring. Wearing latex gloves, I gently scraped the boards, holding the scraper at a 45-degree angle and pulling the tool toward myself for added control. Next up were the nails.

Since I plan on regularly working with old wood, I bought myself a small metal detector called the Lumber Wizard. Needless to say, this nifty tool works like magic. After locating and marking each nail, I began removing them with a hammer, a nail set and a pair of vice grips. Hours later, with sore hands and a smile on my face, I pried the final nail. This weekend, I jointed and planed the boards perfectly flat, bringing new life to old wood.

So was it worth all the hard work? Yes! I've yet to finish my board and batten doors, but the wood will lend them heaps of character. The many nail holes and imperfections offer a soulful aesthetic that new wood never could. Of course, recycling is good for the planet but it's also good for you — reclaiming a piece of wood gives you peace of mind.

Images: Johnny Williams

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