Hi Everyone! Today, Paul from Woodworkboss.com shares some tips for using reclaimed wood in DIY projects! Paul is an avid woodworker and the editor-in-chief of the website Woodworkboss.com. Via his site, he hopes to help and inspire fellow woodworking and crafting enthusiasts. He shares woodworking tips, free project plans, buying guides, and inspirational posts. Visit Paul’s site to learn some tips on how to take your skills to the next level or how to start the exciting woodworking journey from scratch. Be sure to check out his site!
You can also view Paul’s previous guest post on Innovative Ideas and Tools for Woodworking here.
When it comes to making a project with some character, or simply reducing your carbon footprint when it comes to materials, using reclaimed wood is one of the best options available. This enables creative individuals to have many options that can make their project look great, vintage and very economical.
Here are some tips on what to do when your DIY project calls for reclaimed wood.
Most Common Places to Get Reclaimed Wood
Getting reclaimed wood may be easier to find if you know some of the more common places to find wood. The following locations can generally turn up some free wood or low-cost wood that may be reclaimed for your projects:
Retired Barns – If you live anywhere with older farms, ranches with barns or other retired buildings then you may be able to get some choice, weathered wood to reclaim. Make it a point to find out who owns the land, buildings and let them know what you are looking for and what you plan to accomplish.
Many times the owners will be happy to let you tow away anything you need as they may have been putting off getting rid of materials due to their workload. They may be willing to sell you wood if they are not really getting rid of it, so make sure to ask or make offers.
Businesses – Many retailers, businesses and other types of storefronts may have discarded pallets, crates and wooden produce boxes. It is important to go in and ask for permission before taking anything as some actually go back to the distributors for re-use.
Newer wooden pallets and other materials may be available for the taking which reduces the amount of work that you have to do to prepare the wood for projects.
Flea Markets or Yard Sales – Sometimes going out to your local swap meet or local neighbors during their house cleaning sales can bring up some interesting pieces that may be up-cycled or reclaimed.
Many times if you ask about old broken wooden furniture or scraps homeowners will let you take them off their hands free or very cheap. Swap meets may not necessarily have broken wooden furniture as they are looking to get a small profit for their items.
Salvage or Scrap Yards – Many salvage or scrap yards will often provide some great wood that is available at affordable pricing. It really depends on where you live and what types of materials are available at the time you choose to check in with them.
Online – Many businesses are getting in on the trend and are starting to sell deconstructed pallets and other types of scrap wood at premiums. This could be a viable option to locate the type of wood you want if you cannot find it elsewhere locally.
Reclaimed Wood May Not Be Clean
Any time you choose to take on a project using reclaimed wood, you should take note of the condition of the wood. Older wood, especially when kept outside will tend to get dirty.
Even if the wood is reclaimed from an old building, you may have gotten material that has been painted with lead paint or treated with other chemicals. Try to ensure the wood is well cleaned so you do not have to worry about using it for projects that may end up in contact with people often.
Metal pieces are common in reclaimed wood and can pose issues if you are using tools to cut or shape the wood. Always inspect for nails, screws, staples and other metal pieces that may be embedded in the wood before starting a project.
Some people even invest in a metal detector to locate unseen metal pieces easier within the wood.
A common problem with reclaimed wood is the inclusion of insects. Some insects bore into the wood and lay eggs; others simply make it their home. Spiders and other arachnids may be hiding and hunting using the wood as their cover.
Always brush off wood well with a strong broom and other cleaning tools. Treating wood with steam can extract and kill any potential pests that you do not want coming out later on after a project is placed in or around a home.
Choosing to Keep Textures and Paint
Sometimes the abuse that reclaimed wood receives over the years will make an impression that you just want to keep and integrate into your project. This is common when wear from daily activities really make surface abrasions, dents, paint fading and other types of light or heavy damage.
It is important to help reinforce any wood that may have internal structure damage if you plan on using the wood for something that will carry a heavy load such as furniture. Textures that are aesthetically pleasing without being caused by insects should be fine to use.
Paint can be problematic when working with older wood. If the paint on the source boards had lead in the paint mixture, cutting or sanding the wood may expose you or others to lead. Make sure to take care when handling old wood with obviously old paints.
Sawing May Not Be Exactly Smooth
Pieces used from reclaimed sources may have lost shape, or used poor cuttings to complete the previous project. It is up to you if you want to improve the current state of the wood through sanding, cutting and preparing the wood for your project.
Many people like to keep their project simple and incorporate defects as it adds to the character of the final piece. Warped wood is common, especially with wood that has been exposed to the elements for long periods of time.
Alternating Types of Wood in Projects
Many projects end up looking well when they have alternating patterns in grain, wood type, colors from paints or textured wear. Alternating sources of wood or randomizing placement can really produce stunning results. The resulting pieces have more visual impact. This is useful for art pieces and projects that are suited for centerpieces or focal points in a room.
Ultimately the wood you use in your project will be what appeals to you most. Chances are fair to lean towards aesthetically pleasing to other people when you complete a project. Most pieces are subjective and are appreciated by their creators and like-minded individuals.
So don’t worry about what others think when choosing reclaimed wood for your project. Unless there are strict requirements for the type of wood or certain aspects needed when making something for a client, then your reclaimed wood projects will look great and have a nice vintage or truly unique feel to it.
Do you have any additional tips or tricks for working with reclaimed wood? If so, we’d love to hear them in the comments below!