When working with reclaimed wood you generally want to be extra cautious — you never know what you are going to find in the wood. Normally I visually inspect the wood, remove anything glaring (bits of old nails, stones, loose knots etc), then make a pass with a lumber wizard metal detector, remove what it finds and start working my way through the wood. Every so often something makes it through that system….
Above and below is a VERY tiny tack was embedded deep into an old barn board I was reclaiming. It must have been fairly deep into the board as the metal detector didn’t find it, but it sure found my planer knife.
But such is the price we sometimes have to pay in order to work with old growth timbers. On an 8-10″ wide board I was counting well over 150 years of growth rings and this pine often handles like hardwood.
For projects like this rustic headboard the trick is to stop milling before you lose all the history and character of the old wood.
But in the end the extra effort is worth with for the results cannot be duplicated with modern woods and simulated aging techniques.
You can see a bit more of this project on an earlier post I made here.
A while back I completed a headboard and night stand for a friend of mine from NBSS — Erin who is a very talented jeweler. She made my dovetailed wedding band which I love. (You can check out some of Erin’s other work here http://erindeluca.com/ Tell her Bill sent you 🙂 )
I designed and built the project from reclaimed old growth eastern white pine which was previously a barn in CT. Reclaiming the wood and keeping the well earned patina of time took a lot longer than I originally anticipated, but I am very happy with the results.
Tips on reclaiming old wood:
Select wood with interesting character and tight/straight grain
Use a metal detector to search for nails or other metal which could damage your planer and jointer knives (and keep rechecking — cleared everything I could originally detect, but as I milled down a piece I found a deeper embedded piece of cut nail that took a big nick out of my planer knives) So from then on I make repeated passes with the metal detector even as I plane down the wood.
Be judicious with your planing — it would be very easy to just power through all the tool marks and character and lose a lot of the history of the wood
Use traditional joinery and woodworking techniques (I think reclaimed wood looks better with traditional designs)
Old growth detail — some pieces had well over 150 years worth of tight growth rings and many well preserved hand tool marks, nail holes etc
Through mortise and tenon joinery that is draw bored and pinned
The piece had to make it through some very tight places and I built it in such a way that the legs could bolt off to make it through narrow places (See pics for more details of this)
I also concealed leveling feet to make it easier to stabilize on an uneven floor etc
Matching night stand has similar character and design to match the headboard. Still has great old saw marks in it
Finish included stain, dye for tinting, polyurethane and hand rubbed wax finish
A Joiner's Guide To Traditional Woodworking and Preservation