Knotty Pine #1: Help Please. How do I save it?

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Kevin posted 10-24-2007 04:16 AM 10113 reads 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Knotty Pine series Part 2: Progress Update and Studs are ASH!!! »

This is a cry for help really.

I have a house full of old knotty pine tongue & groove walls & ceilings. This house and this wood especially holds a special place in my heart. The house must be torn down, and you will all understand that I just can’t let all that wood go up in smoke.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

There is approximately 3700lf of 7” boards. The longest being on the ceiling and are 16’. I have taken off a couple boards and ran them through the planer to see what they would look like (see pictures).

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket (Planed back next to unplaned face)
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket (Better shot of unplaned color)
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket (Closeup of planed board)
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket (End grain)

My problem is that I do not know how to get these boards off with out them splitting. They are faced nailed with two finish nails per stud. The wood is VERY dry and splits easy. I took a sawsall and ran behind the boards to snip the nails off. Then pushed the nails back through the face. This works OK for the walls, you just have to sacrifice the top couple boards and a little thickness in the planer to get the sawsall marks out. I can have good 7” boards if I am only worried about the one side or just under 3” boards if I am worried about both sides and do not want the groove down the middle.

My questions: Because of the brittleness of the lumber, I am wondering if I am just wasting my time trying to get it out? Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get it out with minimal damage? Do you think this lumber would be useful enough to be worth messing with? To build what?

This is on my Grandpa’s property and his farm could use some help. I don’t think I would be able to use it all, so if anyone was interested, I’m going to try and get as much as possible and sell some to help pay for some farm maintenance.

Side note. I was thinking about taking the old 2×4 studs and make my worch bench from them. They are very dry and seem to be in great shape. Not 100% sure on the type of wood, but will update when I know. They are very rough cut. Within 1/4” of 2” thick either way. Sound like a good idea or not worth while?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

-- Kevin, Wichita, Kansas

16 comments so far

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3924 days

#1 posted 10-24-2007 04:33 AM

If you have the time, I think I would take it all apart and save it. The studs look like clear wood. You don’t say where you are, but the studs and frame might be all rough lumber and if old enough would be far better than we can get today.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Max's profile


56000 posts in 4235 days

#2 posted 10-24-2007 04:43 AM

If the knotty pine is nailed with finish nails, which it probably is, I would take a small nail set and drive the nails through the pine the rest of the way. You could then take the pine down with out it cracking and take the nails out of the studs later. I would salvage as much as you could of both the pine and the studs, the studs are more than likely douglas fir from the looks of the picture and as Thos. says they look pretty clear.

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4289 days

#3 posted 10-24-2007 05:56 AM

even if you split some of it, it looks like its worth trying.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4276 days

#4 posted 10-24-2007 06:58 AM

Looks like good wood to me…keep trying.

View cajunpen's profile


14575 posts in 4028 days

#5 posted 10-24-2007 09:26 AM

I think that anytime you can salvage wood and recycle it, it’s a win/win situation. Just the sentimental value of the wood would make it worth saving as much as possible. Like everyone else – I say go forward and save all you can.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View woodchips's profile


238 posts in 3926 days

#6 posted 10-24-2007 03:51 PM

even if the nails have heads on them it might still be beneficial to drive them through the wood with a good punch with a smooth head. you’ll still lose out on the area directly around the nails but you won’t get too much unnecessary splitting, hopefully. and i definitely agree with everyone else, anytime you can recycle wood for free (time excluded) go for it!

-- "Repetition is a leading cause of carelessness, and carelessness usually leads to injury"

View Aubrey's profile


43 posts in 3934 days

#7 posted 10-24-2007 04:54 PM


That wood is absolutely worth saving. No question. Even without the sentimental value of it.

As to how to remove it, you’ve gotten some good advise so far.

Here’s what I would add to that.

A nail punch will work to drive the nails through. The disadvantage to it is that it is tapered and will create a larger hole the further you drive it in. A non-tapered piece of steel would work better. I would try a large nail with the pointed end ground off smooth (12d, 16d, maybe larger…depending on effectiveness).

Another idea is to get yourself one of those prybars (cats paw) specifically designed for removing molding/trimwork with minimal damage. Mine is approx 16” long with the traditional crowbar type claw on one end and a flattened, wide part on the other end. That type of tool will allow you to get into the space where the boards meet the studs/joists. You will see that your board damage will be lower if you just pull the board off allowing the nails to slip through the other side in the process.

You will have some splitting and some of the material will simply not be able to be saved but you will be surprised at how much of it will be beautiful and reusable.

The studs, joists, and beams can be utilized as well. Don’t let them get away.

I can think of all kinds of projects that this type of lumber would be useful for depending on which direction your want to go.

You don’t mention your location, but let us know.

I may be interested in what you don’t have a use for.

Whatever you do, don’t let it go up in smoke!

-- Jesus was a Jewish carpenter.

View Kevin's profile


291 posts in 3920 days

#8 posted 10-24-2007 07:13 PM

Thanks for all the comments. I figured you would all cry out “save it”. That is the same thing I said.

Sorry, I forgot that I haven’t really set up my profile yet as I was waiting until I got the new shop together.
I am near Wichita, Kansas with the old house being in Southeast Kansas near Girard where I grew up.

When trying to pull the boards off, the nails would pull out of the studs rather easily, which surprized me. I figured it’d be next to impossible to pull nails out of those old studs. The nails are a type of finish nail, but the head is not something I have seen before. It kind of swells out on the end gradually. They come out bright and shiny like new (dry wood).

I won’t be going home for a couple weeks, but when I get back, I’ll try to drive the nails through the boards and see how well that works.

-- Kevin, Wichita, Kansas

View Aubrey's profile


43 posts in 3934 days

#9 posted 10-24-2007 07:34 PM


If the nails pull out of the studs rather easily then the approach I would take is the cats paw or molding prybar. (I don’t know the real name of the darn thing, I just know that it is designed for removal of trim etc when you want to minimize damage.)

You can then just back the nails out through the face or use a nail puller and draw them through the back side depending on which side of the boards you want to minimize damage on.

-- Jesus was a Jewish carpenter.

View Kevin's profile


291 posts in 3920 days

#10 posted 10-24-2007 07:47 PM


Don’t cats paws dig into the wood to grab the head of the nail? It usually messes up the face of the lumber a lot? Well, they do when i try, but maybe I am doing it wrong.

Of course, I guess it wouldn’t matter as long as you were only concerned with the back side.

-- Kevin, Wichita, Kansas

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 3952 days

#11 posted 10-24-2007 08:16 PM

Hardwood wedges also work well. Place them between the pine board and its stud, about 18” apart, and work your way down the entire length of the board. This will slowly “pop” the board free without much damage to its surface.

Any wood you can salvage is worth taking. From the looks of your pics, this house appears to probably be around 80-100 years old, right? Just be careful as you take it apart as you also release old dust, molds, asbestos, and you also weaken the structure itself. Also, copper is at a premium today…well worth scrapping for cash and if there’s some old iron pipe…Pony clamps, wood racks, etc.

A buddy of mine made a bundle selling his 100 year old cabinet hinges. He was tossing them out when his “wife” suggested E-bay. So keep an eye out for hidden antiques too. Best of luck!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Kevin's profile


291 posts in 3920 days

#12 posted 10-24-2007 08:23 PM

I thought about the copper, but the amount of copper wire will be so small it might not be worth it.

I didn’t think about the pipes. I’ll have to check them out, I bet they run under the concrete slab floor though. The slab is staying.

Hinges..mmmm… I know they are some old cabinets as well as some old door hardware. Other itmes… window weights…

Thanks for the heads up. I just wish i had more time so i could tear it down board by board and go through everything. I have a feeling i won’t have that much free time though.

-- Kevin, Wichita, Kansas

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4123 days

#13 posted 10-24-2007 08:34 PM

If you do not have much time, then you need to prioritize what you want to get. Do you want the panels, the studs, or what? Maybe some of each, but not everything.

Check with Mark DeCou, since he is in Kansas. He may have some good suggestions on this too. There are probably some other lumberjocks around that would like to help for some of the wood too.

Good luck on your salvage.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Aubrey's profile


43 posts in 3934 days

#14 posted 10-24-2007 10:23 PM


I am probably using the wrong name for the tool. The claw portion of a cat’s paw would indeed damage the face of the board. The flattened portion on the other end however is designed specifically for prying away and removing trim and moldings with minimal damage.

This pic is close to what I use. The flat portion on mine is notched.

Window weights won’t bring much, but the windows themselves will.

Door hardware, knobs, hinges, etc have definite value especially if in the 80-100 year old time frame.

Cabinet hardware, possibly, depending on what it is.

Old plumbing fixtures, sinks, tubs, etc are worthwhile if they are enamel. Claw foot tubs carry a premium price. Old faucets, depending again on what they are are also worthwhile.

-- Jesus was a Jewish carpenter.

View gene's profile


2184 posts in 3846 days

#15 posted 10-24-2007 10:58 PM

If it were me, if they are finish nails, I would try a (carbide brad point bit) the diameter of the nail head. Drill the nail head out and then you should be able to remove with a pry bar without splitting.
Just an idea
Good Luck
God bless

-- Gene, a Christian in Virginia

showing 1 through 15 of 16 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics