Bread Board (s) #1: Recovering the Lumber - or - how I leant to love bowling alley flooring

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 10-02-2010 04:42 AM 13244 reads 1 time favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Bread Board (s) series Part 2: Milling Woes »

OK, so now that the kitchen challenge is all over, I guess it’s a good time to post a blog regarding kitchen items … or… hold on… um – oops. too late.

Oh well, I guess I’ll blog this anyways.

So, the plan is to make a bread board. for the time being, the design shall remain unseen and will reveal in details as this blog series will progress. The board is primarily made of hard maple that I am recovering from bowling alley floors (I still have about half a lane from building my workbench) with possible accent from my recently sliced applewood that is dry and ready for use.

I wanted to dedicate this first post to how I recover the lumber from these floors as they are fully loaded with twisted hardened steel nails which in the past I had a hell of a time getting out but now that I’ve gotten smarter I figured someone might find this useful, so away we go:

Step 1: Relieving the Boards
To begin, I found that it’s impossible to take the nails out while the boards are still attached to one another and it’s easier to handle the nails from a single board. so first step is to relieve the boards from one another. The easiest way (for me) to do this is to use 2 wedge type tools to systematically spread the top board apart starting at one end pounding 1 wedge in, then as the board slightly pulls apart, pound 2nd wedge further ahead into the board, as it lifts the board more, the 1st wedge will come loose, take 1st wedge, and pound it further ahead along the board – rinse and repeat until you get to the end, and the board is slightly lifted off the lamination:

Once the board is slightly released, I can freely slide my nail puller bar in the open space, and by pushing down, fully release the board from the lamination starting at the far end, moving along it’s length, I push down on the bar with medium force trying not to break the board, but just release it slightly until I get to the end – if it’s not fully released, start from the beginning again now that it’s a bit looser – applying a bit more force until it just pops out clean:

Step 2: Preparing the nails to be pulled
Now that the board is on it’s own and in porcupine mode, we can deal with the nails as they are only going through 1 board, and we have access to both their tip, and head.

The easier way to do this is not to try and pull the nails from the head at this point, but to pound on their tips (from the underside) so that half the nail with the head will be pushed up from the board giving us better access to the head for pulling it out in the next step:

Step 3: Out you go
Now that the nails have been pound upwards, we can lay the board flat (well, not fine woodworking flat – but you know what I mean) on the ground/workbench to pull the nails out.

What I found out was that if you’ll try pulling the nails simply using the hammer/nail puller, the angle created by the hammer will be too steep and will mostly cause the nails to break in half (these are hardened nails – they DO NOT bend – they SNAP). to overcome this issue, I found that placing a spacer (3/4 material) under the hammer head to lift it up will cause the pulling action to pull the nail STRAIGHT UP (mostly), reducing the chance of the nail to break. I can say that after starting to use the spacer, 99% of the nails pulled out easily in whole. only a few nails broke – and I believe it is because they were weak, or had been pound unevenly:

The few nails that either broke off, or were broken to begin with did require to be hammered out with a pin punch, using the techniques described above – there were only a handful of broken nails compared to ~100 whole nails that were pulled.

The result (I actually have double the quantity of lumber cleaned out at the momend) after planing and jointing (still need to rip to width last edge) is this:

Lots of lumber waiting to be glued back together.

As I mentioned – I have double the quantity. the problem is that while planing the other half or the boards, my planer broke down- UGH talk about timing. with my recent interest in machining and what it entails, I took the planer apart, and found that the sprocket that drives the chain that turns the feed drums broke in half. the interesting thing is that (A) I could not find the broken half of it, making me think it was broken when I bought it and was somehow still functional until it just gave up traction now and (B) this is the 2nd gear in the last 2 days that I found broken on my machines – both as it seems broke for the previous owner. I called and ordered the part and in the mean time – planing the rest of the boards with my handplanes.

I don’t mind jointing by hand, I actually like it. I don’t mind thicknessing by hand in general, but for something like this – where there are lots of small boards that all need to be planed down to the exact same thickness so that they can be laminated in staggered fashion without leaving gaps – I really would prefer to run them all through my planer in a batch. oh well. a step back, but not too bad.

Next, glueing it up (yes, it’s a lot of lumber, and yes- it’s big).

P.S. I’ll blog my fix to the planer when I get the part, so if anyone is ever running into issues with the rollers not feeding – you may find it useful as well.

Thanks for reading,

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

20 comments so far

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3100 days

#1 posted 10-02-2010 04:58 AM

Good save on the wood, I know it is wonderful wood but what a way to get it! Too much like hard work for me with my bad back! I’ll pass!

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View swirt's profile


2872 posts in 3054 days

#2 posted 10-02-2010 05:03 AM

Looks like a lot of work….and that is great fun.

-- Galootish log blog,

View PurpLev's profile


8539 posts in 3730 days

#3 posted 10-02-2010 05:09 AM

Thanks guys,

here’s the thing – I consider this to be ‘urban logging’, with the equivalent of acquiring lumber from logs (raw material) (free) so in essence – this is actually LESS work than milling logs (at least for me) and the material is fantastic, dried, and ready for use.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View fernandoindia's profile


1081 posts in 3025 days

#4 posted 10-02-2010 06:08 AM

Hi Purplev,

Love saving wood. it looks like a piece of cake.

Remember to wear bulletproof vest.
Be watching

-- Back home. Fernando

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1106 posts in 3056 days

#5 posted 10-02-2010 06:14 AM

This is a great thing you are doing to give this wood a second life and keep it from wasting in the dump.
It looks like a ton of effort, but everything you make from it will feel that much more special.
Gotta get the planer working again though.
Are you using a metal detector on the boards???...I would be paranoid of missing a nail with that many in the boards and damaging equipment..
Be careful,
Cheers, Scott

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View ellen35's profile


2738 posts in 3514 days

#6 posted 10-02-2010 01:10 PM

You are truly incredible! That bowling alley is being reincarnated in so many ways!
I am looking forward to the next installment… and the fix.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Karson's profile


35128 posts in 4482 days

#7 posted 10-02-2010 01:13 PM

Sharon: I remember those days. I still have a small section of my alley on the wood pile.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View SPalm's profile


5321 posts in 3964 days

#8 posted 10-02-2010 01:35 PM

Yikes. That’s a lot of work. Nice haul in that last pic.

Sorry about your planer dude. I am glad that you are still charging ahead by ordering parts and fixing it.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3118 days

#9 posted 10-02-2010 02:55 PM

Good work.

There’s always the thought that every piece you recover doesn’t have to come from a new tree. Plus as you say its free and stable.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6860 posts in 4061 days

#10 posted 10-02-2010 03:09 PM

That’s a lot of work, Sharon…

Plus I would be hesitant to put through my equipment. Too much wear and tear.

I think I’ll just keep buying my wood.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View PurpLev's profile


8539 posts in 3730 days

#11 posted 10-02-2010 03:25 PM

Thanks everyone. this lumber is definitely not equivalent to bought lumber. it does have the nail holes on the flat sawn side that requires design considerations and all. Yes, a metal detector is essential, I did manage to miss one nail and nicked my planer knives.

For me, it’s lumber that I otherwise would not be able to afford at present time. so I take whatever I can :)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View moonls's profile


412 posts in 3068 days

#12 posted 10-02-2010 04:00 PM

Sharon I’m glad to see you’ve found ways to remove the nails more efficiently. I’ve done quite a bit of recovering hardwood in this way over the years. It is a lot of work but worth the effort when the wood is transformed into something even better! I look forward to seeing your planer fix and the finished project.

-- Lorna, Cape Cod

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3256 days

#13 posted 10-02-2010 04:10 PM

Great post.
Great wood.
Cool progress.

By the way: the other half of that sprocket wound up in my front yard … in Colorado.

Yeah. I thought it was more than a bit strange, too ;-)

When I bought the lumber, and a few shop essentials, to build my wine rack, the cashier at the lumberyard said, “You know you can just go to the store and BUY the thing for less than you’re going to spend, here.”

No disprespect, to Lee Jesberger, intended—I assure you—sometimes, that isn’t the point. Sometimes, something like this just has “Fun Project and Cool Adaptive Re-use of Materials” written ALL over it !

Lastly—and this is pretty pertinent to Sharon: the reclaimed lumber place that I hit, in Cambridge, MA … charges a bloody fortune for cool old wood, with a story behind it, so—for those for whom the look, the story, or the process matters, or is fun, Sharon’s actually doing this on the dramatically cheap !

My $0.02. YMMV.

-- -- Neil

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3256 days

#14 posted 10-02-2010 04:16 PM


Do any of those “high tech” nail pullers work particularly well for dealing with this kind of reclaimed wood ?

I’m thinking about any of these breeds:

Or … similar.

DID somebody build a better mousetrap ?

I have the metal detector, and … a fair amount of time. I DO like to be on the lookout for cool deals for reclaimed, but … if they’ve cleaned it … it costs $$$$.

keywords: nail puller, cat’s paw, reclaimed, salvage, nails

-- -- Neil

View sras's profile


4842 posts in 3211 days

#15 posted 10-02-2010 04:35 PM

Ahhh, that brings back memories of dismantling farm buildings when I was growing up. Pretty much the same process – except we built other buildings. Very well written blog. Look forward to the rest of the story.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

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