Montana...and Washington

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Project by Jenine posted 09-07-2015 05:16 AM 1075 views 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

There are a lot of ways to get this project done, but this is my process. Thanks for looking!

The lumber was reclaimed in Two Dot Montana from a 100+ year old lambing barn. Some of the boards have the railway info painted on the back, which I think is pretty cool :)

To prep the boards, I start by scrubbing the living daylights out of them with a wide brass wire brush. The amount of dirt and goo that comes out of them is amazing. I included a photo of the crud that comes up with a single back and forth stroke. If I showered three times a day, it wouldn’t feel like enough during this phase!

After they are cleaned, they go to the bandsaw, then the jointer then back and forth again. Many of the boards are in terrible shape and are too unstable to go to the jointer, so I have to edge joint them by hand. (Sidebar: I need a workbench.) This entire process can take 4x longer than surfacing new lumber, but once it is done, I get to move on to the fun part!

I choose boards for each wall hanging based on color, grain, and aesthetic inclusion arrangement. I lay them all out and trace the state shape onto the unglued panels from a template I made from 1/4” MDF.

Then, I take the individual (unglued) boards to the bandsaw and cut them out. I do them like this for a few reasons:

  • They are easier to handle and fit better on my saw
  • Areas that would be very difficult on the bandsaw (like the Puget Sound) become much more manageable
  • The boards are so old that they peel like onions. I am learning very quickly about how to avoid epic fails, but they still happen once a week. Cutting them individually means that IF there is an oops, it is just one piece out of 4 or 5 that is lost.

Then, once they are all cut and the marks are all scrubbed off, it’s time for glueup! Lots of cauls…

Finally, I sand the plain edges with a drum sander and use a dremel tool in the detailed edges (yes, that is just as time consuming as it sounds).

The hearts are either burned in, or painted on in one of three colors, depending on the preference of my customer.

The finish is something I had to work on for a long time to get right. Originally, I used polycrylic, but I hated the color change (although, it was much better than polyurethane!). Eventually, I landed on a tung oil for the backs and edges, and clear wax/oil finish that I make myself for the front side. The wax does not change the color of the boards at all, which gives me a great deal of control over the final result. If anything can be learned from this, it is that grey barnwood will ONLY stay grey if you finish it with wax. I have found no other solutions, but if you find one, then let me know :)

The sheen is controlled by buffing. I use 3 or 4 coats of wax/oil on each. Because of the process to get them just right, the finishing stage can take a week.

Then I add two braces to the back to keep them flat. I drill out slightly elongated holes in the braces and screw them to the back before adding picture hanging wire…and a pretty bow, because I’m a girl and it makes for a nice presentation. :)

That’s it, that is what I have spent my last 6 months in the shop doing! Looking forward to some changes soon :) Next, I’m doing California, Georgia, South Dakota and Colorado (ok, Colorado is going to be really boring…)!

Thanks for looking!

-- - Montana sucks. Tell your friends.

5 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18389 posts in 3875 days

#1 posted 09-07-2015 07:17 AM

Nice work,

That’s it, that is what I have spent my last 6 months in the shop doing! Looking forward to some changes soon :) Next, I’m doing California, Georgia, South Dakota and Colorado (ok, Colorado is going to be really boring…)!

You could carve eh Rockies on it. That would make it a bit more interesting ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Northwest29's profile


1661 posts in 2689 days

#2 posted 09-07-2015 11:55 AM

Very interesting projects and done really well. I like the finished pieces very much. Thanks for sharing your experience.

-- Ron, Eugene, OR, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

View ScottMorrison's profile


149 posts in 3176 days

#3 posted 09-07-2015 03:00 PM

Montana says “Thank you”!!!

-- Scott Morrison, Montana,

View oldnovice's profile


7325 posts in 3566 days

#4 posted 09-07-2015 11:37 PM

I really like the looks of your finished “states” as the age of the boards really stands out.

I am in the process of making something similar out of 40 year old aged cedar fencing boards.
My design is for a 2’×3’ (approximately 3 fence boards) Montana board for my brother who lives in Missoula (don’t tell him).

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View oldnovice's profile


7325 posts in 3566 days

#5 posted 09-08-2015 02:28 AM

Bob, if you were to add the Rockies, they would not show up because of the size of Montana, 147,046 square miles and the highest peak, Granite Peak is 12,799 feet, a ratio of 0.0000164849 of area to height.
Even the highest peak wouldn’t be visible.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

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