How To Re-saw barn beams

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Forum topic by Sam_Fox posted 12-31-2009 02:54 AM 22405 views 1 time favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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29 posts in 3233 days

12-31-2009 02:54 AM

Topic tags/keywords: barn beams oak black walnut re-saw resaw delta band saw bandsaw sanity reclaimed salvaged

Recently I gained access to a “pile” of old oak barn beams that were salvaged from a barn 30 years ago (It was over 100 years old when they demo’d it). They have been stored indoors for that period of time, so they are certainly dry. I ran out and bought myself a 14” delta band-saw (used) with the 6” re-saw extension and outfitted it with the Kreg fence with re-saw guide, the lumber wizard metal detector (which does me no good as I can’t pull any of the nails out anyway as they just break off) I quickly learned that this was not an easy task and that the saw was grossly under powered… so another hundred and fifty bucks later and I have myself a 2 hp Baldor powering through the beam. The first beam was so heavy that I had to cut it at 48” just to be able to lift it (barely) by myself. I was able to work it through the saw at just over 1” thick slabs and found that it is extremely difficult to cut a straight board. Thinking it through now, it seems that i would need a sled to run the beam through the saw to cut off the first pass to get a straight edge, but that just doesn’t seem like a reasonable task either.

Has anyone attempted this? Was this a colossal waste of my time and money? I know that these boards are riddled with nails, so i don’t think any mill would want to saw them for me with out them costing me an arm and a leg in blades. Also, because they are so dry, it will be difficult to get more than a few decent boards out of each beam as they have some pretty big splits.

If I am not straying off the path of sanity, then any words of encouragement would be great too. ; )



Also, love the site… lots of inspiration here!!

23 replies so far

View davidpettinger's profile


661 posts in 3229 days

#1 posted 12-31-2009 03:30 AM

Check in your area to see if there is any place that rent portable saw mills. I know that they are available here in the lower 48. They use a chainsaw so you do loose some with the wide kerf and the rough edge, but a chain saw blade can take some abuse from small bits of iron. On the bigger pieces, try digging around the iron with awls and picks to help loosen them. Remember, they’ve been in there for over 100 years. They just need some persuasion. :>)

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View skidiot's profile


73 posts in 3673 days

#2 posted 12-31-2009 03:35 AM

I resaw a lot of oak cribbing. They are small 4×4 max. You didnt say how big you timbers are. I joint 2 adjoining sides first. So then I have 2 nice flat faces to work with. One face goes down on the table the other against the rip fence. Works great. You stuff may be way to big for any of this to be practical

-- skidiot northern illinois

View Sam_Fox's profile


29 posts in 3233 days

#3 posted 12-31-2009 02:37 PM

I will call a couple rental outfits just to check, but a few people I talked to say no one carries portable mills for renting.

Unfortunately they are 8”x10” (between 10’ and 16’ long), which is much to big for my 6” jointer. I wonder if I could attach a straight edge to one side of the beam to run along the fence which should give me a pretty straight cut.

View Chiefk's profile


163 posts in 3800 days

#4 posted 12-31-2009 02:55 PM

Sam, I believe we must have bought wood from the same place. I too have some old white oak beams from an old barn. I wanted to use the wood to build a Mission styled bed. I checked the beams with my lumber wizard and discovered several of the beams had nails. I am struggling with coming up with a way to remove the nails. They do not come out easily. On the beams without nails, I used my 14” Rikon Delux bandsaw with a drift master fence to resaw the boards with great results. The resawn wood is really beautiful, but I still need a method to remove the nails without causing too much damage. Good luck and should you find a way to remove the nails and minimize the damage let me know. pkennedy

-- P Kennedy Crossville, TN

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3922 days

#5 posted 12-31-2009 03:20 PM

I bought a BIG OLD BARN, took it down and sent almost all the beams to a saw mill.

I think he charged me 400 bucks to have it all re-sawn, including pick-up and delivery but I’m pretty sure I paid him 650 because I didnt think 400 was enough. he also cut alll the hand hewn sides off, numbered and sequenced them so I could wrap them around newer structural beams.

Even at 650…..................that was cheap. The tally of white pine, ash, elm, hemlock was around 50,000 bfm.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Sam_Fox's profile


29 posts in 3233 days

#6 posted 12-31-2009 06:58 PM

I sure have been kicking myself lately as the 14”Rikon deluxe bandsaw was on sale at my local woodcraft before Christmas for about 50 bucks more than I have invested in my 15 year old Delta… I have been successful at cutting through most of the small nails that get in my way with out damaging the blades too much on the band saw. My main worry of course is the jointer and planer…

My main issues are the weight of the pieces, this seems to be primarily a two man job, and also the ability to get flat boards… I think later today I might try to ‘fasten’ a long straight piece of 3×4 ash I have sitting around and see if that helps with the flat board issue.

View dirtclod's profile


169 posts in 3889 days

#7 posted 01-03-2010 06:08 PM

I agree with rick3ddd…a bandsaw mill is typically how this is done on beams of that size. I would typically charge .25/bf + blades + nail removal. They’re too big to be tackled by most anything less. But if you’re determined enough…

You can remove those nails by first drilling small holes around them. Those you have already cut through can be punched out the other side.

If there’s one big split from end to end you can orient it so it will be isolated in one board.

“Even at 650……...............that was cheap. The tally of white pine, ash, elm, hemlock was around 50,000 bfm.”
Tell me he didn’t mill 50,000 for $.013 bf!

-- Wonderful new things are coming! - God

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3922 days

#8 posted 01-03-2010 07:11 PM


no, he milled almost all the post and beams (timber framed structure) where the beams were compremised structurallly, from felling the building/barn. All the really good beams I saved for mantles/fireplace, and smaller posts and beams ( 8×8 ) or less were re-used into other post and beam buildings. The tally of all the wood, including barn boards, flooring, interior walls and posts and beams was around 55K bfm.

I’m guessing but I think he milled around 5,000 bfm plus minus, for 650…...........still a good deal from where I sit.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View tnwood's profile


259 posts in 3115 days

#9 posted 01-03-2010 09:57 PM

It is better to move the saw and not the beams due to the weight. The contracting of a bandsaw mill is a good option. There are also Chain Saw Mills that are relatively inexpensive for your own use. I have a RipSaw portable bandsaw mill that would work great and it is for sale in TN. A RipSaw is a small hand held bandsaw mill driven by a chainsaw power head. Most mills won’t want to touch the beams if they are known to have nails.

View Sam_Fox's profile


29 posts in 3233 days

#10 posted 01-08-2010 03:08 AM

Thanks for the info guys… i was able to cut a few more boards nice a straight using a 12” pine board fastened to the beam for the first cut to follow the fence… but I missed a couple nails (even with the lumber wizard) and let me tell you, hitting a nail on the long edge sure kills a blade FAST… luckily I hit the nail near the end so i only had to burn through 3 inches of oak… what a pain!!! I may invest on temporarily owning a Ripsaw (or something like it)... i’ll keep ya posted.

thanks again everyone.


View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3363 days

#11 posted 01-09-2010 12:17 AM

I get the heebie jeebies just reading about trying to resaw massive beams with nails in them. NOT A GOOD IDEA!!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View hootr's profile


183 posts in 3375 days

#12 posted 01-09-2010 07:08 AM

check out Gary Fixler’s blog
i think it’s the best resaw jig i’ve seen, tho i still haven’t had time to build it
i don’t know how to link it
you’ll find it on his home page
good luck

-- Ron, Missouri

View oldwoodsale's profile


21 posts in 3003 days

#13 posted 04-05-2010 05:05 AM

Hi Sam and others. I Just found this thread and can offer some info I’ve learned over the past couple of years on this exact subject. Our company purchased the remains of an old whiskey distillery and we have 70,000 bf to cut. If you want you can view the particulars of the project on By training I’m a mechanical engineer and have been researching how to cut old barn beam. The vintage of the beams we have are about 120yrs and oak, very hard, lots of old cut nails. After many attempts pulling the nails is NOT worth the time and damages too much wood. As you have stated here the nails snap off and are about a quarter inch below the surface of the wood. So grabbing them is not possible unless you mill out all around the nail, then half the time is just snaps off again. SO cutting throught the nails is a must. We started building a special heavy band saw for this purpose. The KEY is the blade. Normal wood blades on a band mill do work, we tested them. BUT they do not survive even after a few nails. I looked all over the net and there are blades made for this purpose….sort of. Do a search for KRON brand Pallet blades. They are manufacuted for cutting up old pallets. Not as big as barn beams… but might work. I called a reseller and they can make them in sizes to order but they are a beefy blade and might not fit. I have not tested this blade yet, I’m sure there will be a learning curve on speed and wood feed rate. As I get more info I’ll pass it along.

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 3765 days

#14 posted 04-05-2010 06:22 AM

You might give a Lenox band saw blade dealer and ask them if they have a blade that will work. They have a lot of specialized blades for wood and metal cutting. I am thinking a hybrid blade will probably work.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View oldwoodsale's profile


21 posts in 3003 days

#15 posted 04-05-2010 11:51 AM

John, Yea I am going to try a Lenox BSB first. I cut a lot of metal and I get best results from a 5 to 8 tpi blade with a staggered rake. The blade is made for tubing and its very durable. I tested one on a piece of oak/nails and went through like butter, although it was only a few inches thick which was the limitation of the saw. What is your definition of a hybyrd blade?

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