Reclaimed Wood Questions

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Forum topic by Autorotate posted 12-29-2015 10:48 PM 820 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Autorotate's profile


40 posts in 1118 days

12-29-2015 10:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: reclaimed recycled barnwood farmhouse table stain oak chestnut pine hemlock


I am building a dining room table and would like to do it out of reclaimed wood (barn wood, planks, or similar). I would like to get an overall finish of 5/4 and had a few questions. I figure it is easier to list them so it is not all jumbled together.

I am looking to finish in a dark walnut and will add a few pictures below.

- Is there a better wood to use for finishing purposes (Oak, chestnut, Pine, etc)? I would rather something harder with a history and not box store pine and distress myself.

- How far can I sand before I will ruin the “distressed” look? I planned on getting something around 6/4 and sanding/planing down to 5/4 after glue-up.

- Does the distressed color of the wood matter if I plan on staining anyway (i.e. gray siding or planks)?

- What is a good way to stain/seal if I wanted the lowest sheen possible? (Waterloo, Tung, etc)?

- An of course any general information/tips you can provide!! Thanks all!!

Dimensions: 96”x45”x5/4

5 replies so far

View MadMark's profile


979 posts in 1652 days

#1 posted 12-30-2015 12:32 AM

Instead of trying to make pine look like walnut, why not just use walnut?

To give it a distressed look use chain in a burlap bag, & round parts of the edges with a belt sander. Put the walnut stain on heavy and be aggressive removing it in the wear spots.


-- Madmark -

View Autorotate's profile


40 posts in 1118 days

#2 posted 12-30-2015 12:48 AM

Hello MadMark,

I was trying to stay away from the Pine. Most of the reclaimed barns around me are oak, chestnut, hemlock, etc. I did not want to distress the wood myself. The Black Walnut is plentiful in my area, but I do not want to distress the wood myself.

View sawdustdad's profile


366 posts in 1084 days

#3 posted 12-30-2015 01:06 AM

Oak, chestnut and hemlock will all make a nice table. Just pick one wood and use throughout for the top, do not mix them up in the top. (the legs/bottom could be different I suppose, but probably best to stay with the same species throughout).

Oak is dense and hard. Chestnut is softer, lighter, and is largely extinct. About the only source is old barns. It’s a wonderful wood to work, though. So that would be neat if you can do it. Hemlock is a conifer—in effect, pine.

If it were me, I’d go with Chestnut if I could get it.

You can’t sand the boards much if you want the patina. Scrub with a scotchbrite pad and blow the dust off with an air compressor or vacuum it up.

If you plane the boards, the result will be a new, flat surface, perhaps with some interesting grain patterns/staining, etc. but a dead flat “new” surface. Some like the look and it’s certainly OK for a table. but it’s not the aged patina of the barn wood.

You can’t plane one side of the boards to make them thinner without planing both sides equally because that will encourage warping from differential drying. So you either plane both sides or neither side.

Depending on the look you are going after, you’ll have to decide on which approach to take. personally, if I had some neat old barn wood and wanted a table, I’d plane both sides to have a flat, functional table, where glasses and dishes would sit flat. I don’t think I’d stain it, though. I’d let the natural wood colors and streaks speak for themselves. (if the wood were plain, without any interesting grain patterns, I might stain it to match surrounding furniture because you wouldn’t really be covering up anything particularly interesting).

Good luck and post pictures when you’re done. Sounds like a neat project!

-- Murphy's Carpentry Corollary #3: Half of all boards cut to a specific length will be too short.

View jdmaher's profile


437 posts in 2778 days

#4 posted 12-30-2015 01:14 AM

You can certainly get oak to stain that dark. I always believe pine is too soft for table tops, but it likely would be quite distressed and many people like the dings it develops over time. I love the look of chestnut and its rare around me, and personally would never stain it so I don’t know how that would work.

The couple of times I’ve used distressed wood (oak), I brushed it (by hand) with a brass bristle brush, then sanded down the raised grain – which left most of the dents. These were fairly small pieces, and pretty straight so I only planed the back side to get my thickness – which left plenty of character on the face.

For me, most of the gray went away with the brushing, and a lot more with the sanding. I used a trans tint dye to add some brown, and the deepest remaining gray came out darker. Look was more stripe-y than blotchy, kind of like mineral streaks, natural enough looking that it didn’t bother me.

I don’t know but I’ve been told that steel wool is the best way to achieve low luster (I’m satisfied with satin from the can).

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View Autorotate's profile


40 posts in 1118 days

#5 posted 12-30-2015 01:44 AM

Sawdustdad and JD,

Thank you guys very much for the valuable input. I have a few places near me locally that I am supposed to go look at their material. I am also leaning towards the chestnut or oak and definitely staying away from the softer stuff. I will probably wait until the holiday breaks so everyone is back on normal business hours.

I was also looking on WoodPlanet and eBay for reclaimed wood and they had quite a selection.

I am most likely going to have to plane or drum sand it down at least 1/8-1/4 inch. By the time I dowel and glue-up all the planks, I know I will have to shave some off to keep them even. Although I love the whole “distressed/reclaimed” thing, I still have to remember that I need to eat off of it….haha I will probably do a clean sided glue-up and then take down the edges as well.

This will give me a good project for the next month or so depending when I start. I am most concerned with how I am going to stain and seal it.

Thanks again!

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