Reclaiming weathered wood - how successful is it?

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Forum topic by Elizabeth posted 10-13-2010 12:31 AM 4759 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Elizabeth's profile


817 posts in 3139 days

10-13-2010 12:31 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question reclaimed weathered wood teak mahogany

Hi all,

A guy just outside town has offered me some weathered wood that is on his property. I don’t know what condition it’s in.

When he bought the property the prior owner left a boat frame he had been working on. He says it is probably teak and mahogany, and is several ribs and part of the bow of a decent sized boat. It has been out in Oregon weather for some period of time, I don’t know how long but I am guessing years.

I’m going out to take a look at it on Saturday but I was wondering if anyone here has any experience working with reclaimed wood and whether you can give a guess as to there being any useable wood there or not. I’m still a beginner woodworker and haven’t worked with much that isn’t sold by lumberyards.

I know I haven’t given many details here! I haven’t got many. But any suggestions would be useful. If it’s covered with moss and falling apart from termites I know not to bring it back to my shop, but I don’t know enough to be aware of other more subtle problems on first glance. (I do know how to recognize woodworm holes but I don’t know whether they’d go for wood that is out in the open.)


14 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4213 days

#1 posted 10-13-2010 01:13 AM

If you want to know how good weathered wood can be, check out this project, and be sure to look at the photo of the wood it came from.

If the wood is rotten all the way through, that should be obvious. Otherwise, you’ve probably got some buried treasure beneath the surface.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Tracey615's profile


19 posts in 2793 days

#2 posted 10-13-2010 01:36 AM

Here on my property, at the old oil well rig sites, are some sheds made from 5/4 oak. The wood was cut here on the property in the 1920’s, never painted. It is very dark (black for the most part), and very rough. I use it for making signs and bird houses. I try not to burn any of it because of its age and usefullness. I would not run it through a planer in any case. It is very hard, but suprisingly easy to work with. The beams which are 4X6 and 6X8 are not so dark. The rocker arms are made from larger pieces and have been laying on the ground for 50-60 years. The cable wheels are made from pieces 4-5 inches thick, and work well for bowl and ornament turning. I occasionally find a good piece for carving, but only rarely. It is exciting to gather from the standpoint of the copperheads believing that they are the owners of the wood. I’m verrrrrrrry careful when gathering. The biggest drawback for this type wood is the hidden metal embedded in it.

-- Trace the Bald

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3817 days

#3 posted 10-13-2010 01:55 AM

The other thing I would add is that weathered wood has plenty of dirt and grit on the surface that will do a number on jointer and planer knives. If I use barn lumber, for example, I start the milling process by belt sanding the wood to remove most of the grit and grime and hopefully expose any hidden metal since I do not have a metal detector.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3169 days

#4 posted 10-13-2010 02:05 AM

Don’t know anything about this, but … aren’t there often fairly toxic chemicals used with marine wood ??

Would that ONLY be true of exterior wood, and ONLY true if it was obviously painted ?

Anybody ?

-- -- Neil

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3336 days

#5 posted 10-13-2010 02:24 AM

take an ice pick
or pocket knife and jab the wood with it
if it is punky the blade will sink in to solid wood
most boats don’t get any toxins
till they are built
before the water
any Wood will turn to ‘barnboards’
if left in the sun to long

you never know what you might get
good luck !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Elizabeth's profile


817 posts in 3139 days

#6 posted 10-13-2010 07:20 PM

Charlie – wow, thanks so much for that link!

Tracey – I picked up a metal detecting wand at Woodcraft when they were on sale a week or two back; I’ll be sure to run it over everything. Thanks for the reminder.

Scott – I haven’t got a very large belt sander. Depending on the dimensions and any curves in the pieces, could I use a bandsaw to cut off the gritty/dirty surface layer, or is that a bad idea?

David, good idea – I’ll bring a pocket knife along.

View Elizabeth's profile


817 posts in 3139 days

#7 posted 10-18-2010 07:54 PM

Update -

On saturday I collected one and a half station-wagon-loads of wood. We had to cut the ribs into thirds to get it into my car so the pieces range from 3 feet to about 5 feet long. Most of it is about one to 1.5 inches thick, except the keel which is three of these pieces put together. A lot of it has nails that need removing so I’ll be working on that. One straight piece had no nails so I sanded some of the old wood off and sent it through the jointer. It’s gorgeous – very tight straight grain. That piece is probably fir, and there’s one more like it, but everything else is a much heavier wood. I’ll have to get the nails out before I can clean up those pieces.

The guy who gave the wood to me said he put it outside when he got the house (about 7 years ago) but coated it with some deck treatment stuff first to prevent it from rotting. It worked – there’s only one small rot spot that we noted, on all of the pieces.

I gave him one of my rosewood turned pens as a thank you and I think we both were very pleased at the transaction.

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2875 days

#8 posted 10-18-2010 09:08 PM

My dads friend just recently tore his deck off his house as he was replacing with new lumber. The old deck was really weathered on the outside but was all Redwood. Me and my dad picked up a trailer full of it and as weathered and ugly as it was on the outside once we planed it down a little it was like brand new.

If you have a lot of nail holes you might want to get a plug cutter if you don’t all ready have one. I picked one up for the Redwood and when I use a board I just drill the nail holes out and fill them with a plug cut from the same wood. Its easy to match the grain and sometimes you can hardly tell there was a hold there.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Condor1's profile


64 posts in 2972 days

#9 posted 10-25-2010 08:41 PM

I use quite a bit of salvaged Cypress lumber for my projects. The first thing I do before I use it is to power warsh the boards to remove all the dirt that will damage the milling knives and saw blades. this will also show you where the soft spots are, if there are any. If you don’t have a power washer then head to the local car wash to clean it up. I personally like weathered stock for the character it adds to my projects. Another note. If I am looking for an antique look, I will mix up a small batch of epoxy rosin and thin it with a little Acetone (Polyester rosin will also work). When you pour this mix into slightly rotten wood it normally turns the soft punkey wood a darker color and hardens it. You can then machine it as you would new wood.

-- There are times when a mistake is remembered as your best work.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3298 days

#10 posted 10-25-2010 09:10 PM

im glad that you scored some good salvaged wood…that is what i use mostly and i love it…ive made tables and desks from old wood that had the nail hole’s, i left mine..but could have done as suggested , and plugged them..but you will have some terrific wood there…...make sure you post a project that you make from this wood…i would love to see what you do with it….grizzman

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Elizabeth's profile


817 posts in 3139 days

#11 posted 10-29-2010 06:29 PM

Here’s the wood that I got. It’s rainy season now so it’s under a tarp but I brought a few pieces into the shop to start with. First I have to pull all the nails! Then I’ll clean it up and figure out what to make with it first.

Here’s the pen that I gave him in exchange:

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4213 days

#12 posted 10-29-2010 07:32 PM

I’m betting you’ve got some real treasures in there.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3658 days

#13 posted 10-29-2010 07:54 PM

About 3 years ago, I bought some re-claimed 8/4 red oak that came from a barn the was being torn down for $1 a board. The boards were 6’ to 10’ in length and between 6” and 10” wide. The roof had been blown off the barn many years ago, so there was a fair amount of weathering on all of the salvaged stuff.

I avoided boards with the worst faults (splits, checking, etc.), and was a surprised how nice the boards I bought cleaned up … got a lot of 5/4 and resawed 3/4. I have one board left, and I am saving it for a table I plan to build.

Since I only had a $10 bill with me, I only bought 10 boards and when I went back somebody else had bought the whole lot.

Wish I would have had sense enough to carry more cash!

If you look at my projects, you’ll see a bunch of Mission furniture built with this salvaged lumber.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View JBfromMN's profile


107 posts in 2772 days

#14 posted 10-29-2010 08:43 PM

A friend of mine was taking down the deck that was on the front of his house. He bought the house a few years back and wanted to replace the deck because the framming for the deck was falling apart. He figured the deck to be 20+ years old. It was all of the supports that were rotting away, however the deck boards themselves were just greyed with age. The guy that was doing the work for him said the deck boards were in pretty good shape. So he called me up and asked if I wanted any of it.

When I went to check it out, he had cut into one of the boards to see what it looked like. Turns out it was 1 3/4 X 6 redwood that had a tongue and grooves milled into them for the deck. Seemed strange to me to have a deck surface of tongue and grooved wood but what ever. I was able to get about 50 boards all 12 feet long.

I stickered them on the side of my garage/woodshop and there they sat for a few months. I finally got around to taking a better look at the wood a little bit ago. I was able to cut out the parts that were sitting on the rotten frame, and then milled it all flat and square. Turns out it was wonderful aged redwood. I ended up building an outdoor table and benches with some of it. I still have about 1/3 of the wood left. Here is a shot of the table. I keep meaning to take some more photos and post them to my projects.

As you can see in the background, the entertainment project is back there. So this one has taken quite a while.

Point of the post is that reclaimed wood is great. Be careful for hidden fasteners and clean it all off before it hits the machines.

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