Finishing and prepping reclaimed wood

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Forum topic by yooper posted 02-12-2012 10:12 PM 16285 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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216 posts in 3003 days

02-12-2012 10:12 PM

All, I have a bunch of general questions, and maybe there is a good website that someone could direct to besides your personal experiences and expertise.
I just came across an awesome architectural salvage yard (Brooklyn, CT) with sheds full of reclaimed old wood flooring, doors, walls, beams, etc. My question is if you want to make something from old flooring/barnwood how do you prep the wood without losing all the cool old patina, but yet get rid of all the dirt (or is the dirt really patina)?. Do you wash it, lightly sand it or do you just slap a coat of finish on it when the project is done? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

-- Jeff, CT - keep calm and make sawdust

10 replies so far

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Bill White

5106 posts in 4137 days

#1 posted 02-12-2012 10:28 PM

Just depends. I know that ya wanted to hear that….........
Most times I will use a wire brush to “dust off” all the crap that has accumilated then , I’ll run the wood thru the planer to “skip plane” the stuff. That will leave me with an idea as to what I have to work. Planing will leave a representation as to what the material will will yield.
I’m one of those wierd guys who wants to leave some of the characteristics (did I spell that right?), and work with what I have.
I built a great old dining table from some floor sills that were used in a church built on the Maryland shore about 1840. Left nail holes and some saw marks. Ya ain’t gonna pry that from Maggie’s dining room.
Old wood is GREAT wood.


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21546 posts in 2860 days

#2 posted 02-12-2012 10:37 PM

Just some old pine tongue and groove floor boards…..

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

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17719 posts in 3183 days

#3 posted 02-12-2012 11:39 PM

yooper .. ive used a pressure washer to get most of the old dirt and grime off and that seems to help out on ruining blades but until you KNOW its nail free grab a junky old blade to start. A belt sander works really well to keep some of the years on it. I guess it all depends on what you would like the final product to look like.

On a side note id love to get the addy of that place in brooklyn … im in central ct. LJ Local!

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

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216 posts in 3003 days

#4 posted 02-12-2012 11:59 PM

Hi Chrisstef. It’s Brooklyn Restoration Supply – Owner’s name is Rudy
12 Gorman Rd, Brooklyn, CT 06234
1 860.774.6759

-- Jeff, CT - keep calm and make sawdust

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17719 posts in 3183 days

#5 posted 02-13-2012 12:06 AM

ohh thats got road trip written all over it … thanks for the tip. Good luck on the reclaimed project.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

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216 posts in 3003 days

#6 posted 02-13-2012 12:34 AM

Christtef – Wear old clothes and gloves. It’s dusty, dirty, dark and cool as heck. Enjoy.

-- Jeff, CT - keep calm and make sawdust

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17719 posts in 3183 days

#7 posted 02-13-2012 01:50 AM

man if i didnt have that stupid job to pay the stupid mortgage id be there in the morning, sounds like my kinda digs.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

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13 posts in 2940 days

#8 posted 02-13-2012 03:14 AM

I agree with chrisstef, I’ve powersprayed doors & other lumber from barns, wide nozzel, not too close. Then I stacked them like fresh cut lumber, stickers and all. I fit the doors in a cabin. A spray coat of water based poly and all the character remained.

-- Ten Acre Woods, Ford River, Michigan

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14940 posts in 2866 days

#9 posted 02-13-2012 03:48 AM

I run my reclaimed barnwood through the drum sander starting with 50 grit. It is slow enough going that you can moniter the amount of ‘character’ you want to retain and stop sanding/ go to finer grits at that point. The dirt and grit in this old wood will kill planer blades pretty quick and a planer will remove ‘character’ very quickly. Not to mention the odd nail stub that will ruin your planer blades instantly!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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156 posts in 2474 days

#10 posted 02-21-2012 02:27 AM


Not too sure if this plays into your question about reclaimed wood, but I have a great tip for you and others when it comes to cleaning out the tongues and grooves in old gymnasium hardwood flooring.

I was fortunate enough to have purchased and removed over 500 sq. ft. of hard maple flooring out of the old junior high that both my wife and I attended in our small town in MN. Every lineal inch was coated or packed with many, many years of gym seal and dirt. I tried many different types of grinding devices to clean the tongues and the grooves so that I could lay this gorgeous wood flooring in our house.

(I also tried liquid strippers, which was a huge mess and very dangerous.)

Finally in the middle of the night, the light bulb went off. Heat!! I purchased an extremely hot air gun from our local tool store. With the very hot air and many, many metal paint can openers (they fit perfectly down into the grooves), I would clean 10-12 inches at a time.

Long story short…one year later I was done. I could do maybe 60-80 lineal feet a night. Can’t count how many hours it took, but it was worth every single second.

Now when we have our friends over, we all laugh at how we can reminisce about playing on this very same floor as children.

Hope this helps, Dale.

P.S. I think I went through at least 4 dozen of those paint can openers. :)

-- If at first you don't succeed...DO NOT try skydiving.

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