Vintage lumber ID

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Forum topic by Brinybay posted 02-13-2015 02:17 AM 1022 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 1199 days

02-13-2015 02:17 AM

I’m not a woodworker, just a homeowner who was clearing some debris away from the fence in preparation to have it replaced. There were some old beams next to the fence mostly buried. I thought they were old railroad ties because the previous owner used RR ties to border the garden. They had rotted away and we removed them some time ago.

But when I went to dig up and dispose of these pieces of vintage lumber, I could see they were much too large for RR ties. Two to them were held together at one end by a metal tab of some sort. They also look like they were in a fire. Our house is 100 years old, and as far as we know, it never burned, unless this happened sometime before 1914.

I would be interested to find out if anybody can approximate the age of these beams by the size or style.

9 replies so far

View firefighterontheside's profile


18200 posts in 1856 days

#1 posted 02-13-2015 02:24 AM

Pretty tough to say from that. Maybe if you cut one with a chainsaw or otherwise expose the wood it would help. If they’ve been in contact with the ground for a long time they must either be treated in some way or a rot resistant wood such as white oak or cedar. If they were creosoted you may smell it when cutting it.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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1743 posts in 2476 days

#2 posted 02-13-2015 02:25 AM

They sure look like RR ties to me. Probably treated with creosote.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

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2 posts in 1199 days

#3 posted 02-13-2015 03:22 AM

I went out and measured them. About 5X7 on the ends and 8-9ft long. It’s the length and the fact that two of them were joined at one end with the metal tab that makes me think they were something other than RR ties.

Update: You’re right, they’re RR ties. They come in those lengths at Home Depot.

Sorry for seemingly trivial post, but I’ve been trying to research the history of this old house and any artifacts I find (and I’ve found some dating back to the 20s) I try to ID to get some clues.

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579 posts in 1935 days

#4 posted 02-13-2015 03:30 AM

Look like RR ties to me also. They were used for a lot of general building of wood plank bridges.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


4139 posts in 2309 days

#5 posted 02-13-2015 06:55 AM

What do they measure?

Standard Ties = 7” x 9” x 8.5’ or 9’ long (mostly 8.5’—- some 7×8 and 6×8 also in use)

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View bowedcurly's profile


519 posts in 1729 days

#6 posted 02-13-2015 07:43 AM

throw them away railroad ties, when you cut them open you will smell what I mean

-- Staining killed the wood<<<<<>>>>>Dyeing gave it life

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2514 days

#7 posted 02-13-2015 12:34 PM

I used to live about 15 miles from a creosote plant that made ties. They also made a lot of other products also, such as fence posts, power line stretchers, ground contact beams, etc.
You stuff definitely looks creosoted.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

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5494 posts in 2265 days

#8 posted 02-13-2015 05:38 PM

Yup. old rotting railroad ties.

View lndfilwiz's profile


104 posts in 1600 days

#9 posted 02-13-2015 05:47 PM

They could be old railroad bridge planks

-- Smile, it makes people wander what you are up to.

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