Sunday, January 24, 2016

Reclaimed Wood Projects

A gentleman contacted me a few weeks ago, saying he had a bunch of reclaimed barn wood that he'd like to use for a coffee table and some end tables, and if I thought I could build them for him. Below are the videos of those builds.

To start with, the wood he provided me was in rough shape. It was old, very dry, cracking, and prone to splitting and splintering. To further complicate matters, he and his wife had decided they wanted to preserve the look of the old, weathered wood, which meant they did not want me to resurface the boards in any way, shape, or form. That mean I couldn't run them through the planer or do any sanding.

Since I couldn't alter the wood, I had a difficult task when it came to joinery. Wood glue will not stick to dirt, and this stuff had plenty of dirt, grime, old paint, and who knows what else on it. I could have went with mortise and tenons with wedges, but I've never really done anything like that before. And I also wasn't too sure how well this wood would have held up to being cut that way (the wood, being as dry as it was, could very well split when I went to drive a wedge in). Basically my only other option was pocket holes, so that's the route I took.

The first step I took was to make the table tops and shelves. I did defy them in one regards, I had to joint the edges of two large boards in order to glue them up into one big piece to make the top for the coffee table. My concerns about the condition of the wood was justified. When I ran them over my jointer, I got some splintering, so I used my hand planes, instead (I did the same for the large shelf that was to go on the coffee table). Glue up went smoothly, so I moved onto the leg construction.

They had some 4x4 posts they wanted to use for the legs of all three tables, so I cut four legs and left them at that size for the coffee table, and took two more 4x4 blanks and resawed them into legs for the end tables (I basically cut the pieces in half, then cut them in half again).

I moved onto making the aprons (or rails, or stetchers....whatever you want to call them, they're the pieces of wood that join the legs together and hold the tops/shelves in place). Again, not trusting the condition of the wood, I did a rough cut of these on my bandsaw, and then used my crosscut sled on the table saw to cut them to exact length. I drilled the pocket screws in each piece and set them aside, and prepared to assemble the tables.

Assembly went pretty good, I only had a couple of issues overall with keeping everything square (remember, I couldn't mill the wood up, so there was bound to be issues of proper alignment).

It was at this stage that they informed me that instead of putting on a clear coat of finish, they'd just leave them as is, mainly because I mentioned that with the wood being dirty and still having residue on it (as they requested), then any finish more than likely would start to come off over time. I also mentioned to them that in cutting the wood, I had exposed fresh wood on some of the edges, and gave them some options for me to try and get these edges to match the original look. Staining was out of the question, as I couldn't find anything that matched. I tried to use the baking soda trick and vinegar and steel wool, but neither produced the results I needed. So instead I mixed up two different colors of stains (water-based), diluted them, then lightly brushed it on. I did this in several passes, letting it dry between coats, and that seemed to do the trick. I did make a suggestion to them that, when they got around to it, they could coat them with some kind of penetrating oil, like Tung oil or Danish oil.

I delivered the tables and they loved them. Would I build something like this for my own home? Probably not, as they're not my style and would also look awkward in a 115-year old Victorian home. Will I build something like this again? It depends, really, on what condition the wood is in. I certainly would not attempt to do this again with wood like what I just used, I will say that.

Coffee table

End tables


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