There is nothing quite like reclaimed wood for just about any woodworking project, especially furniture. To be clear, reclaimed lumber encompasses quite a bit of previously-used wood – it is not necessarily all old wood. Last year’s shipping pallets are just as much reclaimed wood as last century’s barn siding. The difference is in the eye of the beholder and what’s available.
Of course, nothing beats really old, aged timbers and planks reclaimed from old homes, farm buildings, commercial and even industrial structures. Quality older lumber is remarkably strong and stable and often available in dimensions simply unavailable in modern lumber. Add to this the coloring, texture, weathering and worn spots of decades- and even centuries-old wood and you’ve got stock with remarkable character.
If you weren’t already excited about using reclaimed wood for your next furniture project, hopefully you are now. But it’s important to realize that reclaimed wood needs some extra attention prior to working with it. It’s crucial to:
- Make sure it’s kiln-dried to remove any remaining moisture (even really old wood can retain moisture) and to kill any insects that might be hiding
- Inspect all reclaimed wood for hidden nails, screws, and other metal that can damage tools and equipment
- Thoroughly clean old wood to remove dirt, dust, and embedded debris
- Double-check dimensions: old wood typically features truer dimensions – 2x4s were really 2x4s – so know what you actually are working with as you plan your project and before you start cutting
- Depending on the look you’d like to achieve with your furniture, you may want to retain as much of the older look as possible by doing minimal processing. Still, a light sanding is almost always in order – it will create a better surface to work with while still keeping its character
If you’re going for a cleaner, more finished look that takes down a bit more surface material, don’t worry – the tighter grain and coloration of older reclaimed wood is unmistakable and still provides plenty of unique charm to the finished piece. It’s important to remember, though, that if you rip pieces down, the exposed fresh lumber will be distinctly different from uncut surfaces. If you’re resizing pieces but want to retain the old look on all surfaces you may have to rip some reclaimed wood veneers to cover the fresh cuts.
We love reclaimed wood here at Bingham Lumber and take pride in the wide assortment of reclaimed siding, timbers, beams, planking, trim, and more that we have in stock and obtain regularly as it becomes available — all responsibly sourced from trusted suppliers. We’d be happy to help you find just the right reclaimed wood for your next furniture project.