We’re lucky to live and work in New England, home to some of the oldest buildings in the country. Many of these are carefully disassembled at the end of their useful lives and their lumber sold as reclaimed and antique wood. Here at Bingham Lumber in Brookline, NH, we’re proud of the fact that we’re one of the area’s largest suppliers of antique wood to professional builders and do-it-yourself woodworkers.
Antique wood is highly prized for construction and furniture-making because of its many attractive characteristics:
- Unique coloring, markings, and wear patterns
- Unmatched strength and stability
- Dimensions and grades unavailable in modern lumber
- Some species available that are no longer commercially harvested
There are many reasons to use antique wood for Brookline, NH, starting with the fact that it preserves living natural resources. In fact, there is nothing “greener” than reclaimed lumber since it has already been cut down and initially processed, it takes less effort, energy, and materials to recondition and repurpose for new uses.
Because much of the charm of antique wood lies in the beauty of its aged surfaces, many buyers are concerned about how to finish it to enhance that beauty. For this reason, applying a clear finish is often recommended. Here are 4 options for finishing a piece of antique lumber while still preserving its natural appearance:
- Polyurethane: Water-based polyurethanes are low in toxicity and odor, a definite plus when finishing your antique wood indoors. They also have the advantage of not discoloring the wood piece. While it is quick to dry, it is less immune to the rigors of sunlight and water. Oil-based polyurethane, on the other hand, is superior to water-based in that it can withstand high heat and prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. However, it takes longer to cure and has a long drying time. Also, it has a considerably higher VOC content (volatile organic compounds), so it must be applied in well-ventilated areas. NOTE: It can leave an amber tint to some woods.
- Polyacrylic: This is a water-based, oil-modified polyurethane — a hybrid-form of polyurethane that offers some distinct advantages. Its low odor makes it ideal for working in unventilated spaces, and it’s easily cleaned up with just soap and water. Also, it dries quickly to the touch, although it still takes a little time to cure completely. Polyacrylic can be applied by brush or sprayed onto the wood’s surface making it a versatile choice. It creates a crystal-clear finish when applied correctly, without the amber tint that oil-based finishes leave behind. One of the only disadvantages to using polyacrylic on antique wood is that it has proven to be less effective in protecting surfaces that are exposed to high heat.
- Varnish: Varnish is made of alkyd resin, oil, and solvents and has been used to protect the wood of ships for over two centuries. It’s an excellent option for weatherproofing and sun protection, making it one of the leading products for use on decks and outdoor furniture. However, it’s similar to polyurethane in that it can leave your antique wood with a vaguely yellow hue, so be advised.
Shellac: Shellac is a versatile, non-toxic antique wood finish that enhances wood’s natural grain while adding smoothness without the plastic-like qualities of polyurethane or lacquer. Also, it offers the option of a clear or tinted finish. It should be avoided for projects that need to withstand extreme temperatures or require superior durability like tables and floors. That being said, it’s an excellent option for those wishing to use natural products.
If you’d like to add both quality and a sense of history to your next construction or furniture-building project, consider antique wood. Our experts will be happy to help you select just the right reclaimed lumber to meet your needs.