Introduction: 100 Yr Old Barn Board Shelf

About: I build, I write, I film... Mostly a woodworker.

Sometimes the story is more interesting than the project.

Some time ago, a friend came to the door and put this piece of 100 year old barn board in my hands. This was a piece of wood from her family farm — specifically from the family barn. The barn had fallen down, and the property was no longer in the family.

She only asked for two things. First, the big nails sticking out of one end needed to stay. And Second, she wanted it turned into some sort of shelf.

There would be no finish, no planing, no pristine clean joints. This was a rough piece of barnboard and it was going to stay a rough piece of barnboard.

But it would be a very special memento to her.

Step 1: Option: Video Build

If you would prefer, you can watch a video of this project build. Otherwise, read on!

Step 2: Save the Nails!

These nails needed to be saved, but they were most definitely in the way. So, the first step was to remove these three nails and put them aside. Later, I used a hacksaw to cut them down so that when they were reinstalled they would no longer stick through the back.

Step 3: Rough Out Some Ideas

My friend managed to procure another board from the barn. This gave me a bit more material to work with, so I could leave the original board intact and use this one for the shelf and brackets. However, it was full of nails. So those also needed to be removed before using any power tools on this.

I cut a chunk off of this board, and it fell into two pieces, due to a split. The one piece was just about right for a shelf. The other piece I cut two triangular sections from to provide brackets.

If you watch the video you will see that I used a tablesaw and bandsaw. However, keep in mind that this is a rough barnboard project. You could do almost all of the cuts with a jigsaw or handheld circular saw. (Or even a hand saw if you were feeling energetic!)

Step 4: Mocking It Up.

Here, I am mocking up a design with some pieces. I compared the look of one shelf support bracket versus two, and I thought that two looked better. The shelf is a bit big a this point, but on the whole this first design is what I decided to build.

Step 5: Reinforcement

I ripped the shelf down to four inches in width. I then drill three holes in it each about two-three inches long, and glued in some dowels. The shelf had some deep cracks that I wanted to reinforce in a hidden way. These dowels were then cut off flush with the back once the glue had dried.

The large board also needed some reinforcement.

There was a pretty pronounced crack in the large board that would serve as the back of the project. The shelf would serve as reinforcement for the lower part. For the top, I traced out a piece of thin 1/8" plywood and routed out a shallow recess in the back of the board with a trim router.

I then glued and clamped the plywood into that recess.

Step 6: Putting It Together

The shelf and brackets were then positioned in a pleasing manner on the backer board. I marked their locations and then removed them and drilled holes for screws from the front. In this way I could locate the screws exactly in the center of the boards. I then flipped the boards over and countersuck the holes from the back.

I applied some woodglue to the shelf, clamped it into position, and then screwed in two screws from behind.

In many ways, this is a strange project for me. I am so used to planing and sanding things smooth, and working to have clean and tight joints. This is all rough, and the ends are most definitely NOT straight.

Step 7: Remember the Nails!

It's now time to replace those nails that I saved.

Earlier I had used a hacksaw to cut the nails short so that they did not stick through the back of the board.

I then added some tape to the back of the board, so that the epoxy would not leak through.

I mixed up some five minute epoxy and used that to glue the three nails into position. Two nails were set flush with the face, and one is left sticking out. It could serve as a hook to hold a hat or a set of keys or some such.

Step 8: Hanger

I used a forstner bit to drill a shallow recess at the top of the back of the board. This is so the project will sit flush on the wall when hanging on a nail or screw. I also added a serrated hanger strap across the top of the hole.

In the next photo you can see how it hangs nicely flush to the wall.

Step 9: Photo Gallery

Here are several photos of the finished project.

Now I said at the beginning that there was no finish. However, I did thoroughly brush it (with a dustpan brush) several times to clean the pieces. I also went over it lightly with some 150 grit sandpaper to make sure that there were no splinters or other roughness.

My friend will be looking for a piece of mirror to glue to this. She also saw the leftover wood and persuaded me to make her a second one -- she might keep that or pass it on to one of her relatives.