How to Prepare Reclaimed Wood





Introduction: How to Prepare Reclaimed Wood

I bought some wood off of craigslist. The fellow said it was redwood from a barn. I decided to restore it rather than using it with the aged look.  The Instructable will describe how I went through the process of getting the wood ready to plane using the planer/jointer at TechShop.

What you will need:
* Eye protection
* Ear protection
* Respirator while sanding
* Old wood
* Access to a Jointer/Planer

Step 1: Remove Nails

Absolutely no metal can go through the planer/jointer. If there is a nail or staple in your wood it will damage the blades and you will have to buy new ones. 

To make sure your wood is metal free follow these steps:
*  Visually inspect the wood. 
*  Remove all nails, screws, staples, rocks.
*  Look for problem areas. Cracks, loose knots and rotten wood. You may not want to plane those boards.
*  Use a hand sander to sand all sides of the wood. You can get away with just one pass The sander will find any last metal you missed. You may be able to see the metal - as it will be a little shinny dot. Or you may hear a new sound when the sander hits the metal.
* Cut off the ends of the boards if they are not even. This will help the wood feed through the planner.

Step 2: Using the Planner

I am not going to go through the details about setting up the planer. The calls you can take at Techshop, or where ever you are using your planer will tell you that. 

Use eye protection
Wear short sleeves
Don't wear gloves or jewelry

Measure the width of your board. If it 2 inches, set the planer for 2.125 inches and run a test board through. It should slide right through. Adjust the machine in tiny bits until it is taking just a little bit of wood off of the board. You can see in the two pictures here that there is a little difference between the 1st and 2nd pass through. Some of my wood required 2 passes and others required 3. If you want all of your wood to be the same thickness, you will need to pass all of the boards through at the measurement of the thinest board. 

Most of my boards were 1x8. That means the true original measurement was 1.75 by 7.5.   After planing both sides the boards were close to 1/2 inch wide. 

Step 3: Using the Jointer

After planing each side of the boards I put the them through the jointer. This gave them a finished edge on all 4 edges.   You can't do anything with the ends but saw them straight.

This process took two people 3 hours  to remove nails and sand. It took one person 6 hours to plane all of the edges. The folks at TechShop Menlo Park and San Jose were a great help. 

My Son and I made a nice coffee table with the wood. We had to adjust the plans for the smaller width of the boards, but it seems the thinner wood will work just fine.



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22 Discussions

"Most of my boards were 1x8. That means the true original measurement was 1.75 by 7.5. After planing both sides the boards were close to 1/2 inch wide."

I don't follow. Am I crazy, or are 1x8's 1.75" wide? And that gets planed down to 1/2" wide?

1 reply

You're not crazy _for this_, but you're thinking of 2x8s; 1x8s are 3/4 x 7 1/4. Sorry you had to wait a month for a reply.

If you get a nick in a planner head...
Loosen one blade and move it about 1/32 to the left
Loosen a second blade and move it 1/32 to the right
Leave the third blade where it is.
now the "streak" from the nick will disappear.

5 replies

the old planer in my schools shop was a single blade so it wouldn't work on that

Hi Adam.. I don't see why it wouldn't. Mine is an old Foley floor model so theres enough room to slide the knives a bit. This trick as saved my hide in the midst of a project a couple times.. Best luck..FN..

Funny, you should say something now---today, I noticed mine has oil cups on knife the mount, filled it up with wd40, and oiled up the wheels, and the blades... woa, does it cut even better now... smooth, clean, clear cuts.... no more skipping, and its not taking off chunks of wood now, just clean shavings... helps having quality made old school stuff... Going to have to post up some of the stuff I have made, using recycled wood.

You planned and sanded away all the character of that wood. I mean it's a nice table you've got there, but it looks so average...

1 reply

Redwood is soft, and form follows function. A coffee table won't look nice or last generations if it's impossible to seal from liquid damage, and won't be comfortable to use if you can't slide a glass of milk across it without it catching a raised edge and tipping over... Not all reclaimed wood is good for all applications in the condition it's on once reclaimed from a structure.

You do not need A TechShop...I trolled Craigs list or a few days, and found a vintage Craftsman
Joiner/Planer from 1931, with its own wooden made cabinet, and shavings
catcher. I picked it up for $25 bucks!! You lean a new skill, and you could maybe make money, doing the work for your friends, and you got a really neat tool... BONUS!

Hey Adam - Great advice! I live in a mobile home and don't have a big enough shed to hold much in the way of tools. But maybe something smaller would work, like a nice sander or something.

All you'd really need (to be efficient with your time and space anyway) would be a power thickness planer (I really like my DeWalt, $399 at HD), a cheap table saw with fence (got my ProTech used for $15 years ago), and a mitre saw, powered or otherwise. The nice one the author has in his pics runs about $5-600, but it's top of the line and you can get by with the $10 plastic mitre box and handsaw. If make yourself a purpose-build wood tools and project table, you can store everything you need in less than a cubic yard, and have the benefit of a nice work surface as well. You could even put a table cloth on it and camouflage it in your house! I made mine from angle iron, with 3/4" plywood shelves that my power saws are bolted to, so when I need to switch saws I just pull out the right shelf and put it on top. Also added casters so it's easy to maneuver. This configuration keeps things tidy and saves me a ton of room in my garage shop, and also is safer because my power tools can't move or vibrate off of the table. BTW, Home Depot has been running a promotion where if you buy that sliding compound mitre, you get the nice heavy duty saw stand for free. You can also buy extra brackets to mount other tools to it, like a thickness planer.
Another note-- I'm a woodworker and know a few other serious ones, and we're all friendly and enjoy teaching others. If you ask around locally there's a good chance that you can make a friend that has the tools you'd like to have, who would be willing to show you how to use them before you buy. Just return the favor-- woodworking is usually a one-man show, and a second set of hands for an afternoon can often be a huge help. I live near Omaha-- if anyone wants to see and learn what I do, I'm always happy to have an apprentice for a day. Happy building!

If you can make 3-4 feet of space, along a wall... you'll have enough room. the older planers, are like the size of big shoe box, give or take. here is mine 100%

hey do not have to be like, shop size... to make a nice edge on boards... AND, really... you can use them as a surface planer too... Just set the table really high, so it just kisses the blade... and make a few passes till the face of the wood is the way you like it... bare in mind, pay attention to grain direction... if you find the grain, 2-3 passes, boards look new smooth... if not, it looks like shaving with a dull blade.... and you get plane-stubble. Not pretty. Just got back form casing pallets at a landscaping site, in my neighborhood... they left them for me, I did ask.

Also depending on the wood species, you can watch out for rust to silvery gray, even bluish-colored streaks running with the grain, which may be indicative of a broken-off nail or other ferrous metal remnant.

Nice reclaim and build! I've done a lot with the old barn wood too-- if you enjoyed that you should try to find some of the mixed hardwood barn wood that you see once in a while. I wanted to say that a cheap metal detector (around $30 at Harbor Freight) is a great tool for saving planer blades. Of course, you can pry find an Instructable on how to make one :-)
Here's a pic of a table I made from some of the kind of hardwood I'm talking about... It was a custom-commissioned build; I'm excited to make more!


I found out, my local TechShop, charges almost 900 bucks to Plane 5 wooden slats it would take about 4 weeks to get to it- they had to call someone who was certified..?! I planed wood in shop in HS. So, I trolled Craigs list or a few days, and found a vintage Craftsman Joiner/Planer from 1931, with its own wooden made cabinet, and shavings catcher. I picked it up for $25 bucks!!! I just needed some light, repairs. (replacement of a generic belt wheel, and some oil.). 4 1/4 cutting area, and 3 razor sharp steel blades.... Amazing what it will do! This thing will last another 75 years, with light up keep! YES, Troll Craig's List, people get rid of really good wood working stuff, ALL THE TIME... cheap. Most people, are scared or something, of the idea of re-finishing lumber.

I've got a nice groove in my blades on my planer from a broken screw in the edge of a board by not using a magnet first i learned my 95 dollar lesson well never again without a magnet on reclaimed wood .

You would be surprised what you would and can find in fresh cut trees to planks nails screws chunks of metal bucket handle chains i've actually gotten rough cut lumber with large chain and musket balls in them of course the musket balls are pretty much mush but its scary to find it regardless