Recycled wood is becoming the cornerstone to modern building. By recycling antique wood, we not only save the forests, but we can also save our history. It is very popular with those of us concerned with the environmental and sustainability issues surrounding logging of the remaining stands of old growth forests.
Antique wood is unrivaled in terms of the beauty of its patina. And is perfect to use as recycled wood. This is because of the natural aging process. As the wood dries and ages the oxidation occurring on the surface creates the patina which is difficult to artificially recreate on new lumber. Where the lumber was located in a structure will determine it's overall look. If the lumber was located inside the building and not exposed to the elements, it will generally retain its original colors although it may have darkened with age. If exposed to the elements, the patina will be a shade of gray with the original colors just below the surface. The history of the building in which the lumber was located can also contribute to its appearance.
While growing up, I spent all of my Summers on my Grandfather's farm in Alabama. My grandparents lived in a small "shotgun" ranch house. But on their property was an old Victorian house built before the turn of the century. It had been built by my Grandfather's father and he used local pecan wood as there were groves of it everywhere on his property. That was their first home. When I was a child, it was used as a corn crib. I remember it had wood floors, walls, ceiling and roof. My cousins and I used to play in it every day.
When my Grandparents died, the house was torn down and all of the wood was burned. When I found out, I cried for the loss of all of that beautiful antique pecan. My husband is
a woodworker, and we are always looking for antique wood to
use for furniture making.
Where can I find wood to recycle?
If you live in an area where there are a lot of old houses or barns being torn down, that is the first place to look for recycled wood. You can get some great recycled wood from an old barn or house. Ask the owner of the property if you can demolish the structure for the materials and agree to clean up the area. Also,check out the local dump, thrift stores, warehouses, and industrial areas. Pallets are a great source of recycled wood, but beware of nails and screws as they can damage your tools or can become a projectile. We have found old dressers and chest of drawers that we have made into new furniture.
A few years ago the county came in and cut down a 200 year old Eucalyptus tree from my neighbor's property. The trunk of this tree was at least 8 feet in diameter. The side branches were 4 feet in diameter and my husband got two of them. He wanted pieces of the trunk, but they were too heavy to lift. The county sent a crane and dump truck, and sent the whole tree to the landfill. Anyone who was there looking for wood, found a treasure trove!! In fact, one of the logs is still sitting in my back yard, and my husband made some beautiful stamp holders and walking canes from the other one.
That is another great source of recycled wood. Just take a drive one day, and you will see cut wood sitting out for garbage collection. Help yourself to it. We have found some of our best lumber that way. Once after a hurricane, we found several Live Oak logs sitting on the curb. My husband brought them home and made a crib and a dresser, a high chair and rocker for our new grandson out of it, along with some walnut lumber he got from the dumpster of a cabinet shop. The picture above shows this beautiful furniture he made!
Yes, dumpster diving is also a great way to get wood! We have an agreement with a local shop, and once a year we come in and collect scrap wood from them. We use that wood to make "Toys For Tots" which we donate. There are also some great websites that sell reclaimed wood. It is not cheap, but it is the most beautiful wood on the market.
Tools For The Job
You will need a good crowbar, hammer, sledge hammer, metal detector, vice grip, reciprocating saw, band saw, planer, sander, and table saw. Some you will use to deconstruct, others to clean up the recycled wood for reuse.
Deconstruct With Care
Whether you are taking down a barn, a house, a pallet or an old piece of furniture, take great care in the deconstruction process. You are not doing demolition, you are deconstructing. You want to be able to salvage as much wood as possible. The weather station to the right was made from a walnut log found in a Tennessee landfill.
If you are lucky enough to get your hands on some pallets, then be very careful when deconstructing them. You must first remove all of the hardware, IE nails, screws, staples etc. These items can not only damage your tools, but they can become projectiles if you hit one with a saw or drill.
Here are some steps to take when deconstructing a building.
The first rule to remember is that you are deconstructing not demolishing. Deconstruct in the order it was built. Start with the roof and go down.
Enlist friends and family to provide "sweat equity" labor in exchange for a share of the reclaimed wood.
Once again, take down the structure by reverse construction; take it down in the reverse order from which it was originally built.
Use pry bars and hammers to free up wallboards, framing lumber and floor boards.
Consider renting a dumpster to collect and remove non-salvageable materials.
If deconstructing a house, save the copper and other metals for recycling, also and sinks, tubs, toilets, or appliances can be donated for reuse, or sold.
Once the recycled wood and salvageable materials have been saved, put the left over in the dumpster (or if fire regulations permit, burn it).
What Can I Do With Recycled Wood?
For years, my husband and I have used reclaimed wood to make furniture,and toys. We also make some great wooden plaques that are shown on the following pages. A lot of companies today are using reclaimed, antique wood for new home building and renovations. Old wood becomes beautiful wood floors and siding, kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, paneling, ceiling joists in post and beam construction, and furniture.
We make a lot of furniture, wooden toys, and usable household items with reclaimed wood. If you experiment, I am sure that you can make good use of this treasure trove of reclaimed wood.