Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Some tips on working with recycled wood

When working with recycled wood, before you do anything else, put on your gloves and get out your prybar and hammer and something to put metal screws and nails into. Have a place to put wood that you will have to cull from the pile.

The first thing to do is get out all the nails, staples and screws from any piece of wood. Yes, you can wait to do it, but it won't stack as well and you could easily slice your hand or dull your saw on an errant piece of hardware later. It's worth taking the time to do it first. A corollary to that is to check each piece before you use it by running a nail detector over it, or failing that, a really strong magnet such as one from a speaker, and close visual inspection (not with your hands; too easy to cut yourself].  There are stud finders that consist of a magnet on a pivot that are useful for this task as well.

In my pile of recycled wood, no two pieces of old recycled wood were the same dimension. What we call a 2x2 today was (for example) a 1 7/8 x 2 1/8 or something similarly 'off' typical dimensions in my pile. I found I needed to measure each board for my first project that I built (a seed starting rack like this that I could knock down, so the hardware's a bit different than that called out in the article) to find the center. This added time to building my project, so patience is a good tool to have in your toolbox when working with recycled wood.

Just like new wood at the lumberyard, recycled wood can be a mishmash of good, bad and indifferent. Some pieces in my recycled pile were close grain, hard wood [species unknown, but heavier than pine] and some were just like the crappy 2x2s over at the local big box store. So much for thinking older wood = better wood. Not always the case.

If the paint's flaking, scrape off as much as you can and wear a respirator and sand off the rest with coarse grit sandpaper. If the paint's intact, strip it and dispose of the leftover gunk carefully; you might be dealing with paint that had lead in it.