1. Old Boats and Boating Facilities
Water is tough on wood, so if you’re seeking out a piece of wood for something structural, such as a backing or a frame, don’t use an old boat or boathouse wood. That being said, the damage that water can do to wood is unique to each piece and can be remarkably beautiful in a craft project.
When seeking out old wood from a boat or boathouse, bring along a lead test kit. While the use of lead paint was banned in 1978, it’s possible that
- people had lead paint stored away for years after that
- they used it on their boats
- that old piece of boat wood might be contaminated.
If your lead test turns up positive, walk away. It’s not worth the risk of lead poisoning to try to put it to use. If you find unfinished wood or sealed wood in such a structure, try to use it in the original finish. Clean it up with a soft bristle brush and a gentle detergent, then rinse it and let it dry.
2. Old Cabinetry
Old houses are loaded with old wood, but getting access to it can be tough! One of the easiest ways to get your hands on old wood is when someone is getting rid of stick-built kitchen cabinets.
Modern kitchen cabinets are built as boxes and mounted to the wall. Stick-built cabinets were constructed in place. Once the basic structure was up, the frames were added and the doors attached to the frames. The wood in those stick-built may be as old as the house, and some of it even older.
The challenge of using cabinets as sources for reclaimed wood is that many of them have been painted. Some homeowners also painted over the hardware, so taking them apart can be a serious challenge. You’ll need a lead test kit and a Dremel or drilling tool to grind through the paint on the hardware, but you may find that the shelving and cabinet backing can all be used.
3. Old Furniture
Furniture from the 1900s is a great source of old wood. You probably don’t want to break down usable furniture, but you may find damaged or defunct pieces that offer something salvageable. Look for discolored pieces. Be ready to use some elbow grease to clean away layers of old wax.
A simple way to clean away layers of wax, polish, dirt and cigarette smoke from an old piece of furniture is to use #0000 steel wool and rubbing alcohol. Work the rubbing alcohol into the wood, then rinse it away with the same. You may even wind up removing old varnish with this method. Once the wood is bare, it will be vulnerable, so be sure to use a sealant or wax to protect it.
4. Old Sheds and Outbuildings
If you’ve got the tools and the know-how, you may find that you can connect with someone who needs a shed taken down. If the wood is free of paint or was never painted, then your biggest concerns need
- nail holes
If you’re using falling-down buildings as sources for reclaimed wood, you likely won’t be using this lumber for anything structural. Once you’ve cleaned the wood, treat it with a termite resistant sealer to reduce the risk of bringing bugs into your home.
If you’re planning to cut, plane or sand the wood, consider getting a metal detector to check the material for nails, screws, or wires. One piece of metal can really muck up your planer, and a saw blade that comes into contact with a surprise piece of metal can get dangerous.
5. Salvage Yards
Treasure hunters will love a trip to a salvage yard to look for reclaimed wood. Be ready to do some poking around. You may want an architectural piece, but if you don’t need the wood to serve a structural purpose, you can create an amazing look with simple planking.
Bring along your metal detector and skip anything painted. Lead testing can lead to colored spots on painted items that will lower the value for the seller. All you need for your project is something old and interesting!
Every piece of reclaimed wood is unique. The less you can do to it, the better. Dig into your area and look for folks who are remodeling older homes. They may be able to provide you with some amazing pieces.