Recycling/Reclaiming a bunch of Redwood lumber

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Dan posted 06-27-2011 11:04 PM 19251 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Last summer a guy I know was going to be tearing an old deck of of his house and replacing it with a new one. He actually asked me if I wanted the old deck wood to use as firewood in my wood stove. I came to learn that it was a Redwood deck he was going to be tearing apart so my interest in the wood spiked. Where I live you cant get Redwood lumber anywhere that I know of and I don’t even know that its being milled and shipped over here anymore.

The deck was a rather large deck and the Redwood filled up my 18ft trailer. Once I got the lumber home I was left scratching my head as to what I was actually going to do with it. I ended up stacking it all in my wood shed and its pretty much sat there since.

The wood was in really rough shape on the outside. The biggest issue was who ever built the deck used galvanized nails to nail all the deck boards down. The Redwood has acids in it that slowly ate away at these nails and rusted them away leaving only small pieces of metal in the nail holes as well as a dark blackish color around each nail hole. The wood is also extremely dirty and some boards had been painted. Because of the shape of this lumber it needed to be cleaned up before going through my jointer/planer. I knew it would be a lot of work so thats probably why the wood has been sitting in my shed for a year.

I have been wanting to use this wood for some outdoor furniture so last week I decided to start cleaning the lumber up. There is no way telling what I am working with until I can get them planed down. I am doing a few different things to clean them up.

I start by first removing any nails that I can see. This is the hardest part because as I said the nails are so rusted that they have been breaking as I am pulling them out. If the nail breaks off in the wood I use a hammer and nail set to knock the broken piece out.

Once the nails are out I go over the board with my ROS and 80 grit paper. I only make a few passes to remove the majority of the surface dirt, paint and moss. After the loose dirt and crap is off I plane it by hand with one of my jack planes that I have set for a heavy cut. I hog material off until the Redwood starts to look like Redwood again. Once both sides and edges are done its ready for the power jointer/planer.

I am about half way through the lumber and its looking good so far. I have a plug cutter so I can cut matching plugs for the nail holes. I am looking forward to making some outdoor furniture.

The last picture is after they have been through the planer.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

11 comments so far

View Will Stokes's profile

Will Stokes

267 posts in 4642 days

#1 posted 06-27-2011 11:09 PM

Nice job, that’s looking real good. I’ve heard redwood is great for outdoor furniture but I’ve never seen any for sale around these parts either unfortunately.

View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 4056 days

#2 posted 06-28-2011 01:13 AM

Those boards turned out better that I would have expected. Years ago dismantled a over sized Redwood picnic table that my in-laws had, the legs and braces were rotted off. Every board that was used in any position other than true horizontal, like the legs and all of the cross braces, were soft and/or rotted. The planks from the table top and benches were fine.

My guess is that the exposed end grain on those boards soaked up the moisture every time it rained. I’ve always been puzzled why the end grain on the horizontal boards wasn’t spongy. I cleaned the good boards up with a belt sander and plugged the holes. I matched the grain direction when installing the 1/2” plugs and after final sanding they were hardly noticeable. I used those boards to make a small picnic table and it turned out real nice.

-- Dan - Valparaiso, Indiana, "A smart man changes his mind, a fool never does."

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

20247 posts in 3855 days

#3 posted 06-28-2011 01:33 AM

i love reclaimed lumber. I wish I could find more. I can’t image buring all that redwood. Nice save.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View gillyd's profile


136 posts in 3933 days

#4 posted 06-28-2011 03:18 AM

Wow, I love the look of that! Cool find :)

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3977 days

#5 posted 06-28-2011 03:44 AM

I reclaimed a similar redwood deck and my drum sander paid for itself on this one reclamation project. I started with 36 grit which will remove paint,dirt,bird crap,etc really fast. then went to 50, then 80, as I had rusted off nails and didnt want to run it thru my planer. The 36 grit isnt bothered by nails and will help find them so you can knock them out with your nail set. Redwood is now quite pricy so it might be worth getting a drum sander if you have a fair number to do. I use mine on every project and havent regretted spending the $ for it.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 4168 days

#6 posted 06-28-2011 06:57 AM

Dan – Out of all the lumber I got from the deck I had only one board that was rotted to the point it was soft but it was not rotted all the way though. The water soaking in through the end grain makes sense as to why the picnic table rotted.

Gfadvm- A drum sander would have been great and its a machine I would like to have for times like this but I am all ready a little more then half way through this wood so I will finish it with the hand plane. The drum sander would sure be a lot faster.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View BryanK's profile


4 posts in 3538 days

#7 posted 03-28-2012 05:47 PM


I just signed up here and perhaps you have found a home for all of your redwood by now, but in the offchance you still have some I would be interested in buying some of it from you. I build kayaks and canoes, mostly out of redwood.

Bryan K-Grand Rapids, MI

View JohnEinNJ's profile


94 posts in 3635 days

#8 posted 07-27-2012 07:24 PM

I don’t have a drum sander or a planer, but I’ve had good luck cleaning up reclaimed redwood with my table saw. First, I punch out the nails, and check with a metal detector ( I can clean a board up to about 5 1/4 inches wide with two passes on each side. The latest project was a picnic table, and I left the nail holes in for a “rustic” look. The parts came from two different decks, and a swingset.

View KellyR's profile


1 post in 2859 days

#9 posted 02-05-2014 07:31 AM

Dan that was beautiful work. I am remodeling my 1908 home in San Francisco and have been asking the contractors to help me save the redwood from my demo – it’s beautiful grained stuff. They keep telling me it isn’t worth the time tt would take to pull out all the nails and clean up the wood. Do you have any advice for finding someone who might be able to clean it up for me, or show me how to do the grunt work? The boards or rafters were mostly 2×4s and then planks. I hate to see this wood end up in a dump!

Are the contractors right?

View Wagon173's profile


50 posts in 2820 days

#10 posted 03-18-2015 11:23 PM

I also use my table saw to clean them up. In some cases that black oxide ring from the nails is a nice highlight. I remodeled part of our bathroom and used reclaimed redwood as part of the trim and just left the nail holes as is. The rest of my bathroom looks like the 70’s threw up, but my shelves and under the counter look great!

View Bosun's profile


26 posts in 1935 days

#11 posted 09-09-2016 11:28 AM

Great re-use of materials despite the problem of the nails.

-- Bosun, Tasmania,

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics