Reply by JBrow

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Posted on Distressed table top. advice, tricks, tips, methods help needed

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1368 posts in 1594 days

#1 posted 08-23-2016 01:14 PM


I personally avoid reclaimed lumber, especially if reclaimed by someone else. I am not that confident that the re-claimer removed all the embedded metal or in my ability to identify hidden metal, even with a high quality metal detector. If a piece of lumber contains undetected metal, I am sure that my knives or blades will find it, potentially resulting in an accident or a damaged cutting edge.

The second problem with reclaimed wood is one of the questions you posed; how can it be milled or cut without destroying the patina. I am not sure that is possible. I have noticed that light sanding on grayed wood is possible, but the patina does not extend very deep into the wood so sanding reclaimed wood strikes me as similar to sanding plywood, that is sand too much and the patina is gone.

By using new wood and then using various physical and chemical destressing techniques, maybe a look that appeals to your daughter could be found. A few sample boards of differing woods and techniques could dial in the approaches that would satisfy her. Several LJs have mentioned physical destressing methods. There are evidently commercial products and even some homemade formulas that can be applied to freshly milled wood that chemically produce the gray-like patina of old wood. I have not tried any of these methods, so I cannot say how well the work. If you Google Making New Wood Look Old several sites will be found that maybe are worth a look.

One method for imparting saw marks to freshly milled lumber, for example on the boards that make up the table top surface, is to first mill the lumber as you normally would. Then run what will be the show surface of the lumber through the bandsaw, taking a light skim cut. After the boards are glued up, some sanding can feather out some of the marks, if desired. If the lumber is held tight to the resaw fence throughout the cut, a fairly smooth surface but with bandsaw mill marks evident, can be achieved. Using the fewest teeth available on the bandsaw blade I think would come closest to mimicking the appearance of lumber cut with a back in the day, old school pit saw.

It seems to me that the purpose of the chamfer at the joints in the top is to give the appearance that the boards are separate (not glued together); as if the top boards were not glued together, but rather are kept together with battens on the underside. Therefore a steeply angled chamfer would such as that produced by a 15 degree chamfering router bit would look best. But that would produce a rather thin line and debris in the recess would collect. Therefore a shallow chamfer would be needed so that a wet dish cloth could mostly rake the bottom of the chamfered joint. How steep and how deep a chamfer are probably best decided by you daughter looking at a few sample boards.

From the photo, it appears the top was stained fresh cut wood. I rarely use stains and dyes so I have little experience in this realm. I prefer selecting a wood whose clear coated appearance is the color I am after and thus avoid issues associated with staining.

But from what I understand about staining, the choice of stain and the species of wood combination can affect the look. As I understand stains and dyes, stains contain a coloring additive that is particulate whereas dyes contain coloring agents dissolved in a carrier solvent. Therefore, it seems to me that a stain on an open pore wood would be a good choice. However on some woods blotching can occur, so prefinishing these woods with a conditioner or pore filler is needed to control blotching. On a dense closed-pore wood, a dye whose pigment will soak into the wood may be the best choice. A series of sample boards can help determine which satin or dye and how it should be applied is, I think, a good way to go.

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