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Barn wood questions

by Homer51
posted 10-01-2021 12:13 PM


19 replies so far

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Homer51

10 posts in 64 days


#1 posted 10-01-2021 01:22 PM

Here’s some end grain. On further inspection, I think most of this wood has mostly hipster value. Split, buggy, etc. I’ve identified most of it except three that have this end grain. Close to oak in sheer weight, meaning difficult to move. Or maybe this is some different kind of oak?

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controlfreak

3046 posts in 882 days


#2 posted 10-01-2021 01:38 PM

I would Find a nice spot to land a plane on and get an even surface smoothed out, not end grain, and give it a rub with a thinner rag to see what you have there. If you are going to dig into it for projects I would invest in a metal detector wand to avoid the heartbreak of destroying the edge of any tool working it. I say keep it all if you have room. Pour a drink and sit down and think “what can I make with this?” Think outside the box a bit, you have a treasure trove there with all that funky wood.

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SMP

4946 posts in 1187 days


#3 posted 10-01-2021 02:29 PM

That would have been worth a fortune a few years ago when the trend of “reclaimed barn wood” was popular. People were paying out the wazoo for furniture made out of it. I think it depends on where the barn was, but a lot of old barn wood I find is doug fir, old growth doug fir so its a bit nicer and straighter grain than the new stuff.

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Lazyman

8193 posts in 2668 days


#4 posted 10-01-2021 03:49 PM

A common wood that would have been used back in the 1800’s is chestnut. The rays in the bottom 2 pictures make me think they are oak but this one might be American Chestnut.

Compare the end grain under magnification to this one from Wood Database to see if it is a match.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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Homer51

10 posts in 64 days


#5 posted 10-01-2021 07:11 PM

Here’s a couple more pics of the beams in question. The grain looks similar to me, but I have little experience with this. The big square one is in the middle. All of them split, one really bent. I’ll probably keep the big one and do something with it, whatever it turns out to be. But this has been such a mixed bag, it so hard to say. It was an 1880’s barn in north central Kentucky, closer to Cincinnati than Lexington. It seems they used whatever was close at hand. Just hard for me to imagine what was there so long ago.

Oak identification has definitely tripped me up. So many different types, I guess, the rays prominent or barely visible. But the rays on those tenons look more like cracks when I look real close, but again, I have no expertise here.

I know I missed the boat on the barn wood craze, which is fine. But the building this stuff is in is being replaced, and I have to prioritize. And I’m in my late 50’s. Two sons in their twenties are still close and available, but that could change any day, so these beams have to be dealt with soon.

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Aj2

4127 posts in 3079 days


#6 posted 10-01-2021 08:16 PM

Good looking timbers.

-- Aj

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Lazyman

8193 posts in 2668 days


#7 posted 10-01-2021 09:14 PM

Those last 2 pictures look like chestnut to me. It those are checks on the tenon picture and not rays, they are probably chestnut too. Chestnut has only microscopic rays so are mostly invisible. Chestnut is fairly rot resistant even in the ground and was probably the most common wood in its natural range to be used for barns and other construction until it was mostly wiped out by chestnut blight. If they are old growth chestnut, they could be fairly valuable and if decide you cannot use them, offer them for sale.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

17571 posts in 3899 days


#8 posted 10-01-2021 09:25 PM



Those last 2 pictures look like chestnut to me.

- Lazyman

+1

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

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Homer51

10 posts in 64 days


#9 posted 10-04-2021 03:54 PM

Thanks for the help. I found a guy relatively close to me that said he’ll mill some of this stuff for me provided it looks free of nails and other hazards— perfectly understandable. I’m going take the timbers that may be chestnut and some of the clean walnut beams to him this weekend so he can look them over. Here’s a question. If I’m given the option, what do I want him to do? I’m not an accomplished woodworker yet, but getting more into it all the time. I have a very old house, and so far have used my barn wood for accent trim and very modest furniture work. I would like to do more on the furniture front. So do I want wide, 1” thick boards, or something else?

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controlfreak

3046 posts in 882 days


#10 posted 10-04-2021 08:01 PM

On the subject of barn wood, I stopped in a place in Charlotte NC and they were getting about a$800 a beam.

Mostly oak but what I thought was cool was the wine press screws imported from Europe

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

17571 posts in 3899 days


#11 posted 10-04-2021 08:27 PM

Milled to 1” would be my choice. Need my address?

;-)

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

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Lazyman

8193 posts in 2668 days


#12 posted 10-04-2021 09:16 PM

When he says “milled” is he simply going to run them through a planer or is he going to cut them on a bandsaw or saw mill to a thickness? Simply planing would be incredibly wasteful to get down to 1” so I just want to make sure that he’s not going to simply turn them into sawdust. If he cannot saw them, then I would say that you want them simply flattened and skip planed to maximum thickness and get yourself a bandsaw and planer to resaw them to whatever thickness you need when you need it.

Personally, I would say that I would want about 2/3 of it milled to 1” and for the remaining 1/3, I would want about half milled to 1.5” and the rest simply flattened and planed.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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Homer51

10 posts in 64 days


#13 posted 10-04-2021 10:04 PM

My understanding is he has a band saw and would just cut them to thickness. But I only had a chance to talk to him briefly, I’ll know more this weekend.

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mpsprunger

40 posts in 3142 days


#14 posted 10-04-2021 10:12 PM

Some of it could be red elm, very hard stuff

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Homer51

10 posts in 64 days


#15 posted 10-09-2021 11:11 PM

Didn’t get the wood cut. i called the guy to set up a time, and he started talking about not wanting to see any nail holes, which was not what he told me the first time I talked to him. My understanding is that nails were commonly used in late 19th century barns. Oh well….

Pressure washed the the timbers I was having trouble identifying. Turns out they are two different kinds of wood. The grain looks different, and it’s a different color. I had cut the broken, rotted end off one of them, but there was enough solid wood that I was able to cut it with a sawzall, then my table saw to take a look. Very hard, heavy, not easy to work with. So I don’t think likely to be chestnut. Dark color also. Yeah, maybe red elm. I’ll probably never know. I put a little oil finish on one piece just to bring out the grain. In the pictures of the timbers, the heavier stuff has just been pressure washed.

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Lazyman

8193 posts in 2668 days


#16 posted 10-10-2021 03:03 AM

Elms have a very distinctive wavy pattern in the end grain. This one is red elm from wood-database.com.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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JCamp

1456 posts in 1832 days


#17 posted 10-10-2021 02:17 PM

To be fair to the guy with the saw those blades are $20 and up and a single nail will ruin the blade. He will probably gladly cut them still if you buy all his ruined blades. If I was you I’d keep everything. You are set for life on lumber with what you have now. Get a huge circular saw or a little bandsaw where you can cut them up yourself and a planer of some kind to clean them up. I think my old craftsman 113 bandsaw had close to a 10inch cutting height. For a $1000 or under you’ll be in business. All the little scraps and cut offs could be sold for making pens and other turning items

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

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therealSteveN

9206 posts in 1855 days


#18 posted 10-11-2021 05:19 AM

On the material from the Tobacco shack look at all of the edges of the lumber. Typically they mount what works out to be a 1 1/2” wide board about 8 to 12” wide, most run pretty long. Along the edge you will often see a lot of dots, those will be nails that they nail up the hogsheads of tobacco. They play hell with a jointer, and if they are sound can send carbide flying off a TS blade. Just a word of caution. Ripping off however much you need to lose on a bandsaw is the quickest way to rid yourself of them.

In old wood they rust up, and degrade, but that takes some years, that metal isn’t as bad, but can still queer a jointer knife. Newer or if they used galvanized, that can be an all day sucker…

-- Think safe, be safe

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Homer51

10 posts in 64 days


#19 posted 10-14-2021 02:21 AM

Yeah, I don’t blame the guy either. On very close inspection you can see the “clean” ones may very well be full of hazards.

My problem is that I am sliding towards retirement and for better or worse have several lifetimes worth of barn wood. Can’t tell you what I was thinking 20 years ago. The timbers I’ve posted are about a quarter of it. I’ve gotten rid of a bunch of car stuff—five engines this week—and have just been recently really able to get to this stuff. I will probably spend the winter going through all of it and deciding what goes and what stays and gets moved into my new building.

Thanks for bearing with me here. I’m going to post up some more pics. It’s of a type of wood I’ve been using for projects for years, mostly because it was about the only wood in the pile my 40 year old Craftsman could sort of cut. It’s not oak, lighter, pretty easy to work with. Dark end grain, finishes up nice. So it’s chestnut, or not chestnut. After all my internet searches trying to figure it out, it all looks the same. I still have quite a bit of it. Regardless of what it is, I like it. Just curious what it is. It has a tendency to have an occasionally really sharp ripple in the grain, for lack of a better way to put it. One of them is pictured in a rough sawn 2”x6”x12’ I pressure washed. The other pics are of some I cut with my Craftsman a couple years ago. It’s all the same wood.

Thanks

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