Reclaimed barn boards

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Forum topic by JonSnc1 posted 07-15-2010 03:33 AM 3956 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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46 posts in 4294 days

07-15-2010 03:33 AM

Topic tags/keywords: pine milling rustic

Have a couple questions about prepping some old barn boards… I’ve got an opportunity to pick up some inexpensive reclaimed pine this weekend for a farmhouse style table I want to build, but I’ll probably pass if it’ll require a large investment in tools to prep it. I basically just want to get down to the raw wood on the faces, precise flatness is not desired. The edges I can easily rip with a jig on the table soar.

The problem is, don’t have a drum sander, and my 12” planer needs new blades, it’s chewing up boards. My only hand plane is a cheapo Stanley from a box store that I’ve never gotten to do a proper job(probably a combo of user error and poor quality tool). I do have a 5” ROS sander, though. Would using the ROS be like mowing the lawn with a pair of scissors? It’s only going to be about 15-20 bd feet. If that’s not reasonable, what would be my best investment tool-wise(budget is a major factor)? New planer blades, quality hand plane, try and rent some time on a drum sander somewhere, or is there another solution I’m not thinking of?

I could not find a lot on this subject in my searches, except for a thread about cleaning it with a stiff brush. I’ll be glad to post pics and experiences with this for future references… unless I completely goober it up:-)

Thanks in advance…

15 replies so far

View swirt's profile


6791 posts in 4253 days

#1 posted 07-15-2010 05:01 AM

I’m partial to hand planes, so my answer would go in that direction. You didn’t mention what your “cheapo Stanley” is so I can’t offer advice there. Though you already have the 12” planer so new orsharpened blades for that my carry you farther if you have little interest in hand planes.

You could resurface it with a ROS but that would take a while and would lead to all kinds of waves and variations (which might be desirable). A belt sander would be a better choice if you are going with sanding.

This is going to sound like a hallmark card, but I’d go whichever way your interest leads you. If you have an interest in hand planes, this might be a great introduction. There is no “right” answer here.

-- Galootish log blog,

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 4207 days

#2 posted 07-15-2010 05:03 AM

You aleady have the planer, but you need one side flat first, so new planer blades won’t solve it.

Quickest would be to find a millwork shop that would joint and sand them for you, or just joint one side, then use your planer.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Scott G.'s profile

Scott G.

11 posts in 4155 days

#3 posted 07-15-2010 05:45 AM

I have a small stack of “barnwood” that I reclaimed from a bench that had been out in the weather for too many years. Some of the boards are way to splintery to simply use the orbital sander on them, so I just whisked off the splinters with some 60 grit sandpaper and then went on into it with the orbital.

I have a planer, but didn’t think that it would keep the feel of the barnwood if I planed it down.

As far as goobering it up, take a board or two and experiment. See how it goes.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 4204 days

#4 posted 07-15-2010 10:53 AM

What ever you do,run a metal detector over it first. Won’t make any difference what you use if you hit a nail.

-- Life is good.

View rance's profile


4279 posts in 4441 days

#5 posted 07-15-2010 01:01 PM


1) For goodness sakes, start by going and getting the boards!!! :) Worst case is you have to store them until tooling turns around.

2) Swirt pretty much hit the nail on the head, so to speak. Except for all that hand-plane tool thingy he started with. :D A carpenter tends to treat every problem like a nail (phylisophically speaking). A hand tool guy will tell you “hand plane it”. As a power tool guy, I say “buy(or sharpen your) planer knives”. And as for the ROS, that could work too. The success of the ROS solution depends on how weathered they are though. A belt sander may be needed first. Each has its merits. You’ve already stated that precise flatness is not absolutely mandatory.

3) I built a picture frame or two using old barn wood. What I’ve found is that since I didn’t want to go down to the clear wood a) I could skip the jointer and b) the boards needed to be pretty flat to begin with. There’s no taking the twist out. Since you don’t want the weathered look to remain, you have some leeway.

Oh, and if you completely goober it up, you STILL have to post pics, both Before & After. Seriously. :) I’d rather learn from others’ mistakes than my own.

And one more thing, find a local WW buddy. It’s fun and you can trade work back and forth when these situations come up. Do some searching. I’m sure there are some good folks near you in NC.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4455 days

#6 posted 07-15-2010 02:47 PM

I agree with justfine.

There just seem to be some times where it’s better to pay somebody with a Timesaver than it is to get the headache of figuring out which way to go ;-)

-- -- Neil

View JonSnc1's profile


46 posts in 4294 days

#7 posted 07-15-2010 02:59 PM

Thanks for all the replies, all very, very helpful. I can’t believe I didn’t think of a belt sander. I think what I’ll probably do is test the ROS and plan on renting the belt sander if it’s not making enough progress. It costs only a few bucks to rent at the local Home Depot. I think I’ll also try one of the Harbor Freight metal detectors, which I’ve seen decent reviews for. Thanks for the reminder on that.

Regarding the planer, if I did fix the blade situation, I had planned on putting the boards on top of a strip of ply and a couple small countersunk screws from the bottom up to hold them. Seems like that would work, but haven’t ever tried it.

I can’t even remember what my hand plane is exactly, which shows my inexperience with it, and I’m not near my shop right now. I’m definitely a power tool guy, although I really do enjoy using my chisels for fine tuning. I don’t think I’m going to shell out the bucks for a nicer hand plane right now if the sanders will do the job on these boards though, which it sounds like they will from what I’m hearing.

View JonSnc1's profile


46 posts in 4294 days

#8 posted 07-15-2010 03:04 PM

I know this may be hypocritical being a power tool guy, but I think I’d really feel like I was cheating if I brought the boards to a mill shop. It’s a good idea which I hadn’t thought of to keep in the back pocket if I need it, though.

I should also mention that I already bought the legs from a Amish furniture shop on a recent vacation in Pennsylvania, so combine purchased legs with a shop milled top and I might as well go to the Pottery Barn:-)

View rance's profile


4279 posts in 4441 days

#9 posted 07-15-2010 03:20 PM

Ah now you’ve gone and done it. :( We may just haf to take back the secret hand-shake an stuff. :D

Git it done any way you can, then post it. It’s a progression on the tool thing. Ya can’t have ALL of them on the first day. Buy it, Build it, Post it, and Enjoy it. :)

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View swirt's profile


6791 posts in 4253 days

#10 posted 07-15-2010 04:44 PM

Rance said ”... There‚Äôs no taking the twist out. ...”

Powertool guys always say that ;)
Just because there is no electron powered version of the scrub plane doesn’t mean it can’t be done :p
I will admit though that barn boards are a bit thin so if the twist is more than half the thickness, taking out the twist will leave you with nothing left to work with.

-- Galootish log blog,

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 4267 days

#11 posted 07-15-2010 05:02 PM

Jon, I recently did a project with thin boards and ply and attached them together exactly like that. It worked really well and they’re still very flat and stable. It’s not very “fine furniture”, but I didn’t really care about that aspect.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View rance's profile


4279 posts in 4441 days

#12 posted 07-15-2010 09:19 PM

Swirt, Sorry about that. My reference to you in #2 really stopped at the smily face :D . You’re too funny. :) Actually if you’ll re-read #3, the “twist” comment implied only when retaining the weathered surface. Sorry that wasn’t clear. Yeah, I hand-plane or belt sand the corners on wide pieces all the time, skipping the jointer. On the really wide boards I just chain em to the back of the truck and drag em around the parking lot a few laps. 6-8 laps usually does it. :)

Rance (sweating less by using Power Tools)

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View swirt's profile


6791 posts in 4253 days

#13 posted 07-15-2010 10:22 PM

Rance now I’m really jealous, you have a parking lot. :) If I did that in my driveway my boards would be all gravel covered and grass stained. LOL

-- Galootish log blog,

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 4278 days

#14 posted 07-16-2010 03:17 AM

Pickup the the boards. Figure out HOW later !
I never use my jointer or planer on used lumber. 1 missed nail, or broken nail or even GRIT can ruin the blades. (But that is ME)
If I had the old boards I would start with a belt sander, if you have a lot to do, rent a huge pad sander that is used to “prep” for real wood floors.
I probably wouldn’t try my small orbital sander till closer to end .

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View JonSnc1's profile


46 posts in 4294 days

#15 posted 07-16-2010 05:01 AM

I don’t even know what I started here:-) Anyway, thanks to all for the suggestions and advice, it’s great to read so many different perspectives on this. I’ll post some pics once I get going.

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