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Forum topic by Homer51 posted 10-01-2021 12:13 PM 623 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Homer51

10 posts in 28 days


10-01-2021 12:13 PM

Hey, new here, but been lurking a while. 15 years ago or so I obtained a bunch of barn wood in two separate lots. A big pile of oak dimensional lumber, and also a real mixed bag out of a collapsed 1880’s Kentucky tobacco barn. I am now just getting more serious about woodworking, which was been helped immensely

when I lucked into a 1957 Powermatic 70 saw. The oak was uncuttable essentially with my old Craftsman, but it’s a new world now. I can finally start going through this wood and see what’s there.

Here are the questions: the wood from the collapsed barn seems to consist of about everything but oak. I have 19 10×10 milled beams 10’ to14’ in length. Many of them are walnut, and are easy to identify. Not so much the others, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t oak. I think I will likely sell most of these beams, but I’m worried I’m going to give away some chestnut or something because I can’t identify it. How do people identify old beams without cutting into it?

I’ve considered trying to get some of these beams milled into lumber I can work with. But I’ve frequently read people express the opinion that mills won’t cut this stuff because of nails and such in the wood that would damage their blades. But this can’t be true in all cases because plenty of places mill reclaimed lumber into flooring, siding and other things. I’ve considered hauling this stuff to someone and let them have it if they mill some of it for me to keep.

Some of the smaller stuff from the barn has me baffled. Is there a good, reliable reference you guys use to help identify mystery wood? I can identify the maple and walnut. Some of it I suspect is tulip poplar. It’s light, straight, and some of the stuff is freakishly long, 2×4’s 20+ feet long. And then there’s the wood I used to build a picture frame a few years ago. Not super heavy, straight, nice grain, easy to work with, my old Craftsman could handle it. Don’t know what it is.

Sorry for the long post. Any help appreciated.


19 replies so far

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Homer51

10 posts in 28 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

2907 posts in 846 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

4839 posts in 1150 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

7977 posts in 2632 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 28 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

4072 posts in 3043 days


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

Good looking timbers.

-- Aj

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Lazyman

7977 posts in 2632 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

17533 posts in 3863 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 28 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

2907 posts in 846 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

17533 posts in 3863 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

7977 posts in 2632 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 28 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 3106 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 28 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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