Looking for insight re: reclaiming old barnwood>>>

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Forum topic by oopsboardstretchrplz posted 11-14-2011 05:02 AM 4962 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 2830 days

11-14-2011 05:02 AM

Hello all!
Im a beginner woodworker that has spent the last year tooling up and setting up shop in garage. I’ve been tinkering around in the shop and reading up on the internet, in order to try and get a grip on the great hobby of woodworking.

Recently, I was contacted by someone that has an old barn they want torn down. I’m going to look at it tomorrow aft.
I guess my main question is…What am I getting myself into?
I’ve never done this before and really don’t have a good grip on how to identify diff’t wood species.
The guy that owns barn said he thought the posts were “locust”. Is that good or bad?
I’m pretty sure what the barnowner wants is an even trade (i teardown and haul away material in return for keeping lumber)
What questions should i ask myself as i am looking at barn?
What questions should i ask barnowner? i.e.: Were animals kept in barn? (if yes, would this possibly be a sanitary issue?)

Have any of you done something like this before?

Obviously, i will have to remove nails so i dont ruin knives in planer. Probably should go ahead and get a little handheld metal detector.

Thanks in advance for any advice!!!

*edited to add pic of barn (cant see much, barn behind pickup trucks)

-- When there's frost on the pumpkin... it's time for chubby dunkin'!

22 replies so far

View WDHLT15's profile


1803 posts in 2747 days

#1 posted 11-14-2011 05:06 AM

Black locust is a dense and very rot resistant wood, that is why it was used for posts. It is very hard, but also has a wonderful ring porous grain pattern like elm and ash.

Tearing down an old barn is not a small task. It requires the right kind of tools and equipment to do it efficiently and safely. If you do not have the tools and equipment or the experience in doing something like this before, you might be catching a tiger by the tail. There is a reason that people give the wood away to have a structure torn down and removed.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3339 days

#2 posted 11-14-2011 06:15 AM

Never mind about the species of the wood, what do you know about demolition?

Old barns are often structurally questionable, and have had who-knows-what kind of “improvements” over the years. If it was ever painted, you might be dealing with lead paint issues – and don’t forget asbestos.

Unless you know quite a bit about demolition, and have the tools and equipment to do it safely, you should probably pass on this “deal”.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View oopsboardstretchrplz's profile


10 posts in 2830 days

#3 posted 11-14-2011 06:47 AM

WD & Saw- thnx for the input

As far as my demo skills/experience:
I’ve never torn down and old barn before but, a friend and I demo’d a 100 yr old house. We took it to the studs. Roof, sheathing, etc, etc.
I have a little experience in framing (summers during college).
As far as tools go, I think I’m OK. I have plenty of ladders, several different types of prybars, catspaws, sledgehammers, tarps, rope, a light/handy cordless circular saw, eye pro and a nice respirator. I also have access to scaffolding if needed.

Anything else I didn’t mention needed toolwise that you can think of?

Thanks and keep it coming folks!

-- When there's frost on the pumpkin... it's time for chubby dunkin'!

View WDHLT15's profile


1803 posts in 2747 days

#4 posted 11-14-2011 02:39 PM

A tractor with a front end loader with pallet forks would be invaluable.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View bandit571's profile


22208 posts in 2954 days

#5 posted 11-14-2011 03:46 PM

A safety harnass would also be nice. Start with the roof, and strip that down to the rafters. Then the rafters. DO NOT take away any other structure until then. Work your way down to each level.

As for what is in a barn, wood wise? Siding is usually Dour Fir, or similar pine. Posts can be ANY type of local hardwood. Floorboards, can be almost any kind of 2x stock.

I’ve gotten some “Barn Wood” over the years:

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View StumpyNubs's profile


7696 posts in 3071 days

#6 posted 11-14-2011 04:01 PM

When I was a child (maybe 7 years old) my grandfather went to an auction and bought two HUGE barns. We set to tearing one of them down, piece by piece. The other one we moved whole to another site using an old car frame, some huge I beams and a lot of welding rod. None of us had any experiance, but we had common sense. Use it, and don’t get killed and then you can figure out how to use all that great barn wood!

My opinion on the wood is this. If you make rustic furniture, it’s great. If you want to plane and sand it into smooth boards, you’ll be better off selling the stuff on craigs list (people pay BIG for barn wood) and using the money to buy the types of wood you want for whatever you make.

Whatever you do, don’t pass up the oppertunity. They are few and far between. Just don’t get killed.

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5168 posts in 4231 days

#7 posted 11-14-2011 04:16 PM

As was said in TV many years ago…...DY-NO-MITE!!!!!
Be careful out there. Free wood in exchange for a broken body part ain’t a deal.

-- [email protected]

View SteveKorz's profile


2139 posts in 3985 days

#8 posted 11-14-2011 05:33 PM

My only advice comes after demo. The holes left by nails will most likely contain rust. This will dull or chip planer blades. Also, the boards will contain large amounts of dirt… Make sure that you wire brush them, and blow them off repeatedly with compressed air before milling them or you will dull your blades in no time. The milling reclaimed lumber is tedious. Some is really beautiful when you mill it, and but doing it safely and without damaging your machinery is the hard part.

Make sure the owner has an expectation of exactly how much you plan to take. When you commit, some have the expectation that you want the entire barn, and and they have visions of you taking the entire thing and basically raking the lot, mowing the yard, and trimming the bushes… when you really only wanted a half of a truckload.
Remember that milling reclaimed lumber is tedious and time consuming.

Good luck.

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View ShaneA's profile


7066 posts in 2869 days

#9 posted 11-14-2011 05:41 PM

The whole thing sounds tedious. Tough demo, cleaning/milling the wood, storage, selling process. They all look daunting. It can be done, but it will take tremendous time, effort, and energy. Good luck, let us know the results.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15982 posts in 2889 days

#10 posted 11-14-2011 05:54 PM

My only caution centers on expectations. Yours and the owners.

You have your eyes on the prize: Great barn wood. Gotta look real hard at what’s standing there and decide if it’s worth the effort, because the owner of the barn knows what he/she wants: a clean piece of property.

Clearing the site means a dumpster filled many times over (depending on size, of course). Where to put what you pull apart and wish to save? Got dry storage to dedicate while the boards are coming off, then throughout the denailing process? Finally, what’s the timeline that you are both agreeing to?

I think it’s a great opportunity, so if you’ve got the time and other resources at the ready, go for it. Don’t get hurt, though! Good luck.

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

View bandit571's profile


22208 posts in 2954 days

#11 posted 11-14-2011 06:01 PM

Another thing to watch out for…..NAILS! Watch where you walk! An old rusty nail up into the bottom of your foot means TROUBLE! EACH board you remove, take the time to remove, or at least bend over, any and all nails. DAMHIKT

As for what some of this wood can look like…

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 3229 days

#12 posted 11-14-2011 07:05 PM

I cut up quite a bit of black locust…once. It dulled every chainsaw chain I touched it with in just a few cuts, sometimes even throwing sparks from the silica that it held. I do not know if it is all like that, or if honey locust is like that, but I won’t mess with it again. You know the work involved, my recommendation would be to tempre the workload against the outcome and make up your own mind from there. If the beams were walnut or even tight grained fir I would do it, but for locust I’d get the marshmallows and beer out.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View chrisstef's profile


17824 posts in 3277 days

#13 posted 11-14-2011 07:16 PM

if you need any technical demo questions feel free to pm me .. ive been working in demolition for the last 10 years and might be able to help you out with anything thats structurally funky on that old barn.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Trac's profile


2 posts in 2075 days

#14 posted 06-18-2013 02:23 AM

We are in the process of demo on our 150 yr old barn right now! Let me tell you, it’s exhausting work and we have only removed 1/3 of the roof so far ( the rotten part). And for a woman…well let’s just say there is a reason God gave men more muscle and larger hands! And it’’s also scary not knowing what’s gonna fall next. Termites are scary too! lol Good luck!

View bandit571's profile


22208 posts in 2954 days

#15 posted 06-19-2013 02:33 PM

Maybe just hook up a cable, and pull it down? Then you can just go through the pile on the ground. Find some boots with a steel sole, like the VietNam Jungle boots. That way, nails won’t be going into your feet. Termite infested boards can go in their own pile, and be burned.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

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