Old lumber is beautifully unique and has character that simply can’t be recreated. Using these pieces of reclaimed wood is also more environmentally friendly than trying to use new wood that has been purposely distressed. If you’re lucky enough to find an old door or a chunk of an old beam, you’ll want to use it with as few alterations as possible to really capture its character.
Clean It Up
You may be able to find old lumber on your own or you might seek out a company, like Old World Lumber Company, that supplies it. Old reclaimed wood may have been painted or it may still have metal fragments in it. When first handling an old piece of wood, make sure you wear durable gloves to avoid injury. Start with a degreasing soap such as dish soap, gently mixed with water in a spray bottle. Wet down the wood and brush over it with a plastic scrub brush to loosen dirt, dust, and grease.
Remove Metal and Soap
Your scrub brush may uncover nail or screw heads. Remove all the metal you can get out of the wood and spray it down with plain water to remove the soap. Wipe the piece down with an old cotton rag. If you feel any snags as you go, check for more metal. If the wood is very rough and porous, you may need to roll over it with a thick cotton towel wrapped around a paint roller to soak up extra water.
Use Small Pieces
Once the wood is cleaned and you’ve removed any sharp metals, measure the wood. Even small pieces can be put to new uses. A small L-bracket can be used to turn an interesting piece of wood into a unique shelf. Carefully arrange the items you want to display in front of the brackets for a floating effect. Alternately, you can use smaller pieces of wood to build into a larger creation. For example, glue up a stack of small pieces and drill a hole down the center to build a lamp base. Keep in mind that if the wood is on the fragile side, you’ll have to be careful as you do build with it.
Use Bigger Pieces
Of course, if the wood you have is bigger than the installation you want, just saw it down and build with the pieces to make the shape you want. A good option for working with bigger pieces is to combine it with other materials. For example, use a piece of glass or a thick piece of Lucite as a cover. By installing a cover over a hearty beam, you could turn a collection of old beams, mounted on a platform, into a unique side table or coffee table.
Repurpose with Paint
Once an old piece has been cleaned and allowed to dry, you can add a coat of sealer to the existing wood to capture the patina. If you want to try staining the wood, test a small area to check the saturation rate. For those who like to work with paint, make sure to apply a coat of stain-blocking primer before putting on the top coat.
Each piece of old lumber is unique and provides the user with the chance to build something completely new for their home. No matter how small the piece, you can put it to use. Hang onto your scraps of small lumber until you’re ready for your next project.
Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University, and now writes articles about health, business, family and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family whenever she isn’t writing. You can follow her on Twitter @anitaginsburg.