De-Nailing Barn Beams

Tips on dealing with the nails when sawing lumber out of old recovered timbers. August 21, 2006

I recently got a job to resaw 30 barn beams. They are all roughly 8"x8"x20'. I denailed the whole job by hand with nail pullers, hammers, hatchets, a Wizard metal detector, and the Crescent No 56 nail puller.

My customer came yesterday to check on how things were going and he was very pleased with the finished product. He told me he easily has another 80 or so beams he wants resawn. I am going to take the rest of the job but am worried I am going to go insane pulling these nails by hand. This job is by the hour and the customer is happy, but I would still like to speed things up and move onto other jobs that must get done.

Is there an easier way?! I know there are a few pneumatic nail removers out there, but they punch the nail through the board. That works for a board, but not a beam. This tool might work if a pallet resawing blade is successful sawing through 3/16" nails. Anybody know about these blades? I could resaw the boards first, then punch the nails through.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor R:
I have been sawing old beams and using bi-metal blades, which will saw through the old square nails easily. I just sawed some chestnut oak and cut through 9 new type nails on one board. The blades are expensive, but if you saw real slow on the outside cuts, it will really show what is under the surface. The customer has to guarantee my blades. Also with plenty of lubrication, I get good blade life. I started by purchasing 2 blades and experimenting.

From the original questioner:
I didn't think of using the bi-metal blades to cut the surfaces to see the nails better. That will definitely speed up the process, and allow nail pullers to grab more easily. What brand of bi-metal blades do you use? For regular sawing I love Timberwolf's blades (13' 9"x 3/4" pitch x .045 - even for softwoods because knots are hard). I was using Timberking's blades and they would only last 2 hours, max. Without hitting any hard knots or steel, I can get a full 8-10 hour day out of Timberwolf's.

From contributor R:

I cut metal for years in manufacturing and used a lot of metal saws. The teeth in those saws are very close together and the risk of breaking them is far less than the blades I use on my mill. You really need to use extreme caution and protect your eyes. I have not broken a blade on nails yet, but in the first cut I use a very light feed rate and can hear the blade the second it touches a nail. With a heavy feed rate, the tooth could grab more than the tooth can handle and break off.

I have only used Lenox blades because the first two I purchased worked and I did not want to reinvent the wheel. A great help was Ms. Connie Flanagan at U' Enterprises. They have been super to deal with and service has been flawless. I had a large manual mill which I just sold and will pick up my new TimberKing B-20 next month. I will have to learn to use the hydraulic feed to cut old materials.

From contributor J:
Ah, pulling nails, the joy. Some days there is nothing I would rather do. Others, it is the last thing I want to do. But I found that if I drill a small hole or holes next to the nail, I can usually pull it fairly easily. This really minimizes the access hole you have to dig out to get a bite with your nail puller.