While searching various wood product exchange forums, I noticed that reclaimed barn wood made into flooring was bringing around 8.00 per sq ft. The nail holes are referred to as character defects. Does anyone here have experience working with reclaimed wood? Is there really that much demand for old barn wood? Why would barn lumber be worth more than freshly sawn oak or poplar? Does the aging of the lumber give it a different color or more character?
(Value-Added Wood Processing Forum)
Our cottage floor is made from reclaimed barn board. Some of it is 8" to 10" wide. All I can tell you is that it was finished roughly (you can see gouges and circular scrapes) but it is beautiful. It is the first thing people notice. Seeing that floor makes me understand why there is a demand for it.
Note: An estimated 3 trillion board feet of lumber has been produced in the U.S. since 1900 and much of this wood still resides in buildings!
Steve Bratkovich, forum technical advisor
Steve Bratkovich, forum technical advisor
This old barn turns out to be chestnut (a rare find). After seeing the results, I was reminded of an article that I read here on marketing which said that most businesses fail not because of lack of capital but rather lack of imagination.
Being a relatively small manufacturer, I find this an ideal type of product to market since I already have the machinery and tooling to produce. I have also located a crew for barn disassembling. My next step is to locate a distinctive wood product distributor or broker.
I agree with Steve about the keys of manufacturing/marketing. I feel that people want and need building materials that are unique. Did you notice what the first response said about his cottage (first thing people noticed)? I'd also bet that he wouldn't take a share in a gold mine for his floor. This doesn't have to be a high volume venture because it is a low cost/high value item. I'm confident that I can produce 30,000 sqft of flooring (with present setup) a week although I wouldn't expect that kind of volume. I'll settle for 10,000 (smile). The machine doesn't know the difference between running 3/4" moldings and high value flooring. I can run my machinery 4 hours a week molding high-end flooring and make more money than running everyday run of the mill stock items all week.
Thanks for responding, contributor D. I have a matched set of stacked t&g flooring heads (carbide). Will this work well for the application? As far as machinery wear, how would you compare this material with MDF? If the material was pressure washed before being put in the kiln, would this reduce wear on machinery and tool life? The bed on our molder is chrome plated and shows no wear after 2 years of abuse. Any other ideas or suggestions are welcomed.
As contributor D said, it is very hard on machinery. The thin insert planer knives do not hold up well with old wood. I think older, heavy duty planers and moulders would be better suited for this.
You have to charge plenty for this type of work. Hitting nails and other metal objects happens even with good metal scanners. What are DGK-2000 knives?
DGK knives are made up of normal M2 steel with a special heat reflective extra hard coating. We developed this at Moulder Services a couple of years ago and have seen anywhere from double the life of the tool up to over 10 times the life. This is what our customers have told us and have been willing to explain to other people.
Joe mentioned that metal scanners were not totally effective at detecting nails. Why is that? Do metal scanners detect the metal residue left from the nails and spikes? I can see where this could be a problem. We have in house custom grinding and sharpening so I'm not very concerned about hitting an occasional piece of metal. I also have several extra heads for immediate change, just in case that happens. I'm sure there are several negative details of manufacturing reclaimed lumber and I want to know all of them.
As for the machinery question, I prefer a through feed moulder myself, but a Mattison or push feed Diehl have very strong tables on them. A through feed with good chrome plates is preferred by most. A major consideration is the initial investment that can be made. If money is no object then a through feed is the answer for most folks. If money is a major issue, then the older push feeds can be made to work well and for a long time.
We are a small shop and only do recycled wood when it is requested. We just have an inexpensive wand; I am sure better ones are available. Last week we resawed about 500 feet of snow fence barn wood (new barn wood). Two men spent about three hours each pulling nails and wire brushing off a little mud. We ended up hitting two tips of nails that were embedded in the boards. This material is a little easier than the old barn wood. You would not believe the things you can cut into with this stuff. Quality old wood is pressure washed and kiln dried. I think the guys that do a lot of this probably have a system of low cost help to do the nail removal and cleaning.
I'm still debating whether or not to pursue the use of reclaimed lumber. I would personally get a lot of satisfaction from molding such an overlooked material. I don't have any doubt that I could produce excellent quality flooring and wall paneling, however, I don't have much of a local market. Good marketing would be essential in this venture. I may just play around with the idea and run a few samples through our molder to get a feel of how well this material runs. I did get a rather negative email from a guy that only dealt in reclaimed timbers (expressed that everyone liked to yack about it but no one wanted to buy it). I would like to hear from somebody that actually makes finished products from reclaimed lumber.
Comment from contributor B:
As a consumer, grandson of an old school carpenter, and owner of a 200 year old stone school house, I can tell you that anytime I need to do anything, I have to search for the right materials. Old wood is harder and more durable than new wood of the same species. It is also far more attractive. If you are concerned about marketing, consider the internet - your market is anywhere you can ship. Make sure to put up a clean, clear, concise site (guess what I do...). Points to keep in mind: minimum orders, shipping by common carrier and disclaimers about the "artifacts" (better word than defects) in the material.