Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Turning Old Wood into New

October 13, 2004

Another stunning day. I planed down more wood that will be the living room, bedroom and den floors. 2” thick, 8” to 12” wide fir planks. Many of them so covered in grime and oil I’ve taken to leaving them out in the rain to wash off. My new Delta 13” planer is a miracle tool. Stick a piece of 50-year old, scarred wood in one end, and fresh lumber comes out the other. Actually it’s better than fresh lumber. While not old growth it certainly has more character, is straighter, and even with the bits bugs have taken out of it, stronger than modern wood. There are the holes and black iron stains from old nails, and the characteristic patterns indicating that they came from big trees. And few could afford to line their floors today with 1.5” x 12” planks of solid wood.

As great as my Delta planer is, it struggles with 12” lumber in its 13” maw. I struggle too, because most of the planks are 10-foot plus and a few at 16 feet. The planer can at best take off 1/16th of an inch at a time. I’m taking off a half inch or more. That means a minimum of 8 passes. The bigger planks can really only go 1/32nd at a time or up to 16 passes to get them into shape.

The blades for the planer are $35 a set, and last through about 16 planks or so. I learned the hard way not to use the planer as a cleaning tool. The grit in the floor dulled a set of blades in one pass. Now, in addition to combing through each plank to remove nails and bits of nails, I wire brush the surface first. The whole process takes up to one hour per plank. I have perhaps 20 planks done and I need 20 more.

It is great being outdoors all day doing this, but it is fatiguing, noisy and dirty work. The planks need to be supported at input and output and I do that manually. Yes, I should set up rollers. Thanks for the suggestion. The tops clean off in a pass or two, but the sides remain filthy and within a few passes the tops of my jeans and the belly of my shirt are covered in grime.

There is a pile of shavings that stack up at the foot of the table on which the planer is mounted. So far I’ve just spread them around in the immediate vicinity, but I may have to start bagging and transporting them elsewhere.

It’s all worth it. The wood is heavy, straight and full of character. Before it becomes my floor it will need to have it’s edges trimmed, perhaps tongue-and-grooved, set in place, nailed, sanded, and then finished. I’m likely to top nail it with a can of old square-head nails that one of my neighbors retrieved from a dark corner of his barn. It’s a generous gift. The old nails sell for 25 cents a piece in town.

I now own a 500W work light and have started to putter around in the house after hours. This is extending the work day, but unless I get shut-in soon, I’ll likely be driven out by the cold. The Z-brothers returned today with the east and west tines. The got half of them on the building, but needed to make an adjustment to the eastern edge before proceeding. The weather is expected to turn nasty on Saturday and they won’t have the next layer of roofing on by then so we will have to batten down the hatches and await clear weather before continuing further.

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