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Tag Archives: recycled beams

  • Reclaimed Douglas Fir: Remaking vintage timbers

    Posted on February 23, 2012 by Jennifer

    The process of recycling Douglas fir beams sounds so simple. It’s just an old piece of wood, right? Find an unused structure, dismantle it, put the timbers into a new structure. Piece of cake.

    Wrong. A great deal of work goes into making sure each individual beam is prepped and ready to take on its new life in your building project.

    Reclaimed Douglas Fir beams

    Each reclaimed beam must be examined by experienced woodworkers who can determine what kind of shape it’s in. A beam with a great deal of splitting or warping due to its years of exposure might be perfect for a weathered-looking mantelpiece, but it won't work for any use where it actually has to support a structure.

    Once a beam’s structural characteristics have been considered, you can move onto other preparation work. Do you want a beam in as-is condition, with its original surface completely intact? Or is a smoother surface what you want?

    Some very old timbers are hand-hewn--they still show the marks from where a long-ago craftsman squared off the logs with hand tools.

    Other Douglas fir beams might have a circle-sawn finish. This lends a textured look and feel, with marks from the circle saw used to mill the wood still visible. The saw marks lend a subtle striped appearance to the beam, perfect for a rustic look.

    A band-sawn beam will be cut along its length, removing the original face and revealing the wood underneath. It will have a relatively fresh-sawn look, which precedes any planing or sanding.

    If you want your beam to be sawn or re-shaped in any way, professionals will use metal detectors to make sure any nails or bolts that might be hidden within the beam have been removed; for a beam that doesn’t need re-sawing, simply removing any visible metal from the wood might be sufficient.

    Making sure the wood is clean is another important step. A beam that’s been living in a dusty barn or a grimy factory for 100 years is going to have a hundred years of dust and grime on it. You want that cleaned before you bring it into your home. Professionals use power washing, which is more powerful than the pressure washer you might get at your local home store for cleaning off your driveway. This is a commercial cleaning machine that will remove all dirt, debris, pollen and mold from the beam.

    Another important part of preparing reclaimed Douglas fir involves removing any stowaways that might have found a home inside your beam: beetles, ants, or other little creatures that you definitely don’t want to invite home with you. Professionals can apply a borate solution to the beam, which kills any insects within it. A chemical-free option is kiln-drying; heating up the beam will also kill any unfortunate critters and their eggs. Kiln-drying also reduces the moisture content of the wood and increases its stability.

    Once your beam is insect-free, there are still a few more things to consider. How do you want your Douglas fir beam to look? What color do you want to see? For instance, if the beam has been re-sawn or re-surfaced, some of the original patina it acquired during its previous life is lost. There are tricks to making sure your aged beam looks really aged. Ammonia fuming, for example, involves exposing the wood to ammonia, which reacts with the tannins in the wood, darkening it in the process. You can also brush it with a wire brush or other tool to bring back some of that distressed, aged, appearance.

    Finally, once each Douglas fir beam has been inspected, de-nailed, sawn to your specifications, cleaned, and de-bugged, it’s ready for sale. That’s a lot of work for something that’s just an old piece of wood.

    - Jennifer Rouse



    This post was posted in All Entries, History and Interest and was tagged with reclaimed douglas fir, recycled beams, reclaimed beams

  • Reclaimed Douglas Fir: Original patina or resawn?

    Posted on November 16, 2011 by Nicole

    Reclaimed Douglas fir is well-seasoned wood recycled for a new purpose. Reclaimed flooring, wall and ceiling accent beams, and mantel pieces are just a few ways to repurpose reclaimed fir.

    Reclaimed fir is sustainable, dense, and boasts a beauty like no other – it’s a good-looking wood.

    So, should you go with original patina or resawn reclaimed Douglas fir? The answer largely depends on its end-use. Read on to learn more.

    Hand Hewn Douglas Fir Beams

    Reclaimed Douglas fir in original patina are hand hewn beams that come as is. These beams are handpicked from hundred-year-old deconstructed sites – think abandoned barns, warehouses, and commercial buildings. Note: AltruFir handpicks its reclaimed fir beams from large scale deconstruction projects in the Northwest.

    Original patina Douglas fir beams are not resawn, meaning their weathered surfaces are not shaved. In fact, bolt holes, nails, and checks are common characteristics of reclaimed fir beams, which may be a small price to pay if you’re looking for original patina.

    Wood patina takes years, decades, or centuries to develop – the richer honey-hued the fir, the older it is. Because reclaimed fir beams are rough to the touch, they’re referred to as rough hewn wood. Sand blasting or professional scraping of the beam’s surface reveals its original patina, increasing its value and enhancing its appearance. Original patina fir beams are a popular choice in antique and old-world inspired designs.

    Reclaimed Douglas fir that is resawn are hand hewn beams that come cleaned-up. These beams are also handpicked from bygone buildings. The difference is that all sides of a resawn beam have been sawn off, producing a look identical to new wood.

    Resawn beams reveal a cleaner surface which is helpful when you need to match timber. Resawing reclaimed beams is also handy when exact timber dimensions are needed for a project or when reclaimed beams will be paired with existing timbers on a site. Resawn beams are a great choice for a contemporary aesthetic too.

    Whether you opt for the original patina or the cleaner resawn reclaimed fir, people value both varieties for their high quality and history, with or without the shave.

    - Nicole Morales



    This post was posted in All Entries, History and Interest and was tagged with reclaimed douglas fir, douglas fir beams, recycled beams, reclaimed beams

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