Preparing Reclaimed Lumber for Your Next CNC Project

reclaimed barn wood for router project

Reclaimed lumber can be one of the most interesting materials to work with when you’re into CNC carving. For one thing, it holds a lot of beauty—and that’s true whether you’re using reclaimed lumber for the weathered look, the character, or because you’re in search of beautiful wood grain beneath the aged patina. Many also enjoy it because it’s an environmentally friendly material since you’re recycling previously used lumber rather than cutting new to create your projects.

No matter what type of CNC project you want to work on, from signs to wall art, d├ęcor, and more, reclaimed lumber will add character to it. Read below to learn how to prepare reclaimed lumber as a carving material.

Clean and Inspect the Lumber First

Reclaimed lumber can come from any number of sources—old barns, warehouses, bowling alley flooring, you name it. Depending on where it came from, there may be a layer of grime obscuring the patina.

So that’s the first step. Give the wood a thorough wash to remove dirt, and while you’re at it, remove any old nails or other fittings that may still be attached. It’s also a good idea to check for pests, too. If you find bore holes or evidence of fresh insect damage, see if you can have the lumber kiln dried to kill the pests, or use a wood-friendly pesticide.

Decide Whether to Keep the Original Patina or Remove It

That’s one of the beauties of reclaimed lumber—and this decision depends in part on personal taste and also the condition of the wood. If it’s painted or rough-hewn, feel free to keep that original texture. However, keep in mind that used lumber is sometimes warped, bowed or twisted, which makes it a little more difficult to work with. If you decide to mill the lumber, you’ll lose the original surface, but you’ll reveal beautiful wood grain while making the lumber true.

Milling Reclaimed Lumber

To mill the lumber, there are a few steps to follow:

  • Thick lumber may need to be cut with a bandsaw. For instance, if you have two-inch boards that you would like to turn into dimensional lumber, then you can cut them down to 1” for later planing.
  • Next, use a planer to remove the old patina—though you’re free to leave some old saw marks behind for added character. The planing process should also flatten cupped or twisted lumber. You can use a handheld electric planer for small projects, but if you’re milling a lot of lumber, a benchtop planer or even a larger freestanding planer is worth the investment.
  • After planing to the right thickness, use a jointer to give yourself one true, square edge along the length of the board.
  • Using either a bandsaw or a table saw, place your true edge along the fence and rip the board along the unfinished side so that both edges are true.
  • For extra smoothness or to remove any saw marks you may have created in the milling process, give the wood a good sanding.

When finished like this, the lumber will be ready to go for whatever projects you have in mind. The edges will be square enough that you can easily add unique profiles using a router, and of course, you can use your X-Carve to shape it however you like.

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