2014 - Volume #38, Issue #6, Page #09[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Making Treasures Out Of Old Barn Wood
FARM SHOW has published many articles about old building recyclers, but we like the harvest-as-you-need-it method Soberg and his friend, Lee Brenna, use on some of the buildings they find around their hometown of Pelican Rapids, Minn.
“We want the wood to weather as much as possible,” Brenna explains. “I have a couple of buildings where I have arranged to take boards as I need them.”
He points out that he doesn’t take down entire barns — he doesn’t have time with his full-time job as a cement truck operator. But he’s found plenty of interesting wood in dilapidated chicken coops, granaries and other outbuildings that people don’t use anymore.
“Old granaries are great because there are well-worn planks on the inside as well as the outside,” Brenna points out.
While Soberg focuses mostly on cabinets, Brenna’s projects range from flowerboxes to office furniture to bar tops embedded with beer caps under layers of polyurethane.
Brenna points out that often only a small portion of the salvaged wood is used for projects. Either the wood is rotten or it gets damaged when it’s removed.
“We’ve tried using Sawzalls but they ruin the back sides of boards,” he says. “We have better luck just being patient and doing one board at a time with hand tools.”
For people interested in harvesting barn wood, he has two pieces of advice: Get a tetanus shot and cut wood slowly. The dry wood splinters easily. He’s found that miter saws seem to work better than table saws. Brenna also uses self-tapping screws to minimize splitting.
He creates items from the old wood during the winter and admits it’s not usually a moneymaker.
“My daughter and wife take a lot of it,” he laughs, noting that the two women have different tastes. “If it’s for my wife, she wants it stained. My daughter likes it weathered,” he explains, noting he often pressure washes wood, then covers pieces with a sealer.
He consigns items to a local gift shop and says most people seem to have tastes similar to his daughter — the more weathered and grey, the better.
Brenna adds that building “accessories” such as doors and windows can sell well. Even wood not suitable for furniture or craft items has its use. While tearing down a building in the winter, Brenna often uses the rotten wood to build a fire on site to keep warm while working.
“I’m not financially motivated with this project, but it sure is fun,” Brenna says.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lee Brenna, P.O. Box 394, Pelican Rapids Minn. 56572 (ph 218 770-9936). Tom Soberg, 40799 260th Ave. Pelican Rapids, Minn. 56572 (ph 218 329-4087).
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