Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Something I've gotten used to since moving to Colorado Springs is the wind. It's not always windy, but it's windy a lot. It knocks over umbrellas at the pool in the summer, separates limbs from trees in the fall and spring, and knocks down fences all year round.
There are certainly some downsides to dealing with the wind, like the occasional broken car windows and dealing with insurance companies to get fences replaced. But there are upsides, too. Super clean air is one of them, along with a clear blue sky. And then there are those fences. They don't do much good for keeping the deer out and the dog in when they're lying on the ground, but it turns out they're great for building.
Hence my journey into building with reclaimed wood.
A neighbor recently had a new fence put in after four of their cedar 4x4 fence posts broke in a wind storm. I looked at the pile of wood every day as I drove past and eventually got up the nerve to ask, "Can I take your old fence?"
"Uh, sure. Take as much as you want, but it's full of nails."
"Yeah, um, I'll be careful. Thanks!"
And so I dragged those fence sections out to the sidewalk and knocked the boards apart, loaded them into the trusty Cherokee and brought them home. I lined them up on my sawhorses, knocked out all the nails, and then came up with a plan to turn them into reclaimed wood cabinet doors and sliders for my new basement closet.
I did it for a couple of reasons. First, I'm cheap and this was free. Second, I hate seeing anything that isn't destroyed making its way to the landfill. Third, I've seen lots of barn doors lately and I love the look. Rustic, warm, unexpected, free. Oh, yeah. Free. Already said that.
Unfortunately my (er, our) miter saw is out of square again and Scott's in no position to fix it at the moment (an unbearably painful sacral shear and torsion have taking him out of the game for a while. Never heard of a sacral shear? Neither had I. Read more about them here and here). So, I had to use butt joints on the cabinet and door frames which probably added to the rustic look. Right? On the cabinet doors, I just glued and nailed the inset panel to the backside of the frame. I had planned to do the same on the sliders, but they would have ended up too thick to pass each other on the sliding track. So for those, I cut the inset wood to fit inside the frame and then joined them to the frame with my kreg jig and glue.
This project helped me learn a few things about reclaimed wood.
First, always take way more than you think you'll need. It's not that I had to discard a lot, the problem was that the cuts for the sliders were just slightly more than half a length of each fence picket. So I had a lot of pieces that were an inch or two too short to use. I'm sure I'll use them eventually -- probably on a table top.
Second, cut off the gnarly ends to reveal fresh wood. The fresh wood joins much better than the gnarly wood and is less likely to split. I didn't realize that until about halfway through, and then I started making sure that all of my ends were freshly cut. It lent much more stability to the final product.
Third, don't worry about the color difference in the freshly cut ends. Painting them with a formula of vinegar and dissolved steel wool oxidizes them almost immediately, matching the patina of the old wood perfectly. Check out this great tutorial to see what I mean.
Clearly, there is much work still to be done in the basement. We haven't quite settled on a plumber to do the bathroom rough-in, though I think we're nearly there. There's electrical and drywall and some framing and the ENTIRE bathroom and trim work and floors and some more popcorn ceiling in the hallway. Ha. Not even close to halfway there. But I like my new doors.