Making furniture from reclaimed materials. Wut.
November 29, 2013 6:53 PM   Subscribe

I plan to take up a new hobby: making furniture from reclaimed wood and metals. What should I read? What materials do I need? What should I know?

I'm most concerned about the process of drying reclaimed wood; I don't have access to a kiln.
posted by Mr C to Education (11 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have access to a kiln.

Neither did most wood workers throughout history, and their work was better for it. If your are worried about how dry it is, stick it up in the rafters for a year or so. Get yourself a cordless sawsall with blade made for nail-embedded wood (and one for metal) for your scavenging trips.
posted by 445supermag at 7:15 PM on November 29, 2013

Get yourself a cordless sawsall with blade made for nail-embedded wood (and one for metal) for your scavenging trips.

Buy blades in packages of five or ten; they break, bend, and dull at the most inconvenient moments.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:23 PM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Reclaimed, as in recycled from manufactured goods? Or from fallen street trees etc? Your kiln comment suggests the latter; if so, then you might like Make a Chair from a Tree. Besides telling you how to work green wood, it tells you how to do so mostly using hand tools.
posted by mr vino at 7:35 PM on November 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

You may be inspired by some of the Dutch Mr. Eek's work.
posted by miaow at 7:38 PM on November 29, 2013

You do not need a kiln, unless you're in a hurry. I've dried wood just fine, all you need is time. "Drying" is kind of a misnomer, you're really waiting for all the cells to burst and release their stored water, all it takes is time. I've dried huge thick trunks which takes years - I wanted these for big bowl blanks though. If you're making furniture you can go ahead and cut to easier to deal with thicknesses and they'll dry in less than a year in many cases.

Do you already know how to make furniture from normal lumber? If not, then I'd start there, even if it's only to make some pretty trivial stuff. The process of preparing raw unsurfaced lumber takes some practice, you'll wreck some of it (well, wood is never really "wrecked" but you might make it unsuitable for THIS project, by requiring some of it to be resurfaced or cut down smaller)

I guess I learned the real basics of woodworking from TV shows. David Marks "Wood Works" show, Norm Abrams "The New Yankee Workshop" and so forth. The rest I learned by doing, although sure I've read some books in my time. Anything by the Taunton press tends to be pretty good (and expensive - but they are usually available in great condition from used stores)
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:12 PM on November 29, 2013

BTW a surprising source (to me at least) of recycled lumber was pallets from a local "Lumber Liquidator" store (this is a store that sells flooring and decking). Their pallets were 6-8 feet long, made of south american hardwoods. The structural members were often 2"x3" and the cross members were 6 or more inches wide, thicker than 3/4" and beautiful hard woods. I got most of the pallets I have for free. Obviously there are nail holes and stuff. I never used them for furniture but they're my go to material to make fixtures and stuff around the shop because they're hard, straight grained, and, well, pretty. Why use home depot red oak when you could use something nicer?
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:15 PM on November 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Beware of lumber that has been treated with preservatives. Some of that stuff is right nasty and will come out again during sawing and sanding.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:33 PM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some more detail would be nice--are you thinking of , or making furniture from green wood branches and the like, or working with architectural salvage, or something else?
posted by LarryC at 10:30 PM on November 29, 2013

If you have the outdoor space and energy/$ to commit to this, solar/non-electric lumber kilns are a thing you can research and build yourself (probably even find plans for on the internet). Basically it is a shed strategically placed to get optimal direct sun, with translucent ceiling of some kind and ventilation features. AKA the concept of putting lumber up in the rafters for a few years just refined a bit.
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:05 PM on November 29, 2013

If you're using architectural salvage, it'll be plenty dry. If you plan to make coffee tables by sticking hairpin legs onto live edge slabs of lumber, you're not going to need much knowledge or tools. You'll probably be content with a circular saw, hand drill, hack saw, angle grinder and a belt sander.

If you want to build other kinds of furniture, check out The English Woodworker for his series on making a small cupboard with hand tools.

The Woodwright's Shop has some great stuff and I always point people towards Chris Schwarz' appearances that cover hand plans, sawing and layout.

I recommend you start with some pine from the home center or lumber yard because it's much easier to learn on than oak or stuff that may contain hidden nails. You can buy clear select grade and find thicker, knot free stuff if you hunt though the really wide joist materials. Most furniture made in the 1800s is painted pine or veneered pine. It's light, strong and easily worked with hand tools. The Victorians bought it in planks , same as we do.

Paul Sellers has some great vids on sharpening and basic properties of wood.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:38 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

To speed up the wood drying process you could set up a solar kiln. Pretty easy to make. Just google "solar kiln" "solar wood drying" etc for some ideas.
posted by herox at 10:06 AM on November 30, 2013

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