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Thread: House to be demolished - which wood to grab?

  1. #1

    House to be demolished - which wood to grab?

    Hello everyone, my first post here.

    My name is Gene (from Russia), I live in Luxembourg and am getting into woodworking as a hobby.
    My workshop is in a 3x3 cellar, so not a lot of room, although I have a large terrace (part of it protected from rain) where I store whatever wood I find.

    I am planning to build a Roubo style workbench, and all of a sudden a guy I know asked me if I'd like to take wood from his house, which is due to be demolished in a couple of months (he's planning to build a new house there). The house is around 30 years old, and is made of concrete (I guess), the roof is probably timber-framed, although I am not 100% sure, I'm not an expert At the back of the house there is a terrace, with a roof supported by a timber-framed structure. I am wondering if these beams (some of them have lengthwise cracks) would be a good material for the frame of the workbench? I was going to buy 40 mm (1.5") laminated beech for the bench top, and glue two layers face-to-face. But now I'm also wondering if it would make sense to use the beams to glue up a laminated top.
    Besides that, the house has rail&stile windows (if that's a correct term) with shutters, and wooden stairs.
    The owner told me I can take whatever I want.
    They are also going to cut down three trees, I was told one of them is a walnut, another they are not sure (it's bloom is pink, and it doesn't bear fruits), and the third one is a rather large tree that looks like some sort of pine. I'm guessing the first two trees might be a good source of turning blanks, tool handles, wood for making hand planes? For the pine-like tree, I don't really have ideas, besides possibly making a hewing / chopping block(s)?

    I'd like to get some advice, which wood would be useful to take for future use in various projects?

    Some pictures.
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    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    A tree - I was told it blossoms pink and gives no fruits. Perhaps some expert can instantly ID it?

    20200119_115636_HDR.jpg
    20200119_115651.jpg
    20200119_115644.jpg

    A tree - I was told it's a walnut. Is it though?
    20200119_120320.jpg
    20200119_120341_HDR.jpg
    20200119_120334.jpg

    I forgot to take pictures of the pine-like tree

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    San Francisco, CA
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    8,887
    Welcome to the Creek, Gene.

    The timbers at the back of the house could well support a workbench. They look to be softwood, so I wouldn't be building fine furniture with them. Cracks don't change the structural characteristics much, but with that much to choose from, you should be able to find crack-free parts. I'd avoid lumber with lots of nails in it; removing nails is a pain.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    Modesto, CA, USA
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    You might try to remove the tops of the stairs. Make sure the outdoor wood is not chemical treated. I would take the electrical panel and any heavy wire to a stove or water heater. Is the front door better then yours? Some doors make nice bench tops or shelves.
    The shutters are easy to take if you have a ladder. Condenser the windows and doors so you can enclose you area under the cover. You shop can probably use some more light fixtures from this house. My wife would have me take the windows and leave the glass behind. She would then use them in the garden as a trellis.
    The stair rail and spindles will be good for making handles.
    Any live trees you cut will need several years for the wood to dry enough to make useful lumber.
    Kitchen vent fan may be good to ventilate the cellar shop.
    Can you use a sink in the shop or outside. I would unscrew any outdoor faucets with a pipe wrench.
    Is the roof tile?
    How will you transport all this stuff to your home?
    Bill D.
    Modesto, Califorina, USA

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    Modesto, CA, USA
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    The pink tree may be in the Cherry Family. The bark is very thin and paper like.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Canton, MI
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    518
    I'd be grabbing the hardware on the shutters first.

  7. #7
    Thank you!
    Wow, great advice already!
    How do I check whether the outdoor wood is treated?
    Not sure about light fixtures, I have installed 4 double-tube LED lights in the cellar, already plenty bright.
    I didn't stair rail and spindle as potentially useful, but tool handles make sense! Thanks for that suggestion.
    Yeah I understand that wood taken from cut-down trees will take a while to dry out. Still I guess I can take some, to train my patience
    I'll check the kitchen vent fan, indeed. What would outdoor faucets be useful for?
    Stupidly, I didn't have a look at the roof What if it is tile?
    I have a reasonably-sized MPV (old Renault Espace), with rear seats removed and rear window open, it can fit quite long things.
    I do like the shutters hardware (gate hinges they are called?) and plan to take it. Not sure if the shutters themselves would be of use. Removing nails indeed doesn't sound very fun.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    Salvaged material can be wonderful to work with. The timber frame material can be leveraged in a wide variety of ways. One thing about salvaged wood, however...you will want to invest in a metal detector because you do NOT want hit metal with your tools, powered, or unpowered. Stairs, shutters and other features such as trim, built-ins, etc., can all contribute to a nice haul of material you can use for projects for sure.

    The tree seems pretty small in the photos. Maybe nice turning stock (lathe) but not likely worth while for flat woodworking, IMHO.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
    My company puts a lot of time and money into using reclaimed timbers from old buildings. It's a pain to de-nail, but yields excellent material, usually much higher quality than it's freshly felled counterpart. as stated above, a good metal detector is a must. Plan on having to dig, not pull, metal out. Learning to patch the resulting holes will yield some unique looks.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    In the USA pressure treated wood will be covered with small pin pricks. They allowed the liquid to soak into the wood. These will still be visible even after several coats of paint.
    Bill D.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Dufour View Post
    In the USA pressure treated wood will be covered with small pin pricks. They allowed the liquid to soak into the wood. These will still be visible even after several coats of paint.
    Bill D.
    Bill, I've never seen pinpricks in pressure treated wood around here. Not at the lumber yard nor at the pressure treatment facility I sometimes buy from directly when I need quantities.

    Gene, the bark on the tree supposed to be walnut doesn't look like the walnut around here (black walnut). Photographs of leaves (along with size information) might help a lot. The bark on black walnut is furrowed. The leaves are long and have lots of leaflets along the stem. https://www.thoughtco.com/black-waln...erview-1343176

    As for the house, I'd definitely take all the beams if they are not rotted.

    JKJ

  12. #12
    Thanks Jim. Metal detector sounds like a good idea. When you mention it, is it of the kind used for security checks?
    Johnny, how do you dig the metal out from the wood?
    If I cross-cut a beam, would I be able to see if it was treated or not by the color or smell or something like that?
    I'd take pictures of leaves if it wasn't winter. The bark indeed looks quite different from the pictures I've found.
    Last edited by Gene Pavlovsky; 01-20-2020 at 1:09 AM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    The kind used for security checks is fine for the purpose and they are generally more powerful (can see "deeper") than the small, inexpensive ones sold for "woodworking". I have one of those and it does work, but the depth is very much limited. That's not an issue for typical flat stock, but for repurposing timbers/beams, something deep inside could get missed. Jointer/Planer knives and saw blades cost money.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  14. #14
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Pavlovsky View Post
    Metal detector sounds like a good idea. When you mention it, is it of the kind used for security checks?...
    I use a Lumber Wizard metal detector at the sawmill. Cutting through steel will ruin a blade. I’ve found many things in trees - screw drivers, 1/2” diameter steel rods, a railroad spike, nails nails nails. A Lumber Wizard should be fine for locating nails in beams. I have several models of the Lumber Wizard - the latest model doesn’t have a vibrating feedback, just a beep and a red laser line which I don’t like at the noisy sawmill and in the sunlight, but that should be OK in a quieter or less bright place. The Little Wizard is a lot cheaper but it’s not very useful.

    In a wet log, steel often makes darker colors or streaks in the wood. I chisel out metal as I find it. For nails in dry wood if the head is still there I use a nail removing tool but if the head is gone and a little of the nail is showing on the surface I try to chisel away enough wood to grip the nail with vise grip pliers. Sometimes this is difficult! (I will do this again soon with a large beam of rare American Chestnut recovered from an old building.)

    As for the possibility of the wood being pressure treated, some processes leave the wood a distinctive green color on the crosscut. Around here I have only seen pressure treated pine and yellow poplar. I would treat unknown wood as pressure treated and wear gloves and good respiratory protection. I wonder if there is a reliable chemical test for the chemicals they use. In the US, the chemicals were changed a few years ago.

    JKJ

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
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    Phoenix AZ
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    510
    Hi Gene- welcome to Sawmill Creek!

    In the US pressure treated lumber is generally only used where it will be in contact with the ground. I doubt that the timbers in your photos are treated but can’t say for sure. Do they even do that there?

    The trees in the photos look too thin to yield much lumber- any idea what the diameter is?

    I found some old posts online at Lumberjacks.com that mentioned this chemical test. It detects the presence of chromium which was present in the older CCA chemical treatment. You apply the chemical to the bare wood and if it turns bright red it is a positive test.

    Found it on Amazon but don’t know if they will ship to you or not. According to the safety data sheet (SDS) it is a pretty hazardous chemical so use with care.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N3Z73LS..._ZEEjEbR7NE40S
    Last edited by Mark Daily; 01-20-2020 at 12:58 PM.
    “Pay no attention to what you cannot control..” Epictetus, 100 A.D.
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