Many people love the look of old wood furniture and find it hard to reproduce or to match an existing piece of antique furniture with something recently made. The craftsman of today can match the style of old furniture by using new tools and techniques. It is the appearance of the material that is hard to match. The secret of making old wood furniture is in making the wood look old.
Reclaiming wood beams from old barns and bridges is one way of making old-looking furniture. You can find these beams for sale on the Internet. There are many areas of the country that you may find an old building that you can tear down for salvage.
Run a metal detector over all sides of the reclaimed timber. Use a claw hammer and small pry bar to remove any nails that may be in the beam. If you hit a nail with the band saw or chain saw, it will ruin the saw blade so double check for nails.
Cut the beam into the shortest length that you can use. Old beams are heavy and difficult to handle, so the smaller the beam the better. Use a chain saw to cut the timber to rough length. If you have a project in mind, cut the wood for the longest piece of material that you will need.
Mark a straight line on the beam to rough cut the timber into a size that will fit on your planer and jointer. Most jointers can handle boards that are six to eight inches wide, while most planers can handle boards up to 12-inches. Use a straight edge and a marker for this step.
Cut the mark with the band saw freehand to size the beam into usable pieces. Follow the line as close as possible; it will reduce the amount of time needed to make a smooth surface.
Plane the wide side of the old wood using your planer. A planer is a power tool that makes a smooth, flat surface on one side of a piece of wood. Remove no more than 1/8-inch of material per pass. If you try to remove more material, you can damage your planer. Old wood beams are hard and will dull your blades quickly. Flip the board over and repeat this step until you have the material the thickness you need for your project. If the material will be left on the shelf for a while, leave it as thick as possible. This will allow you to plane out any imperfections when you are ready to use it.
Place the newly planed surface against the jointers fence. Adjust the jointer depth of cut to no more than 1/8-inch. A jointer is a power tool that creates a smooth flat edge perpendicular to a surfaced edge. Run the wood through the jointer with one of the planed sides of the wood held flat against the fence. Continue making passes until the narrow side is smooth and perpendicular to the adjacent side.
Stack the lumber until you are ready to use if for your furniture. The wood is S3S (Surfaced 3 Sides) and ready to be used.
Make your last couple of passes on the planer removing only 1/32nd of a inch for each pass. This will leave a nearly perfect surface that will require little to no sanding.
Wear hearing protection and safety glasses when using power tools.
Use push blocks when feeding material through the jointer to keep fingers as far away from the cutting surface as possible.