One of the great aspects of wood is that is a living material and it can continue to be worked over many years. We often think of materials as only having a primary or initial use. But wood can have so many other uses after the life of its original product. Man made products can be much harder to transform. That’s why you generally don’t see people reclaiming/reusing concrete, plastic or steel at home. However, with a little DIY know-how and inspiration, it’s easy to upcycle reclaimed wood into new custom projects.
At the end of every job, we clean up all these little bits, scraps, and odd cuts. Normally they go into the trash or compost pile or maybe someone’s wood stove. Next time you are looking at a mess of odd wood strips, consider gluing them together into your own custom cutting board. All you’ll need is some food-safe Type III wood glue, clean non-toxic wood scraps and bar clamps. A table saw and job site planer will finish it off.
Another awesome way to use different species of scraps is in a floor pattern. With a table saw and a planer, you can make almost any design. We took some leftovers and created this custom compass floor accent pattern.
One of the most commonly upcycled items these days is pallet wood. If you are completing a home renovation, chances are you already have several pallets to toss in the dumpster. Instead of filling the landfill, consider one of these projects.
Have some walls that are kind of blah? Want a touch of wood to warm up a room? With a reciprocating saw and a nail gun, you can have a free wall treatment in no time. You can easily run the planks straight or in any endless combinations of patterns.
A super quick project for pallet wood is an upcycled headboard. With the wood from two pallets and scrap 2×4’s, you can make this headboard in about an hour. Another unique feature of reclaimed wood is that no two pieces are alike. You can further make this project your own with a little flair, a stencil and some paint.
Want something quicker? Need a home organization solution? In 15 minutes you can cut a pallet into these simple wall sorters.
When I started renovating this mid-1800’s farmhouse, there were too many old (but good) cedar wall shingles to toss. Since this house was so old, much of the wood in it came from trees that started in grow in the 1600’s to 1700’s! That’s some history worth saving.
If you are replacing old wood siding, save any pieces that aren’t cracked or split for a new project. They can easily make an indoor wall treatment, a homey dog house or in our case, a wood-clad outdoor shower.
Post and Beams
Framing lumber is such a great source of project wood. The older the better in this case, since the wood will naturally take on its own patina with time. How cool is it to know that new furniture you built could be over 200 years old?
During a recent renovation we needed some structural columns. To fit the overall design, we installed old barn posts. They fit the design motif perfectly even with the original mortised tenon pockets.
But old posts don’t have to be used only for their original purpose! For interior projects, you can use reclaimed framing to build a sliding barn door or even use them in a ceiling treatment. These pieces of heart pine came out of walls we opened up to modernize a floor plan and I estimate that these pine trees start growing over 300 years ago!
Since old beams and posts are generally quite large, they are easily cut down to fit your project. We notched these beams purchased from a heart pine reclaiming company to make a fireplace mantle.
One of the unique things about reclaimed wood is the character that comes from age and use. Natural patinas develop as the wood ages. Use this to your advantage in the character of the piece. We had these posts sawn into 1″ slices and then used them for some upcycled stools. The original peg holes only add to the look we were going for.
If those projects are too big for you, think small. There are all kinds of cool ways to use reclaimed wood. Consider something as easy as cladding an existing table top with cut end pieces. Or even make coasters with character. These heart pine coasters were cut on a table saw, sanded, and sealed in less than an hour.
There’s no limit to the cool projects you can make with reclaimed wood, by combining the character of the past with ideas of today. Upcycling these pieces not only keeps waste out of landfills but it also gives a natural material like wood a breath of fresh air.
Dylan Eastman has designed and managed the DIY Network Blog Cabin multimedia experience since 2011. With a background in Environmental Science and lots of design/build construction ranging from residential additions to custom homes, churches, and process plants. He continues to make anything and everything he can.