Just like every other woodworker out there I like to find bargains on lumber or woodworking supplies. My latest great find was reclaimed lumber when I went to look for hardwood flooring. The local dealer for the nationwide chain, had a gigantic pile of discarded pallets they were about to destroy. When I asked if I could purchase some of them, I was told take all you want. So I backed up my truck and had a very happy afternoon sorting among the pallets.
Now this lumber wasn’t perfect, but it also wasn’t what we commonly see in pallets here in the U.S. A lot of it was from the mahogany family, and some I couldn’t identify. So, in my mind it was worth the effort to take it home, and clean it up.
Before I ran any of the wood across my jointer, or thru my planer, I checked it with a metal detector. Just like the metal detectors used at the airports by the TSA agents, this hand held wand detects imbedded metal that would destroy your jointer or planer blades. Thank goodness I did, because I found several pieces that were hidden from visual inspection. If you are also into woodturning, the metal detector is a must. The last thing you want to find in that nice piece of lumber that is spinning on your lathe is a hidden nail or screw. Not only could that destroy your turning chisel, but it may turn out to be dangerous.
One of the things I discovered about using reclaimed lumber is that there are a lot of defects in the wood. Some of these actually can add to the beauty of your project, but some are just too ugly to leave alone. To cover those really ugly spots, I turned to an old technique, commonly known as a Dutchman. In today’s woodworking terminology, these are known as Butterfly Inlays.
By what ever name you care to use, the idea is to cut out the defective area and cover it with a decorative patch. Often the patch is made from a contrasting wood that would highlight the defect instead of hiding it. The Dutchman is cut using a handheld router, a template and a bushing set for the router
The concept is really simply, the defect is removed, then using the same template, the patch is cut out.The trick is that the patch has to be just a bit smaller then the cut made to cover the defect. Using an inlay set,with a ring on the bushing, the defective area is cut out completely. Then the insert is cut using the bit and bushing, only the ring is removed first. The thickness of the ring determines the difference between the area to be patched and the the inlay.
If in your project you use screws to hold things together, and you want to hide the screws, consider using a butterfly or dutchman instead of the common button or bung. The concept is the same as covering a defective area.
Was every piece of lumber I reclaimed worth the effort? Nope, some ended up in my scrap bin, but for those that I could salvage, the price was right. So keep you eyes open for those good deals on lumber, and don’t discard anything just because it has a few defects, those can be easily covered. I have used some of this reclaimed lumber in projects around our home and have found some of it to be beautiful when finished. Those pieces were well worth the time and effort to reclaim, reuse and keep them out of a landfill.