Can old furniture be re-purposed as stock? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 09-20-2019, 10:47 AM Thread Starter
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Question Can old furniture be re-purposed as stock?

There are lots of suggestions of re-purposing old shipping pallets. I've wondered if old hardwood furniture that has been painted or stained could also be re purposed?

Justification: Old furniture is frequently made of beautiful hardwoods....maple, mahogony, oak, cherry, etc. And if you think of headboards (beds), tables, doors on cabinets, etc....there are large expanses of "raw material".

But, given that I can't find articles online about this, I'm assuming that, either because of difficulty of paint / stain removal or health concerns of tainted saw dust, it must not be worthwhile. Perhaps there are even bigger issues I haven't considered?

YET.....the younger generation seems to be less interested in antiques and "family furniture", and I've seen so much "good wood" headed to the dump lately, it does make me wonder.

Does anyone have experience with this topic?

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post #2 of 22 Old 09-20-2019, 10:54 AM
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In my opinion trying to "repurpose" this material would be more work and hassle then it would be worth. Just how much of it is going to have a dimension what would be useful to cut into boards?



Olds church pews offer wood that could be useful, but I cannot think of much else.


Anyway, it these derelict pieces of furniture have wood that is that god looking then it is probably better used for what it was originally purposed.


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post #3 of 22 Old 09-20-2019, 11:02 AM
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Its too much hassle if you are working for a living.
but if you want a hobby project...
The main problems are nails and screws buried in the wood. in olden times any ironmongery was always hidden under wooden plugs, so before you cut off any angles or unwanted joints you need a good metal detector to sweep the entire surface area on all sides or risk destroying an expensive blade.

Then if its been painted, you need to remove a fair amount of wood from each surface to get rid of all the old soaked in paint.
THEN, you can start working out what to do with what you have left it.
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post #4 of 22 Old 09-20-2019, 11:58 AM
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For the record, I do it often. I harvest old furniture for the good hardwood it contains. I see furniture on the street, ready for trash pickup, and I grab it. Sometimes we buy old furniture just for the wood it contains. The worst problem is that my friends know, and they bring me stuff. Here are some pointers and experience with harvesting old furniture for the hardwood it contains:

* Avoid particleboard, MDF, plywood, weathered wood, etc.
You won't get anything useful from them.

* Expect a lot of small boards and a lot of waste.
You can always turn them into boxes, handles, pens, or interesting segmented laminations. They are also useful for jigs, test pieces, and prototypes. Some just can't be salvaged. I don't worry about it.

* If you live with someone else, there is a danger that your wood harvest may be turned into a restoration or refinishing project.
DAMHIK. :-o

* Disassembling furniture takes time.
You are trading time for money. For many people, it is not worth it. Go buy boards instead.

* Don't be afraid to cut things apart.
Sometimes it is much easier to cut off metal fasteners and other parts rather than trying to pull/screw/pry it all out. You can't save it all, diminishing returns applies, and fasteners leave holes anyway. Sometimes a reciprocating saw ("sawzall") is the best tool for the job. I have not resorted to a chainsaw ... yet.

* I have not had much luck with metal detectors.
I don't bother with them. Instead, I disassemble with care. In my opinion, due diligence and paying attention to how the piece was assembled is far better than any detecting tool. Some people do not have the temperament or patience for it.

* Watch for small metal bits, like staples.
Metal is bad. Staples are used in many places. Nails and staples can break off and be hidden in the wood. Pay attention.

* If you aren't sure, cut it off or throw it away.
Metal is bad. If you think a piece might contain metal, get rid of it. The wood was nearly free, so don't take the risk. Cut off and dispose a big piece rather than take a chance.

* Use old blades.
This is a perfect use for that free blade that came with your saw. I don't use my nice Forrest blades for cutting up old furniture.

* Sometimes you take a pass.
We donate to Habitat for Humanity, and sometimes we look around the store. I see lots of useable hardwood in the form of marked-down, donated furniture. Sometimes the wood is worth far more than the asking price of the item. Sometimes Spouse and I have a brief discussion about whether to buy an item for the valuable hardwood, or leave it for a needy person who might buy it, take it home, and use it.

* My motives are personal.
I love wood and hate waste. Reuse is good. Helping the environment is good. Any destination or use has got to be better than a landfill.
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Last edited by Tool Agnostic; 09-20-2019 at 12:08 PM.
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post #5 of 22 Old 09-21-2019, 02:06 PM
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I hate wasting solid hard wood but the few times I have tried to get useful stock from old furniture but rarely is it worth the time. The exception is pieces that have been in the family. I have a few bf of wood from a dining set and bedroom furniture that had been passed down a few generations. I try to incorporate some of that in things I make for the Kids and grandchildren even if it is small.
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post #6 of 22 Old 09-21-2019, 02:52 PM
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It is easier to use new wood, but if you know what you are doing it can be a valuable resource, particularly for smaller items. Probably not worth stripping painted wood, and you generally have to be capable of matching stains.

The most valuable parts of old furniture are the turnings and carvings that can be incorporated into new projects.

My father gave each of us kids a lamp he made from the turned legs of the family dining table that we had grown up with.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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post #7 of 22 Old 09-21-2019, 03:42 PM
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When I had my shop I often thought about it but never actually pursued it. Major reason is that it would be a waste of time. When I had any "spare" time I would either turn some bowls or make a spec table. I love making tables. And that was the reason i thought about re-purposing. My "spare" time was so limited, I didn't want to waste it by disassembling and scrapping out an old table top. I just want to build.
There was a time i started to look in Good Will and similar places for glass top tables. I figured If I could get a glass table top and leave the rest of the table behind, it would be worth while. The reality was that upon close inspection, there was no way I could sell a coffee table i designed and built and put a scratched glass top on it. Even one scratch in the glass would be enough to devalue the table and my reputation. Not only that, but the time looking could have been better spent building and ordering a new table top].

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post #8 of 22 Old 09-21-2019, 06:24 PM
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I think you will find that the amount of good, usable wood you can get from old furniture is so small that unless you are into a lot of glue up and making small wooden boxes or toys it not worth it. You can buy some decent wood for the price of a damaged tool. I have gotten a few nice pieces from the dunnage used to hold bundles of import wood. Watch out for embedded gravel though.
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post #9 of 22 Old 09-21-2019, 06:48 PM
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I pickup and use old furniture all the time. I also have a friend that owns a storage business and he will call me if he clears out an abandoned unit that contains old wood or furniture. The stuff costs me nothing except my time which in some ways I have plenty of. I also like the idea of reusing things instead of tossing in the landfill. I could buy material at the lumber yard or mill and, as some say, not waste time. I am careful about metal and with some reclaimed wood employ a metal detector. It has found a few things I missed.
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post #10 of 22 Old 09-21-2019, 08:18 PM
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I've reused/repurposed a lot of wood in my time. I once got an old dresser from a relative that turned out to be solid mahogany. The sides were glued-up panels, but each section was fairly wide. Drawer fronts were solid as well.

I've also grabbed drawers from furniture that's been put out at the curb, as the sides & backs are often nice hardwood. Typically only 3/8" or 1/2" thick, but still useful for some things. Pic below is of a few boxes I made from drawer box wood for some Bedlam cube puzzles a while ago.

Old pianos can be a source of decent wood. We had one that needed so many repair that it was essentially worthless, & I had to pay someone to haul it away. Before he came, I salvaged several pieces of walnut, QSWO, ebony keys, & a couple of strips of what appears to be rosewood. My next project is likely to be an Arts & Crafts style mantel clock, & I expect to make it completely out of wood from that piano.
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post #11 of 22 Old 09-21-2019, 10:09 PM
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I have used a a lot of recycled wood for projects especially mahogany, but also oak and maple. Hardwood in my area is very expensive so I use what i can.
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post #12 of 22 Old 09-22-2019, 05:16 AM
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I completely forgot about a client of mine. She was very creative and I did a lot of refinishing work for her. Her teenage daughter lived with her and had her own decorator. She had me re-purpose furniture for her from time to time. She gave me this night stand she bought from Good Will for about $35 and told me to change the style to a match her current furniture and how she wanted it painted. Below is the before and after shot. For the whole process, see Attached link to my Albums in this Forum. https://www.woodworkingtalk.com/memb...ransformation/
If you move mouse over the photos, they will expplain what I did.
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post #13 of 22 Old 09-22-2019, 02:43 PM
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Church pews are usually oak. Not the best for some projects due to open grain.

A diamond is how coal reacts under pressure.
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post #14 of 22 Old 09-22-2019, 09:02 PM
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Old solid mahogany TV set cabinets would bring a fortune at country auctions. Sometimes more than a current new TV set for Cuban mahogany. Once in a while the only way you will get certain endangered woods is to recycle. Another time to recycle is if the wood has a link to history. Imagine a pen turned from a piece of the USS Constitution. I have a few planks air drying in the barn from a red elm that grew at President Buchanan's home. I once knew a furniture "restorer" that worked for the federal government. His shop restored pieces of notable furniture that had been broken or had fallen into disrepair. He gave me a piece of wood (about 3 x 1 x 16) that allegedly came from a desk that had been used by Andrew Jackson. It had been finished on two sides and had a big splinter broken out of it. Lost it when my shop burned. Such pieces are still just a piece of wood, but the historical connection makes them a bit special.
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post #15 of 22 Old 09-22-2019, 09:34 PM
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Only if you have a lot of Documentation.
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post #16 of 22 Old 09-22-2019, 11:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony B View Post
Only if you have a lot of Documentation.

There are lots of stories, but very, very few verified documents.


George
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post #17 of 22 Old 09-23-2019, 08:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeC View Post
There are lots of stories, but very, very few verified documents.


George
I actually have a letter from the forester in charge of the trees at Buchanan's home about the red elm I have. He supervised the removal and milling. Also for catalpa log from there. Gives picture, date of removal, etc. Easy enough
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post #18 of 22 Old 09-23-2019, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by holtzdreher View Post
I actually have a letter from the forester in charge of the trees at Buchanan's home about the red elm I have. He supervised the removal and milling. Also for catalpa log from there. Gives picture, date of removal, etc. Easy enough

Do you mean Wheatland?
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post #19 of 22 Old 09-24-2019, 12:29 PM
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Do you mean Wheatland?
yes Wheatland near Lancaster PA.
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post #20 of 22 Old 09-24-2019, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by holtzdreher View Post
yes Wheatland near Lancaster PA.

I live about ten minutes from there. Maybe 12, depending on traffic. I've never been in the house but did walk around the grounds and took a look inside the presidential outhouse. Seating for six, as I recall.
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