Smoothing out old lumber/driftwood - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 10-10-2016, 09:30 AM Thread Starter
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Smoothing out old lumber/driftwood

I recently pulled a large beam off an ocean beach and want to make it a mantle. It is aged but some of the surface grain is splintered. I would like to smooth the surface and retain the natural grey finish of the driftwood.

What is the best way to do this?

Thanks for you help!
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post #2 of 10 Old 10-10-2016, 10:10 AM
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man cannot recreate natural weathering

You will not be able to recreate that weathered and water eroded look easily, if at all. My best advice is to leave it as is because once you start revealing the wood underneath it will not match the distressed look you have. You could trim off the splinters with a sharp knife leaving as much of the original surface as possible, but that's all I might do without actually seeing what you have.
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The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #3 of 10 Old 10-10-2016, 12:58 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply. I don't want to try and re-create the weathered look. I just want to make it as smooth as possible. I was thinking of a light sanding and I may take your suggestion on trimming with a sharp knife or chisel and then sand.
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post #4 of 10 Old 10-10-2016, 04:15 PM
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If you absolutely wanted to remove the outer layer, the only thing I could think of would be to stick back outside until it looks like it did again, which granted, could be a really long time.
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post #5 of 10 Old 10-11-2016, 09:24 PM
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I would put several layers of a solvent-based matte polyurethane on it. That should stabilize the surface well enough. After the second or third coat, you may want to remove/yank out the really bad splinters.

Regards,
Steve
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post #6 of 10 Old 10-11-2016, 10:32 PM
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You might use a water based polyurethane on it. The finish would hold the fibers together and a little sanding between coats it should eliminate the loose fibers. Then finish it off with a flat water based poly and it should maintain pretty close the same appearance.
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post #7 of 10 Old 10-12-2016, 12:52 AM
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Definitely agree with Steve. If you use a poly use a water base. The oil base poly will darken it and change the color.
And you can do some sanding. Experiment with the back side first. I work a lot with old lumber and I'm always afraid to sand because I want to keep the look but I'm usually pleasantly surprised when I'm done it still has the old look and a fairly smooth finish. Sometimes I like the look even better when I'm done.

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post #8 of 10 Old 10-14-2016, 08:20 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you Steve and Michael for the reply. Can you recommend any specific water based products? The beam I have is about 18' long and the mantle space is only 6' so I will definitely have some extra to practice on.

Thanks again.
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post #9 of 10 Old 10-14-2016, 10:16 PM
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Minwax PolycrylicSmoothing out old lumber/driftwood-imageuploadedbywood-working-talk1476497747.299298.jpg

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post #10 of 10 Old 10-15-2016, 01:05 PM
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I used the Minwax Polyacrylic on these and it has held up very well. I just cleaned it with simple green and a brush, let it dry completely and brushed it on.

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