Dirty, Dirty Wood

Mystery Board in the DumpsterI was out in the lumber yard yesterday looking for a good photo of our Maple and Cherry lumber shed when I came across the dumpster filled with metal banding, sawdust, and small off cuts.  Laying on top was an 11″ wide, 50″ long board that is practically black from exposure, dirt, and bird (ahem) droppings.

The board has a fair amount of cup, some kiln sticker staining, and twist.  The end grain was also just as dark and dirty so it was obvious this had not been freshly cut off from a longer board.  The short length however does make it hard to sell to our wholesale customers so I have a feeling this board has been pushed aside for years before someone finally relegated it to the dumpster.

The thickness is 5/4 so with a little strategic planing, I’m confident I can remove the twist and cup and yield at least an inch of final thickness.  The thing is I have no idea what species I am dealing with.  The dumpster from which it came is in a central location in the yard so it could be any species.

Mystery BoardI am thrilled to remove the outer layers of shame from this outcast and see what beauty hides beneath.  Based on the weight, I’m thinking it is a domestic species and probably something like Cherry or Walnut.  Needless, to say, I will have to give the board a thorough cleaning to remove all the dirt before I take a plane blade to it.  I can think of no faster way to dull my blade (short of dropping them on the concrete floor) than attacking a board like this.  All that sand and grit will be like sanding my finely honed blades with an 80 grit belt sander.

So here I sit at work, surround by lumber and all I can think about is my mystery board waiting for me in my shop at home.

10 Responses to “Dirty, Dirty Wood”

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  1. Sigh… you’re getting better boards from your workplace junk pile than I can buy around here, Shannon.

    Larry “jealous of Shannon” Marshall

  2. Marilyn says:

    Yeah! Dumpster diving pays off again. Have your co-workers started to wonder about you yet? ;)

  3. Jeremy Kriewaldt says:

    A marketing thought to launch your ‘retail’ presence: “Come to our place, see our lumber, dive in our dumpster”. Have a BBQ going and something for kids and SOs to do and you could have WWers from 100s of miles there one weekend.

  4. Chris Wong says:

    Could you say the board was the opposite of “bird’s eye”? I’ve got some of the nicest and most unique boards off of one-way skids.

    • Shannon says:

      Chris, I think finding beautiful stuff in everyday “junk” like pallets is very common. Many of the international mills know they can’t sell the figured or crazy grained stuff to the big millwork houses so it gets discarded or made into utility pieces like pallets.

  5. Dyami says:

    Nice find, Shannon. Do you guys do any milling at work? Could you run it quickly through a drum sander to clean it before planing?

    • Shannon says:

      I could do that, but it is hard to get some time on the machine since it is running gang busters all day. Plus then I wouldn’t have anything to film at home to share with you all. One point however, even if you use a drum sander to remove the dirt and junk, you must still be very careful about cleaning off the grit from the board as it is still there and can seriously dull your plan irons. In many ways it is just better to save the drum sander until last to avoid that embedded grit.

  6. Tom Dugan says:

    My money’s on cherry. Looks like the same stuff I pull off of my neighbor’s barn rafters. Probably for the same reason. :^)

    And a good scrub planing will clean, decup, and detwist the sucker. No need to be machine-centric.

  7. Robert Pitcole says:

    OK Dummy Question
    How do you plan to clean the board???


    • Shannon says:

      I have a heavy, stiff bristled brush that I use to remove most of the dirt and grime and that is usually sufficient. If more is needed, wiping the board with a damp rag can help as well. Of course you can also set aside an old beater plane for this use and start working to remove the outer layer. That blade will dull faster, but if all you use it for is the rough removal of the grime then you will be fine if it is not razor sharp.

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