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Lifeway Wood Boxes

Building a Memory with Reclaimed Wood

Have you ever wondered what to do with reclaimed wood?

What is “reclaimed wood” anyway?

Superior Hardwoods of Montana has a great post here – but here is the basic idea…

At some point, many structures constructed from virgin wood are either removed or demolished. When this happens, there is a huge amount of air-dried wood left behind. This highly-sought after lumber is ready to be recycled by a reclaimed wood flooring company and to be used again in various ways.

There is a real charm to this type of wood because it contains a lot of history. Reclaimed wood provides whispers and echoes of the past and looks beautifully aged and unique. Reclaimed wood is popularly used in homes and businesses throughout the country.

Superior Hardwoods of Montana

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The wood tells a story

Our first venture into using reclaimed lumber was when we reclaimed the wood from our oak dining room table. Unfortunately it was damaged during our move to Tennessee. Instead of trashing the table we decided to reuse the top. I carefully turned the undamaged part into two end tables, a side table and a couple of cutting boards. The base of the table was transformed into a patio table that we use all summer. Now our grand kids share it with us and we tell them the story of how it got there.

That oak table was special. It was one of the first projects I ever built with my two young kids (the parents of those grandkids) It was a family project and we have lots of memories from the many meals we ate around it!

Another time a client gave us old wood from a family corn crib and asked me to make this beautiful entryway coat rack and bench for their house.

Reclaimed Southern Pine

The newest reclaimed wood request came from our pastor. His grandfather was part of the Lifeway Christian Resource organization and had an office in their old Nashville headquarters. A few years ago the building was demolished. Thankfully they were able to rescue the southern pine panels which covered the walls of grandfather’s office before it was imploded.

The family has many wonderful memories of being in the wood paneled office with Granddad. But once they had the wood but weren’t sure what to do with it.

That’s where we came in. Our pastor was asked to speak about his grandfather’s legacy at Lifeway. He asked us to build something with the wood for the talk. He needed something small enough to carry, but large enough to be seen by the entire audience.

My wife and I immediately thought of the cedar boxes shown here – and decided to build one with a top for the first project.

Working with Reclaimed Wood

In the photo above you can see the wood and it’s condition when we first picked it up. There is definitely extra work involved when you use old wood. In this case many pieces were still fastened together and full of old nails.

The first step when working on reclaimed wood is to carefully separate the pieces. Next remove any metal – so you don’t mess up your machines! The old nails and staples were removed but the holes become part of the story.

Finally everything was ready to start building the box and lid!

Controlling the dust

It’s important to remember this old wood is dry and brittle, not to mention the age of the wood means the finish on these could be toxic to breathe. I’ve found this mask is the best choice for keeping my lungs healthy!

I planned to put the box together with box joints with my dovetail jig. The router is one of the messiest tools in the shop when it comes to dust.

I have dust collection system for my Dewalt router, (Check out this post for a review) but I don’t have one for my Porter Cable dovetail jig. I normally just head outside and let the dust return to nature. However that is a bit hard to do in the middle of a Tennessee winter.

The day I decided to work on this project was a cold and rainy Saturday in early February so I couldn’t go outside. I’ve tried hanging plastic from the ceiling and contain it that way, but that always takes up way too much space. So I turned to a better solution that would assemble quickly, be somewhat portable and not take up a lot of space.

HomeRight large spray shelter - used to contain dust

I unpacked my HomeRight large spray shelter and turned it into a Dust room. This shelter has a screen front to it and it fits in my shop nicely. Because of the light weight material, I can it move around the shop as needed.

Check out the video below to see the tent in action and to see the boxes assembled.

Building Boxjoints

I put on my mask and earplugs and stepped into the tent. Once I zipped down the front of the tent I had a “clean” room for keeping the majority of the dust contained. Check out how well it worked in the video below!

Side note – make sure you’re protecting your ears too! Check out this link to save 10% on my favorite new ear protection from Isotunes

Putting it together

This reclaimed lumber is thicker than what is in the box stores today. The full inch thick pine made great box joints and everything came together well. The bottom fit inside the box, hiding the edges and I glued and nailed it all together and wrapped my Bessey VAS-23+2K Vario Angle Strap Clamp around it overnight.

Reclaimed wood with box joints

Adding the box cover

The client requested a cover for the box. So of course you have to have a handle to lift it off. We decided to use the dentil molding to give it a unique look a routered edge. Then sanded the whole box smooth.

Final Finishing

We didn’t want to lose the patina of the wood so I used my own wiping polyurethane mix which brought the grain out in a beautiful way.

We found these unique side handles at Hobby Lobby – they have their entire collection 50% off quite often. They always have a nice selection to choose from and keep a variety so we can find what we need to match the box styles.

Notice the nail holes in the cover edge. These little imperfections make the reclaimed wood whisper the story of it’s history to the new generation, keeping granddad’s legacy alive.

We love a challenge

My wife and I love working on these types of custom projects. The opportunity to create a special family memory is the highlight of the last few months.

Now the client has asked us to create some more pieces with the large panels – we can’t wait to begin designing these next projects. It’ll be awhile before we use up this wood! We’ll be sure to share the next pieces when they’re done.

Do you have some old wood?

We’d be happy to speak to you about your project. Send us an email through our contact page and let’s chat!

Meanwhile be sure and follow us on Instagram to see what’s happening in the shop. We’d love to see you follow us on YouTube as well – be an early subscriber and watch me while I work!

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 Roger Bayne

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