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Drying scaffold boards

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Richard Smith

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Hi,

This is my first post in several years as a member, now that I have made the transition from woodworking dreamer to actually having the space and spare time to start kitting out a basic workshop in my garage. In order to motivate myself to keep going despite the newbie mistakes and the slow progress I am making with limited tools (just hand power tools - circular saw, jigsaw, router - a cheapo drill press and an SCMS at the moment), I have set myself the target of constructing a new dining table that the other half will allow in the house, in time for Christmas dinner. The sort of thing I have in mind is a rustic farmhouse table along the lines of one I saw in Restoration Hardware while on holiday in the US last year:

FarmhouseTable.JPG


I managed to pick up 20 x 13 foot scaffold boards for £5 each to use for the project as I didn't want to risk a significant outlay on expensive wood while I'm still learning the basics, with the hope that I can run these through the planer-thicknesser I plan on buying and create something that doesn't look like a load of scaffold boards stuck together, but still has a bit of character, with my current tools plus a table saw. I'm now wondering how to go about getting the boards dry enough to work with - I'm assuming they've been stored outside for some time, and the surface of the boards was damp when they arrived. I don't mind some movement in the wood after construction as that will just add to the rustic character, but don't want anything splitting or delaminating. At the moment the boards are stacked in a couple of piles, raised from the ground on some batons, in my unheated garage. I can afford to wait until the summer before starting planing these boards, but will just leaving them stacked like this be enough to get them reasonably dry, or should I be placing batons between each board, or moving them somewhere warmer/dryer?

Cheers,
Rich
 

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paultnl

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I would put batons between the boards and also invest in a metal detector before putting them anywhere near a planer. Who knows what has been banged in to them during life on site.
 

Tierney

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Convention says to put batons in between each board. It will allow the air to flow around each board and dry them a bit more evenly and more quickly. The rule of thumb for green wood (i.e. freshly felled wood) is 1 year per inch of thickness; but, that is for air dried (i.e. outside but covered). If you ever heat your garage it may speed up the process and your wood may not be as wet as green wood.

The definitive answer of course will be in using a moisture meter at the time; but, that would cost you about £100.

You will need to be careful when thicknessing the boards as they may have grit, small stones or nails in them; which, will destroy your blades in an instant. If you run a belt sander over them first, you may be able to spot if something is embedded.

DT
 

Rob Platt

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cut them to a rough size allow plenty of extra bring them inside and stack them properly move them around periodically to check them over. keeping them in an unheated garage wont dry them out sufficiently to make furniture out of them. when the surfaces are dry start planing them up to clean them. that table looks fairly close to scaffold board thickness and a couple of mm either way wont alter the look.
all the best
rob
 

Lord Kitchener

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Unless you are planning to conduct an orchestra, it would probably be better to stick to using battens. :)
 

bosshogg

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Don't worry scaffold boards are fully seasoned (they have to be before use on site, H&S regulations) but if they have been on site they will be surface wet. If you stand them up facing the sun and a good drying wind, whilst protecting them overhead, they will be fine. Then bring them in to a dry warm place indoors (similar to final usage destination) where they will acclimatise to the new environment...bosshogg :)

I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.
Albert Einstein 8)
 

RichardSmith

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Thanks for all the advice. Will get battens between them for now and try to get them out in the sun when it gets a bit warmer, then bring them indoors before I start working with them. Any idea how long I should leave them to acclimatise indoors (this may have to be a balance between getting them properly dry and how long the other half will accept them cluttering up the house)?

I would put batons between the boards and also invest in a metal detector before putting them anywhere near a planer.
Was definitely planning to give them a careful going over to remove any nails or stones, and I thought that maybe giving them a pass with a cabinet scraper might be a good idea before putting them anywhere near a new planer? At least that way if I do discover something hard embedded in them, it's only a case of having to regrind the scraper...

Unless you are planning to conduct an orchestra, it would probably be better to stick to using battens.
If the woodworking doesn't go according to plan, I could always give orchestra conducting a try... :)

Thanks,
Rich
 

woodbloke

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RichardSmith":191rbwc0 said:
Was definitely planning to give them a careful going over to remove any nails or stones, and I thought that maybe giving them a pass with a cabinet scraper might be a good idea before putting them anywhere near a new planer? At least that way if I do discover something hard embedded in them, it's only a case of having to regrind the scraper...
A cabinet scraper won't go anywhere deep enough to clear the grunge and grit out of the surface of each board. This happens to be:



...a lump of elm that I'm currently working with. I didn't know what the surface was going to be like, but it certainly wasn't pristine...not nearly clean enough to go across the planer. You can see that I've started to use a scrub to clean up the surface to get down to clean timber before surfacing it on the p/t. You only need one bit of grit or dust and your p/t blades will be fubar...and you have 20 scaffold boards to sort out :shock: - Rob
 

AndyT

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I'm not a fan of that sort of chunky furniture, but from what I can see in the picture I'd guess that the tool of choice for imitating it would be a big belt sander. Maybe even a walk-along floor sander. Grit and nails would be no problem.
 

Jacob

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Yes to belt sander.
But if you are going to have a go with a planer I'd start (after cutting to length first of course) by doing a deep cut through the thicknesser, on both sides. This works a bit like a scrub plane - the idea being to lift off the gritty surface by cutting mostly in the clean wood underneath. You are still going to hit the grit but less so than with a fine cut along the surface.
And saw off the edges, not plane.
Then when you have some nice clean surfaces you can think about planing flat and to size.

Or on the other hand just use them as they are, after a bit of a wash etc. They are only scaffold boards after all.
 

DBriggs

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You should hire a moisture meter to check each one before you start working on them.
 

nodnostik

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Hi Moisture meters are available on Ebay for about £8 - £10 have read several reports on them and they have all been favourable. They may not be acceptable to the finest of cabinet makers but do seem to be very good. Just waiting for mine to be delivered.
 

andersonec

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Back in the sixties if our instructor saw you so much as put a plank on the painted workshop floor (swept every night by the way) you would have your knuckles rapped, the fine grit particles it would pick up would take the edge off your planer blades instantly, just think what a 600 grit sharpening stone does to your chisels. These planks, having spent most of their lives on building sites being walked on, thrown on the ground etc. would have large grit particles deeply embedded and would not be my first choice unless 3 or 4 mm could be removed first with some old spare blades but I would still be expecting some damage to the cutter block.

Andy
 

No skills

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I will find out next week myself, have a few to clean up - will be using an el-cheapo leccy planer (£15) for the first part of the clean up. I dont give a fig about keeping the blades sharp :)
 

marcros

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The OP may have long gone but an alternative would be to avoid planing entirely and produce something adze finished. I think that it could achieve the rustic look hat he was seeking, without having to worry about knackering planer blades.
 

jo-53

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interested in your work with scaffold boards, as I was thinking of making a floor with them and thought I would just sacrifice a set of not too sharp blades with the hope they could be re-sharpened afterwards. However after yesterday, when I destroyed my planer thicknesser, I won't be doing anything practical for some time. Perhaps sanding is a better option.

Jo
 

Richard Smith

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Yikes, that doesn't sound good. Any hard-won insights into what went wrong so I don't make the same mistake?
 
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