Introduction

How to Build a Table from Salvage Beams
Photo: Kristine Larsen
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Salvaged from the ruins of old homes, factories, and outbuildings, reclaimed wood has a history, heft, quality, and character you won't find in the new stock sold at your local lumberyard or home center. Many vintage beams, joists, and boards were originally cut from trees that grew slowly as they competed for sun and nutrients in forests. This made for tightly spaced growth rings and wood that's typically harder and more dense than timber sourced from many of today's quick-yield tree farms.

Thankfully, buying reclaimed wood has gotten easier and, in some cases, cheaper, given the rising cost of new hardwood, which is often imported from far-flung locales. Expect to pay $2 to $20 per linear foot, depending on the type and dimension. Where you shop also impacts the price. Reuse centers tend to sell old wood "as is" at a discount, but you often have to contend with splinters, grime, and nails. Dealers specializing in vintage lumber charge more in exchange for a wider selection and re-milled wood that's ready to use.

Then there are the lucky finds, such as the three Douglas fir beams that I rescued from a Dumpster. Their massive size—about 6½ feet long by 15 inches wide—made them ideal for a communal dining table like the ones I've been admiring at all those trendy farm-to-table restaurants cropping up everywhere. Read on to see how I made mine.
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    Tools List

    • pipe wrench
      Pipe wrench
    • miter saw
      Compound miter saw
    • t-square
      T-square
    • Pencil
    • hand clamps
      Clamps
    • circular saw
      Circular saw
    • drill
      Drill/driver
    • 3/8-inch spade bit
      Spade bit
    • socket wrench
      Socket wrench
    • dust mask
      Dust mask
    • safety glasses
      Protective glasses
    • random orbit sander
      Random-orbit sander
    • 2-and-a-half-inch paintbrush
      Paintbrush
    • Chamois or lint-free rag
      Lint-free rag

    Shopping List

    ¾-inch gas pipe and corresponding elbows, flanges, and tee connectors

    Salvaged 2x8 joists for the straps

    Salvaged beams for the top

    ½-by-3 ½-inch lag screws2½-inch wood screws

    60-, 80-, and 120-grit sandpaper

    Shellac

    Beeswax polish