Two years ago, I rore off the end of my house and put it back. It was a turn
of the century post and beam addition and it had serious structural issues.
The solution was to demolish and rebuild.
I now have a nice new kitchen 2-car garage, and a shop above.
When the old addition was demolished I had the wrecking crew save some of
the smaller timers from the garage.... 4x6's. I would like to recycle the
lumber into a small hutch for the kitchen. I think it would be cool to take
a part of the old and work it into the new.
I have cut around the nastiest knots and splits and I think I can get a good
100 db ft out od what's left. Its softwood, but it's tight-grained
old-growth. Unfortunately, there are alot of old cut nails in there. I have
had minimal success trying to cut around them with a old cheapo plug cutter.
The cut nails tend to snap off rather than pull out unles nearly the entire
nail has been excavated.
Does anyone have any good suggestions nail extraction?
BTW, Yes I bought a metal detector.
I, too, think it's cool to use old wood for projects and I have removed
hundreds and hundreds of nails(and parts of nails) from old, used wood. I
first used a _Little Wizard_ metal detector but found out the hard way it
was a POS even with 'adjusting' the sensitivity suggested by the
manufacturer. I now have the _Little Wizard_ s big brother the _Lumber
Wizard_ and find it to be what I need. It, too, has to be used with a bit
of care. Once the nail head is broken off or the nail embedded in the wood
it is a MAJOR task to remove the remainder. Believe me, I have tried just
about everything....plug cutters, screw extractors, drilling it out etc &
etc. My current method is drilling around the piece of metal, being careful
not to break the bit, and chopping it out with a sacrificial chisel.
Finally, I check for ittey bittey pieces with the Lumber Wizard. I use a
cheap, sharp saw blade in my Unisaw to cut the wood to size and old blades
in my planer.
I too have a lumber wizard. It FINDS the pieces just fine. It sounds as
though extraction is just tough going, grunt work. I will have to plug some
of the holes but that's OK for this project... I think it juts adds to the
Not that it is very practical for you and I but did you see the New Yankee
where Norm used some reclaimed redwood from an old bridge in San Francisco,
They pulled the redwood timers then used a hydraulic ram attached to a
chain and some grippers. The timber was held down and then the ram just
pulled the big nails out one by one. It was pretty neat stuff.
I've taken apart a good deal of wood for recycling, here's some tools
and tips, in rough order of importance:
1)Well-made long crowbar. Gorilla bars are nice. You need good
machining on the nail-catch part. Sometimes cheap ones won't grab bent
or broken nails very well. Length is important for leverage: if you're
only doing a few it won't matter much, but if you pull many nails
it'll save you a great deal of effort.
2) Largest Channel-lock pliers you can get your hands on. These are
for nails whose heads are bent, broken, or otherwise won't fit into a
Those two tools will get most of your nails, at least the ones whose
heads can be raised above wood surface level. For problem nails that
won't come up...
...if the nail is holding two boards together, I use two methods, in
this order: 1) Heavy (3lb+) deadblow hammer from opposite side of
nail-head. You need only pound it a little, just far enough to get the
crowbar to work, or 2)use a hammer and an automotive ball-joint
separator to carefully pry the two boards apart enough to get at the
...if, on the other hand, the nail is buried in one board, you have to
dig a bit. First recourse is a good-quality "cats-paw", made just for
this purpose. Second would be a plug-cutting bit, third a small hole
saw bit, and last a spiral multi-bit in a wall-cutter (roto-zip type).
Sometimes a 1/4" chisel can be very helpful during this process.
Thanks for the tips. Very applicable for modern nails. The techniques do not
work (for me) with 100+ year old cut nails. It seems that the steel (iron?)
has very little tensile strength. Any significan bending back and forth just
breaks off the nail.
To sort of answer my own question:
I worked on it a bit more this morning and I have found that drilloing a
1/4" hole in from and behind (with the grain) each nail, the depth of the
nail, a little prying with a old 3/16" chisel followed by needle-nosed vise
grips is working for me.
Unfortunately, this leaves a pretty big scar. I guess that I will be getting
pretty good at making duchmen. They can be cool anyway.
I have used one of these:
for over thirty years as a construction pro. They are the best tool I
have found. I have seen some who are not able to use them because of a
lack of coordination. They will grab a nail that is buried a half inch in
the wood. They do not need a head to grab the nail. Good luck
Two for the board and one for the nail.
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