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Thread: Removing chemicals/paint from factory reclaimed Heart Pine

  1. #1

    Removing chemicals/paint from factory reclaimed Heart Pine

    Hi all. I am extremely new to woodworking so please bear with me. I have decided to make a table top and I have a few questions. I purchased some reclaimed old-growth tongue and groove heart pine. The boards are 4.25 inches thick and 7 inches wide and were used as flooring in an old (~1890s) cotton factory. Beautiful wood from what I can tell, but has some issues.

    My questions are as follows:

    1) Lead paint. As you can see, the boards have some white paint on them which I am fairly confident is lead paint. My current thoughts on how I would remove the paint would be to just use a planer, since I plan on planing off at least 1/4 inch off the top and bottom of the boards (maybe even more since they are so thick.) I would work outside, use a respirator, and put down plastic. Does that sound like an acceptable/safe plan?

    2) Chemical coating. As you can also see in the pictures (black stuff on the boards), the boards have some sort of dark oil chemical soaked into them. The guy I bought it from thought it was cotton-seed oil, which it could be, but it smells like some sort of factory chemical and im thinking it is likely carcinogenic. (and the smell is pretty bad.) My plan for this is similar to the paint in that I am thinking the 1/4 inch planing should take care of whatever this chemical is. However, I am guessing I wont be able to get rid of all of it (it is inside the tongue and groove, which I likely wont be refinishing in any way, as that is beyond my skill level). So I was thinking a few coats of poly would protect me from whatever remaining chemicals might be inside the wood. Thoughts/advice would be welcome.

    For both of the above: the oil/paint is on the inner edge of the boards as well (third picture shows this). Can I plane the inner edge of the board without screwing up the tongue-and-groove? If so, how much?

    Edit: I am concerned that the chemical might be creosote. Any idea if it is? If so - am I safe in cutting away the top half inch or so? It doesnt look like it goes that deep.

    Assuming the above two can be done safely, I would really like to use these boards and I'd love to hear your advice regarding finishes (below the poly that I will likely use to avoid any chemical exposure, that is).

    Thank you for your help!Heart pine 5.jpgHeart Pine 1.jpgHeart Pine 2.jpgHeart Pine 3.jpgHeart Pine 4.jpg
    Last edited by Dave Neely; 09-22-2012 at 10:56 AM.

  2. #2
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    Planing is how I would tackle this project.

    Caution: planing just one side could cause the beams to warp, you may want to plane equal amounts from top and bottom. I know they are very thick but warping is still a possiblity.

    Any chemicals, oils or smells that remain can be sealed in with de-waxed shellac. Zinsser Seal coat at the big box stores is de-waxed shellac. Then you can safely top coat, without the shellac the poly may not stick it may never cure.

    FYI: there are better and harder varnishes than polyurethane varnish. Tables are better served with a harder varnish, unless people will be dancing on the table then poly is a good choice.
    Scott

    Finishing is an 'Art & a Science'. Actually, it is a process. You must understand the properties and tendencies of the finish you are using. You must know the proper steps and techniques, then you must execute them properly.

  3. #3
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    I would resaw off the outer 1/2" where painted or contaminated. Better yet, find someone else to resaw off the 1/2".

    A pallet manufacturer in your area might have a resaw, or a sawmill.

  4. #4
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    You didn't say what you would be using the boards for, or if you would be resawing them down into thinner boards. You also didn't say how many you had. 2? A tractor trailer load?

    Why are you wanting to preserve the tongue and groove?


    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Holmes View Post
    Planing is how I would tackle this project.

    Caution: planing just one side could cause the beams to warp, you may want to plane equal amounts from top and bottom. I know they are very thick but warping is still a possiblity.
    ...
    Scott, I think your general comment about considerations for warping after planing one side is is valid. OP already said he would plane both sides. With due respect, I personally would consider it an impossibility to remove paint by planing these pieces 1/4" down and cause a 4 1/4" heart pine BEAM to warp.

    Regardless... lead paint + planing = bad idea, regardless.

  5. #5
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    creosote + planing = worse idea.

  6. #6
    If your planer will take off 1/8 inch on one pass and has a fast speed I would go that way to remove the paint .If the planer is of the lighter type that only removes about a 1/32 inch, I'd get someone else to remove it. Before long leaf pine got its rarity by being used up on rudimentary things it was almost always painted or left unfinished . What I would do is hand plane the top,NO SANDING, then keep it well waxed. That is a nice look and an appropriate look for your nice pine.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Burch View Post
    You didn't say what you would be using the boards for, or if you would be resawing them down into thinner boards. You also didn't say how many you had. 2? A tractor trailer load?

    Why are you wanting to preserve the tongue and groove?




    Scott, I think your general comment about considerations for warping after planing one side is is valid. OP already said he would plane both sides. With due respect, I personally would consider it an impossibility to remove paint by planing these pieces 1/4" down and cause a 4 1/4" heart pine BEAM to warp.

    Regardless... lead paint + planing = bad idea, regardless.
    I am using the boards as a table top, and would like to keep the tongue and groove so that I can glue them together easily (and I like the look). I have 4 pieces, each is 69" long/7" wide. I am not cutting them into thinner boards. They are 4.25 inches thick right now, and I am aiming on my table top being ~3.25-3.5 inches thick. (thus the planing).

    As to just taking it to a sawmill - I took it to a guy I know who has one and he said that unseen nails would make it a bad idea and I was better off using a small planer. Seems like there is some disagreement about whether planing will work...
    Last edited by Dave Neely; 09-22-2012 at 12:12 PM.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Burch View Post
    creosote + planing = worse idea.
    Can you elaborate? Why is this a bad idea and what else could I do?

  9. #9
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    after further consideration I like the resawing approach best... if you have access to a large bandsaw...

    You can check for nails with a device made for that purpose.
    Scott

    Finishing is an 'Art & a Science'. Actually, it is a process. You must understand the properties and tendencies of the finish you are using. You must know the proper steps and techniques, then you must execute them properly.

  10. #10
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    It'll screw your planer up. If it is creosote, and I don't think it is, unless it was painted (or spilled) on, it was impregnated into the wood with a vacuum process. For a floor, there would be no point in creosote treating long leaf pine. Creosote is like tar. You would never clean your planer of it, and it would always smell.

    Yes, there might be embedded nail - a metal detector would tell you that. And, his band mill would saw right through it, whereas your planer would need new knives, as it would immediately be converted into a moulder instead of a planer. How much are your planer knives? What planer do you have? A bandsaw blade for a portable mill costs about $28 and can cut through several nails before it gets unusable. "Hitting nails" is part of sawing logs for a sawmill (and a common excuse to turn work away they don't want to do).

    Got a band saw? Put it in the driveway, downwind, and saw away.

    You'll be taking 3/4 - 1" off. Why turn that into sawdust? Obviously you are free to do anything you want. I'm just telling you how I would approach (and not approach) the task.

  11. #11
    What about starting with a coat of naphtha or goof off / mineral spirits before planing? Would that work?

  12. #12
    You can keep the tongue and groove and groove,just scrape clean and coat that area with shellac to lock in any odors. Planing does indeed work,most will run metal detector over it first. Almost all of the long leaf pine sold has been reclaimed. I would not hesitate to plane it IF THERE IS A DUST COLLECTOR. Then send the bag to the dump. I have not heard of any in the industry taking any extraordinary precautions over the little bit of lead compared to shavings. The only other two options would be an unending task of gathering permission and permits. Or just taking the wood to the dump with the paint on it. A forum in for ideas NOT consensus. I have been involved in this stuff for decades. As I said in a recent post it would be helpful for those seeking advice to report back on what they decided and how well it worked.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Burch View Post
    It'll screw your planer up. If it is creosote, and I don't think it is, unless it was painted (or spilled) on, it was impregnated into the wood with a vacuum process. For a floor, there would be no point in creosote treating long leaf pine. Creosote is like tar. You would never clean your planer of it, and it would always smell.

    Yes, there might be embedded nail - a metal detector would tell you that. And, his band mill would saw right through it, whereas your planer would need new knives, as it would immediately be converted into a moulder instead of a planer. How much are your planer knives? What planer do you have? A bandsaw blade for a portable mill costs about $28 and can cut through several nails before it gets unusable. "Hitting nails" is part of sawing logs for a sawmill (and a common excuse to turn work away they don't want to do).

    Got a band saw? Put it in the driveway, downwind, and saw away.

    You'll be taking 3/4 - 1" off. Why turn that into sawdust? Obviously you are free to do anything you want. I'm just telling you how I would approach (and not approach) the task.
    Regarding how this chemical (whatever it is) got into the wood, my understanding is that this wood was the flooring on the second floor of the building - so the painted side was the floor of the second floor, and the black/soot covered side was the ceiling of the first level. So I assume whatever got on the wood from the bottom is from some sort of smoke etc rising to the ceiling if that makes sense.

    Edit: It could also be the exact opposite of this, where the painted side was the ceiling. I am not sure. Either way my point is I dont think this substance was intended to be coated - but rather it happened as a by-product of whatever was being done.

  14. #14
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    I would agree with that assessment.

  15. #15
    Dave, I have carefully read all your posts .I noticed that in the beginning you said you were going to take off a quarter inch or more .Decide how thick you want the table and proceed from there . I you want a table as much as an 1 1/2 thiner than your stock resawing is justified .If you want it thicker I would proceed with metal detector and planer IF your planer comes up to the two criteria I posted before. To make sure I'm clear ,you need to take off 1/8 in ONE FAST PASS to minimize knife damage. After removing the paint (and I think it is just paint) you will want to change knives . Your planer will still be fine . There is no value in trying to chemically soften or remove the paint, unless you decide you don't want to plane the material at all.

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