SALVAGING OLD TIMBERS FOR A NEW BARN FLOOR

We came across some rough-sawn elm cut to 5/4″ that we thought would work well to make the loft floor in the barn, but it turned out to be only about half the needed number of board feet.  Then a good friend kindly offered us some old white oak timbers that have been sitting in his back yard for going on seven years.  Wayne got some friends (including Doug) to help him haul them to his yard when an acquaintance of his had been given an ultimatum from his wife to get those timbers out of their back yard.  I don’t know how long they had been sitting in Wayne’s friend’s yard, and I don’t know where they came from before that.

These orphan timbers have been hauled about who knows how long waiting for a rebirth.  Unfortunately the last few years have been the hardest of their long life, and much of their formerly sturdy wood has succumbed to some carpenter ant invasion and dry rot.

Each piece had to be hauled out and evaluated.

One of the challenges of these timbers was the possibility of nails in them that would break the saw blades.  Doug and Wayne checked each one with the metal detector, and pried out a few monster nails.

Another challenge was just moving these massive timbers, which weighed as much as 200 pounds.

When we first realized we did not have enough wood for the project, we went to our local Ridgeway Lumberyard.  They did not have any wood cut to a full 5/4″.  They referred us to Dean Swenson, who operates the Upsome Lumber Company on part of his former dairy farm near Arena WI.

After meeting Dean, we really wanted to work with him.  Using up wood that was languishing and having Dean cut it seemed like the best thing to do.

Dean lives at the highest point on High Point Road.  All around him the land falls away into the steep, dramatic valleys that mark this part of the Driftless Area.

Swenson’s dairy farm went organic in 1980, becoming one of the founding farms of Organic Valley.  “That” he says, “was the best decision I ever made.”

When he sold his herd, he bought a proper mill and began operation as Upsome Lumber Yard, offering local organic hardwoods and taking on cutting jobs like ours. We arranged to bring Wayne’s timbers to him this week so he could saw them into floor boards.

Upsome Lumber earns its name, perched on the highest point of the barnyard.

Transferring to the milling area.

Sawing this wood was like opening a mystery box.  The surprises weren’t all good.

We didn’t find any more nails, but at one point Dean did have to replace the blade.

These blades have turned a lot of trees into some great timber at Upland Lumber Company.

Dean works with trees from his own farm of more than 400 acres and also works with wood people like us bring him.

He’s got a great selection of woods like oak, walnut, cherry and others.  I know we’ll be back as we build our house next spring.  What a wonderful resource for local wood!

Dean dries his wood in a solar-powered kiln of his own devising.

So, here is the wood that we salvaged Wednesday.  Some of it will end up being used in our neighbor’s wood stove this winter, but there are some great floor boards here.  We will get the loft floor done this fall.

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6 replies

  1. Do you think Dean would be willing to share his plans for the solar dried kiln. It might just be what some neighbours of ours need for their new company. Latvia does have good summers with long days of sunshine so could be useful for reducing costs and reducing the use of an electric or wood fired kiln.

    • I can ask him about the solar dryer and see what I learn, and pass it along, Joanna. I expect we will be back out there next week to saw up the second half of the timbers.

    • I hope this blog can help connect others with Dean’s great lumber and great attitude. It was a pleasure to work on a project with him.
      Getting our wood locally, rather than from the far end of the country or even over seas feels like the right thing to do.

  2. Just wondered if you managed to find out more about the solar dryers Denise?

    Unfortunately Jan, I wouldn’t be able to pop in as I live in Latvia, so I am hoping Denise might be able to glean the information for me.

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