Thursday, August 12, 2010

Repurposing Old Redwood

As you know, our goal with the Terra House, is to keep the project affordable and to conserve resources where ever possible. Many of our materials have come straight from our land in the foothills. The beams were milled from two fir trees, harvested from the north slope of the property. We also milled the trim from two cedars that were standing dead by the river. And of course, the rich red clay used in the walls came right from the building site.
Now, we are excitedly preparing to finish some of the interior walls using redwood salvaged from our old water tank. The tank was built in San Francisco nearly a century ago using clear, old growth redwood, and served as water storage for a neighboring town in the gold country. My Dad, David, rescued the redwood water tank and and transported it to our property more than twenty years ago. We used the tank throughout my childhood, and I look forward to showing off the beautiful old clear redwood on our living room walls.
In the spirit of the family project, my uncle and cousin offered to help Abe and I resaw the salvaged redwood to make tongue and groove boards for our interior walls and trim. The original pieces were approximately 5 1/2 inches by 4 inches and ten feet long, with peeling red paint on one side, and years of water stain on the other.

We started by trimming off the ends, which were notched to hold the floor of the tank. Then, we ran the boards through a planer to create a smoother surface to work with. Next, we cut the ten foot lengths into 3, 4, 5 and six foot lengths that would be easier to mill down. We ran these pieces through a band saw cutting an inch wide board off of one side. The pieces when back through the planner, and the remaining length returned to the band saw to become two more inch wide boards. Using this method, we managed to get three 3/4 inch boards out of each piece. Each board went through a planer three more times to create an even, smooth surface. Finally, we used a router with tongue and groove bits to create around 22 square feet of incredibly clear finish redwood.
As we milled, we all marveled at the quality of the wood, which it seems we wouldn't be able to find or afford if we were not fortunate enough to have the chance to salvage and repurpose another resource from our land.

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