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How do I work with my 12" wide Douglass Fir old planks for flooring?

How do I work with my 12" wide Douglass Fir old planks for flooring?


Old 05-27-05, 12:27 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 10
How do I work with my 12" wide Douglass Fir old planks for flooring?

Hello all,

This is my first post on this forum and it looks like there are a lot of great tips and informative reads for me to dive into. I have checked out some of them but did not really find anything on the topic I have here—so far. If I have missed it or there’s already a thread or two about this very subject, the moderator can let me know and I will go there instead.

But I am already in the throes of a project for a new--er--fixer-upper home in the NorthShore of Massachusetts and this is a wood working dream that I thought would be perfect for DoItYourself.com...

My wife and I will be putting in our own wide plank floor and I am already gathering the wood. I have a friend from where we currently rent in Ahhhhhlighton, MA (note the classic MA accent here) who is giving me about 700+ square feet worth of old wide planks ranging from 3 feet in length all the way to 25+ feet in length. He is currently in the process of residing his entire (old) home and putting up new wood under the siding. So I have all this wood and they are all about 3/4 inch thick and in relatively decent but nicely aged condition. I have removed all nails and obstructions, and those that have cracks or splits are presently being glued and clamped by me as we speak in our apartment’s large basement. I have half the wood now and the rest is coming off his outer walls in the next two weeks.

The boards are in good shape for being 90 years old and as I said, my wife and I are going to use them to create a wide plank floor in our new home.

My question is about getting those edges straight. How is this best done without spending a ton of cash? I have thought about taking it to a mill, and yet, buying or renting tools to do this job may be a better and cheaper option.

I have heard of Joiners, Dressers, stacked Dado blades and routers that give you a V edge tounge and groove. I have no real experience with what all these do or what the results will be, and I have also found that this wood may be best milled with something called "shiplap," where there's a sort of "step" alternating on each board on both edges. I guess the term is also called "Rabbed?"

I may need to get some tools for this and on the other hand, maybe there are other ways to do it for less. That's where you all come in and I would appreciate any and all tips and tricks of the trades! In return, one day I am sure I'll be able to help someone in the same situation on this very subject or with others!

The desired result is to have these planks still be around 11-12inches wide and to lay them down interlinking, and then do the cutting and fitting as I go. I will then power sanding it all once installed. I have people who can help with installation (they have put in standard hardwood floors) and I have guys who can powersand as well. I may also have the means to store the wood, ship it, and cut the lengths needed in case this needs to be done for the benefit of some mill that may help me out if I don’t tackle some of this one my own.

I just dunno how to do the sides and any sort of “notch,” groove or "shiplap" needed to make this come out right. Some have said to just rip them on the table saw and lay them down with a rougher look and feel, with a sort of aged caulking technique in between where needed, but I am trying to get them a bit tighter. Some say to get them planed on all four sides or to try using a router, but I dunno what is best to consider!

I am not buying this wood new nor do I wish to do that at this point--I own it already and I am happy with its strength, color and style. While having been exposed to the world of online forums in my current hobby of travel and frequent flier miles, I am now also converting hobbies because buying a house does that to you, I suppose.

I know it's a mouthful--what, for my first and only post and all, but any advice will help!

Thank you muchly!

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Old 05-28-05, 06:55 AM
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 3,140
Plank Floor

You have bit off a big project. This is one area where you would or will get alot of advice. Some good, some of it bad. I have read your thread three times, analyzing what you are saying, and also reading between the lines. You have received your lumber for free. Now it is time to spend money. To make this lumber in flooring is not a DIY'er type of work. There are some who can do it, but they have big shops of lots of tools and alot of room, along with years of experience. My advice is to take it to a mill. They can do in 8 hours that would take you 8 months. Have all the boards planed. Then they will run them through a jointer and a special type of permenant mounted router. Your flooring should be cut in short lengths. 8' maximum. You will have a very nice floor when this is done, however in preparing the wood, is not a place to scrimp on the money. If you were to buy the correct tools the cost would be a couple of thousand dollars. You would need heavy duty type tools for this kind of job. Not the type you buy in home improvement stores. For instance, I have a job coming up, that I will buy the very best power mitre saw on the market, and it will probably burn out before the end of the job. That saw alone costs almost $1000.00 This is the kind of tool cost I am talking about. Good Luck, hope I have helped.
Old 05-31-05, 09:14 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 10
thank you!! I have been calling mills and most initially think I have old growth wood that has nails embedded in it and are afraid to cut. BUt some will and I am going to find the right place to take it. As for the wood, I did have to give the friend a frequent flier mile ticket award to Hawaii and an interisland trip too, which was 40,000 airline miles. Saved him up to $900-$1000 + and I also have to help him take off old siding on a tight schedule to get at this wood, and I gave him about $120 worth of materials he needs to put up his new siding. So it cost but not as much as it could have. I had the miles and that's my other hobby, so all is well. I will take your advice though and seek out mills. I am gluing all boards now that need cracks fixed and it is coming along nicely.


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