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Thread: 100 years of 2x4s...

  1. #1
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    Nov 2006
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    100 years of 2x4s...

    subtitle: how things change!

    Today I spent the afternoon helping a friend who is gutting most of their country farmhouse back to the brickwork. It was filthy work as we ripped down plaster, lath, and the supporting woodwork. One wall was also ripped down on the main floor, and a few upstairs. The house was built late in the 1800s, possibly 1877. It is yellow brick, three layers thick. On the inner brick they had horizontal boards about every 3-4 feet, and the lath woodwork was fastened to that with 3 inch cut nails. I kept a few of the cut nails, just for fun.

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    But the real point of my post is the 2x4s. These were, to my eyes, MASSIVE posts in the walls. Actually, they weren't, they were just a full 2 inches by 4 inches. He is saving them, and will probably re-use them over the course of his construction. But he gave me a couple to take home. I'm very curious to see what they are like when I open one up. (Hmm, I'll have to use an old blade, as I don't have a metal detector!) And maybe I'll make some small project from them, perhaps picture frames? Anyway, we're not sure of species, but we figure white pine, given our locale in southern ontario.

    Here they are...
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    FULL size...
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    Now lets compare to something 100 years newer...
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    On the left we have the old 2x4s. On the right is a 2x4 I found in my garage. I think it was probably taken out of my garage during our recent work there, which would place it as a mid-80s 2x4. In any case, certainly 100 years newer than the ones I brought home today. Sorry I don't have one fresh from the borg handy to compare, but you've all seen those!

    ...art
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  2. #2
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    Old houses are fun aren't they. My parents house was built in the mid-1800's. All 3 brick thick, except for the kitchen. No wood on the inside, just plaster over the brick.

  3. #3
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    Oak Harbor Washington on Whidbey Island
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    So I wonder if they have case hardened with age?
    "Forget the flat stuff slap something on the spinny thing and lets go, we're burning daylight" Bart Leetch
    "If it ain't round you may be a knuckle dragger""Turners drag their nuckles too, they just do it at a higher RPM"Bart

  4. #4
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    Bellingham
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    And look at that end grain from the old 2x4. It has tight rings and and you can't see the tree core as you can in the new one. Evidence of a good size tree that they use to cut them from.

    Ever pull nails from an old 2x4? It will challenge your skills. My brother and sister are experts at it, thanks to my father who had us pull all the nails from 2x4's he salvaged from his remodel of our home. How would you like to wake up one morning to a mountain of old 2x4's with the task of removing all the nails? Happened to us all the time as my mother and father would demo at night while we were asleep. Got to be, you hated to wake up!

  5. #5
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    The end of one 2x4 had some damage, so I lopped off the damaged end and then opened it up on the bandsaw and jointed it.
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    Interesting darker streaks in the wood. Feels light like cedar, but it clearly is not. I'm no expert at identifying cut wood.
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  6. #6
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    How about Doug Fir ???
    "There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." - Sam Maloof
    The Pessimist complains about the wind; The Optimist expects it to change;The Realist adjusts the sails.~ William Arthur Ward

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don Baer View Post
    How about Doug Fir ???
    That would be my guess
    Host of the 2017 Family Woodworking Gathering - Sunken Wood

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  8. #8
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    Douglas fir in Ontario?

    It's a west coast species, as far as I know. I wouldn't expect to find it in 1870s construction in Ontario.
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  9. #9
    Indeed they are most likely douglas fir.

    I have had more then one 'old' home in Ohio that is framed with these boards.

    They are very dense old growth boards.

  10. #10
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    Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
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    I think doug fir, also.

    As to the 3" cut nails

    $6.25 / 48 = $.13 x 4 = $.52
    Regards,
    Bill Antonacchio

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