100 reclaimed barn wood planks: 4.5 foot long X 6 inch wide X 3/4 inch thick.

Trying to get the weight down by half, by thinning to 3/8 inch thick.

See: Can barn wood planks be planed and how thin?

Planing could work but has significant risk (and some pieces have large long cracks and holes).

Instead, what about sanding each one:

  • Is it possible or realistic to sand to 3/8 inch thickness (or thin by half) ?
  • Any possible damage by sanding ?

  • What type of sander would work ?

  • How long is this going to take ?


Intended Use: The wood planks are intended to be attached to a ceiling in a room. It is intended that the patina of one side of the barn wood is saved for it's aesthetics.

  • 1
    Can you say more about the intended use? Will you be preserving the surface on one side to get the "weathered look" without the weight? Or will you be taking down the surface on both sides to get a "looks like new wood but it was a lot cheaper" look?
    – scanny
    Jan 14 '17 at 23:23
  • I think you're trying to ice-skate uphill with this. Finding and using different material, if necessary staining and ageing it to look like what you want, would save you a lot of headaches here and probably end up being faster at the end of the day. Plus you don't 'waste' the wood you'd be removing from the backsides of these planks you already have.
    – Graphus
    Jan 15 '17 at 9:14
  • 3
    This is a job for a bandsaw.
    – bpedit
    Jan 16 '17 at 2:17
  • This sounds like something you could do with a router sled like you'd use for leveling/flattening a rough board. It would be time consuming, but you can make a pretty heavy cut. So long as you don't care about the finish of the cut face, this would be most time effective. Jan 16 '17 at 15:31

A simple test on one plank will tell you that sanding is not practical for reducing the thickness by 3/8". Even planing them in a thickness planer will take 5-10 passes and sanding, even with course 60 grit, takes a lot less thickness off on each run, plus you will go through a lot of sanding belts.

If you choose to plane them I recommend that you closely examine and prep each board before running it through a planer. Check closely for any nails and clean them with a wire brush to remove as much grit on the rough sawn surfaces to reduce the risk of damaging your planer knives. Even so, don't be surprised if your knives require replacement by the time you are through.

  • 2
    Also, if the surface you're planing has any paint on it, that will dull the planer knives essentially immediately. Sanding might be a good way to get past that abrasive surface, even if you don't take down the thickness much. For 100 boards I'd think you'd want a surface (drum) sander if you could get access to one something like this: grizzly.com/products/12-Baby-Drum-Sander/G0459. This page says you can take off 1/8" in a pass with coarse grit, might be worth exploring: woodweb.com/knowledge_base/…
    – scanny
    Jan 15 '17 at 2:30

Bandsaw the planks in half. They'll net out slightly under 3/8's but not only will it be faster, you'll end up with twice as many usable boards afterwards, because you'd be able to keep both faces. So it's a win-win. If you don't have a bandsaw, or access to one, then taking them to a commercial shop or even another hobby woodworker would be a good bet. Wide-belt sanders as were mentioned are large and expensive machines, but almost every serious wood shop has a bandsaw.

  • As others have mentioned in other answers, you still need to search like crazy to make sure any remaining nails have been entirely removed.
    – Ast Pace
    Jan 16 '17 at 20:59
  • Yep. Bandsaw blades are typically much cheaper than planer knives though, and a few teeth messed up aren't a huge deal. Keep in mind that bi-metal blades are used with reciprocating saws all the time and cut through nails, asphalt roofing, Hardibacker, etc.
    – cathode
    Jan 16 '17 at 21:03
  • Great answer but I would add that you may want to joint the bandsawn side after you resaw the boards. This would make the back flat for attachment to the ceiling. You could plane but that wouldn't make it flat per se. (depends on how well your bandsaw is setup)
    – Dano0430
    Jan 17 '17 at 16:46
  • I mean, I guess you could joint the bandsawn side. If your bandsaw is that poorly tuned though, then it should be fixed before using it for anything else.
    – cathode
    Jan 18 '17 at 17:01

Is it drastically more work to sand down barn wood instead of planing?

Using a wide-belt sander? No. Sanding it by any other means? Yes.

  • It's sometimes possible to ask a commercial wood shop if they'd run some boards or a tabletop through their wide-belt sander for a reasonable fee. If you're near a school that has a woodshop they might make a similar deal; in your place, I'd talk to my alma mater's "hobby shop" about using their equipment.
    – keshlam
    Jan 15 '17 at 15:43
  • Agree that outsourcing to a wide belt sander is appropriate. If you're lucky enough to find someone sympathetic, just be ready to spend a few hours with a metal detector to prove that there's nothing in there that'll destroy the belt. Jan 15 '17 at 17:30

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