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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

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    I've been offered some oak boards. The guy says that they are old, but looking at a sample, in not so sure. The t&g seen very sharp, as if made by a modern machine. A small crack shows clean wood as if it's cracked recently. It also doesn't seem very hard. I can make a mark with my thumb nail.

    Any other things i should look out for?
    The boards may be old but recently machined.

    What is meant by old? 2-3 years air seasoned would be old to some people whereas 100+years reclaimed could also be old!

    Are they offered as used and refurbished, if so expect to see evidence of nail / screw holes.

    Does it matter if they are old or just well seasoned. Use a moisture meter to check.

    I would expect old oak to be hard. I have a bit of furniture I made 20 years ago with American white oak and I can only just get a mark with my thumb nail.

    At the end of the day if its what you need and the price / quality is acceptable does the age matter.
    He said 50-80 years old. There were a couple of holes in the piece he shoed me, but these looked like recent drill holes.

    I would also expect old oak to be hard.

    I guess if it's well seasoned and new, that's not necessarily a deal breaker, but I don't want to be fobbed off with something that is not what it claims to be.
    Nail/screw holes I would expect to be black inside and probably not too round.

    Buy what you see - (not what you are told) at a price that leaves you comfortable!

    Make sure the tongues fit the grooves and without a step at the board joints

    By the way the furniture I made I realised was just over 30 years ago ! Oops I'm older than I thought
    • CommentAuthorMikC
    • CommentTimeFeb 5th 2018
    You shouldn't be able to dent 50 year old English Oak heartwood with your nail (unless that's you Xman power ;) . Sapwood is softer. There are a few different species of oak. Turkey oak for example is not rot proof and can only be used indoors, but its like rock if its dried well.

    I would 2nd the moisture meter test. You can get a cheap one on ebay which you could check to get a rough idea of moisture content. Indoor timber in a modern house would be around 15% (maybe less if you house is MVHR'd) , anything more than 20 would be considered wet IMO.
    thanks Mik. Any tips on what I should be looking for in a moisture meter?
    • CommentAuthorMikC
    • CommentTimeFeb 5th 2018
    I've got one of these for basic testing of firewood etc... Probably not good enough for a cabinet maker. It's easy enough to get a feel for its accuracy by testing a few 'knowns'.


    Very chinesium quality, but cheap as chips...
    • CommentAuthorMikC
    • CommentTimeFeb 5th 2018
    One thing to bear in mind is that the core of the timber might have a higher moisture level than the outside. So the best way to test is to split or cut a piece to get the pins inside.
    Thanks Mik, that's good advice.
    • CommentAuthorrevor
    • CommentTimeFeb 5th 2018
    Does it matter how old it is. If you like it and worth it to you then buy it. Don't be fooled by its hardness timber if rapidly dried by dehumidification, usually the case these days, can be case hardened and may be prone to splitting. For timber moisture measurement a good instruments to look out for is a mini lingo I have had mine some 30yrs and bought whilst on holiday in the USA and although made in Germany were not readily available here but are now. The moisture content of timber in a CH house is around 10% 0r even less which is why joinery timber door casings skirting etc which come in at 15% plus due to poor conditions in the merchants shrink so much in a new house. It is the reason why conditions are so well controlled in stately houses as the furniture would have been made at a higher moisture content and could be damaged by exposure to modern living conditions.

    If you like it buy it if price suits, check the moisture content and also a sample of timber already in the place you are going to use it to get a base line. If the difference is great say 3 to 4% plus then acclimatise it so it is at the moisture it will end up at and depending on the thickness (you don't say what that is) be prepared to wait several months.
    • CommentAuthorrevor
    • CommentTimeFeb 5th 2018
    Typo meant Ligno not lingo
    Thanks @revor! That's useful advice too.
    In our house any boards over 12 inch wide with no tongue and groove are old.
    Well these are over 12 inches but with T&G.
    • CommentAuthorrevor
    • CommentTimeFeb 7th 2018
    At that width the chances are that they are old. Are they flat i.e not cupped and free of twist?. Bent boards can be cramped and fixed cupped and twisted boards are a different matter and need machining.
    This is the sample I have. I've ordered a cheap humidity meter and will see what it says. Thanks for all the advice.
    <blockquote><cite>Posted By: ComeOnPilgrim</cite>Well these are over 12 inches but with T&G.</blockquote>

    Tongue and Groove could have been machined later to reuse old boards. They look cracking boards I would certainly snap there hands off at the right price.
    Wot renewablejohn said +1
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