Dust, old nails and scrap wood

Our story so far: The demolition phase of our church renovation included unearthing interesting treasures and repairing the belfry roof.

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Chapter 11

The dirty part of demolition began to wear us down. There’s a reason home improvement television devotes five minutes or less of every show to the demolition process and usually punctuates it with crazy demolition antics. The work is necessary, but most of the time, it’s just plain dirty work: Dust, sawdust, insulation dust and construction waste served with a side of tedium.

Tyler was supervisor and handler of power tools. St. Johnny, the hired man, did any work that required kneeling or heavy lifting, skills neither Tyler nor I relished exercising. I was assigned to menial, monotonous jobs like removing nails from trim and flooring.

coal picker
Yet another arcane but useful tool in Tyler’s collection.

One of our goals was to recycle as much of the church as possible. Those pieces of trim and flooring would live new lives as trim or repaired floor or accent walls in the remodeled interior. But one can’t safely saw pieces of wood riddled with nails. Oh, those church builders of yore loved their nails! A single piece of hardwood flooring might have thirty nails (plus a few carpeting staples thrown in for good measure). Tyler invested in a new Air Locker gun, a device powered with compressed air that niftily forced nails out from the bottom. He also dug a strange but effective device from one of his tool boxes that looked like it once was used by an iron welder from the Old West to move coals; I used this to yank stubborn nails from boards that could not be coaxed out by the Air Locker gun. I spent many hours using these amazing tools and acquired a bad case of tennis elbow but I became an expert. A few tips:

  • Wear work boots. Those nails are being forced out with highly compressed air pack a punch when they hit your feet.
  • Wear eye protection. Those nails fly everywhere.
  • Wear gloves. Recycled wood has splinters.
  • Admire the sparks: Yes, sometimes there are sparks.
  • Organize your recycled wood by type. In a five-thousand-square-foot structure, you’re gonna recycle a lot of wood. Separate the trim, the baseboards and the flooring, or you’re never gonna find the wood you want when you’re ready to reuse it.
neatly stacked scrap
One of our more neatly stacked piles of scrap wood.

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Tomorrow: Wanted: One dumpster. Cheap. To read it, click here.

3 thoughts on “Dust, old nails and scrap wood

  1. Was wondering if you found some wood/old pew pieces above the outside basement stairs? They were there forever and I hoped left for the new owner!?


    • There is a pile of what looks very interesting there, but that revelation will have to wait for me to write about it. We don’t have anywhere to pile those things right now, so we’re planning to pull it apart when we start work on the garage.


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