Salvaging painted heart pine

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Ideas for removing lead paint and nails from heart pine beams. August 12, 2001

I have some furniture-quality heart pine beams, and I need to remove the old paint that is on three sides of the boards. The paint is probably lead-based. Does anyone have ideas on how to deal with this issue safely and efficiently?

Forum Responses
After you check for nails, why not run it through the planer, if you have one? Put the leavings in a bag and check with your sanitation department for disposal.

I wouldn't let those boards anywhere near your planer. The paint will do a number on the knives. I would have them stripped with chemicals, maybe even dipped, them run them through a sander with rollers, not a wide belt, and sacrifice the sandpaper.

From the original questioner:
I have been pulling nails and other assorted hardware out of the beams and so far have several pounds of steel and iron piled up, with no end in sight. I think I may have to purchase a stronger metal detector and go over this wood very thoroughly before it gets near any power tool.

I have re-sawed a sample piece, and the finished wood is beautiful. I was hoping to be able to re-saw the 3x12 beams into 3 boards (3/4 thick, more or less), with a minimum number of passes through the re-saw bandsaw. But, it may be that an initial pass through to clean up one side cannot be avoided.

I think I may just resign myself to 4 passes per 3 boards, and know that with the extra effort, I am getting some great boards. And lots of sawdust.

Just to re-quote the phrase, CHECK FOR NAILS. I found that cutting thin strips off the sides with a bandsaw works well for me. It also cuts down on the use of chemicals and sandpaper, as well as cost and mess.

Why not track down a Woodmizer owner? I have cut plenty of painted heart pine beams, usually coming in through an unpainted side and taking a veneer, then turning the beam to take an adjacent veneer, etc., around the beam. Except for the initial cut, which is sometimes through paint, the other cuts are clean. Also, the sawmill acts as a jointer.

Woodmizer can locate a sawyer near you if none are listed in your local phonebook, and there are many other name brands of band sawmills around.

I don't think heat, solvents, or abrasives are any less likely to be harmful in dodging the lead threat on an amateur level. I'm also sure none of it is legal, based on all the rules for dealing with the lead here in Savannah's old houses.

But then, the glow of that old growth longleaf is to die for.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
We at the USDA Forest Products Lab have done some studies on removing lead-based paint from wood. First, wear a good HEPA cartridge respirator. We found that carbide knives will last at least 4 times as long as HSS knives... in our 4-head 20hp molder, we only got 100-200 feet of planing done with HSS before the surface finish went south. Carbide is the way to go, if you have any significant amount to do.

If you have a lot of nails to remove, buy a Nailkicker. I have one and they are worth every penny. Also, a Lumbermate wand metal detector works very well.