Make a Piece of Reclaimed Barn-Wood Art

Turning barn wood into art is a great way to add a rustic touch to any room.

By: Dan Lipe

It’s no secret that I love the texture and vibe of reclaimed barn wood. But that doesn’t mean that I want to cover my entire house with it. I’m in love with the weathered textures and the authentic degraded colors—the browns, grays, white and reds. A great way to incorporate a touch of the rustic is to turn that beautifully aged material into a piece of art.

The Materials

I started by getting some barn wood from wallswithastory.com. The material they provide is authentic barn wood that has been resawn to 3/8th of an inch thick and is flat on one side - perfect for making art. For this piece, rip the barn wood down to 1 1/2” wide. The base is a 24" x 24" x 1/2” piece of plywood.

Getting Started

Some paper and a couple of markers make quick work of figuring out what design to make.

I have to admit the designer in me often wants to start at the computer to figure out my layout. After creating a ton of designs, I usually scrap all the digital for good ole’ marker and paper. I landed on an overlapping chevron design as the primary form. With some solid ideas in hand, I head for the shop.

Lay it Out on the Plywood

I begin by laying out a centerline then subdividing the plywood into quadrants followed by laying out the diagonals. I always leave room on the outside edges to trim the piece down to compensate for any error in alignment of the barn wood. It’s wood. It’s old. There’s going to be error.

Creating the Pattern

A straightedge clamped across the plywood gives you a solid place to start applying the barn wood strips. Early on I made the decision to use 45 degree angles to create a sense of motion and wanted to place an asymmetrical emphasis on the piece. This is where I chose to start. A little wood glue and some brad nails will hold the wood in place.

Old gift cards and hotel keys are great for spreading glue!

From the first piece, establish the primary form. Work piece by piece. Selecting which color to use is completely spontaneous and for me is part of the fun. Look at what is already laid down and respond to that! 

Once the primary forms are established, work the empty triangles on the sides. I experimented with a couple of options and chose to carry the colors from one side to the next, creating a feeling of layers of wood, all the while trying to balance the darks and the lights, while not using too much red.

It's OK to leave a little hanging off the edge. We'll trim that off later.

Finishing Up

Once the glue is dry, trim the entire piece using a circular saw or a table saw. Finish it off with a frame or not and add some mounting hardware.  I love how the colors and the texture of the wood interplay with the smooth wall.

More on Reclaimed Wood: Wood Working 101

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