By Jessica Mozo
When homeowners buy lumber from Eagle Reclaimed Lumber of Murfreesboro, they aren’t getting factory produced wood from who knows where – they’re getting a one-of-a-kind piece of Tennessee history.
Founded in 2008, Eagle Reclaimed Lumber was the brainchild of Michael Watson, who buys old barns and buildings, refurbishes the antique lumber and sells it to be made into everything from hardwood flooring and cabinets to entertainment centers and countertops.
“It’s one of the prettiest forms of recycling you could ever see,” says Watson. “When you see lumber being reused instead of burned or bull-dozed, it becomes an emotional product because it has a story – it didn’t come out of a big-box store. With most of our lumber, we can tell customers exactly where it came from and when the barn was built. It creates great conversation.”
Beginning Eagle Reclaimed Lumber
Watson and his team have dismantled approximately 50 barns so far, many of which were built between the mid-1800s and the 1930s. He started with an old barn that was on his own farm in Rockvale.
“I wanted to do something with the barn because there was a lot of beauty in the wood. I didn’t want to just tear it down,” Watson says. “I cleaned the wood and shaved off the old greyed surface and discovered it was red oak and beech wood. The grey or brown surface of old wood often hides its color and character, and once you open that up, you see its character come out.”
Next Watson dismantled a barn for a man in Walterhill who was building a new barn and simply wanted the old one removed without bulldozing or burning it.
“It was a beautiful barn made of oak, poplar, beech, pine and walnut,” Watson recalls.
Watson took the wood to his warehouse in Murfreesboro, where it was sorted, graded and cleaned.
“We made some of it into six-inch heart of pine flooring, and we made some tables to let people see how the wood grain looks after being repurposed,” Watson says. “Our business spread by word-of-mouth. People were surprised by how pretty the wood is. The tightness of the grain is far greater than lumber you see in today’s market, so it has a more decorative appearance.”
Wood Varieties and Uses
Shrouded beneath decades of dirt, wear and tear, Watson’s team has discovered many varieties of wood, including walnut, chestnut, cherry, heart of pine, Southern yellow pine, red and white oak, poplar and beech. Customers use the lumber for flooring, wallboard, wainscoting, trim work, farm tables, coffee tables, entertainment centers, counter and bar tops, and more.
“We encourage customers to come pick out their wood so they can see different varieties. Walnut is my personal favorite because of its rich brown earthtones and distinctive grains,” Watson says. “Beech is another of my favorites because it has a very decorative grain pattern. It’s one of the most underestimated products I’ve seen – when people actually see it made into a table, they love it.”
People often ask Watson about the integrity of the antique wood, wondering if it will hold up for many more years to come. But he says the lumber is actually sturdier than some of the lumber you’d find in today’s market, and Eagle Reclaimed Lumber puts the old lumber through sterilization and drying processes to ensure it is bug-free and of high quality.
“It’s amazing the Old-World craftsmanship that went into these old barns – how they were put together and how sturdy they are,” he explains. “Today, we’re seeing more metal barns because they are more cost-effective, and we’re losing history in the process. By repurposing the wood from an old barn, the barn lives on.”
Watson says the best part about his work is getting to meet so many interesting people.
“We talk to them as we’re taking the barns down, and they tell us stories about the barns – like the things they used to do in there when they were kids,” Watson says. “It seems to bring back a lot of great memories.”
Got an Old Barn?
If you are interested in buying antique lumber, or if you know of an old barn that needs to be removed, you can contact Eagle Reclaimed Lumber at (615) 427-9759 or online at www.eaglereclaimedlumber.com.