Several weeks ago I took on a mantel build using lumber reclaimed from a very, very old log cabin near Troy, MO. The clients got such a good deal on the wood that they bought more than they needed so they'd have some on hand to be used at a later date.
That later date was this week.
There were three or four log cabin beams leftover from the mantel job, and the clients took them to a sawmill where the bulk of them were sliced into 3/8" thick pieces. Every live edge and imperfection was kept as is, and the end result was 40 or so planks that were 8'(ish) long, 5"-6" wide and 3/8" thick. The idea was to use those planks to cover the master bedroom's tiered ceiling.
The project, while definitely involving some tool know-how, was mainly an exercise in problem solving and math; for all intents and purposes, there was literally **just** enough available material to cover the desired amount of space. The goal was to install the reclaimed wood planks side by side, live edge to live edge, so that they didn't fit together perfectly yet didn't have huge gaping spaces between any two boards. In other words, a lot of decisions had to be made in regards to when to use a plane to shave a board down in spots to yield an improved fit, and when to call a fit "good" and put the plane away.
Another challenge was having to measure and cut lumber that had literally zero straight surfaces. For example, on the angled surfaces, the ends of the planks needed to be cut at about a 41° angle, but that's 41° in relation to the long, unstraight live edges. When a board doesn't sit real flat against a table saw or miter saw fence, it's tricky to know ahead of time just how accurate a supposed 41° cut is going to be. Many, many times - and this was the nature of the beast: lots of test fits, recuts, test fits, recuts, etc. - I had to cut things 3 or 4 times to creep up on the fit or joint I was looking for. The pics make it look like a job where boards were just randomly grabbed and nailed to the ceiling as-is...which is the look we were sort of aiming for...but the amount of sawdust and wood shavings on the ground when it was all said and done attested to just how much finagling was done to generate that look.
Overall I think the project turned out pretty well. At first it was tough to think it would, given how many imperfections and weird fits between boards were desired. In many instances which board to use in a certain spot, or how much planing should be done were decisions that were agonized over, but in the end, all the imperfections - the worm holes, the wonky fits, the varying widths and thicknesses...as a whole, it all sort of worked out pretty well.