I have some old barn siding that I want to make into candle holders for the house. However, I want to make sure that I won’t be bringing in bugs or worms. Is there a product that can be used on the siding to seal or to kill bugs and worms? I don’t want to paint it, I want the old barn siding to look as it is weathered. Any ideas on this? – Jan Steinke
Tim Inman: Bugs and worms will be the least of your problems. To be delicate, “barn stink” will be the bigger issue. Humidity will let those vapors exude all through your home. I’d suggest immersing the wood into a pan of very dilute varnish or shellac. Let it soak in. Then take the wood out and wipe off any excess. Let it dry. If it is shiny, you may have too much finish and not enough solvent in your mix. If it is just about right, but too shiny, dust the piece with some rottenstone or even baby powder (talc type). Old things should be “flat,” not shiny, to look “old.”
Chris Marshall: I would hesitate to fumigate the wood with some sort of insecticide, for safety’s sake. And, unless you want to cover the wood with epoxy to completely seal everything in, I don’t think there’s an impervious finish against insects. Instead, I’d probably just let the siding thoroughly dry in the sun, checking for signs of bugs during that time, then go ahead and use it. It’s common practice for many small sawmills to store lumber outside and under cover, so just because barn siding has lived outdoors doesn’t necessarily mean it will be riddled with pests. Wetness encourages insects and mold growth, so if your siding has been essentially dry over the years, that’s another mark in your favor here (and you’ll know that if there aren’t large rotten, punky areas or moldy discoloration). If you see evidence of wood powder coming out of tiny holes in the wood, it’s probably a sign that powder post beetles are at work. In that case, I’d probably pick some different wood for those candle holders and use the barn siding for campfire kindling instead.