I use the words “barn boards” loosely. Many barns were constructed using plain sawn boards butted up to each other and left to weather without the protection of paint or even whitewash. It is these boards, after decades of weathering, that are brought to most folks minds by the words “barn board”.
However, barns (and their attached sheds) are much more varied in both material and construction. Siding was sometimes applied diagonally rather than vertically. Some barns are shingled or sided with clapboard. Although many barns were left bare, some were painted or, more commonly, whitewashed; iron oxide was commonly added to the white wash to give the classic “red barn” look.
When I look at barn boards, I see layers. The base layer is that of natural tree growth; the annual growth rings and the pattern of branches extending from the trunk.
These features are unseen until the sawyer does his work. Growth rings become grain and branches become knots and knot holes in the sawn board. The sawyer also adds another layer, that of the marks left by the saw blade. Most barn boards are left rough and unplanned. Thus, all of these features are there to see if one looks closely enough.
The carpenter adds another layer as he erects the barn. The type of construction used and the pattern of nails add interest to barn boards. The painter adds yet another layer or more as time progresses.
Weather adds interest to these layers; both the wood and the paint gain character as they weather.
Nature, again, adds a final layer as I make photographs of barn boards. This is a layer of shadow and light playing onto the surfaces.
Barn boards, examined carefully and closely, reveal many stories.
— Frank Gorga, Antrim, NH, September 2016