Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Free Wood, part 1, industrial and construction salvage

Among friends, Leach folk are widely considered to be cheap, if not frugal. That hasn't always been the case for me & doesn't apply to all aspects of my life. But, given that I don't make my living as a woodworker, part of my fun is smart shopping / bargain hunting.
I've talked about bargain hunting used quality tools, but what about the wood to apply those tools to? Gather ye round, I'm going to give up all the secrets in my next few entries.

Brief side note: As with power tools and all other woodworking related activities, your safety is your concern. I do not accept liability for any reliance you place on any information on this blog, in this entry, or any other - or for that matter anything I link to. I do recommend heavy gloves, long sleeve shirts, blue jeans, eye and ear protection and whatever tools you need to safely do what I'm talking about below. Some sort of metal detector might be a good idea too.

First was a small company that would receive shipments of very large, very heavy irregularly shaped pieces of equipment - and did us all the favor of periodically leaving the staple and nail infested pine / fir 2x4s at the sidewalk in a well organized pile. This was discovered by brother Greg around 7 or 8 years ago. What a bonanza! Assuming that you were the early bird, you could fully load a small pickup & not make much of a dent in what was offered. As the crates were often 12 feet long or longer (no idea what they were receiving) there were a bunch of nice long straight 2x4s to be had, with a group of 4 nails every 4 feet or so. Plus the vertical and cross pieces were often 4 to 6 feet long as well. Sure, most of the wood was pretty low grade, but the reality was we ended up wasting very little except as sawdust. Nail pulling before storing was the biggest pain - actually the giant staples that were used to secure the cardboard / fiberboard sides of the crates were the worst. As it was all single-use clean wood, the nails were easy to spot, so we didn't bother to use a metal detector. But what does junk wood like this have to do with woodworking? Plenty. We made a lot of things out of it - frames, shelves, fencing, assembly tables, sawhorses - you name it. If you make custom furniture out of only the finest woods you still have a place for pine or fir, even if it is only to make jigs and mock-ups. For us, any project that didn't demand a hardwood was made from salvaged 2x4s. The biggest problem is locating sources like that.

The second source we came across was when a friend Theron's Mother sold her rather nice 6000 sq ft+ home to a developer who was more interested in the land. He was able to let us have access to the place for just less than a week before the bulldozers were going to come in. We salvaged a variety of material including molding, doors, plywood from the attic floor, raised panel walls - any number of things. We were so busy with the trim that we didn't dig into walls or floors for framing members, although one of our group did salvage treated and untreated deck

There is a recycling center here that makes furniture from old house framing wood and other scrap that would otherwise go to landfill. The Rebuilding Center and ReFind Furniture are worth checking out in website form, even if you don't live within driving distance of their Portland, Oregon location. But then, I just mention them as good examples of what I/We/You can do with debris. A digression, but worth the trip. The trestle table pictured is of tight grained old-growth Doug Fir salvaged from an old home's beams and other framing members. You can just make out the black stains left by rusty nails in the picture. I'm not one to "antique" a piece of furniture by abusing it or making questionable finishing choices to make it look old, but something about the filled nail holes in these beautiful pieces of furniture, reminding us that this wood was saved from landfill or burn pile... Well, I think it is a beautiful thing, anyway.

Anywho, consider industrial and (de)construction salvage as a source of woodworking wood. Gotta be careful about embedded nails and suchlike though. Would be a crying shame to ruin a tool or some vital part of your anatomy just to save a few bucks and keep beautiful tight-grained wood out of land fills...

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