found wood #16: Cora's Mexican restaurant wood

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 03-28-2010 07:22 AM 5800 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 15: just showing off a pretty piece of olive wood Part 16 of found wood series Part 17: more restaurant remodeling wood »

Cora's Mexican restaurant

Cora’s, a local Mexican restaurant went out of business recently. On my way back from the bearing shop with the new bits for my planer this past week I noticed a crew tearing the insides out. I stopped in and asked if I could look through their scrap pile for free wood, and as happens pretty much always here in west LA, they looked at me, shrugged their shoulders, and said “sure.”

scrap pile outside of Cora's Mexican restaurant

There’s wasn’t much, and nothing great, but the wood looked old, and I thought it would be charming to build something out of wood salvaged from a local eating establishment that predated my move here:

scrap pile outside of Cora's Mexican restaurant

I managed a small pile. The thin boards under the pile filling the bottom of the left half of the truck are from a cut-up pallet I got from the bearing place:

scrap pile in back of truck from Cora's Mexican restaurant

Some of it was too dry rotten, but most of it was solid and should be great utility wood for me. I have a rather specialized sawing rig I want to build that this should come in very handy for (outdoor thing – I’d rather use old wood than clean, new stuff):

scrap pile in back of truck from Cora's Mexican restaurant

I liked this brand on the end of an old 2×4:

2x4 with Seneca brand

While pulling out onto the side street from there, I noticed the place next door was moving crates of things around. It looked like it was another restaurant receiving a delivery of things like ovens and dishwashers. All the wood was bright, clean-looking pine. It could come in very handy, especially free, even though pine is pretty cheap. I crossed the side street and rolled slowly past the crews of movers and construction guys, sizing up the score, feeling a bit like HBO’s Dexter trailing his next victim :)

In the wee small hours of the next morning, up really early for some reason (5AM), I headed over to see if they’d piled it up in the trash. They’d broken up and piled most of it near the trash, and the rest was scattered around. I cleaned up their mess for them:

pine shipping crate wood pile in back of truck

pine shipping crate wood pile in back of truck

I set to work the next day with pliers and screwdriver, pulling the 2” staples that were scattered rather liberally through almost all of it at the ends and middle marks. Here’s a finished pile (the 2×4s were clean, had 1 natural edge corner each, and were new and heavy):

destapled pine boards and some 2x4s

And here’s the pile of staples:

staples pulled from 1x4 pine planks

Because I’m mental, I piled them in groups of 10 – about 140 of them :)

piles of staples pulled from 1x4 pine planks

I know I’m mental, because an hour of laboriously pulling staples was really enjoyable for me. Maybe I’ve spent too many years sitting in the dark at computers, but I just love being outside on nice days, seeing and hearing neighbors pass by, and working hard with my hands. It’s so relaxing.

I stacked the rest, and will go back another day to pull more staples and get these ready for use:

piles of scrap crate wood still to be destapled and cleaned up for reuse

I’ll probably end up cutting the destapled sections out anyway, but maybe not. I might end up jointing and planing the boards and gluing them up into thicker blocks, and the stapled sections can remain in that case.

Speaking of, I sorted out a bunch of the planks the bearing guys gave me from cut up palettes, all about 14”-16” in length, and a mix of 1×4 through 1×6 from about 1/2” to 3/4”. I found a bunch of red and white oak, and something that sort of seemed like an oak, but was just a little off. I jointed them and used the newly repaired planer to get them parallel, then glued them into a block, jointed and planed that down, and circular sawed the ends off, then cleaned up a little saw burn on the ends with the belt sander. This is the result:

pallet wood scrap glue-up block

It’s a perfectly squared-up chunk now, nice and heavy. The 4 lighter bands are the ones I’m not sure are oak or not:

pallet wood scrap glue-up block

I didn’t have a reason to do this. I wanted to do something with the planer, and I love big composite blocks:

pallet wood scrap glue-up block

Any thoughts? It’s almost 13.75” long, and slightly less than 3”x4” wide and deep:

pallet wood scrap glue-up block

pallet wood scrap glue-up block

The little crack in the middle of the end grain on this side is where I poured in some thin CA glue that leaked all the way out the other side, which I posted about earlier today:

pallet wood scrap glue-up block

If I can’t think of anything to do with it, I can always stick it in my new wood cutoff racks and wait for inspiration:

pallet wood scrap glue-up block

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

17 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


24657 posts in 5138 days

#1 posted 03-28-2010 07:27 AM

Stick it on the lathe, see what happens ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile


792 posts in 4735 days

#2 posted 03-28-2010 08:09 AM

You have discovered that the true joy is working the wood if for no other reason than to have done so!

-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4844 days

#3 posted 03-28-2010 08:23 AM

Topamax – I’m thinking about it. Oak is a tough one to fight on the lathe, but it might be pretty as something like a lamp base.

Dave – totally! I’ve been known to just run my little Buck Bros. 3” block plane over and over along a board edge, just enjoying passing the time that way. I’m really keen on smells. I love wood smells, and have always been into scents in general. The red oak is pungent, and acrid, a bit reminiscent of ammonia to me. The lighter pieces had a sweet smell. It was sort of along the lines of oak, red and white (though they’re quite distinct from each other), but much sweeter. I couldn’t get a beat on it, so I can’t describe it, but when I planed the whole block together, the mix of scents was really nice. It mellowed the red oak out and I just kept wanting to smell it.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 4528 days

#4 posted 03-28-2010 08:33 AM

Great story. I enjoyed it. I am going to get a small truck soon, so I can salvage stuff, should I happen upon something similar. I would enjoy sitting and pulling out staples and nails too.

-- Brian Meeks,

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4844 days

#5 posted 03-28-2010 08:48 AM

You’re whole life will change, Brian. You’ll start seeing salvageable materials everywhere! Hope you have the room for it!

Btw, your blog is great! I really like your writing style.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View PG_Zac's profile


373 posts in 4851 days

#6 posted 03-28-2010 10:14 AM

Uh Oh – Gary is collecting again :-) but this time it isn’t logs

You have to be running out of storage space. At least now you have planks to make more lumber shelves.

Good score.

Edit Can you imagine having to carry this lot in your old hatchback?

-- I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4803 days

#7 posted 03-28-2010 11:09 AM

rebuilding Los Angeles ,

one board at a time !

a lofty goal .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 4527 days

#8 posted 03-28-2010 11:32 AM

I’m with Topamax

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4844 days

#9 posted 03-28-2010 12:03 PM

Zac – even if I could imagine it, my old hatchback probably couldn’t. I really abused that poor thing. As for collecting, I’ve made some new storage shelves that got little crap up out of my way, and I’ve turned a number of things, which converts a lot of the wood to shavings… and… um… okay, you’re right. I’m getting low on space :)

David – I like your thinking once again! I’m building my own Cora’s in the back yard.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 4571 days

#10 posted 03-28-2010 01:30 PM

My kind of story Gary. I enjoy making things out of “nothing” or the pieces that people leave out for trash also. I don’t have a mill but I have spent some time splitting logs down, planing a flat face, then resawing for craft wood. Friends and family think I am a little nuts but there is something that comes from building a small project out of just a chuck of wood what was laying around. My wife’s neighbors already think I am homeless because I will eye any wood that is thrown in the dumpster over there. I found more than a few 2×6 and 2×8 boards just sitting in the trash. One time I pulled an oak table out of there, took the table apart, and scraped, sanded, and planed the boards down.

And you are right, the work is soothing. Preparing stock is woodwork without the measuring, intensely careful planning, and diagrams. You can just work the board, reconnect to the passion, in almost a zen like “no mind” way.

As far as the block of wood goes. You can always make a bat with it and stand menacingly over the morning glories and dare them to grow… :)

Good haul and thank you for sharing,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5344 days

#11 posted 03-28-2010 01:57 PM

Hey Gary, a very enjoyable story.

Just about the opposite happened here yesterday. I now live in the suburbs and we just had Dumpster Day! The community got together and ordered 6 full size dumpsters that they placed in a common parking lot for anyone to fill. I think it took about 7 hours. And you were not allowed to throw in construction or yard trash. Just old stuff. Kinda sad. They repeat this in all the communities every spring and every fall.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View lou's profile


344 posts in 4905 days

#12 posted 03-28-2010 02:09 PM

free wood is fun wood.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4627 days

#13 posted 03-28-2010 04:47 PM

Thanks for the story. I am gonna start looking around this spring and summer. Pretty difficult in the winter here, but then again there isn’t much construction going on in the winter. Stories like this open your mind to different things…......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View clieb91's profile


4267 posts in 5397 days

#14 posted 03-29-2010 01:41 AM

As always Gary a great story and a really good score. I have a pallet that I need to break down, nice red oak and it was just being thrown away.
I can agree with the breakdown process being enjoyable and something to really get lost in. As to the block of wood, I forget f you have a bandsaw but if so a bandsaw box would be a good thing to try with that.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View RichClark's profile


157 posts in 4892 days

#15 posted 03-29-2010 02:56 AM

Gary… but it into thirds and edge glue it up… clean it up with a plane and you have a nice 12×13’ish OAK cutting board. Oil it and your done.

-- Duct Tape is the Force! It has a light side and a dark side and it Binds the Universe together!

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