Reclaiming/Recycling Wood

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Forum topic by DannyBoy posted 03-21-2008 05:44 PM 8061 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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521 posts in 4399 days

03-21-2008 05:44 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question recycled wood salvage scavenge

My wife has convinced me (though she will deny having anything to do with what she calls “my idea”) that I should attempt to use more reclaimed or recycled wood for my wood projects. So, I checked this book out from my local library and got a few ideas on obtaining, prepping, and making projects out of this stuff.

So, I’m curious. How many of you out there have done this or are doing this? What techniques do you use for obtaining, prepping, and building? Any thoughts on what the best dumpster diving locations would be?

As a followup questions, I’d like to know what some people would think about trying to recycle nails and screws used in the pallets or packing crates you find. By recycle, I mean taking them to the scrap yard or even reusing them where possible.


-- He said wood...

17 replies so far

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4408 days

#1 posted 03-21-2008 06:02 PM

A county recycling center allows tree dumping. They are OK with a county resident sawing off a few bowl blanks. I don’t recall any logs suitable for sawing into lumber, however.

View Mark E.'s profile

Mark E.

387 posts in 4276 days

#2 posted 03-21-2008 06:11 PM

I am a big fan of using wood from old and/or broken pieces and re-using it for new projects.

My BIL had an old house years ago that had maple flooring in several rooms that was in bad shape. We pulled it all up and I brought it home. It took some time to pull all the nails and staples, etc., But it was well worth the effort. From that maple I made several cutting boards, some picture frames and a nice magazine rack for the ‘throne room’.

Just recently I picked up some 60+ year old oak planks from an old paper mill that was being re-habbbed. These planks had been nailed or bolted to the walls to protect them from machinery and fork lifts, etc. Each plank that I got was a full 3” thick, 8” wide and right around 12’ long, for $15.00 each! That worked out to be about 62 cents/board foot. The guy selling them had advertised on Craig’s List. I heard about it from a guy on Sawmill Creek.

I regularly check Craig’s List and local want advertising, etc. to try to find bargains. We don’t have trash pickup around here so I go to the town dump about every other week. While there I take a peek at what others have tossed out. Sometimes you can find something worth taking.

One other good source is your local FreeCycle. If you are not familiar, the FreeCycle network is a place for people to offer or look for anything that would normally go to the dump. If you have something you don’t what, offer it up. If you are looking for something you can post a wanted message. You can check it out at:

-- Mark

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4708 days

#3 posted 03-21-2008 06:35 PM

I love using recycled wood, Danny!

I think I’ve covered my use of it in a blog entry… If I recall, it was a bit verbose, so I don’t want to duplicate it all here. Oh, here it is:

Using Recycled Wood

The roof of that farm house (mentioned in the blog) had an original roof of shake shingles under the asphalt roof, too, so I was able to get about five of those Folgers 1-gallon coffee containers of square shingle nails. A lot of them were in perfectly good usable shape, so I’m sure I’ll pull them out at some point in time and try to re-use them.


-- Ethan,

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4524 days

#4 posted 03-21-2008 06:51 PM

Go for it! Anytime I can get my hands on old lumber I do. Check old barns for termites and other critters first though. You don’t want termites in your shop, or house!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4302 days

#5 posted 03-21-2008 07:13 PM

every once and a while someone in my neighbor hood throws out a good solid wood piece and i haven’t yet but when i get a planer I’ll just get it, pull the fasteners out (save the hinges and slides and drawer pulls if possible. and then mill the bigger pieces. usually from what I’ve seen you aren’t going to get many thick pieces from doing this but all that thin stock is good for some presents. just my take on this.

View RusticElements's profile


167 posts in 4259 days

#6 posted 03-21-2008 07:54 PM

I just replaced an oak floor for a friend. I took the old flooring home and removed all the nails. Not too bad once you get on a roll. I gave most of it to a friend to floor a smaller room in his place. The rest I kept to make cutting boards, tables, etc.

I think found wood is as good as recycled. Where I live, south east NY, we get quite a few wind storms, like today. This tends to down a lot of large branches and some trees. I just purchased a 16” chain saw and plan to make rough lumber from some of these trees. I just have to figure out how to dry it with my limited facilities.

I have a Q for the group along the same lines. I’ve always been nervous about using old pallets because most of the wood is so rough it needs to be planed. I’ve seen very few pallets that don’t have rocks embedded in the wood. Often they are very hard to see. A little hard on the planer blades. How do you deal with that?

-- Michael R. Harvey - Brewster, NY - - -

View DannyBoy's profile


521 posts in 4399 days

#7 posted 03-21-2008 08:00 PM

Good question, Rustic. I just grabbed a few pallets from behind a tool store (of all places) but I haven’t gotten to the smoothing and milling process. I’d be interested in hearing some feedback on this from others as well.

Danny Boy

-- He said wood...

View Kevin Violette's profile

Kevin Violette

235 posts in 4397 days

#8 posted 03-21-2008 08:03 PM

I used an old broken Piano that I bought just for the cherry to make the jewellery box for the 2008 winter box contest and I am always looking for damaged furniture or wood that can be reused for it is typically old growth and if I can do my part to save a tree I will.

-- Kevin

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4524 days

#9 posted 03-22-2008 01:25 PM

Old pallets can harbor some good oak. I took apart some old pallets once to make a “Tea-cart” to hold my smoker grill.(Sorry…No pics as it’s long gone). After using a metal sensor to remove all the nails, I scraped the top with a heavy duty scraping tool (Red Devil brand I believe). Then I ran the boards thru the planer. It turned out just fine and lasted for several years until I bought my new, and much bigger smoker!

There’s also a find in the heavy packing crates I acquired from the lumber yard. I don’t know what was shipped, but I picked up a stack of 2×6 oak in 36” to 48” pieces. You can see them in my wood rack photo.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 4349 days

#10 posted 03-22-2008 02:20 PM

I’d say keep an eye on the big remodelers…..the ones re-habbing big older places. “They” don’t usually want to mess with “recycling”. They just want to get it in the dumpster and move on. But be careful…you might find yourself collecting a whole lot more than just wood. (There are very few constants in the universe…but it will never cease to amaze me what people are willing to throw in the dumpster.)

There’s a neighbor across the road from me that does nothing but reclaim/recycle construction materials. My other neighbor works for a company that goes around re-doing retail businesses and is constantly calling me about whether I want a free conveyor system, those aluminum clad styrofoam florists coolers, fire extinguishers, cabinets, warehouse carts, shelving…on and on…

I keep a five gallon bucket around that all metal goes into for the recycler when it gets full.

Boss just quoted an American Chestnut job….$25 per bf. $50K in materials alone. It HAS to be all recycled/reclaimed wood.

Bottom line is…how much is your time worth? Are you trying to save the world? Is what you’re recycling truely unique? Do you have enough storage space? (you get to pick the question…answer is up to you. Maybe I’m just a classic pack-rat…but I sure do like a good find.)

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View DannyBoy's profile


521 posts in 4399 days

#11 posted 03-22-2008 09:44 PM

Space would be my problem. We are getting better at being able to utilize what little space we have in our home, but we are still snug.

Time wise, I started pulling apart some pallets I got last night and it was satisfying but tedious. I guess if it is worth the work… I’m hoping I get lucky and have some better finds as I look around. Good thing is, there are two motorcycle dealers very near my house along with a furniture store. I think I’ll be pretty lucky if I keep at it.

-- He said wood...

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4708 days

#12 posted 03-25-2008 02:48 PM

Another source for slightly different pallets is to look for smaller tractor supply companies, Kuboto for example, as their packing material is generally built out of “local” wood. In many cases, local for them means exotic for us.

-- Ethan,

View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4430 days

#13 posted 03-25-2008 07:37 PM

Another good source for wood is cabinet shops. There is one here in town that used to throw out their “cutoffs.” Those “cutoffs” were 3’ x 6” x 2”. I’ve got a load of them in my garage. I’ve made tables, bookcases, shelfs, toys, etc. from those throw aways. And to beat it all there were no nails or screws to deal with and the lumber was straight as could be. So check out the cabinet shops.

I’ve done the dumpsted diving from time to time when I see a piece sticking out. I’m always leary of what else is in there – so I don’t do it often.

I’ll also pick up a good pallet once in a while.

The other good source is friends. I have most of my friends on the look out for wood for me.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View DannyBoy's profile


521 posts in 4399 days

#14 posted 03-25-2008 07:41 PM

That’s a good tip! There is a furniture store just down the street from me as well. I’m hoping to pop into some good finds there one Sunday afternoon.

-- He said wood...

View Kevin's profile


291 posts in 4492 days

#15 posted 04-01-2008 10:39 PM


That is a great suggestion on the tractor companies. I never thought about these type of pallets being exotic woods.

I have recycled a few pallets and have had decent luck. Nice Oak, but usually in short pieces. I found that many of spots with nails you’re just better off to cut out.

I also have recylced a lot of wood from an older house or two.

-- Kevin, Wichita, Kansas

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