Break down used furniture for the lumber?

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Forum topic by ThomasRyan posted 10-07-2018 01:52 PM 889 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 468 days

10-07-2018 01:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood reclaimed lumber materials

Thoughts on breaking down used furniture for the lumber?

For example, I saw a solid oak bookcase on Facebook for $50 and $100-150 solid oak church pews for sale. Could the wood from these be salvaged or even desirable? More hassle than it’s worth when you consider the milling involved to plane and joint?

20 replies so far

View americancanuck's profile


445 posts in 3211 days

#1 posted 10-07-2018 02:05 PM

first of all you have to make very sure it really is solid wood. Most people don’t know the difference between solid wood and mdf veneer. At times you can get very good deals other times you are better off spending your money at the lumber yard

-- Retired and lovin it

View splintergroup's profile


3193 posts in 1823 days

#2 posted 10-07-2018 02:10 PM

One time I bought around 100 student dorm desk/dressers at auction for $0.50 each. They had been out in the weather for many months and much of the 3/4” BB ply laminated tops were a mess, but the solid oak construction gave me a pile of decent wood and the hardboard and plywood drawer bottoms/dust dividers gave me a huge supply of material for panels and templates.

Good salvage deals don’t come by often so if you have the storage space, check them out.

A true solid (not veneer) book case can supply a lot of wide boards, though the sides likely have dados or shelf pin holes. Figure out the useable board footage and figure on $1 or so a foot if the material is nice. $50 may be pushing it.

Same deal with the pews, watch out for veneers. The seats are often 6/4 material in long lengths and widths, very good stuff. $100 would definitely peak my interest.

View Rich's profile


5126 posts in 1190 days

#3 posted 10-07-2018 03:05 PM

Restorers do it all the time to add to their stores of antique parts and veneers. Ultimately, you’ll have to be the judge of the value of the pieces in terms of quality of material, yield, etc. Just offhand, I have a hard time imagining that the oak from a dresser would be worth $50.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View RobinDobbie's profile


147 posts in 2336 days

#4 posted 10-07-2018 04:12 PM

Saw a nice-looking solid-wood bookcase/wine rack at the side of the road. Came back with the truck and took it back to the shop. After I got back and started disassembling it, turns out the shelves were just particle board with a reasonably thick, real wood veneer. The frame was solid red oak and ply, but glue-ups. And they used staples, nails, and glue to put those pieces together. I put a crappy blade on the table saw and processed it. I’ll make something “rustic” out of it.

View RobinDobbie's profile


147 posts in 2336 days

#5 posted 10-07-2018 04:15 PM

By the way, I see church pews for free on CL all the time. And by all the time I mean twice a year. But still.

View fuigb's profile


568 posts in 3558 days

#6 posted 10-07-2018 04:35 PM

+1 to the comments re: particle board passed of as “solid” or “real.”

I don’t pay for reclaimed wood; payment, such as it is, is me doing you the favor of taking away your white elephant.

I recently had a big score with reclaimed red oak: 12 boards, 1×8x12. 12 feet! These had been used to hold artificial flowers for a display of some sort. Funny how the world seems so much brighter when the stockpile is high.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View Fresch's profile


458 posts in 2522 days

#7 posted 10-07-2018 07:12 PM

I did a remodel on a large upscale school and asked for some desks they were throwing out, others were hauling some off that day. Drove home got my truck came back and no you can’t have any! Turns out they too looked for a builders mark… Gustav Stickley, factory is just down the road. They were trying to get all the others back.
Did a remodel on an other school same idea only oak from the removed stage, oops never was supposed to remove the stage! They too were trying to get the wood back. They did let me take old door frames.

View corelz125's profile


983 posts in 1577 days

#8 posted 10-07-2018 10:30 PM

I wouldn’t pay that much for somebodies garbage. You can find stuff either for free or on a curb. Some towns have those re use sections at the dump you can find furniture there for free to take home and break down

View Richard's profile


11309 posts in 3634 days

#9 posted 10-07-2018 10:36 PM

Not worth the Effort!

-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View diverlloyd's profile


3756 posts in 2458 days

#10 posted 10-07-2018 11:09 PM

Free church pews come with a free hernia moving them.

View Phil32's profile


838 posts in 504 days

#11 posted 10-07-2018 11:13 PM

I recently salvaged some black walnut shelves for a carving I was doing. It was easy to verify that the wood was solid. I actually got started whittling years ago on basswood that was used as the core of mahogany veneered cabinet doors. Some of the best basswood I have worked with!

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3749 posts in 3710 days

#12 posted 10-08-2018 01:23 AM

You just have to know what you are looking at, as has been mentioned. I’ve picked up some junk that ended hacked up and in the rubbish bin, and I’ve scored black walnut and QSWO.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View knotscott's profile


8351 posts in 3976 days

#13 posted 10-08-2018 12:43 PM

It depends on the particular pieces, how they’re made, the condition of the wood, the construction, etc., as well as what you want to do with if after. There will be quite a bit of waste from previous joinery and damage. I’ve deconstructed some pieces, and it can yield some useful and interesting pieces, but it can also be a fair amount of work. However, there is some special appeal when repurposing something that was destined for the scrap or burn pile. A lot of my projects are from salvage of some sort. I’d say give it a try if the price is right, and you have the time and the urge, but its not the easiest path to a build.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16318 posts in 3219 days

#14 posted 10-08-2018 01:22 PM

+1 t knotscott’s thoughtful answer.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View ThomasRyan's profile


2 posts in 468 days

#15 posted 10-08-2018 02:40 PM

I picked up what I guess you would call basic carpentry last year out of necessity during a (ongoing) home remodel and along the way become curious about what else I can build with the tools bought; cabinets, furniture, etc. That curiosity lead to me Reddit and the folks there said was a great resources.

This is my first question on the forum. I’m impressed with the response from everyone, and very appreciative. Thank you for your input. I look forward to learning from all of you!

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