The "Skill" of being Cheap...

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Forum topic by 12strings posted 08-14-2012 07:20 PM 1830 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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434 posts in 3435 days

08-14-2012 07:20 PM

Confession time!

We’ve all built things we need instead of buying them, but what’s the most extreme example you have?

What lengths have you gone to to save money in the workshop? What’s the dirt-cheapest thing you’ve ever Jimmy-rigged together in order to keep from spending money? Something that if anybody knew, they would say, “That’s crazy…why don’t just go buy a _?”

I’ll start…

1. I cut the dovetails for my tool chest with my only back-saw…the one that came with my yellow plastic stanley mitre box!

2. After realizing I made 2 cabinet doors too narrow, I cut them apart so I could save the stiles and just make new rails.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

25 replies so far

View Tennessee's profile


2936 posts in 3565 days

#1 posted 08-14-2012 07:24 PM

I bought a Ryobi BT3000 in 2000, and then was too cheap to buy the extension table, so I put in an old piece of plywood, and then used it as a bench for 12 years.
Just sold off the saw to a fellow in Georgia last Saturday. Almost sad to see it go, I had made so many things on that piece of plywood.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View chrisstef's profile


18129 posts in 4057 days

#2 posted 08-14-2012 07:27 PM

Ive looted my wifes pencils that she bought for her wedding shower.
Ive backed screws out of drywall to use on a project.
I save cut nails from reclaimed boards to use as accents.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View whitewulf's profile


456 posts in 3987 days

#3 posted 08-14-2012 07:36 PM

I glued 3/4”melamine on my planer tables because I found taller blades “on the cheap” ........Rather than grind them down!

-- "ButI'mMuchBetterNow"

View Bagtown's profile


1743 posts in 4781 days

#4 posted 08-14-2012 07:43 PM

I once found a coil of 3.5” ardox nails near a dumpster from a plant that went under. I didn’t have any nail guns but I took the coil of nails home and cut them out of the coil to use them in a treehouse build for kids.

-- Mike - In Fort McMurray Alberta

View MrRon's profile


6005 posts in 4294 days

#5 posted 08-14-2012 09:08 PM

I fail to see anything wrong in trying to save a buck. After reading about others thriftyness, I might claim the title of the “Cheapest woodworker” in town. I used to work in a shipyard and every night, I would come home with pockets buldging full with nuts, bolts, washers, etc. Most of it was stainless steel because the magnetic sweepers wouldn’t pick them up. Workers would need a few bolts or nuts for the job and would be issued a lot more than they needed. Instead of returning leftovers to supply, they would just toss them and I would pick them up. I salvage scraps from dumpsters, unuseable for a job, but something I might find a use for. How many times have you seen a penny lying on the ground and didn’t bother to pick it up? Not me, a penny saved is a penny earned. To me, it’s a crime to see all the good stuff that ends up in the trash and landfills. After Katrina, there was so much good stuff tossed it could fill 20 Olympic size pools. I had a friend who was custodian for a local landfill; after Katrina, truck loads of perfectly good goods were dumped. My friend would contact me so I could take whatever I wanted. I even had a trailer truck load of brand new kitchen cabinets from Lowes or Home Depot diverted to my property. I still have much of it and use them from time to time as needed for different projects. During Katrina, an entire store’s contents would be declared total loss by the insurance company. Most went to the landfill, but some stuff, like tools and appliances would be taken by employees and others. Another friend was contracted to haul debris from the casinos destroyed by Katrina. He was able to salvage many cases of alcoholic beverages. He didn’t drink Scotch, so I got it. Can’t wait for the next big hurricane.

Like some others, I salvage screws and even nails, something I have done all my life. When I see the prices for fasteners, I know what I’m doing is a smart thing.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3893 days

#6 posted 08-14-2012 09:25 PM

Some people think I’m crazy when they learn the origin of about half the furniture in my home.
At least haf the furniture, a lot of dishes, pot, pans, two televisions, a stereo, and many other things I have, come from the garbage.
Sometimes, due to health reasons, I can’t sleep at night. I know all the garbage routes in my town from doing this for several years now. I’ll ride around the garbage routes looking on the curbs. You’d be surprised what people throw away. I’ve checked with the local laws and with Waste Management. Once it’s on the curb, unless a home owner comes out and tells you to leave it alone, there is nothing against the law about taking it.
I did find out that there is a local ordinance against dumpster diving. Any item you pick up in my town has to be out in the open. You cannot go into a private owned container like a dumpster or trash can.

Here’s just a sample of some of the things I’ve retrieved from my “garbage runs”.
Entertainment center was missing a glass door. I stained a piece of wood to match the rest of the piece of furniture and made a wooden door for it.
Bedroom suite. One of the dressers had two busted drawers bottoms. This was an easy fix.
Microwave and stand. There was nothing wrong with the wooden stand. I fixed the mocrowave by replacing a fuse inside and gave it to a neighbor. We kept the stand for our microwave.
Bunk beds were broken where the metal side rails attach to one of the head board pieces. I removed the cheap metal hardware and made solid wooden rails.
Barstool set of four. One of them had a broken seat. Fixed with wood glue and clamps.

The list goes on and on. I have picked up numerous wooden furniture pieces for the hardware off of them and used the unusable wood in my wood heater.
I picked up a copying machine one from an office building just to disassemble it and get all the nuts, bolts, and screws out of it.

I pile the metal up out back and keep an eye on the going rate of scrap metals.


View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 4038 days

#7 posted 08-14-2012 09:47 PM

My wooden cyclone.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9854 posts in 3379 days

#8 posted 08-14-2012 11:05 PM

I went to a salvage sale at a navy rec center that was ripping out their bowling lanes and picked up 25, 2×10x16’ joist grade hemlock timbers…. Which I carted around and stored at several locations b4 using them as rafters in a pole barn I built 17 YEARS LATER!!

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View chrisstef's profile


18129 posts in 4057 days

#9 posted 08-14-2012 11:16 PM

Being in demolition its hard for me to see everything that goes to waste but on the other hand if i saved everything i though that was worth a buck, i would have filled a football field by now. One thing that doesnt slip by is lumber. Ive got the guys on a constant look out for good wood. They salvaged a handrail (8/4×8’) that was curly red oak. Ive had a garage full of barn board. 16/4×3’ mahogany. 24” wide black oak. Various pieces of chestnut, cedar from an old sauna room. All my hand planes except for one were purchase from tag sales and flea markets, same for my hand saws. “If its free, it’s for me!”

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 4246 days

#10 posted 08-14-2012 11:16 PM

Learned it from my brother in law but I’ve used penny’s as washers a few times.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 3555 days

#11 posted 08-14-2012 11:19 PM

You think that’s cheap? Did you see the reality show where the guy went around to other diners in a restaurant and asked them if they minded him taking their leftovers home? I think it was called something about being the cheapest person on the face of the earth. Can you imagine taking home someone elses leftovers? He also used to ask for extra little packets of condiments and then take them home and squeeze them into a bigger jar. His wife’s anniversary presents and flowers all came from dumpters.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3347 days

#12 posted 08-14-2012 11:47 PM

When I was a kid every man’s toolbox had a few pieces of soap in it (the pieces that were too small to keep using in the bath) to run used rusty nails through so they would drive easier. I feel wasteful in comparison.

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3347 days

#13 posted 08-14-2012 11:49 PM

@eric – isn’t that sick? A steel washer is four or five cents and a penny with some copper on it is worth only one.

View Nicky's profile


711 posts in 5142 days

#14 posted 08-15-2012 12:24 AM

These are great….

I put new cabinets in my shop about 10 years ago. My plans required 2” styles and rails for the cabinets, simple overlay doors solid wood rails and styles with a ply insert. I drew up my plans, had a cut sheet. After rough planing my rough stock, I thought that I’d save a few bucks and and reduce the face frames to 1 1/2”.I hung my new cabinets to get them out of the way so now I can start the doors and drawers. Back to my plans to get the dimensions of the doors (12 doors, 8 drawers.) Spent a weekend making the doors, late Sunday thought that I’d install a few and realized that my new doors were not overlay doors anymore. I did not take into account the on-the-fly-el-cheapo plan change I made by reducing the size of the styles and rails. My save here was to get a walnut branch (around 4” diameter) and cut some 1/2’ strips to band around the doors. Thought it would be better to accent my mistake than to try and hide it.

Here is one of the units

Course corrected on the drawers.

-- Nicky

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 3743 days

#15 posted 08-15-2012 02:57 AM

Ok, ok now I’m going to fess up to you all as being the biggest cheapskate there is. I built my backyard shed from all scrap , garbage materials. I went up and down alleys picking up 2x’s and tossed out sheeting, some plywood some aspenite. I bummed a door from my son and also took a pile of wood that was once a swing set from him too. The majority of the nails came from cleaning out a customers garage. The base for this project came from a pressure treated pickup bed off from a truck i bought (the bed was worth more than the truck). The roofing was the only thing I spent money on only because I needed to get it covered quiclkly. So anybody cheaper than that?????

-- See pictures on Flickr -[email protected]/ And visit my Facebook page -

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