how long have you been using recycled wood for your projects?

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Forum topic by Raymond McInnis posted 07-14-2009 11:22 PM 2032 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Raymond McInnis

36 posts in 3729 days

07-14-2009 11:22 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood pallet-board wood recycled wood

this is a small survey for my history of woodworking website:

in the ‘90s, using recycled wood for projects was given credibility by norm abram (NYW),

however, using pallet-boards for wood was popular before that. for example, in the ‘70s, when FW and other woodworking magazines started, frequently articles extolled the virtues of pallet board wood. i myself built many pieces of furniture with wood from pallet boards.

since recycled wood is (generally) cheaper, more money is available for purchase of tools, including purchasing higher end power tools, required for dimensioning recycled wood.

i expect many older guys—i’m 73—have used recycled wood for quite a long time. if you have, and would like to share your story with me, please either post it here or get directly in touch: [email protected]

-- Raymond McInnis Washington State [email protected]

20 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117713 posts in 4059 days

#1 posted 07-14-2009 11:34 PM

Hey there Ray
I haven’t done any because most of my projects are for customers so it just doesn’t work for me but I think it’s a great idea for hobbyist, who can make what they like.

View john's profile


2380 posts in 4863 days

#2 posted 07-14-2009 11:40 PM

My father taught me about recycling back in the early seventies . We use to tear down old houses and reuse the lumber .
I decided to follow my fathers foot steps and recycle wood too , mainly barns .
Ninety percent of the lumber i use for my work is recycled .

-- John in Belgrave (Website) ,

View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 4162 days

#3 posted 07-14-2009 11:41 PM

I’m befuddled by this idea that recycled wood is often cheaper than newly cut wood. I’ve seen this posted several times today. What people aren’t taking into consideration, is that there’s time and tool wear and tear, when you use recycled wood, unless you aren’t doing anything to it. Maybe you can get the wood for free, if you salvage, or cheap anyway, but there’s much to think about.

I think someone’s mentality shouldn’t be how cheap can I get the wood and have more money for me, but will the recycled wood work for that project? And will it be worth my time it takes to make the wood look nice enough.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View john's profile


2380 posts in 4863 days

#4 posted 07-14-2009 11:50 PM

With the price of new lumber i,ll settle for recycled wood anytime . With your logic it,s no wonder our planet is so full of garbage .

-- John in Belgrave (Website) ,

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3924 days

#5 posted 07-15-2009 12:10 AM

I have used recycled wood most of my career in the trade. It doesn,t work on all projects and only became popular when country style was in vogue, you wouldn,t build a federal secretaire from packing cases. Oldskoolmodder is right, It is messy and hard on tools and who knows what poisonous crap was used on it ( my heavy metal blood levels went up after a decade of handling it) but the advantage is the oxidisation thats occured over time gives an instant patina and thats what sold the product. Once it was realised how much money could be made the price of it shot up until it,s now cheaper to use plantation pine, at least thats the case in Australia and New Zealand. Personally I love the stuff but if needs must then I buy new lumber.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View knotscott's profile


8327 posts in 3857 days

#6 posted 07-15-2009 01:42 AM

I’ve been “salvaging” & recycling from the get go when I started in 2001. It has far more to do with budget and opportunity than anything about being green, or Norm’s influence, though I am a fan and he’s been an influence in many other ways. There simply wasn’t a lot money in the budget for tools and wood,and I wanted/needed both, so I grabbed wood anyway I could… (with permission), water bed, garage sales, curb rejects, salvaged furniture, friends, etc.

About the time I got started, I was given ~ 200BF of rough sawn cherry when a friend moved, which seemed to justify the purchase of a jointer. I started looking for other sources of free/cheap wood and ran into several opportunities over the next few years. Very little of my wood to date has been purchased, though I’ve spent more on wood in the past year than the other years combined. I love the history and nostalgia of repurposed wood. I suspect that a fair percentage of my projects are from salvaged wood, and I’ve come to prefer it, because it already has a history.

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

View Durnik150's profile


647 posts in 3803 days

#7 posted 07-15-2009 02:29 AM

I haven’t been doing woodworking all that long so I can’t claim that I have been re-using before it was trendy but my first major project was a hall table made from 6×12 barn wood beams. The only metal in the whole thin was a bolt that ran through the stabilizing stringer underneath and that was just left their for decoration.

The actual assembly was 3/4” dowels holding everything together. I encased the whole thing in a liquid plastic solution that almost gives it a bar top feel.

When I saw the huge beam that had been left from the barn, my first thought was to hold on to them and reuse them in some way. This was only about 5 years ago but I didn’t realize at the time that there was such a big push for re- used wood.

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

View Raymond McInnis's profile

Raymond McInnis

36 posts in 3729 days

#8 posted 07-15-2009 04:28 AM

knotscott, although i have used a lot of recycled wood, the link above leads to an account of newly harvested wood, and how when a woodworker creates something with wood, the wood is given a liffe in perpetuity. it is something that i believe, even if i am not a religious person. read it and see whether it tells a story parallel to your “the history and nostalgia of repurposed wood. I suspect that a fair percentage of my projects are from salvaged wood, and I’ve come to prefer it, because it already has a history.”

Woodworking’s Three-Legged Stool:—Craftsmanship as Spirituality, Creativity, Culture

More than a Hobby, Woodworking is a “Craft” “Where, then, does craft … begin?” Or, why do I think my Woodworking is “Spiritual?” And is Woodworking a Form of “Creativity”?

Read more:—

-- Raymond McInnis Washington State [email protected]

View scrappy's profile


3507 posts in 3912 days

#9 posted 07-15-2009 07:56 AM

Allmost all of my wood is recycled. Mostly pallets. And when you end up with woods like ,POPLAR,HICKORY,ASH,OAK,WULNUT,BIRCH,MAPLE,CURLY MAPLE and others that are beautifull but I don’t recognize. I will gather any piece of wood that catches my eye. Just like karson will hoard his wood and store it until a project comes along (or someone stops by) that I can use it on. Many of my projects were designed around the wood I had on hand, but since I am makeing stuff for gifts and myself that works just fine. Also I don’t do furniture anymore. (Lost my interest on BIG projects with my murphy bed.) Would rather make trinkets, boxes or other small stuff, so small pieces are good.

The time spent in reclaiming is as good as any other time spent working with wood, It is all relaxing and enjoyable. No mater how hard you have to strugle to get those blasted nails out! haha

I hope everyone here uses reclaimed lumber of one type or another sometime in their wood working, It gives you a hole new respect for the wood.

-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4472 days

#10 posted 07-15-2009 01:10 PM

I’ve used “reclaimed” and recycled wood all my life. Hell, my first wood project was probably a go-cart made from scraps of anything I could get my hands on! My best though was a tea-cart/grill combo made from old oak pallets. The wood had deep stains and nail holes…just gave it character. It turned out real nice and lasted for years outdoors. I eventually gave it to my stepson who accidentally lost it off the back of his truck while moving. It broke and he tossed it. Too bad as I could of probably “recycled” it again!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3807 days

#11 posted 07-15-2009 01:18 PM

I was taught recycling since I was a wee girl by my parents. Clothing passed around from family group to family group. We were ever present at rummage sales for coats, etc. If something appeared on the side of the road that looked useful or could turn into something useful – it became used. Necessity is the mother of invention! It’s become so ingrained that it passed on very quickly to other things.

View patrick m's profile

patrick m

197 posts in 4295 days

#12 posted 07-15-2009 01:28 PM

Very Often…. I follow tree trimmers here in brooklyn, have one guy that’ll call me when it’s something interesting.
I also use al old beams n rafters from demo in my sculptures. And try to buy locally more now since I’ve seen the devastation buying south american hardwoods is doing. We have wonderful stuff right here. Brazil, is fighting over where to clear cut next for our market. Soon will unleash the whooping tree frog flu! My one fault is my addiction to Lignum V. I’ve -yes- smuggled a log from Jamaica in two suit cases. BAD be i couldn’t help it. I;m making up for it on the karmah tree

-- PJM.`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸ ><((((º> ""BY HAMMER AND HAND ALL ARTS DO STAND""1785-1974 nyc Semper Fi, Patrick M

View Dustin Ward (aka Tearen)'s profile

Dustin Ward (aka Tearen)

176 posts in 4432 days

#13 posted 07-15-2009 02:35 PM

I have only been woodworking for about 6 years now. About 95% of the wood I use is reclaimed. I am lucky to live in an area rich in furniture manufacturing, so I can usually fill my wife’s van whenever I need stock. Because it is no real cost to me (sometimes I trade bagels or dounuts for the materials) I try to share the wealth with other LJs in the area. It is amazing what companies will consider scrap and throw out!

Just a reminder to all you LJ’s. If you are ever in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area make sure you let me know and I will gladly let you raid my stock! I have plenty to share… just ask my wife!

View stanley2's profile


354 posts in 4277 days

#14 posted 07-15-2009 03:21 PM

My nephew works mainly with recycled (reclaimed) wood – see He makes furniture, cabinets and trims houses with it.

-- Phil in British Columbia

View SnowyRiver's profile


51458 posts in 3962 days

#15 posted 07-15-2009 04:43 PM

I have used recycled wood on special projects. I agree with a1Jim that it would be difficult to use it if you are doing a time sensitive project, or some kind of production work since it always brings up a new set of issues and slows completion. It certainly is tough on the tools. My last project using recycled wood was a steamer chest, which is in my project gallery, was recycled American Chestnut. It gave me the antique look I was looking for and was a fun project. The down side is the wood was expensive and the shipping to get it just added to the expense.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

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