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Hi Folks; have you ever wondered what happens to those old base boards or the skirtings from that demolition project or even those old shipping pallets from behind that store. Well I pick them up and use them......No I'm not some grubby old guy with a broken down pick-up, I'm the grubby old guy with the broken down stationwagon. (Haha) Only kidding, but for those of you who are short on cash or just starting out in woodworking, "listen up". There is a wealth of material out there free for the taking, with the owners permission of course. Most renovation or damage repair companies have to pay to dispose of the wood product that they remove from a site. In some cases they are obligated by insurance companies to destroy it, these you don't worry about. But in many cases the companies have to pay (by weight) for the disposal of these materials. Most of the site managers that I have talked to hate to see the waste but their sheds, garages and closets are full to the verge of divorce and can be very accomidating. Some will be stuck in "I can't be bothered" mode but when you find a helpful one, then make it easy for him. Place some calls or drive around and look for offices or industrial demolition as these will have used newer and more durable materials(If you have tried to pull off a 100 year old base board you'll know what I mean).


Now for my personal favorite, "Shipping Pallets". I know, I know, I can hear the "What's" and "Huh's" from here. Your question is; "You mean those dirty, beat up, ugly things, that I see piled behind the stores that nobody wants"........Yep, them's the ones. Those unfortunates, those degraded, those forgotten......are solid gold. On the westcoast we have an abundance of softwoods that go into every thing, on the otherhand the eastcoast the same can be said for hardwoods including (taadaa)Shipping Pallets. For most companies pallets are not a monitary concern and they have no interest in sending back a train load of shipping pallets for re-use, so they collect and sit. I have found pallets made of oak, alder, ash, walnut, cherry, apple, chestnut, beech, maple, alder to mention only a few. And let us not overlook the overseas contributions of mahogany, teak and so on.


There are various ways to disassemble these pallets and they are labour intensive. Remember the pallets are not designed to come apart(Duh!!) So some times the most effective way will come down to the material itself, technique, the tool or ultimately brute force. What ever way works is the rule of thumb and these may differ from pallet to pallet. We can talk about these later.


There will be waste, this will break, that will shatter or this part is just no problem. Remember this is about recycling and I believe that burning to heat a home on those damp wintery evenings is a viable use of waste materials. But if you don't agree or don't have a fireplace, most cities have a recycling programs that include waste wood materials. They will usually "chip-it" where it can be used on city park pathways or gardens or it can be returned to the earth as a composted product.


The thing about pallet material is the way its cut. For store stock or retail stock the producer is attempting to create a uniform material for an end sale user. the point being you can start a project and three monthes later go to the store or supplier and find a piece of oak that will conform in grain, texture and colour to the one you bought originaly. For pallets though the cuts are not limited for appearance sake. In the industry there are many names for this kind of cutting, waste limited, max usage, minimal loss, total usage and on and on. the idea is turn that log every which way to get the most out of it. The result is you find pieces done in Riftsawn, Quartersawn, Flatsawn,Shavecut or Slabcut to name only a few. The end product can be a form, depth, colour and beauty that you will never see in a rack at any retail outlet.


So now the question is;"Is Russ talking out of his hat, what can you do with this pile of wood once you've got it". AHaaaaa!! Well most all the projects I do in my shop will include recycled material to a lesser or greater degree. Because of the uniqueness of the grain, texture, colour and staining it can be a gem for woodworker new and old. I have used recycled wood in fireplace surrounds, book shelves, cabinets, wood parquet floor and stair covering, furnture........anywhere you want a unique look or appearance and are prepared to work for it.  


Good hunting and good luck 

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Russ I have been grabbing pallets for along time from time to time,but you better have a metal detector if you are going to run in your planner cause my DeWalt hates nails and tacks.
Ya, its a concern but a good "stud finder" does the job and the benefit of discarding any questionable material is an option because the price is Thanks Jens I was worried I was writting too much already, but there always is more to add.
Thanks Russ! Can you post some pictures of the work you have done with pallets? Your "form, depth, color and beauty" description has me eager to see your results.
Sorry Ross it was clean up day in the shop you know lots of oil and WD40 and elbow grease .
I have used some pillets but they are more trouble all the work taking the apart and like Jens my DEWALT hates nails to but I’m one of the lucky one’s I live 2 mile’s from S&W Cabinet’s they throw it away and I get allot of ¼ ,½ ,¾ so I’m doing my part to Re-cycling wood and as for me I have the old broken truck but when it come’s time to get wood I have to gave it up to one of the girls to drive and they help me to .
Have some pic’s on the left side I have ¼ , ½ and on the right side is my ¾ but in the middle is the good suff.

This is all my wood I get from three cabinet shops tha just toss it out .
this is just about half of what I just picked up 10 feet each oak,cherry,black walnut,mohogany, quilted mohogany,birch,maple and brazilian cherry got it all for only $100.00. just got to look around.

Russ, it's a great way to save some bucks. Planter Boxes are what I have in mind for my spring project. I had an uncle years ago who used to get pallets, plane down the boards, glue them up and turn out hurricane lamps on his lathe. He would finish them up with brass clips to hold the glass chimney and drill a hole for the candle to seat in. I still have a pair of these that he gave to my mother.
He said he used a couple of medium to large pry bars to disassemble the pallets, and pulled the staples/nails by hand.
I'm planning on using the KPH to build the boxes after I get all of my boards cut. Some of the boxes will be rough finished (rustic as they like to say) and some will be finished or planed down.
I what ? Now where did you say you lived!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark Schrader said:
this is just about half of what I just picked up 10 feet each oak,cherry,black walnut,mohogany, quilted mohogany,birch,maple and brazilian cherry got it all for only $100.00. just got to look around.

This is great folks. Keep them coming. It's good to see examples of the recycling concepts in action. Here are some of the uses I've had for recycled woods. On the stairs I'm filling the nail and knot holes with a clear floor finish and then sanding and re-staining. The sanding is going to have to wait for the warmer temperatures. For those of you new to the "recycled wood game" as you can see there is a huge potential out there for material sources, you just have to look hard. I'll put up some pics of my barn full of wood next time. Thanks
I really enjoyed this article and I'm going to try and fine me some pallets. Thanks for the info.
Thanks Marci; But.......and there's always a but, there are the concerns about using recycled wood material as mentioned by some of the others. Nails or staples are not only possibly damaging to equipment but a safety concern for you. Always check your material over carefully, use a "stud finder" or metal detector, their relatively cheap and far less expensive then a "new eye". Try not to "pry" the pallets apart, you'll just split a lot of your potential material. Rather, raise the cross member 2x4's and use another 2x4 with a hammer to drive the 1x4 you want to save down and off the 2x4. Usually the 1x4 will take the nails or staples out with it clean, not always though. Don't forget to check out your local wood product manufacturers for their waste material. its amazing what they can't use or store and you can get for free or cheap. Check-out Mark Schrader's picture of his $100 pile of wood, mark got a sweet deal and the company has its coffee for the next few months. Look in your phone books under "manufacturer's as a start but a drive around an industrial park can provide you with a few surprises. "Good luck and happy hunting"
I love your style of thinking Russ! I "inherited" about a dozen 2x12's from a church that dismantled and remodeled their stage. I ripped then down to 2x4's and built pieces for my entire workshop! Including a big table that I wouldn't trade for anything! I posted pictures on my page.
I also scope out the portable sawmill users. Around here there are dozens of people with the woodmizers. They saw the wood and toss some very valuable pieces into the scrap pile. They have to season and be planed of course but it is neat to get wood like curly maple, wormy chestnut, and hickory for next to nothing!

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