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Save some money woodworking by reducing, reusing and recycling wood

Reduce the waste

While building your projects, there is always a sense of satisfaction if you manage to use some of your cut-offs from previous projects into your current masterpiece. There is something about using your lumber to the last inch that gives you the sense that you got your money's worth from that lumber purchase.

At times, you will likely also find yourself gazing at your cut-off bin thinking of projects that could benefit from this ever-accumulating stash of remnants.

Optimizing your use of lumber and the resulting cut-offs through careful planning is a nice way to keep your costs down and keep some of that wood from the burn pile.

Reuse and recycle

For those of us who enjoy the challenge of hunting for discarded lumber and finding creative ways of using these at little to no cost, can be a fun and rewarding past time.

Besides, the market seems to be willing to pay extra for furniture, such as tables, built from recycled lumber. There are entire movements of craftsmen and craftswomen who focus solely on using wood pallets in their projects. Ecologically minded customers often look for crafts that were made from recycled materials as their way of contributing to keeping these materials away from city landfills.

You can't beat the price of recycling and re-using discarded lumber.

In addition to the benefits described above, one obvious additional benefit is the decreased costs of your projects (and therefore increased profits) to you by using these materials. Sure, building a project from ready to use lumber or from raw lumber you will mill yourself, is the way to go if you have specific goals and don't want to bother hunting for these discarded resources. But this comes at a premium.

If you like the additional challenge of finding ways to keep your costs way down, using recycled lumber is one option available to you.

Costs associated with using recycled materials

In using recycled lumber, you must also take into account the costs associated with locating, fetching, and processing the lumber.

There are also costs associated with special tools such as metal detectors that come in handy in locating fasteners and spare blades to save your expensive ones from getting banged up.

You should also not ignore your time costs associated with processing the recycled lumber. From dismantling a pallet to removing the paint/varnish from an old piece of furniture all adds up.

Regardless of the above specified costs, using recycled lumber can be a satisfying way to do more in your workshop for considerably less.

So, where can I find discarded lumber?

There are more sources of discarded lumber than you probably realized. Below is a list of potential supplies


  • Pallets - these are a great source of lumber that you can use in your projects. Keep in mind that pallets need to be disassembled and the resulting lumber will have holes where the fasteners were. Pallets are in abundance and vary in wood species depending on where you are located. But the most common wood species found include Yellow pine (soft wood) and oak (hard wood). The specific type of wood used in a pallet often depends on the kind of load the pallet will be subjected to. Hardwoods are mostly used for heavier loads requiring good support, while softwoods are used more liberally for light loads. You can find pallets:
  • Industrial parks - drive around the industrial area in your town and you are likely to see businesses with piles of pallets. Some might be there for re-use by the company while others are there for the taking if you get permission from the business. They will usually be happy to just get rid of them. So, don't be shy and just ask.
  • Big box stores - any businesses who regularly receive large quantities of goods usually have piles of pallets in their receiving area. Once again, just ask before taking.

Beer caddy made from pallets.

  • Cut-offs - there are many companies who produce wooden goods who have large bins of wood cut-offs. It is often too time consuming for them to sort thru their bins to re-use cut-offs. But these manufacturers will either give you or let you help yourself at minimal costs. It helps if you make friends with the owners and perhaps promise them one of your crafts in exchange for their discarded lumber. I always make it a point to tell them I am a hobbyist woodworker and would benefit greatly from their generosity.
  • Cabinet and furniture makers - although many use MDF or plywood in building their cabinet carcasses, they frequently use hardwoods to build their face frames and trim pieces. This lumber is usually unfinished. Although you might have to sort through their waste bin, there is often gold there to be found.
  • Staircase makers - if you can find one of these businesses in your area, you might have access to much thicker lumber cut-off. Since staircases are usually made of hardwoods, their 'burn pile' can yield some nice thick stock that you can plane to any thickness you need.
  • Woodworking clubs - this can be the source of woodworkers who would love to unload part of their cut-off bin knowing they are helping a fellow woodworker. If there is a woodworking club in your neighborhood, don't hesitate to join them. They can be an invaluable source of where to get great deals.

Wine caddy made from cut-offs

  • Trash - you would be surprised at how much discarded lumber you can find on trash day. Sure, it can be embarrassing driving around your neighborhood and sifting through other people's discarded goods, but there is gold out there. I like to go for a quick drive in the evening where I can get first dibs on discarded items.
  • Discarded furniture - there is plenty of cheap mass produced imported furniture out by the curb, but you can also find tables with hardwood tops, cabinets with solid drawer faces and trim. Remember that you will likely have to disassemble and strip the finishes from the lumber coming from this source.

Pendulum cradle made from discarded desk

(Click here for the article)

  • Demolition - keep your eyes open for any demolition work that might be going on in your neighborhood. Although salvage companies might have the rights to all the materials, there are many sites who would rather give it than paying extra for having it carted away. (Remember to always be respectful and not leave the area in worst shape than when you got there.)
  • Old homes - keep your eyes open for old home. Here, you can find beautiful architectural trim, doors and flooring.
  • Industrial sites - old historical industrial buildings often had huge wood beams. Getting your hands on this is amazing.

Coffee table made from demolition lumber

(Click here for the article)

  • Felled trees - tree cutting firms can sometimes offer you a great deal on trees they cut down. Of course, this is a more involved process requiring special equipment to cut the trees into planks and setting them out to dry. Yet, this can yield very inexpensive lumber if you have the storage facilities and equipment to process the wood.

Simple tealight holder made from felled tree

  • Classified ads - can be a great resource for finding inexpensive (and even free) lumber. Whether it is left-over stock from a project, old furniture, or someone closing their shop, there always seems to be an opportunity in finding some if you look hard enough.

So there you have it. Woodworking doesn't have to be expensive if you are resourceful and take the time to explore the various avenues described above. Lumber is definitely not getting cheaper, and this is one of the ways to win that battle.