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Woodworking with Recycled Materials

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Creating a Butt Joint with Recycled Stock

Recycled Materials

(c) 2007 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.
Woodworking can be an expensive hobby. For a beginning woodworker, it can appear quite costly to purchase a woodshop full of tools and woodworking machinery. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. The costs for wood stock and hardware for building your woodworking plans can be quite pricey as well.

While I'm rarely in favor of buying used tools (not only because they likely won't be covered by a warranty, but also because you can never be absolutely certain just how well the previous owner maintained the tool), I am always on the lookout for wood stock that I can recycle.

Case in point: one of the sets of free woodworking plans that we offer on this site, a Wine Rack with Built-in Wine Glass Storage is built almost entirely from stock that was removed from a local restaurant prior to their remodeling. The material was in great shape, and I was more than happy to take it off the new owner's hands. While you certainly can build this woodworking project using new materials, I found it was perfect for the recycled material I had just picked up for free.

As it turns out, I only needed about a third of the stock from the restaurant to complete the wine rack. After storing the remaining pieces for a few months, I was able to use the rest for a project in our backyard that would've cost about $200.

Some of my favorite recycled stock for building furniture is longleaf pine, which was used for years in the United States and Canada for construction purposes. Longleaf pine trees often take as long as 100-150 years to reach their fully mature size, and may live for another 150 years afterwards. As you can imagine, a tree this old is quite stable material for woodworking.

While they're getting harder to find, if one really looks, there are still some old, aging barns in need of demolition that are full of such recyclable materials. Sure, there are companies on the internet that specialize in finding and selling reclaimed longleaf pine and cypress, but if you happen to come across some out-of-the-ordinary beams, tongue and groove or shiplap planks that are destined for a bonfire, take a moment and give them a closer look. If you get lucky enough to find some such materials that are free of decay or termite damage, you might be able to strike a really good price (often free for the taking) and the furniture you make out if this stock will have a story that simply cannot be matched by any material from the lumber yard, regardless of price.

It would be a shame for wood with such amazing potential to go up in flames.
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