Wood for Projects

by E. E. Kane

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Walk into any building supply that sells lumber and you might be surprised at the price of wood. But you don't need to pay that price. There are other sources that could cost much less. In fact, some sources of wood are free.

Wood Pallets

Eco artist Mark Dabelstein found a new line of work, when he began making whimsical pieces from pallets he noticed discarded in dumpsters. Pallet wood may not be top-grade material, but it is not much different from what you will buy at big-box home improvement stores. You will have to fill some holes, but you can't argue with free. Ask for discarded pallets at warehouses (it helps to know a friend). Use pallet wood to frame windows, build shelves, or for any small project.

Culled Wood Bundles

The next time you walk through any purveyor of lumber, ask the manager at the contractor's desk if they have culled wood bundles. The bundles are made up of a variety of lesser-quality planks culled from stock. These culled bundles are sold at a deep discount, sometimes up to 75%. If your project does not require perfect lumber, a culled wood bundle is a bargain.

Reclaimed Wood

You can't buy old growth wood at your local building supply, but it was the standard material a century or so ago. Thanks to a renewed appreciation for the quality of old wood and the eco-conscious desire to reuse it, you can buy reclaimed wood from de-constructed homes, barns and old factories. Reclaimed wood is centuries old and rich with resin and the patina that only comes from age. This wood was center-cut from trees that grew slowly in dense forests, producing tight inner rings that yield strength and beauty that current fast-growth trees can never rival. The reclamation process of removing nails, sawing and re-milling old wood is usually more expensive.

Reclaimed wood is a worthy investment for any home, but if your budget will not allow for it, you might obtain it by good old initiative and sweat equity. Ask friends, put an ad in the paper or online like Craigslist, and take frequent drives in the country looking for falling-down structures. Ask the owner of such a structure if he will allow you to take the wood in exchange for cleaning up the site.

Be forewarned that deconstruction is a huge and sometimes dangerous undertaking, and it helps if you know what you are doing. Wear safety gear and gather several friends who will share the proceeds for their help and contribution of equipment needed, like a tractor, trucks, pry bars and claw hammers. Make sure that you make safety your number one priority.

Salvaged Building Material Suppliers

Baseboard, crown molding, fireplace mantels and solid wood doors are available at a salvaged building materials supplier. Search online for a local salvaged materials supplier. Similar options exist through the following websites:

PlanetReuse.com - A nation-wide free source for anyone in the construction business, both professional and layperson. You can advertise or browse listed materials, then click on an ad to let Planet Reuse set up an interface between you and the seller.

Freecycle.org - Available in most major cities, the great thing about Freecycle is that everything is free, even membership. You can make requests or offer unwanted items. Freecycle sends daily emails, so be prepared for an overloaded inbox. Be ready to respond quickly if you see what you want.

Finding inexpensive sources of wood is a great bargain, especially for someone who loves to work with it!

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