The Mother Load
A little over two years ago I was driving along in my old truck when I spied a sign at the side of the road with the word “FREE” written on it and an arrow showing the direction. Never one to pass up a hand lettered “free” sign, unless kittens are part of the deal, I turned down the road and ended up in front of a large, run down warehouse. The overhead doors were open and when I got out and walked up I was greeted by a small, wiry bald man who told me to help myself to whatever I wanted inside. “Take as much as you want, fill up your truck, come back for more. Anything left is gonna get thrown away.”
Intrigued, I walked into the warehouse and was greeted by stacks of old wooden doors and windows and racks of lumber of every size, some painted, some stained and some untreated. There were dozens of interior walls that were painted or wallpapered, some with windows and doors. The strange thing was they were not acting like most walls by holding up a ceiling or partitioning a room, but were leaning against each other against a warehouse wall. To one side of the mystery walls was a massive brick fireplace with an impressive mantle. Closer inspection revealed the entire thing to be made of wood. Next were shelves filled with hundreds of unopened, taped up cardboard boxes, caked with dust. I was feeling my inner Indiana Jones as I slowly peeled back the crusty tape and opened the box flaps. Inside were hundreds of…movie posters? I opened another box, and another, full of never used posters still in the printers’ boxes.
Wondering what the place was and why it was all being given away, I sought out the little bald man. He told me the warehouse was slated to be torn down and the contents were being liquidated. The owner was an old movie producer, and the contents were movie sets and promotional items. He had no further need for them and was giving everything away. That explained the phony wood fireplace, walls and posters.
I proceeded to load up my truck with lumber, drive home and unload it and go back for seconds. The next day I couldn’t help myself and went back for a third load.
That was not by any means the first time I found free lumber, but it was definitely the most I have found from one source. When I worked in a warehouse/print shop I had almost unlimited pallets to choose from to either break up and use as firewood or, if they were the right size and quality, to disassemble and reuse for various projects.
I have found lumber stacked or bundled at the curb, too. The free section on Craigslist is another good source. Many times I see businesses place ads to come get their pallets or shipping crates for free. The two best tools for taking them apart are a claw hammer and a wonder bar.
You save money by using free scrap lumber instead of buying new and, if you are halfway handy with basic tools, you can build things instead of buying them. In the last year I have built with salvaged lumber: a gate, a bookshelf, a large flowerbox, a doghouse, a sawbuck, two tables, a trellis, a garden bench, a workbench and fixed two fences. Total cost was my time and some nails and screws.
The two fences I fixed could go in this category as well because I was paid to do the work. Almost all of the things I saved money building myself could also be made to sell. You could build a small inventory of flowerboxes of various sizes and advertise them for sale on Craigslist. Bookshelves are always in demand, as are doghouses and workbenches. This coming spring I am going to build a few garden benches to sell, and use my homemade walnut stain to finish them.
Come to think of it, how to make that stain might be a good topic for a future post.
How to Save Money by Salvaging
Can You Really Find Good Free Stuff On Craigslist?
How to Find Free Firewood