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Wood is expensive, when going to the lumber yard you will probably spend more than 100 dollars for most projects. At least I know I do. But it does not have to be so expensive. There are many different ways to get your hand on cheap wood without sacrificing too much in the quality of the wood.
Cheap wood can be obtained from Pallets, Old Furniture, Nature, Containers, Construction Sites, Firewood, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Cabinet Shops, Trees, Local Sawyers, Buy and Sell Sites, And Friends/Family.
Reclaiming and finding cheap wood creates a bigger story around the wood. Maybe the wood comes from a sofa that is 200 years old, or maybe you had to crawl around in a trash pile to find a great piece of Black Walnut. Either way, it is my favorite way of obtaining wood. But when you are trying to find cheap wood you also make some sacrifices, the biggest one is time. You spend a lot more time looking for the wood and processing it before it is ready to be made into something new.
Using Pallet Wood
Pallets are the simplest way to get large quantities of free wood. Pallets are consumer goods for most companies and are only used to transport goods from point a to b. After the transportation is done the pallets are usually worthless to them. They just take up space or they have to pay money to get rid of them. Simply check craigslist or Facebook marketplace if someone is giving away pallets for free in your area and I promise you, there will be many free pallets to pick from.
You can also just look for pallets outside businesses when walking/driving around. Ask if you can take the pallets, most likely they are more than happy to get rid of them. Pallet wood is of poor quality, but it can still be useful for many projects. In my area pallets are usually made out of softwoods like pine and spruce. But I know some pallets are made of poplar and other hardwoods. Pallet wood can for example be used for planting boxes, tables, sofas, but I like to use pallets for rough items where looks are not that important.
Learn more about Pallet wood!! Here is an article I made.
Reclaiming Wood From Old Furniture
Old furniture can be a gold mine for finding cheap wood. This is where you can find good-quality wood for next to nothing. The reason for this is that many people just throw away old furniture without giving a second thought to the value of the wood.
Furniture like old dressers, couches, tables, and much more can be made almost out of entirely high-quality wood and people would still throw them away. The old furniture was also made in a different way before compared to how they are made now. Nowadays you get furniture from Ikea which is made out of particleboard or chipboard, these woods are not good for reuse can not be worked with after they are slightly broken.
The old furniture is made out of true wood and pure cuts from the tree. Wood from old furniture and old wood in general actually becomes more sought after than wood straight from the lumber yard because it has stood the test of time and has proved itself to be of high quality.
Old furniture can be found anywhere. Flea markets, on the side of the road, Facebook marketplace, craigslist, and reclaiming from someone’s house renovations are all good places to find old furniture for wood.
Find Wood Nature and on The Street
I cannot count the number of times I have seen a great piece of lumber just laying around in nature or on the street, and it hurts me every time I see one and do not have the ability to bring it back home with me. T
his type of wood is seen as trash by most people walking past it. It has no value to them. But for people doing DIY and hobby woodworking, wood from the roadside and in nature can be a treasure.
The first thing I do when I see one is to check how much of the wood has decomposed. Optimally you want the piece to have no sign of rot or fungi. Check the wood properly, and if it seems fresh and in good shape, then it is yours to take home.
Finding Wood In Dumpsters
Looking for wood in dumpsters is a great way of finding pieces of wood for your projects. Dumpsters usually have a bit of everything and most of the time there are a couple of good pieces of wood if you look close enough. Just roam about your neighborhood and you will surely find a dumpster with wood in it of some kind. Dumpsters are especially easy to find in the spring and summer when people are doing home renovations.
When looking for pieces of wood in dumpsters you should try to ask the owner or original user of the dumpster before taking anything. It’s best to ask first since it can be a little bit suspicious if you are roaming around in other people’s stuff. Yeah, I know it is just trash, but it still does not belong to you yet.
Be careful when looking for wood in a dumpster, try getting the piece of wood from outside the dumpster. It is way more dangerous if you have to jump inside the dumpster ( which I don’t recommend ). You never know what hides inside it.
Get Free Wood From Construction Firms
Construction firms will sometimes let you have their pieces of scrap lumber for free if you ask them nicely. These are usually pieces from pine, fir, or spruce since that is the type of wood mostly used for construction. The pieces will usually be from 4-inches (10cm) to 20-inches (50cm) long.
This is probably one of the quickest ways to get larger quantities of wood for free. If you see that they are renovating a whole house, for example, they are sure to have a lot of scrap wood which they usually have to pay to get rid of anyway.
Buy Wood From A Local Sawyer
A Sawyer is a person who saws timber for a living. Your local one probably has a band saw system for cutting timber and a forest he manages. Buying wood from local sawyers is a great way to support the smaller businesses in your community.
Local sawyers will be cheaper than buying wood from a lumber yard, and it is also more of a unique experience. My advice is to get to know the local sawyers in your area. There are bound to be some. Ask them what kind of wood you can buy from them and if they are willing to sell you some. The wood will usually be cheaper straight from the sawyer, the downside is that you will probably have to dry the wood yourselves. Which can be challenging when trying to avoid cracks and tears in the wood. Some people are just into sawing timber as i hobby.
If you know somebody or have the chance to get to know somebody with a small sawmill you can probably get the wood even cheaper. If you have timber and logs they might even saw it for free as long as they get some of the finished cuts.
Use Firewood Wood For Your Projects
Firewood is just like any other type of wood and you can 100% use it for woodworking and DIY woodcraft. A normal wood to use as firewood is oak which also is a high-quality hardwood. The oak has a beautiful creamy light brown color to it and the grain runs straightly through the wood. So making some nice woodworking projects with firewood oak would be of no problem.
But either way, if the firewood is from oak, pine, spruce, maple, poplar, or any kind of wood it can still be used for woodworking. The problem with using firewood for woodworking is that it is already split into small uneven pieces, which makes it need a little bit more sawing, planning, and processing before it is ready to use. Firwood is usually short, which makes it good to use for smaller woodworking projects and less viable if you need a long piece of wood. Firewood is also sometimes of lesser quality than other woods, but not always. Just be aware and check for the quality when using firewood
Use Branches, Small Trees, And Green Wood
Ok. I know this one seems a little bit strange. Green wood, branches, and small trees you find around the woods will be hard to make into proper lumber. And this kind of wood will most likely not be useful in all projects. But there definitely is a use for this kind of wood. You can for example use branches to make wall hooks, or a small tree as a bearing load for a table, use green wood to make a handle for a broken pitchfork.
Using branches, small trees and green wood is experimental. You don’t know how your project is going to end up before it is finished. But that is the fun part about it. And the best part about it, it is 100% free.
Using Driftwood For Projects
Driftwood is great to use for your DIY woodworking projects. You can find all kinds of woods on beaches and shores. Anything from well dries proper lumber to huge logs. Driftwood has a tendency to pile up on some shores and some stay clean.
Driftwood has a reputation of being punky and often times rotten. This is not always the case. And even if it is, it can still possibly be used. The thing is, beaches that driftwood pile up on gets replenished with more driftwood regularly. Some of the wood lays there for years and some of the wood has just arrived.
I have done many projects with driftwood. And when I see some good driftwood to use I just take it back home with me and save it for later. I know that many woodcarvers that power carve with a rotary tool prefer slightly punky driftwood because it is easy to form into any shape.
Find Wood On Craigslist
To find cheap wood on craigslist go in and search for slabs, lumber, wood, or anything related to wood. You will find a lot of people sitting on good amounts of wood that they want to get rid of. Some people want to sell their wood and some might just even give it away for free. Finding wood on craigslist is also really fun, turn on notifications for your searches so you can be first and get a good deal.
Find Wood On Facebook Marketplace
Facebook marketplace is basically the same as craigslist. Just search for terms related to wood and you will probably find a good deal on wood.
Make Your Own Lumber
If you own a forest and you are going to need a lot of wood in the future you can consider investing in a band sawmill. This way you can make as much lumber as you for only labor and utility cost. And of course your time. There are many advantages of milling your own lumber. You know where the wood came from, you can cut the tree into any dimensions you need, you can sell the wood to others and you get to enjoy the entire process from tree to lumber to finished product. And also, you probably never have to buy wood from a home center again.
Ask Your Friends And Family If They Have Some Wood Lying Around
I know this is an obvious tip. But most people have some scrap wood lying around that they are “going to use someday”. So why not ask friends and family if you can buy or take any good wood they have. And they will probably happy to get some room in their shed.
Downsides of using cheap and free wood
I have been talking about all the ways you can get your hands on cheap or free wood and the good things about it. So I think it is only fair that we talk about some of the negatives of not paying full price for our wood. Anything that is cheap or free comes with a caveat.
Cheap and free wood takes more time to obtain and needs more processing before it can be used. You have to go out and actually do some work to get it instead of just going to your local Lowe’s and buying it in bulk. Cheap and free wood is often filled with nails, shaped strangely and cut in strange dimensions. You have to clean up the pieces of wood, take out nails, and cut the wood into the sizes you need before it is ready to use.
Using cheap and free wood can be hard on your tools and cause them to wear out quicker.
If you want to read more about the cheapest lumber you can buy at home centers, check this article out