Introduction: Making Woodwork More Affordable

About: I am a Marine Engineer in the RNZN (45 years done in various navies) and am looking forward to retirement!!! so I can do more messing about with tools

Wood working can be expensive! You all know that ---so how can we make it more affordable?

So what happens when you can't afford or can no longer get your supplies?

Now I'm only a "wood hacker" but here in good old NZ even "cheap" sheet material is relatively expensive.

You Yanks and even Brits don't know how lucky you are with the big box stores like Lowes and B&Q etc!

So the best and cheapest way is to scavenge!!!!!

Step 1: So Where to Get Stuff From?

There is wood EVERYWHERE! People throw the stuff away!

Now obviously a lot of this is relatively low quality - things like pallets, packing boxes etc, most places are happy for you to take it away, however it is always polite to ask (unless it is really early in the morning ;-) )

The picture above is a dismantled packing case from a local fire and heating warehouse, now it is really cheap, poor quality ply but is ideal for linings, flooring etc------

PLUS I got all these extras..............

Step 2: The "Extras"

So as well as about a sheet and a half of ply from one box, I also got 2 handles, 27 right angle brackets and about 150 screws.

So what do I use this sort of wood for ?

Step 3: Use of Cheap Ply

So when I built my "mancave " shed, I completely lined it with cheap ply before finishing with thin MDF and then ripping some strips from 4x2 to give a panelled finish. Note I also used an entire recycled kitchen as cupboardry (about $100)

I had to use about 16 full sheets in the shed (double thickness on the floors) at its cheapest it's about $35 a sheet here in the land of the Long White Cloud! So a saving of at least $500.

Full build here

I also used it to line a goat house (built from free pallets), making a draft free and easy to clean night house for them (Goats, unlike sheep don't like the cold and wet)


I also use cheap ply for templates for other things as it is easier to alter a thin template than a big lump of wood

Step 4: So What Else Can You Get and Where to Look?

Skips or Dumpsters are a great source for offcuts, they can be really good for small pieces for turning etc, but occasionally you can strike gold.

So I found a set of shelves (to the right in pic 1) which were a bit damaged but will be repurposed for something and are made of teak, more importantly I found the modular shelves in pic2 which are solid and excellent storage.

And the real "GOLD" - well that Big lump of wood leaning on the drawer set (Imaginatively labelled "big lump of wood" in the photo) is Kauri, and that piece is worth as is about $600!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! obviously someone had no idea what they were throwing away.

Step 5: And There's More...

All the marine ply used to box out these pool chairs was found discarded. MARINE PLY PEOPLE!!! That's really expensive .. and people chuck it away --IDIOTS! All I bought for this project were the tiles, screws and castors.

Step 6: AND ...

Nearly all the wood for this chook house was being chucked by a neighbour -- so beg, steal and borrow (just don't get caught) I also found the roofing iron in a skip and reused screws from a cheap outside table set I bought off Facebook marketplace.

Step 7: Constructional Timber

Most of wood in the picture was from a frame/roof truss builder, yes it is mainly short pieces (about a foot (30cm) long), but it is absolutely perfect for my next project (or the one after that - depends on what I fancy doing!) which is a climbing frame called a Playhive, which I am going to build to entertain the goats!!

This needs about 400 feet of 2x4 mainly cut in approx. 1 foot pieces (or smaller) and I got about half of what I need already cut to the correct size FREE.

So its the offcuts from the frames that are too short for nogs etc but he was happy for me to take as he would have had to pay for room in a skip for them. You can't use it as firewood (as it is treated) so it otherwise goes to landfill.

The longer stuff and the 2x12s were found in a site skip

Step 8: Yet Another Source --- Old Furniture Especially Garden Furniture

I bought this (yes I know - letting the side down there!) but it was only $80 and I got huge pieces of macrocarpia (a quality softwood a bit like cedar).

Don't know what I will use it for yet but........

(I also got about a dozen brackets and a load of square drive 4 inch screws when I dismantled it)

A lot of outside furniture is Teak or a similar hard wood, even the most broken down garden chair can usually yield some pieces that are useful

Also old furniture from house clearances is often solid wood (not veneered ply or MDF like modern stuff) Oak/Ash/Teak etc

Step 9: Fixings

Bargain bins at DIY shops are awesome, if I see cheap nails, screws etc I buy them, even if I don't need them I know they will always come in handy!

The boxes of screws in the second picture were originally over $20 each reduced to $5 as they were "unfashionable" colours. (I ended up with about 12 boxes and have used a lot already)

Also (from earlier) handles, brackets and screws from crate dismantling

Step 10: OK Enough About Wood ---TOOLS in Particular POWER TOOLS!!

Just about everything can be done with hand tools, and there is great satisfaction in that. But I'm with Jeremy Clarkson (or Tim "the tool man" Taylor) that you need MORE POWER!!!

Turning a big bit of wood into little bits of wood quickly is my Raison D'etre!

You don't need to buy the most expensive tools, most of the big DIY places have a budget range for the less affluent, mind you if you can afford the top brands...................

I usually go mid-range, mainly as I use them a lot, the exception to this is my circular saws (skill saws) I get the cheapest I can (and wreck them regularily!)

With most common tools the cheaper one may have to work a bit harder and may not be as robust, but most places have reasonable guarantees these days and is it worth 3 or 4 times the price for 10% better performance?

So what have I got?

Firstly a Table Saw, you can get away with using a circular saw instead but as I do a lot of ripping I wanted one (plus it was my birthday!) this is mine a RYOBI cost about $350 not the cheapest but they can go up to $1800 (DeWalt etc)

It's a bit underpowered and occasionally cuts out, but I have managed pretty well with it so far.

Step 11: Chop Saw (in This Case a Sliding Compound Mitre Saw)

Possibly my most used tool, noisy, dangerous and fun!

Ideal for straight and angled cuts (and fingers!!)

Again you could use a circular saw but this is more accurate, you can pay $8-900 for a Makita, this one was about $250

Step 12: Circular Saw

Now I'm very hard on these as I use them to notch out rebates and joints, which burns them out after about a year, so I buy CHEAP, these retail at $68 and have a 3 year guarantee, so when they break I just swap it at the shop! (I am a bad man)

I always have 2 (the workhorse and the spare for when it breaks so I can carry on)

Step 13: Jigsaw

Now this is one of the few that I bought a good one, I have 3 or 4 cheapies but they cut poorly and blade changing is a pain.

Mine is on the right and is a Black and Decker about $200 iirc I use good blades (usually Bosch as they do the longest ones) and this thing is awesome. Clean straight cuts are a doddle

I also have a battery jigsaw, which at present I have stored somewhere so safe I can't find it!

There is also a reciprocating saw (sabre saw) which is handy for chopping 4x2s up in the field (I should get a battery one and really cause mayhem!)

Step 14: Drills

Now I am a glutton for drills , I have 6 or 7 at least, 2 corded (one Black and Decker, one Bosch) The Bosch is better, can't define why but it just is! Mine is the older version of this.

Also have 4 or 5 battery drills, all different makes that I have gathered over the years, always useful as batteries are usually dead in one!

Oh and an SDS drill (you can use as a chisel) bought on a whim!

Oh and 2 electric screwdrivers and 2 dremels! and a pillar drill (see told you!)

Step 15: Sanding

Now you can use a sanding block and paper if you want but it is tiresome, again over the years I have amassed a collection of sanders, (I nearly always get tools for xmas/birthdays)

So probably the cheapest is a Random orbit sander (Pic 1) but I also have a belt sander, a combined disc and belt desktop sander, an orbital and a detail sander.

Step 16: Other Power Tools

Not strictly necessary but I have routers (3 at the last count), oscillating saws, reciprocating saws, electric plane, scroll saw, 2 bandsaws and a lathe (I even have an electric grease gun (don't ask!)).

You don't need all these you can use................................

Step 17: Hand Tools (YAWN)

OK so you can"t beat a hammer (unless you have another hammer!) but hand tools have a lot of advantages.

1. You don't need electrickery - handy when you are in the middle of nowhere!

2. You generally hurt your self a lot more slowly (useful when you are as clumsy as me)

3. You can get beautiful finishes (look Chippendale used hand tools!)

Try garage sales/Charity shops and the like as generally older tools are far superior to the modern throwaway stuff we have these days

Step 18: So in Summary

Tools are cool and if looked after will last a lifetime

But wood is expensive (it doesn't grow on trees you know!) So the more you can save on it the better ---- Add in the fact that you are recycling, stopping stuff going to landfill and generally being a Womble and saving the planet so give yourself a big pat on the back!


Underground, overground, wombling free,
The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we. Making good use of the things that we find, Things that the everyday folks leave behind.

Uncle Bulgaria, He can remember the days when he wasn't behind the times, With his map of the world. Pick up the papers and take them to Tobermory!

Wombles are organised, work as a team. Wombles are tidy and Wombles are clean. Underground, overground, wombling free, The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we!

People don't notice us, they never see, Under their noses a Womble may be. We womble by night and we womble by day, Looking for litter to trundle away.

We're so incredibly, utterly devious Making the most of everything. Even bottles and tins. Pick up the pieces and make them into something new, Is what we do!

Underground, overground, wombling free, The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we. Making good use of the things that we find, Things that the everyday folks leave behind.

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