Working with recycled timber #1: The basics

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Blog entry by robscastle posted 07-02-2013 08:11 AM 1215 reads 1 time favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Working with recycled timber series Part 2: Shop management of recycled timber »

There are quite a few LJs asking about the pros and cons of working with recycled timber.
I use recycled timber regularly and thought my experiences may be of benefit to others.

Lets look at the availability and what’s actually available from the bottom of the pile and then up to attractive sort after timber.

From the bottom

Packing crates, pallets and general shipping products.

Lets look at pallets,
They are generally made from a very diverse range of materials.

Commercial Pallets

The commercial reusable ones are usually hardwood and are not generally thrown away or discarded, so beware if it has a brand painted or has what looks like substantial construction and also very heavy it generally is not something you should touch without ensuring you have permission.

If you are able to get them they are usually always embedded with small stones on at least one side, masses of nails and possibly nail plates on the end grain.

Don’t under any circumstances use your top end wood working gear on them, simply break them apart and reuse as is, they will last for years.

If you do need to work them accept the fact you will encounter foreign objects, stone, metal and just about anything else, hence the comment regarding top end wood working gear.

Ruin a tungsten blade, HSS Blade or the likes and the cost effectiveness of recycling is in one hit not sustainable.

This also includes magnetic loop testing beforehand, miss one object and its all over red rover.

Packing Crates and soft wood pallets

These are found just about everywhere and the businesses that have goods delivered in them are in most cases pleased to get rid of them at no cost to them.

Again just ask first, common courtesy and also check the conditions they expect you to comply to, meaning take everything, take whatever you want, and it usually comes with a don’t make a mess doing so, this is also an etiquette requirement if collecting stuff, ensure the location is tidier when you leave that before you arrived and you will never have any problems and can return regularly to eye ball what is available.


Usually of softwood construction, with composite materials like OSB, plywood, Plastic and Particle board being used in their construction is common.

Foreign Objects

Expect bolts and nuts, captive nuts , staples, screws, coach bolts, washers, Gang nail plate and heaps of machine inserted nails.

Now these nails/staples are a real concern, so read carefully,...they can recognised by a serrated section on the shank when you pull one out, or what looks like a small barb attached to the shank, look closely at them they are usually held together in strips by non ferrous wire! so here is the problem may arise, firstly the mag loop may not pick up the remaining metal in the timber, but it could be still embedded in the hole.

So plan to expect the unexpected

The timbers themselves

most of the timber is rough saw full of knots, weak points, twists, bark and all sorts of variances in thickness.

Considering its original role was a one task job its understandable.

However it can be reused with a little TLC.

You can also get some nice varieties of timber mixed in the pallets, as they are include for use as off cuts or sub standard structural timber discards.

The ply wood and OSB are usually D standard, meaning the gaps knots and the likes will be visible along with variances in thickness, but again you may find some small gems.

So after checking all this at the site you still decide its something you can use so it lets go a step further.

Getting the gear home.

Loading requirements and the law.

Don’t assume just because its free you are exempt from any traffic laws, you are not, make sure you are not overloaded, the gear is secure and meets all requirement for transit.
Getting busted when moving recycled timber is not funny and again puts it into the not sustainable category yet again, it may have been “free” but you do not want to have a traffic fine in the process.

At home

You are now up for quite a bit of extra work, but that will do for now.

-- Regards Rob

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