Just as tools and ample time are essential to woodworking, it’s hard to make projects without lumber. The type of projects you do will determine the lumber you want/need. There are basically two camps here. Those that are looking for dimensional lumber and sheet goods, and those who are looking for raw materials.
So let’s say you’re into the current DIY fad that includes making furniture and decor from commonly found supplies. These materials include 2x4s, plywood, MDF, and the like. So what’s the “green” solution to this kind of material acquisition? Craigslist! I can’t even tell you how frequently I see free materials listed on Craigslist, sometimes even quality hardwoods and loads of pallets for all you guys and gals that bust these things apart to build killer projects. Use this resource…it’s the best one I’ve found for free building materials. The next best thing is to call around to local furniture and mill shops. Quite frequently they’ll have large scrap bins full of material that is perfect for the weekend warrior but would require too much time for a shop to utilize. You can also find discounted lumber at Home Depot or Lowes on occasion if a board is a bit twisted, and places like the ReStore have building supplies galore depending on location.
Next, let’s say you’re like me and you’re frequently hunting downed trees in your area or looking for rough sawn lumber. Again, Craigslist is your friend. Many people will list “free trees” or “free firewood” for pickup. These are usually logs that have either fallen during a storm or trees that need to be removed for one reason or another. For this kind of lumber gathering, you’ll need a few things.
- a chainsaw that’s appropriate for the size of trees you’ll be gathering
- a truck or trailer capable of handling the load
- a strong back, friends, or winch. An alternative option is calling local arborists and just asking if they’d be willing to drop off or allow you to pick up logs. Sometimes giving them a bowl in return will gain you a lumber supplier that will bury your yard in logs. Ok, maybe that’d only be AWESOME to me! 🙂
If you’re planning on chainsaw milling your own timber, be ready for a fair bit of work. Also, do yourself a favor and don’t even bother trying this unless you have an adequate chainsaw and ample experience using it. Otherwise, find someone with a bandsaw mill and take the lumber to them or find someone with a portable mill and they will usually drive to you!
If you’re wanting rough sawn lumber, you can generally find substantially better prices from small local mills if the “free category” doesn’t yield results. Search the materials section on Craigslist and don’t be afraid to call around. Aside from Craigslist, talking to friends and family is a great way to acquire free logs and such. Given enough time, people will start asking if you want trees, etc. This is a woodworker’s kryptonite. I make it policy to “pay” people who give me logs. This is generally a bowl turned from the tree they gave me, which, aside from being a gesture of thanks, is also something that most find very special since the wood did come from their land.
The last and most important thing to keep in mind while sourcing “green” materials is that usually what you’re paying for is your time. It sure is convenient to go and just buy whatever material you need for a project, but spending your time can not only introduce you to people in your community, but it can spread your craft and save you a bunch of money in the process!