Rural Design Solutions: Where to Get Free Wood

Since moving to the farm I’ve had a 7,000-square-foot, securely fenced outdoor enclosure built for my dogs. It is a grassy, tree-featuring paradise. Yet my white dog has been sneaking into my shop and peeing on the floor instead of outside.

The room I’ve converted into my shop was the living room for the previous tenants; they removed the door from the hinges and I like it that way. Since I’m unwilling to reattach the door, I needed to build some kind of dog-blocking gate.

The previous tenant’s head-of-the-household worked in a custom cabinetry shop. He often bought scraps and oddly-shaped cut-offs home with him. I located his abandoned cache up at the stables and humped the pieces back to the farmhouse.

All cut-offs from a custom cabinetry shop, except for the painted pieces of 8/4 stuff. That’s a rotted windowsill, made circa 1700s, that I had to pull out of the main farmhouse to replace.

A bunch of the cut-offs were in this odd half-moon shape you see below. At first I thought they were the negative space cut out of some arch, but studying the surface revealed the curved top had been smoothed by a router, probably in some sort of sled that rode on an arched track. In any case these pieces were of no use to me in that configuration…

…so I resawed them flat using my trusty 15″ Shark saw. (I don’t own a jigsaw, nor do I have the floorspace for one.)

The wood was free, and the resawing just took patience and elbow grease. The resultant surface wasn’t pretty…

…but I’d cut it oversized, and then smoothed the face with a jack plane.

Working these otherwise useless pieces yielded me enough to create two rails, a stile and four spindles. A piece of beefier cherry served as the hinged stile, and I knocked these together into a simple gate to keep the dog out.

The gate is joined with pocket screws and Dominos (because after you’ve spent the money on a Domino and run out of projects, well, you start looking for things to Domino). 

The dog is still allowed inside the shop as long as I’m in there.

By the bye, wood mavens among you: I absolutely cannot figure out what this wood species is, the one that makes up the majority of the gate. It feels like a hardwood, yet it is extraordinarily light and soft. It machines easily, and it dents easily. The shavings it gives off, even with a sharp blade, are dusty/sandy.

The grain is unusual to me, too. I’m used to working poplar, pine, Doug fir, cherry and walnut. This is neither of these woods. Can anyone identify it?

Anyways, hearing about my anti-dog-pee gate isn’t going to do anything for you. The takeaway from this post should be: If you want free wood that you can build small projects from, locate a local custom cabinetry shop, and politely ask them if you can haul their cut-offs away for them. The previous tenant said that his workplace burns all of theirs just to get rid of them. They might as well wind up in your shop instead, where you can put them to good use.