Good Wood Is Everwhere! (not just in pallets!)

As I started woodworking I quickly found that I could only afford cheap construction grade pine at local home centers to work with. Buying nice hardwoods was out of the question. I suppose that has something to do with the amount of 2×4 projects I have made. As time passed, like many others out there, I started looking for pallets to reclaim the wood. As most of us know you can get some nice wood from pallets. If you’re just looking for rustic planks it’s a pretty quick process but if you want to plane the wood down and get to the beautiful non-weatherd wood below it will take some time and some wear and tear on either a sander or a set of planer blades. So here’s a reminder that while pallets are typically the go-to source for reclaiming wood there are plenty of other sources of good wood out there.

If you watched my recent bandsaw scoop video you know that I found a box mattress and a headboard leaning up against a dumpster on my way to the shop. I used a bit of the headboard right away but I still had this box mattress taking up space in the shop. How much good wood do you think is in this mattress?

mattress salvage (1)

This is my fourth or fifth box mattress salvage. The cool thing about these is that they are only put together with two kinds of staples. Larger frame staples on the wood and small upholstery staples for the fabric. The upholstery staples normally pop right out with a screwdriver and gentle persuasion with a small hammer.

mattress salvage (2)

After removing the upholstery staples on two sides I got a little impatient and just cut the rest of the fabric off. I’ll get the rest of the upholstery staples later.

mattress salvage (3)

The wood looks a little more appealing at this stage. And to think this was on it’s way to the land fill.

mattress salvage (4)

I’m not a huge fan of using staples in my work. The reason being is that stapled joints are pretty easy to pull apart. In this case it worked out great. Little effort with a pry bar and the boards come apart.

mattress salvage (5)

And here’s the pile before removing the frame staples.

mattress salvage (6)

Because most of the ends are beat up and there are staples so close to the ends I find it easier to just chop off the last 5 inches or so of every board.

mattress salvage (7)

And then the interior frame staples are easily backed out with a hammer and pliers. This was a pretty good yield of nice poplar from something that would otherwise be rotting underground in a few days.

mattress salvage (8)

So again remember that pallet’s aren’t the only great source of free wood out there. I see a lot of these mattresses thrown away all the time. And because they are nearly always assembled with staples reclaiming the wood is very easy. Apartment complexes are great for finding reclaimable materials. If you happen to live in a college town make it a habit to drive through the local apartment complexes around graduation time. You would be even more surprised at what people actually throw away.




  1. Great article Jay!

    I recently demolished a small bed myself and was surprised at the quality of the wood used for the frame. Very clean and tidy. Needless to say I kept it and will hopefully be using it in an upcoming video.

    All the best and keep up the good work.


  2. Hey Jay
    You’re absolutely right, people throwing things that for us, Woodworker, it is The material to our next project. I sometimes ashamed to collect trash of others, but when my friends see what I can do from others People garbage, they take Their hats off.

    I follow all videos you upload – you are wonderful woodworker

    Thank you for your honesty


    • Never be ashamed. We never get to redo yesterday. Learn from everything you do. If others smirk at the fact that you are gaining usable materials from stuff others no longer want than they are the ones failing to learn. Keep it up Man.

      • Well said Jay, far too many people have such an unintelligent attitude towards the potential of recycled materials. We should all work on encouraging others to think about what they throw into the rubbish.
        Regards Peter (from down-under)

      • Definitely the right thing to do. I’m a LEED AP, and re-use is the #1 best thing we can do with the materials around us — it’s better than recycling, an additional factory rendering process that eats up lots of diesel and electricity and diesel again just to get it back into a store for sale to us.

  3. That is so cool I have never thought about a box mattress for wood. I will look for those from now on.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. I work at a University and find treasure all the time in the trash.

  5. I keep an eye on the free section of Craigslist on a daily basis. Last week it paid off big, in my opinion, as I was able to scoop up an entertainment center that was made from oak! That gave me some fairly large sections of oak plywood to use for some projects. You just have to be willing to put forth the effort and have some imagination.

    Almost every project I’ve done since I started my wood working adventures back in January of this year (2014) has been done using wood I’ve “scavenged”. I can’t even afford to buy the cheap wood so I have to do what I can if I wanna make some sawdust!

  6. Excellent projects, tips and good advice! Thanks a lot. Just subscribied to your newsletter. Saludos from Buenos Aires, Argentina

    • Good info! I’ve never found one of those in the trash. I used to get a lot of maple and walnut from sofa frames but they are incredibly time consuming to disassemble.

  7. Thanks Jay, I never even thought about breaking down a box spring until no that i see the amount of wood you got from just one. I grab head boards often if they are not chip board. Don’t jump on the “chip board band wagon” please & thank you.
    Larry D.

  8. Hi Jay, I have used box spring wood for a while now – I am lucky that nearby is a bed/mattress recycling depot, so always a good supply! Just a word of caution when taking apart the box spring, it is better to do it outside, in a shed or a garage… you have to be on the lookout for bed bugs. You don’t want to introduce these pests into your home!

  9. Reclaimed wood is someone else’s investment you cut into a master piece and enjoy for years to come. The best part is sometimes they are the one’s to complement on how beautiful that piece is and they were the one to throw it out as trash! I just smile and thank them.

  10. “As I started woodworking I quickly found that I could only afford cheap construction grade pine at local home centers to work with.”

    LOL, the story of my life. Still going on with pine, pallet wood and sometimes plywood. Still learning though, so I cannot invest to better wood quality. Some power tools are my top priorities :)

  11. Whew!! Thank ya Jesus!! Now I dont have to feel like such a goofball for the one I tore apart yesterday.

Comments are closed.