Part of being self-sufficient involves re-purposing the materials around you and creating something useful. Whether you have cleared out trees or torn down an old building, I am sure you can think of a few pieces of scrap wood lying around your home that would be great for a variety of projects. Small trees, pallets, old boards, and even odd pieces of lumber milled up at home can serve purpose for you. There are some ideas listed within this article of things we have made ourselves, but there are many other ways you can use scrap wood, so don't be afraid to come up with your own project! In the words of the artist Henri Mattise, "Creativity takes courage."
A word of caution: One of the most important things to consider before you begin is safety, as different wood projects require the pieces to be cut. If you are going to be sawing any boards or lumber, make sure to wear the proper safety gear to prevent injury. This also includes wearing appropriate clothing and removing any dangling jewelry that could become caught up in the blade. Please be careful if you are going to be using any form of saw while working!
If you enjoy crafting, there are endless opportunities to create unique pieces you can keep, gift, or even sell. Use pallets or pieces of old lumber to make a beautiful, rustic sign for your home. If you're clearing the land and happen to cut down a small sapling, you can even make your own walking stick. It is very rewarding to see a friend or family member enjoy something you've made just for them, especially when you can proudly say that it was made from recycled wood! We frequently take painted and wood-burned art like this to local crafts shows with success, so don’t be afraid to try your hand at selling some of the things you make!
What a wonderful addition to a cabin or farmhouse you could have by taking the time and effort to build a bed frame or chair using small logs. Use two large logs and a thick board to make a simple bench seat like the one we have in the photo above. Also, if you have your own chainsaw mill or portable sawmill, you will sometimes come out with pieces that are flat on both sides, but have natural and curved edges to them. It is becoming increasingly popular to make "live edge" furniture using these boards, including tables and benches. If you have some of these pieces, but don't want to make anything with it for yourself, you can sometimes sell them at prices of $60 and up to the right person (depending on the quality and type of wood).
If you stepped into our chicken pen, you'd notice that 100% of the housing for our birds is made from repurposed wood. The fence posts, coop, nest boxes, and perches are all made from logs and scrap lumber. For those of you who have animals, there are a variety of different projects that you can work on that range from nest boxes to milking stands for goats. You can even fashion a simple dog house or a hay feeder using pallets.
We were recently faced with the challenge of needing to haul boards out to the build site of our cabin, but the trail is so narrow that a full-size vehicle cannot get down it. It would be much too difficult to walk the boards out there individually, so we came up with the idea to build a small, light-weight sled that could be pulled behind our four-wheeler. Using two small pine logs that had already had time to dry out, we spaced them about three feet apart then nailed boards to the middle and ends of both logs. The project was simple, but it has proven helpful countless times. If you are looking to haul around brush or firewood, consider building your own sled.
These are only a handful of ways you can use repurposed wood around your home, but just search the web and you can find many other creative plans and ideas that other people have come up with. Don’t hesitate to share your own ideas, because it is always nice to learn from others. If you have ever made something using scrap lumber, pallets, or logs feel free to comment below and tell us about it!
Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They are currently building a small cabin using lumber they have milled themselves, along with raising chickens, rabbits, & ducks. In Spring 2016, they will start growing a large crop of heirloom Indian corn that they will save to sell and make cornmeal with. Read all of Fala's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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