Timber timber everywhere…

When you are looking for some free timber for smaller projects, there is a better path than the often suggested pallet wood. Pallets are usually terrible quality timber, full of huge nails, and often filthy or busted up. So instead why not try the world of free timber often littering our streets as people throw out unwanted pieces of furniture. I thought I would illustrate this point by pulling apart something I picked up some time ago.

Simple 3 drawer dresser. Bottom drawer already re-purposed in the shed 🙂

So here’s this pretty beaten up looking dresser I’ve had for years that I picked up off a hard rubbish pile. Stained all over, chipped corners, scratched, and well past even the most desperate Op/Trift shop to be donated. I got fed up with it recently so bought something new, but rather than put it back on the hard rubbish, I thought I’d do a bit of salvage work.

Pretty standard drawer construction, more common in days gone by but still used very regularly.

You might notice that the drawer fronts are actually hardwood, which will clean up quite nicely. The sides are simple pine, but possibly usable. The stained and warped hardboard drawer bottoms however aren’t worth saving.

Also hidden away you can see the framework is made from a mix of pine and hardwood. I planned to keep most of this provided I could get it apart without too much damage. The plywood exterior is too far gone; stained and cracked; and I doubt I could really reuse it.

So onto pulling this thing to pieces. For the most part it’s a matter of thinking about how it was built and running that in reverse. In this case the trim and outer sheets need to come off in order to get at the framework. Fortunately not a lot of glue was used, making my life easier.

Progressively levering off pieces to reveal the framework

This simple little lever bar is one of my favourite tools. Sounds silly but I’ve lost count of how many times it has come out to help pull something apart without destroying it. If you go slowly you can remove even quite thin plywood without much damage.

With the ply off the rear of the frame can be knocked apart with a few hard knocks from a mallet (post here on making the mallet). A wooden mallet helps avoiding too much damage that a simple hammer might do. Most of this frame was just nailed butt joints, so getting it apart was pretty easy. 

A few blows with the mallet makes short work of this, then some levering to get the timber off the nails

Even the more substantial joints like the dovetail joints on the drawer fonts just needed a heavy knock to break them apart. 

Knocking these dovetails sideways does the trick

The rest of the materials came apart with a bit of twisting, knocking and levering. My 4yo boy even gave me a hand. He thought it was a heap of fun and provided I kept him clear of the nails, it wasn’t a bad way of getting him involved.

Got to love my boy giving me a hand knocking pieces apart

After pulling a few nails out, in the end I’ve ended up with this stash of various sizes. The pine is borderline worth keeping, but I got a decent amount of hardwood of reasonable length that makes this worth the effort. Nothing particular in mind for any of this, but it’s always handy to have odds and sods. This will all mostly need some trimming up and some planing or sanding, but all in all this is quite usable.

Harwood on the left, pine on the right

It’s a shame when well constructed furniture that would last several lifetimes ends up in landfill. So keep an eye of for old wardrobes, dressers, drawers, etc. Not everything out there is chipboard or MDF. Particularly some older furniture which is now impractical or out of fashion (like “entertainment” units from the era of smaller TVs). Lots of good materials just waiting for someone with a little free time on their hands.




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