I weld, build, and purposely tangle myself up in lots of computers/servers. I discovered two surplus stores that not only provide material fuel for all of the aforementioned activities but at a great discount no less. Both stores are open to the public and offer everything from large precision machinery to fiber optic cables to airplane leather by the roll (!). I spotted a Herman Miller Eames molded office chair at the Boeing store (sold tag on it) while I was walking out with my $15 in purchases, an IBM M-series (clickety) keyboard, and a portable DIGITAL anti-static electronics workspace circa 1970. If you are a grade school science teacher with a dwindling budget for demonstration instruments, or an art teacher in need of found objects for your class on sculpture or still life drawing, these places might be useful. Perhaps you’re just in need of milling equipment, pneumatic tools, safes, drafting tables, powered work carts, or raw sheets of aluminum, mild and stainless steel, titanium even. It’s there if you ask. Oscilloscopes are often for sale at less than $50. I recently acquired another Sun Microsystems Ultra-x, which was one too many, and I saw that the laser printers which I ought to have bought instead were on sale for $10 that day.
Too good to be true? Sometimes. While there are online listings, there is no online purchasing so one is bound by geography and you have to go often as the good stuff rapidly departs. Take your time on a nice day to explore both the inside hanger and outside lots for things. Bring a truck and some friends to help you move the stuff. The large equipment goes quickly and the electronic and computers/peripherals are usually untested. Drill bits and calipers are plane- and submarine-building size, though great candidates for creative adaptive reuse reincarnations into your latest robotics project. The best finds are sometimes boxes of widgets that, when asked what they are, the staff smirk, shrug, and tell you they can’t remember. Respect that most of the people there, at P&W certainly, seem to know what everything is to insure that the stuff gets priced accordingly and, more importantly, to make sure nothing whose purpose was previously classified, is marked or misplaced.
The Boeing store is the larger of the two and Pratt & Whitney is only open 3 days a week. I’m sure there are more of these shops around but I’ve only just found these.
— Shin Ae
Boeing Recovery and Surplus Sales
Pratt & Whitney
400 Main Street
East Hartford, CT
(860) 565 6850
Tues, Thurs, Sat 8-4:30pm
There are indeed other great surplus stores. Ebay is great for everything, but sometimes you just need to wander around a huge warehouse full of old junk just to see what’s there. The most comprehensive listing of large and unusual surplus gear stores state-by-state can be found below. (If there is a better national list, please let me know.)
Also, a tip I heard: Almost any college or university has a place for getting rid of old stuff. A well-known sculptor who was often asked to lecture at various schools across the country, always made sure he requested to see the school’s surplus facilities while he was visiting. At one university where he had just given a paid talk he found his usual request led to a large closet filled with steel balls that NASA had rejected after testing, but were ideal for sculpture. “Needless to say I spent my whole paycheck there.”