• Junkyard advice needed

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  • Can anyone point me to great advice for using junk yards these days? I have never been in one. How does it work today, what not to do, etc.? Etiquette? Cut things open? Put them back?

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    Question by kevin kelly
    11/26/2012

The problem with the question is that no two junk yards are exactly alike in terms of how they work or their rules/etiquette. This is one industry where blanket statements do not apply. For in-depth discussions on this topics, I suggest reviewing comments in the Scrap Metal Forum (http://www.scrapmetalforum.com/forum.php)

Answer by martyweil
11/27/2012

You have to do the leg work yourself. Some yards are not interested in your business, some over-value their junk, and maybe 1 in 10 will have neat stuff at a reasonable price. The etiquette is pretty simple, the operator will or will not welcome you the first time, and if you recognize that they are there to make money you might be able to build up a good relationship. Be warned: your spouse and your neighbors probably won't see the value in the bargains you lug back.

Answer by brian hughes
11/27/2012

Well, the scrap metal forum is a place I would have never gotten to otherwise. Thanks!

Answer by kevin kelly
11/27/2012

I concur with the other postings above. Salvage is quirky stuff and beauty (and utility) are in the eyes of the beholder. If you are interested primarily in architectural salvage that you can use in your house, here are three suggestions: 1. Salvaged Treasures (1983), by Michael Litchfield, long out of print but available on Amazon, etc., tells how to refurbish commonly salvaged items such as windows, doors, stained glass, etc. and shows many ways that people have creatively incorporated junk yard finds into their homes. 2. Decorating with Architectural Details (2002), by the same author, is almost entirely an idea book; almost no how-to stuff. 3. Unbuilding: Salvaging the Architectural Treasures of Unwanted Houses (2007); authors Falk & Guy; I have not read, but Taunton Press tends to do substantial books. Hope this helps, Mike Litchfield

Answer by mike litch
11/29/2012

Mike, what have you learned about junk yards over your many years of visiting them?

Answer by kevin kelly
11/29/2012

Well, junkyards have changed,but then so have I. On the whole, salvage yards (not the same thing as junk yards, exactly) have gotten better organized; the stuff is generally less ratty but much more expensive. The 1960s and 1970s were the age of urban renewal and older houses were torn down to put up highways, high-rises and housing projects. Quite often, you could cut a deal with the fellows doing to the demo to set aside stained glass or doors, which they would gladly do for a few bucks. After hours, you went back and loaded it into your truck or onto your VW roof. (I knew guys in Mendocino who conveyed 30-ft. salvaged beams atop their VW bugs, although the bugs' roofs flattened and headroom inside was scant thereafter.) But I digress, the point I am making is that there was a lot of salvage and it was cheap, not chic. Naval jelly (for rust), WD-40, nail-pullers and pry bars were essential tools. Once you got all this junk home, of course, you had to store it somewhere till you could use it, so gradually you became more selective. Plumbing fixtures could be particularly problematic if they didn't have all the parts needed to function, because many of the really old and interesting fixtures were non-standard. So you had to learn some plumbing and hustle; an 80-year-old plumber who lived next to me in Vermont once saved my bacon by soldering a brass adapter to a chrome take-off. (Try soldering chrome sometime!) One other important difference: In the old days, you could haggle. An old junk man with a listing pickup in Vermont used to insist that we flip a coin--double or half price--and invariably he lost. And there was a crusty guy in Berkeley in the early 80s who always asked what you did for a living before he quoted a price on anything. If I groused and said I was a penniless writer, invariably, the price was lower. (He was what used to be called "a leveler.") These days I still visit junk yards, but I no longer get as excited, perhaps because I don't have any pressing building projects these days, don't have the burning need and so don't see the stuff with the same eyes. The junk no longer seems quite as weird or wondrous.

Answer by mike litch
11/29/2012
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