Salvage, junk, junk, recycling center – whatever you call it probably affects how you perceive these places filled with society’s unwanted trash. But to me, “What we call a rose, by any other name, would smell just as good.” Salvage yards, while filled with scrap metal from most people’s perspective, are often a source of inspiration, as well as materials, for my next project.
Now, I’m not talking about auto salvage yards, though those can also be full of exciting treasures waiting to be discovered. I’m talking about salvage yards containing a glorious, random assortment of stuff – a jumble of machine parts, drums, shipping containers, pipes, sheet metal, unidentifiable metal structures, and industrial equipment. If you haven’t been to your local salvage yard, you need to go there at least once – you’ll probably be amazed at what you find.
When I start thinking about a new project, I often make a trip to my local, Moses B. Glick, LLC. It’s my go-to for steel, stainless steel, and aluminum sheet or tubing, but there’s a lot more in its aisles. I know the layout of the yard so when I visit I usually start away from the things I came for and leisurely stroll through rows and rows of things. Sometimes I find inspiration in something I spot to solve a challenge in a project I’m working on. But often I’m just curious to look through the heaps of odds and ends. As I explained to my young son during a visit, you never know when you’ll come across a gemstone, which leads him to pick up and examine every piece of metal he finds, trying to calculate its value as treasure.
At this particular job site, a friend came across an old Big Joe plug-in forklift for $300. A used battery, cables, and a new solenoid, and he had a working machine for moving heavy objects around his store. Sometimes you don’t know you need something until you see it. And if you need shop accessories like welding tables, heavy metal workbenches or warehouse shelving, a salvage yard is the place to look – you’ll often pay scrap rates, at the book. It usually costs a lot less than buying something new.
On a recent trip, I spotted a few things that I will need later when I get closer to setting up my mechanical shop, but nothing that I needed right now. I did, however, spot a treasure I couldn’t pass up: an antique plate lifting clamp for $35. Manufactured by Merrill Bros. of Maspeth, New York, it is designed to lift materials between 3⁄4 and 1 1⁄4 inches thick and weighing up to 1,000 pounds. Will I use it a lot? Probably not, but it’s a cool piece of industrial equipment history.
The next time you have a big project and before you head to the hardware store or one of the big home improvement chains, look for your local salvage yard. Stop and see what they have. You might find inspiration in addition to the materials for your project. And you never know when you’ll stumble upon the thing you absolutely need once you’ve seen it.
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