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STL 60: Dumpster Diving for Terrific Tools

comments (12) May 30th, 2014 in blogs

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This week on Shop Talk Live, Ed Pirnik and Mike Pekovich fess up to some recent forays into dumpster diving for terrific tools. Really? Are things that bad for the guys these days? - CLICK TO ENLARGE

This week on Shop Talk Live, Ed Pirnik and Mike Pekovich 'fess up to some recent forays into dumpster diving for terrific tools. Really? Are things that bad for the guys these days?

Shop Talk Live 60: Dumpster Diving for Terrific Tools

This week on Shop Talk Live, Mike Pekovich and Ed Pirnik confess to getting just a bit too close to their local dumps. Tablesaws, air compressors, and more--can you really find great tools amid piles of rotten food and rusty metal?


Plus, we answer questions on a variety of woodworking topics including workbenches, tablesaw adjustments, block plane iron sharpening, and a whole lot more.


Has this ever happened to you?

Has good fortune ever smiled upon you while strolling past a dumpster? Ever find a cool tool cast aside by an unworthy owner, only to be rescued by you? Chime in the comments section below. We want to know about it!



Every two weeks, a team of Fine Woodworking staffers answer questions from readers on Shop Talk Live, Fine Woodworking's biweekly podcast. Send your woodworking questions to for consideration in the regular broadcast!


Also on iTunes Click on the link at left to listen to the podcast, or catch it in iTunes. Remember, our continued existence relies upon listener support. So if you enjoy the show, be sure to leave us a five-star rating and maybe even a nice comment on our iTunes page. And don't forget to send in your woodworking questions to



Mike Pekovich
Executive art director

Asa Christiana
Special projects editor

Ed Pirnik
Senior web producer



Listen to Previous Episodes

posted in: blogs, podcast, dumpster

Comments (12)

j1r7m3000 j1r7m3000 writes: About a year ago, driving past the location of the went past the dumpster for the Panera Bread location and saw that they had discarded two steel frame butcher block tables. One 25 x 50 and the other 25 x 60. Some lovin' , a lot of sand paper, and one can of spray paint for the steel and hey presto.....

(Also some food safe mineral oil.)

Always keep your eyes open! You never know.
Posted: 10:12 pm on June 17th

Semmons23 Semmons23 writes: Hey guys - just wanted to let you know that the Hovarter twin screw vise IS quick release because its not really a screw based vice. I have one on my bench as well and it work well. I think Mark Adams uses these at his school but I'm not positive.
Posted: 9:41 am on June 10th

allgona allgona writes: Hey Ed! I want to see a picture of this sanding jig for your box. I too have an issue with over thinking and over designing most things. Enjoy the podcast btw. Keep it up!
Posted: 5:34 pm on June 5th

byerbyer byerbyer writes: My dining room chairs were rescued from the local train depot when if closed. They're a dead match for the oak dining room table I made in high school, so that was an added bonus. I've had to refinish 3 of them, but was careful not to remove all the signs of age or the sweet AT&SF stamp on the bottom of the seats.

My grandfather worked for the Santa Fe rail road for several years (most of them at the aforementioned depot), so it's very cool to have them at my table. And to think of all the people they saw off on vacation, college, or return home from a war... Let's say they'll always have a place in my home.
Posted: 9:47 am on June 4th

Ed_Pirnik Ed_Pirnik writes: Archon,

Your comments concerning archaeology and Connecticut had me reflecting on this past weekend. My family and I found ourselves in a small park with trails through the woods. On one small hilltop with huge quartz deposits, one can still see all the quartz chips left behind my native Americans hundreds of years ago as they crafted axe blades, arrowheads and other tools. So incredible that all those stone chips from tools are still sitting there, where they were broken off by toolmakers of long ago.

Posted: 8:11 am on June 4th

Archon Archon writes: As an archaeologist - working mostly in California - one of the facts about historic sites, 19th and early 20th century, that has always stood out is that metal tools are very uncommon. I've seen more guns, mostly pistols, than chisels for instance, and more cross-cut saws (the kind operated by either one or two men) than chisels. I excavated a ranch forge where two cross-cut saws were set, teeth downward, on slate bedrock cleared of soil, across the mouth of the forge and small, fine single-cut files were driven tang downward into the slate to fix the saws upright in position. I've also found a fragment of a Chinese natural water stone. But, by and large tools arfe not common. I've never seen a regular handsaw or a plane nor do I recall a hammer in more than 20 years or professional archaeology on about 30 historical archaeological sites.

I never understood this until I began woodworking. Most of my planes are older than I am and some will turn 100 in the next few years - Type 11 Stanley Baileys. My wife's uncle, who is now in his 90s gave me several saws and a Millers Fall bench plane when he moved back to Connecticut. In looking them up, most were at least as old as he was, and one is pre-Civil War (1850s). There are a large number of hand tools that are a century or more in age that are still in use and will still be useable a century from now. I expect my son will get mine.
Posted: 6:17 pm on June 3rd

Ed_Pirnik Ed_Pirnik writes: Jayhawker: Wow! reminds me of another find of mine in NYC. I listen to all my jazz and classical music on vinyl -- just sounds best in that format. Anyhow, walking back to my then-office after lunch I stumbled upon two big cardboard boxes completely packed with classical records - ALL shrink-wrapped and never opened. I couldn't manage both boxes but heaved one (probably weighted 100 pounds) atop my shoulder and muscled it the 4 blocks to my office. I'll never get over that find.

Posted: 3:35 pm on June 3rd

Jayhawker Jayhawker writes: Came home from work one day to find the daughter of the recently deceased next-door neighbor setting all her dad's tools out at the curb ! No power tools, but wrenches, saws, screwdrivers, etc. Great timing on my part !

Posted: 1:07 pm on June 3rd

Ed_Pirnik Ed_Pirnik writes: I love these stories. Here's another one:

Years ago, when I was living in NYC, I was on my way to a meeting - late as usual - when I walked past a fellow setting a 4 drawer filing cabinet - solid oak, hand dovetailed joinery - out on the curb. I had no time to pick it up, as I was on my way to a meeting. An hour later, that sucker was gone. Oh the agony!

Oh, and the wood stove in my house? A Scandia with a big beautiful brass key for the door? I scored that out of a barn. Just needed a cleaning and some new stove paint and she's good as new. I don't believe we (as a society) recycle as much as we should, or keep things around and maintain them as we should. Keep the stories coming!



Posted: 9:51 am on June 2nd

Alltnabreac Alltnabreac writes: Not a tool. Chiming into the comments section anyway. One Sunday watched a guy place an object in the skip at the local dump. I thought ! A Clock!. Duly rescued a Highland Railway Office clock. Best quality fusee movement with mahogany case. Duly restored and keeping perfect time. Nice to be lucky.
Posted: 2:46 pm on May 31st

teamwinner teamwinner writes: I was behind the granite counter store and watched an employee throw a Delta 10 inch mitre saw with blade into their dumpster. I dived! I spent 30 bucks to have the 80 tooth blade sharpened and have a great and accurate addition to my shop.
Posted: 9:39 am on May 31st

Pete999 Pete999 writes: I guess the best thing I pulled out of the trash was a 12-string guitar. Nothing special, but a guitar nonetheless.

The neck-to-body joint had separated -- not unusual, on 12-strings, I later learned -- and after gluing it, I reinforced it with a piece of Allthread that went right through the foot of the neck, through the soundbox, and out the tailblock, where I put a washer and an acorn nut. As far as I could tell it had absolutely no effect on the sound.
Posted: 8:22 am on May 31st

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