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Re-purposing common machines and artifacts

Dale Hodgins

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3625
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
Re-purposing and multi-purposing manufactured items is a far more environmentally sound approach than recycling things for their resource value.

One of my most commonly used phrases is "highest and best use". When considering what to do with a particular resource, l always ask myself- "What is the highest and best use for this item?" Many items which have become obsolete may be obtained for next to nothing and put to a much better use than scrapping.

I hope to use this thread to examine various uses for commonly scrapped items which are more valuable transformed and re-used . This relates closely to something Paul posted recently where he ranks recycling, reuse,and refusal. Instead of making this about pop cans and clothes pins, let's make it about bigger and more expensive manufactured items. I will give you a few of mine first and then let's all describe an expensive item that could be re-purposed.

Oil tanks----- The type of oil tank commonly seen in residential use are the aprox. 250 gallon ones with elongated oval ends. When these are no longer needed for oil storage, they are useful as either containers of various sorts or they can be chopped up for their heavy guage sheet metal.------------from a previous posting entitled Free metal fasteners for your post and beam building -------------- There are millions of used oil tanks which need to be removed from residences across North America. Where I live it costs about $150 to remove your standard oval tank. These tanks must be drained and cleaned. While most of my competitors clean up these tanks and then toss them into the scrap bin, I have made good use of the very thick sheet metal which they are formed from.

Post-and beam construction requires lots of metal fasteners in I,L and T shapes. The metal in oil tanks is quite a bit thicker than some of the commercially available fasteners and it's a waste product. Using a very light grinder with super thin cutting blades I have chopped many tanks into useful shapes. It helps to lay everything out ahead of time with a marker since certain shapes leave scraps which naturally lead into another shape. Wear earplugs, goggles, thick leather gloves and a good mask. The cut pieces can be edged with doubled up course sandpaper bent in a U-shape so that it does two edges at once. Wear gloves!

Most tanks have a portion near the bottom which is rusty since moisture accumulates within. I never use this crappy metal since there is an unlimited supply of perfectly good stuff and it's better than free.

Plate glass----- is abundant and very often free. Great for greenhouse walls (use only tempered patio door glass for Cut into squares or rectangles you can make tiles for kitchen counters and floors. I've cut glass using a simple wheel type cutter and dressed the edges with sandpaper. 5 min per sq. ft. tile.

Tractors----- This is gleaned from a thread in HOMESTEAD entitled Stationary Engine from retired tractor--------- In searching out old tractors I've discovered that many "parts tractors" have a good engine and transmission but are not economic to fix up completely. Some have sustained steering damage, some have lost their body metal and many go cheap because they have bad rubber. A decent running Ford 8n in my area goes for $2500 with attachments. But a perfectly good unit with bad rubber and no toys goes for $500. This is much less than I would expect to pay for a 20+ hp stationary engine. I could see mounting an old tractor on concrete piers and using not only the power take-off but also utilizing the suspended rear wheels as power sources. The wheels would be suspended a foot off the ground with the front anchored in concrete as well. ----------- no need to rewrite the whole thing here

Other obsolete farm equipment ----- Farm equipment bone yards contain equipment with salvagable wheels, augers, tanks, flails, etc. which can be utilized for innumerable projects.

Scrap vehicles----- quite often vehicles are no longer roadworthy but they can still be useful on the farm. Scrap busses and trucks make cheap storage spaces. A garage on wheels never needs to be liscensed if it stays home. If you hear banjo music when you pull into the driveway, it's time to stop collecting old vehicles.

Big pipes and tanks----- Anyone building a rocket stove, water storage or various mixers and animal feed storage and distribution should check the scrapyard.

Buildings----- A building in the wrong place has a negative value. You can charge to dispose of it. Movers are always glad to give an estemate before you commit.

Mobile Homes ----- Live in it while you build, turn it into a barn or storage later. Earth berm it if you want to hide it. Demolish it and the steel frame makes a great base for a cottage or for a mobile sawmill. Mobiles often go for free. I've charged for disposal. They make a great scaffold if a pole barn is built around them. Beware of banjo music!

Tell us about other scrap machines or other things which have become obsolete and how you envision re-using those things.

QUOTES FROM MEMBERS --- In my veterinary opinion, pets should be fed the diet they are biologically designed to eat. Su Ba...The "redistribution" aspect is an "Urban Myth" as far as I know. I have only heard it uttered by those who do not have a food forest, and are unlikely to create one. John Polk ...Even as we sit here, wondering what to do, soil fungi are degrading the chemicals that were applied. John Elliott ... O.K., I originally came to Permies to talk about Rocket Mass Heaters RMHs, and now I have less and less time in my life, and more and more Good People to Help ! Al Lumley...I think with the right use of permie principles, most of Wyoming could be turned into a paradise. Miles Flansburg... Then you must do the pig's work. Sepp Holzer
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6461
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
I've seen a lot of nice utility trailers made from the rear end of a dead pick-up truck.

A lot of wood stoves made from retired drill casings. Ten times the thermal mass of a steel barrel.

Old culverts converted to feed silos. Also feed troughs.

marty reed

Joined: Dec 09, 2010
Posts: 119
you could use a trailer house fram and a cheap tractor (power unit) for the saw mill and have pully system the pull the trees to the mill where the wheels are and use them to lift the log and put it on the mill you could use them to pull the log back and forth to make cuts wail the pto runs the saw

you could us the tractor unit to power a pellet mill that might be useful to you

Jay Green

Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
I once saw a real nifty chicken coop made from an old bus that someone had earth bermed up to the windows.

I, personally, have not turned any old machinery into something new but have purposed several smaller items for re-use in new ways over the years.
Ray Cover

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Around here a lot of those oil tanks get used for large BBQ grills by organizations like the lions club or church groups.

I suppose if you cleaned one up good you could make one heck of a vrtical smoker out of it for a restaurant.
I have seen tractor tires used for flower beds.

I actually have an old FG 20' sailboat that I have considered gutting and turning into a methane digester.

There are a number of things you can use old hot water heater tanks for.
Dale Hodgins

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3625
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
Ray Cover wrote:
I have seen tractor tires used for flower beds.

My dad's "friend" Ken Johnson, started making those awful planters in the 70s. They didn't sell very well so he gave them to every friend and aquaintance around Lucknow Ontario. Within a few years, most had sagged on one side or collapsed completely. The ones he painted looked far worse. The paint may have helped to seal in the benzine that leaches from old tires. 30+ years on one of Ken's creations is spotted occasionally. He's pretty old, so this blight on the landscape will live on in his memory.
subject: Re-purposing common machines and artifacts
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