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permaculture salvage, tool repair, and blacksmith shop

 
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I'm thinking of starting a permaculture salvage, tool repair, and blacksmith shop. The way I see it is this. Lots of useful metal is thrown away. Hauling it to a scrap yard is a step up, but that wastes lots of embodied energy; the stuff is shredded up, sorted out, melted down, and made into new items. Instead, I was thinking that a lot of the tools, metal objects, and small engines which are thrown away could be either refurbished, rebuilt, parted out, or used as stock for creating other items, with scrapping as a last resort for whatever is left. For instance, I've read that springs and other parts from machinery are often high quality tool steel, great for making edge tools from.

Tool handles and charcoal for forging could be made from waste wood from tree removal.

I was envisioning going to farmer's markets, craft fairs, etc. with lots of refurbished tools and forged items, and attracting attention by doing some forging or offering tool sharpening.

Of course, it would take me several years to build up my skills to that point; I've done a bit of forging, and some tool repair just involves replacing handles and sharpening, but still I've got a long way to go.

What do you all think? Is this idea viable?


 
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Oh definitely!!
I'd love to have someone near me who did that sort of thing.
I took a piece of a ripper for my box scraper to a welder, and had to explain what I wanted done to it, made it longer, hooked, kind of a little keyline plow. He had zero clue why. I'd love to have someone with a clue to work with when I make up stuff :D
I'd say yes, there is a market for it.

:D
 
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Neat idea.
There are at least two directions to go with this.
There is appealing to the boutique hand made aesthetic, Etsy style, and there is building and rebuilding tools for small holders.
Both have a market but I think the artsy approach has a bigger market.

For example, I have a bunch of old manual hedge trimmers, in poor working order.
I could fix the handles, sharpen and tighten them , and sell them as hedge trimmers, or I could dissemble them, straiten the and re-haft them in order to turn them into hand made knives.
I think the knifes would sell for way more money, and generate more interest as well, even if they were not particularly practical or useful.


 
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It's definitely viable as a labor of love, but I would not expect to turn a large profit. Restoring old tools takes a lot of time when you really add it up (depending on how good you want it to look). Old tools (pre-1960ish) are almost always better quality than newer ones, and often designed better. The real beauty of it is for anyone concerned about carbon emissions. Working steel uses a lot of energy. Buying old tools for a few dollars prevents any more carbon emissions making new ones, even if you make them yourself. I would like to see getting stuff at yard sales, auctions, flea markets, etc. worked into the BB's somehow. Getting over the "I need new stuff" mindset is a much bigger deal than I think many realize on the way towards attaining the permaculture idea.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Thanks for all the good ideas everyone! And thanks for the piece of pie!

William, I've thought about the two different markets. I've decided that I wouldn't mind making "crafty" items if by doing so I could learn an actually useful skill. A few years back I forged a "heart and shackle" puzzle where the objective was to get the two pieces apart. You've probably seen these in wire, but they are much more impressive in forged iron!

Jordan, I agree that this idea is kind of marginal. Ecologically, it makes perfect sense, financially, maybe not, as with so many worth while things. I think a key would be to keep the input costs really low; make my own charcoal, handles, etc.

Pearl, I agree that custom fabrication would be really useful! I've often wanted parts for things I was trying to build or experiment with.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I'm considering how I could possibly set up a mutually beneficial relationship with contractors and landscapers such that they sold me all their worn out tools/machinery/scrap material at a little above scrap yard prices per pound. Or maybe I could trade sharpening/maintenance work for privileged access to tool scrap.

Leaf and coil springs on vehicles are very high quality tool steel. As far as I can tell, most vehicles that leave a scrap yard to be crushed up still have those springs in them. I wonder if I could do a deal with the scrap yard to obtain those springs at less than parts prices but more than scrap prices.

Arc thrift stores in the area do pick-up drive throughs in my neighborhood every few months; on a given day, one can put out items for them to pick up free. I could possibly do something like that once a year "Spring Cleaning? We haul away broken tools and equipment!"
 
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I think this isn't a question of is there a niche, I don't think it's a question of can it work. It's a question of whether you can make it work ;)

And I wouldn't focus on artsy markets, imo that's not the point. I would say it's fine to do some of that kind of thing, for fun, for practice and some change for the purse, but that isn't a good fit with my notions of permaculture.

As far as repairing tools, making new from scrap... We're going to need that sort of thing in every village.
 
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Talking about reclaiming waste metal, that's not a bad idea. You could probably run a solid smeltery and smithing setup purely off of waste and scrap.

Something I keep coming back to, is getting charcoal beds or charcoal kilns up. I haven't looked too deep into how the Rocket Mass Heaters work, but I don't see any reason why burning your wood down into charcoal, and then burning that instead, would be a bad idea. Seems like it'd let you stretch your wood supplies a hell of a lot longer.

Something to work on if I can get up to the boot camp with Martha.
 
Jordan Holland
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:
Leaf and coil springs on vehicles are very high quality tool steel. As far as I can tell, most vehicles that leave a scrap yard to be crushed up still have those springs in them. I wonder if I could do a deal with the scrap yard to obtain those springs at less than parts prices but more than scrap prices.



If you read up on blacksmithing sites, it's often discouraged to make things that are important or meant to be sold out of used springs. They can have microscopic stress cracks that cannot be seen or fixed, and they may break after you did all that work making something. If it's for yourself, you may be willing to take the risk, but it makes for problems if you sell something and it snaps in two. Also, have you ever removed a spring from a vehicle? I doubt a scrapyard will be willing to remove them and sell them to you at a price slightly higher than scrap. It is very hard, unpleasant work. I wouldn't do it for several times scrap price. If you have a good cutting tool, some places may let you cut them out yourself, but due to liability, most yards these days don't let people do that. There are people who have cut apart macpherson struts who apparently didn't suspect they were under pressure.
And all this for material that may be sub-par. Or not, you never know until it is bought and forged. Leaf springs are more likely to be suspect, but have you ever tried to straighten a coil spring of any size? It's not easy, and there are some videos out there of some suicidal methods people have employed to quickly straighten them, but even then you will need a forge large enough to heat the whole spring in one heat.  You might be better off checking repair shops to see if they have some they already removed for replacement. I have also heard of people getting the "drops" from local spring fabrication shops for scrap price. That would be good if there are any nearby, since the steel will be new, and they may even know which alloy it is. Not trying to be pessimistic, just trying to save you some trouble.
 
Jordan Holland
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Nicholas Molberg wrote:
Something I keep coming back to, is getting charcoal beds or charcoal kilns up. I haven't looked too deep into how the Rocket Mass Heaters work, but I don't see any reason why burning your wood down into charcoal, and then burning that instead, would be a bad idea. Seems like it'd let you stretch your wood supplies a hell of a lot longer.


The volatile gasses driven off from wood when burning are what rocket mass heaters thrive on. In fact, some people have had trouble with their heater not burning the coals fast enough, and they pile up and choke off the burn tunnel after running a certain ammount of time. Designing one to run on charcoal may work, but it would most likely be horribly inefficient, and a lot more work unless you have a free supply of charcoal already made for you.
 
Nicholas Molberg
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Sounds like the Rocket Heaters are designed to deal with the same problem we solve with Charcoal, just with less labor.

Charcoal is still great to have for other things, but in general it's not worth the trouble to use in a Rocket Heater, since you've already kind of solved the worst parts of burning wood.
 
Jordan Holland
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Nicholas Molberg wrote:Sounds like the Rocket Heaters are designed to deal with the same problem we solve with Charcoal, just with less labor.

Charcoal is still great to have for other things, but in general it's not worth the trouble to use in a Rocket Heater, since you've already kind of solved the worst parts of burning wood.



I don't know that I would say that...making charcoal and then burning it would be like going to a gas station and pouring ten gallons of gasoline on the ground and then putting ten gallons in your vehicle and then driving away. Burning wood in a RMH would be more like putting twenty gallons in your vehicle and driving away. I don't really see the flamable volatiles as a problem; I see them as fuel.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hi Jordan, thanks for your input! With the spring idea I was going off of information in a book by Alexander Weygers on what scrap parts are worth forging stuff out of, but I'm certainly no expert! I wouldn't be surprised to find he'd gotten some things wrong.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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As far as charcoal, I've got a TLUD charcoal burner: see the development process here. https://permies.com/t/62039/TLUD-stove-smokes-proposed-modifications I can cook a little less than a sack of charcoal at a time.

By the way, somebody in that thread advised me not to use rubbing alcohol to start the burn. Well, I didn't listen, and the next time I ran it there was a little explosion in the can! That put the secondary flame out and I couldn't get it restarted with the primary pyrolyzation still going on further down; tons of smoke and I eventually had to put it out.

Moral: listen to the folks on permies!
 
Jordan Holland
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Hi Jordan, thanks for your input! With the spring idea I was going off of information in a book by Alexander Weygers on what scrap parts are worth forging stuff out of, but I'm certainly no expert! I wouldn't be surprised to find he'd gotten some things wrong.


Sure thing, in the end all you can do is try it yourself and determine if it's worth it to you. Different people, different places, it makes a difference as to whether it's worth it.
 
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Many people use old springs for making tools.  When you start using blended steels there can be issues. Here is a link from Anvilfire This is a great resource.


https://www.anvilfire.com/article.php?bodyName=/FAQs/junkyard_steel.htm

Foundry work might be another niche to look at.
 
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:I was thinking that a lot of the tools, metal objects, and small engines which are thrown away could be either refurbished, rebuilt, parted out, or used as stock for creating other items, with scrapping as a last resort for whatever is left. For instance, I've read that springs and other parts from machinery are often high quality tool steel, great for making edge tools from.



There's no business model in what I'm doing nor probably any true economic payoff when my time is accounted for, but I'm doing this on a "tools and small hardware" basis in the corner of the shop that my relative lets me use.  I bring in (or did before the pandemic) garage sale collections of tools and small hardware and other intricate small junk and I sort and refurb in fairly minute detail.  Rusty tools go in a bin for wirebrushing and rust removal and restoration when I feel like doing that sort of things, screws and nuts and nails and bolts and little hinges and bushings and grommets and drill bits and 10,000 other small categories of items get sorted, organized, derusted as needed and if worthwhile, and accumulated in labeled collections.  (One of the things I collect and restore are those little metal cabinets with the dozens of plastic drawers, which can wirebrushed, run through the dishwasher, given a new coat of paint, and labeled on the front with my trusty Brother P-Touch).

As I do this work I'm always getting sidetracked by minor repair/restoration tasks.  An aluminum drywall/box knife with retractable blade shows up, it's rusty/dirty/jammed.  It gets taken apart, corrosion wirebrushed away, drop of oil on the blade carrier, drop of oil on the screw, new blade put in plus another one in the void for spare blades (I have hundreds of spares in my "replacement blades" cigar box) and the whole thing gets reassembled before getting deposited in the cigar box labeled "box knives".  Next item in the pile is a rusty screwdriver.  It gets a quick wirebrushing and inspection.  Good clean tip? Goes in the coffee can of working screwdrivers. Bent/destroyed tip? Goes in the box to be spraypainted lime green; there's a big bowl of lime green "destroy me" screwdrivers for shop use anytime somebody needs a punch, prybar, small chisel, or has any of the other 30 schemes in mind by which screwdrivers are usually abused and destroyed.  (My father used to weld a screwdriver to a bolt if he snapped off the head and wanted to remove it.)

Lately I've started disassembling dead stuff for useful parts and materials.  Our dead dishwasher (logic board connections corroded beyond repair, nobody sells new wiring harnesses) got taken apart to the last screw and panel.  The plastic tub inside got patched up and is now a lotus pond; one of the metal frame members is now the crossbar on our free-standing bird feeder.  Clean wires got cut out and coiled and added to my electrical toolbox; screws went into the screw sorting operation.  Sheet metal in potentially useful sizes and shapes went into "light steel" bin of things to do things with.  I was left with a few odd-shaped scraps of metal and quite a bit of plastic, all land-fill bound as the original unit would have been.  But the pieces are now small enough to go in our regular paid garbage service, saving an extra landfill trip and disposal fee.  Pretty much every complex item we have to get rid of gets this treatment now.

The outputs from all this I am using to build a series of toolboxes.  (The toolboxes themselves are refurbed; rusty metal toolboxes can be had for $5.00 or less and are near as good as new once wirebrushed and spray painted.)  A small working toolbox in every vehicle, various shop toolboxes, a plumbing toolbox, a garden hose / irrigation toolbox, an electrical toolbox, an *automotive* electric toolbox ... you get the idea.  Meanwhile my relative forages all the hardware collections every time he is working on things, which he does far more often than I do.  I've saved us both many dozens of trips to the auto parts and hardware stores, which, since we're rural, is no bad thing.  

My family used to run a hardware store.  Now I'm sort of creating one, for family use, with very small money inputs (a lot of time, though).  

As I said, there's no direct business model for this.  But it might support one.  Very often I find synergies; a complex repair will become simple because of supplies that are on hand due to this effort.  
 
William Bronson
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I just realized what this reminded me of.
Splendid Table did a story about a cookbook that featured Angelo Garro a foraging forger and life in his  forge/kitchen.

I think I'm unconsciously trying to be my own version of him.
I want fire, plants, animals making and hospitality in my home and central to my life.
It's a work in progress, but thank you for reminding me.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Still trying to think through this. To make it work on any kind of large scale, I'd really need to make the tools come to me. I could, of course, go around to garage sales and such, but this would use a lot of time.

I was figuring that scrappers might end up with a lot of broken/worn tools and equipment that they don't want to deal with as tools. How would I go about giving them a better deal than the scrap yard would?

Also, thrift stores probably receive tools that they are not really set up to handle; might they be interested in selling them at a steep discount to somebody who committed to picking them all up every week?

We'll find out, I guess!
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Dan, that is a great example of what could be done! I've been thinking that every garage and shed probably has some partial sets of things like socket sets, and that I would be able to sort them out and combine them back to make full sets.
 
Robert Ray
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Many mechanics shops have scrap metal bins that a recycler picks up. I often get pistons for melting from the local ones here. One of the local thrift stores has a metal bin that they use to accept scrap for a recycler as well, in addition they often get tools that need handles, are broken etc.
 
pollinator
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I would love someone round here who rehafted/sharpened tools. I'm the proud? owner of 4 scythe blades and not one handle between them, we have assorted axe and hammer heads lying around that need rehafting. a bilhook that argued with the lawnmower and needs the tang straightening and then a new handle. and several spades, shovels and hoes that could do with a sharpen.
I don't think you would make any money on it though as the cost per item would be way to high if you charged the real value of your time.
Here you can stalk the tip and pick things out of the bins, you do have to pay for them but it's small change especially for broken bits. But to be honest all the old farms here have tons of broken/old tools lurking in the barns/attics (where do you think those scythes came from?) and dropping a note round asking for people to have them ready/put them out in a week would probably catch lots of fish.
 
Jordan Holland
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Still trying to think through this. To make it work on any kind of large scale, I'd really need to make the tools come to me. I could, of course, go around to garage sales and such, but this would use a lot of time.

I was figuring that scrappers might end up with a lot of broken/worn tools and equipment that they don't want to deal with as tools. How would I go about giving them a better deal than the scrap yard would?

Also, thrift stores probably receive tools that they are not really set up to handle; might they be interested in selling them at a steep discount to somebody who committed to picking them all up every week?

We'll find out, I guess!


It looks like a lot of your ideas involve people/businesses working with you...I think there is one surefire way to make that happen: money! They need to see it as being worth their time and effort to partake. I'm afraid the amount may be too much (where I live I'm pretty sure it would be). Hopefully your area may be better. A good way to make them come to you is to open up a trading post/thrift shop. I know a guy who did and it is unbelievable some of the things people brought in to sell. The best place I've found for buying tools is auctions. Especially if they are broken, they seldom bring much.
 
Dan Boone
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:I could, of course, go around to garage sales and such, but this would use a lot of time.



It's my weekend entertainment when there's not a pandemic on, so I don't begrudge the time.  It's recreation, not work.  But I understand that's not so for everyone.

My insight -- if I have one -- is that anywhere enough tools or useful scrap is concentrated in collections labeled "tools" or "useful scrap" there's going to be someone who wants too much money for it.  Certainly, around here, the basic redneck attitude is "if you want to buy it, it must be valuable, I'll double what I'm asking".   Which makes it almost impossible to approach someone about buying something.  You have to wait for them to price it or auction it.  In general, at auctions or estate sales (true garage sales rarely have this kind of merch) the collections that work best for me are the old junky mixed ones.  I mentioned the little metal shop-hardware parts bins with the dozens of plastic drawers.  These usually sell for $5-$10 with all the drawers full of "stuff", much of it obvious garbage like bent nails.  A new shelf/drawer would cost twice or three times that.  The "stuff" has been picked through (count on it) but it's amazing how often the purchase will be paid for by, say, one drawer full of small brass plumbing parts (dollars apiece to buy new).  In general what I do is look for one valuable item in a junky assortment and once I see value I stop looking and make the buy. I always look for the dirtiest boxes and rustiest collections -- that's where the bargains are.  At every sale with good tools laid out on a table, there's a box or a bin or a rusty toolbox *somewhere* with all the stuff that was too junky or broken-looking to be displayed.  That container is my meat, when I can buy it for $5 or $10.  It's amazing what treasures emerge with a squirt of oil and a few minutes with brass wirebrush or steel wool.  Plus, that container often has twenty dollars worth of partial rolls of bailing wire, solder, duct tape, masking tape, electrical tape...
 
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Our town has a transfer station, with a scrap metal pile. All sorts of broken stuff, and some not broken, just no longer wanted. Almost every week you could pick up a broken shovel. The contents of a "junk drawer" are often there, spilled out on the pavement, or in coffee cans. Rusty toolboxes, sometimes with rusty tools... Sometimes NOT-rusty tools, needing something... tightening? a cord? cleaning? bearings? a handle? We gripe about the cost of the permit going up, but every year I scrounge it back threefold.

A month ago, I stopped a man mid-way to the pile with a handtruck with a broken wheel AND two brand new in-the-wrapper wheels! I said "I'll take that!", he explained that he tried and couldn't get the wheel off to replace it... one of those "push-nuts". In ten minutes, on the tailgate of my truck, I had it apart, cleaned the axles, oiled and installed the new wheels. (handtruck #6)

I do think there is a niche to fill, repairing tools, things... There is such a thing called a "repair cafe" where you go and can fix things in a shop with tools you might not own, and people to teach you how to do it. Sometimes they are events held at "makerspaces" once a month or something. You bring a lamp to rewire or fix a switch, a bike to tune up, a chair to glue back together...
Most things, if you go to get a repair... say shoes, or a bike, you want yours back... but maybe not a shovel? bring in a broken shovel and you might be happiest to walk out with a good one and get back to work. Now you have your next shovel to fix. Maybe it's $25 for a shovel, and $3 off for each broken one brought in... now that guy's collecting busted shovels, rakes, hammers, dull chisels, to cash in. (maybe it's only $2 each without a purchase)
 
William Bronson
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You won't be competitive on price at $25.
I just took a shovel with a broken handle back to Lowe's for free new one, for the second time.
It was a dumpster find,  but they go for $25.00 new.
Life time warranty, no hassle.
Yesterday I saw a crappy shovel for 8 dollars.
If I needed a shovel cheap,  I would have bought it.
If I want to reuse for ethical reasons, I would make my own handle from scratch-I can afford a lot of time/material for 25 bucks.
I suppose there are those who have money for a hand refurbished tool,  would appreciate it, not want to do it themselves, and could justify it over a new tool with a lifetime warranty  but that seems like small needle to thread.

This is why leaning into the artsy stuff makes sense to me.
Art adds value that can't be matched by mass manufactured items and it attracts excess cash.

 
Kenneth Elwell
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Gilbert, If your idea is to have a shop, not just a hobby in your garage, then a used tool and sharpening service might be the way to go.
And if you were setup with a forge and workshop, then your time spent "minding the store" could be "productive" or "fun" while fixing up things or creating with remnants of broken stuff.
Like William says, it might be hard to just sell a lot of $25 shovels and make a go of it, but if more diversified... one could either replace a missing socket, or trade-in their incomplete set, or get a mower blade sharpened and balanced, any number of other power tool repairs... Or have a place to take their dad's old tools, that they won't use, and maybe get something they need... a different tool, or some cash.
Maybe you have some new tools for sale, as well, to be sure you don't send a paying customer away empty-handed. A lot of small engine repair places have fixed-up machines that got traded in or left behind after the repair estimate was too high and a new machine was bought instead.

Someone on a budget could get a handyman/woman's set of tools for around-the home repairs (hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, pry bar, wrenches, fastener kit...) all in a box that you put together. You will have collected all the tools yourself at yard sales or auctions, or taken as trade-ins for pennies on the dollar.

Digging bars and jackhammer bits may be sharpened by forging the point back to shape and retempering, better results than grinding them out which leaves them softer. I did some of this work for a smith who taught me. It was regular work once/twice a year that the town's DPW had their bars repointed (sometimes straightened as well), less costly than replacements.
 
William Bronson
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Having a tool centric trading post does have promise.
Plenty of guys do this informally in between fix cars and such.
This morning I cashed in my scrap pile for $17.00 and change, then handed over $7.00 for a full sized stainless steel steam table pan.
If I could trade tools for store credit, that was motivate me to collect more such tools and stop by often.
I would also be interested in buying a competively priced replacement handle for tools I would rehaft myself
How hard is it to make an axe or shovel handle?


How long would it take you to rehaft a shovel head someone walked in with?
How long to clean and sharpen it?

Now that I'm thinking about it,  a shovel head reforged into a mattock is something I would want.
 
Jordan Holland
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William Bronson wrote:
I would also be interested in buying a competively priced replacement handle for tools I would rehaft myself
How hard is it to make an axe or shovel handle?


How long would it take you to rehaft a shovel head someone walked in with?
How long to clean and sharpen it?

Now that I'm thinking about it,  a shovel head reforged into a mattock is something I would want.



It's not hard to make handles, it just takes time. There's House Handle with a pretty good selection of handles online for just about everything at pretty decent prices.

You just reminded me of something I saw in a trader's mall! Someone had long ago taken a curved plow handle and whittled the handle end down to fit a pointed shovel head. They had added a nib-style handle out the side of the plow handle. It was like a hand backhoe! I'm guessing they had used it for digging into a dirt bank or something by the way it felt. I almost bought it, but it was too dry rotted to use, and I felt it was too much money for what it was. I figured I'd be better off making one if I ever wanted one.
 
William Bronson
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That sounds amazing!
It makes me think,  if I used electrical  conduit I could bend a handle to what ever angle I wanted.
I wonder if some fiberglass rods and a bunch of Bondo would work to fill in and stiffen that bendable handle.
 
Jordan Holland
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William Bronson wrote:That sounds amazing!
It makes me think,  if I used electrical  conduit I could bend a handle to what ever angle I wanted.
I wonder if some fiberglass rods and a bunch of Bondo would work to fill in and stiffen that bendable handle.


If nothing else, it would make a decent prototype to figure out your angles and lengths and such. I think a sapling with a branch for the nib would be ideal. Bend it while green to let it season in shape. As I recall, the angle of the shovel head and the angle of the plow handle added up to just the right angle to feel natural. I think it even had a t-handle on the end.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Jordan, I agree, to make this work I'd have to be quite diversified. Those are some good ideas!

More ideas to find tools:

Place "tool recycling bins" at small hardware and garden center type stores.

Work with house clean-out companies/trash haulers: supply bin and offer to pay a certain amount per pound for any tools, regardless of condition.

Probably best an most efficient: become a trash hauling/house clean-out company! I feel no desire to do this, but if a few permie type people, each with some type of recycling company, got together, they might do really well on this. For instance, one of my friends salvages leather from old couches to make leather items. There could be a furniture repair company, etc. etc. etc.
 
Jordan Holland
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Yes, that can be a good way. I know a guy who sometimes pays for the contents of an entire property after a sale, etc. He's very lucky and usually finds one valuable item that covers the cost and everything else is profit. You might not start an entire cleanout service, but maybe post some fliers just for shed cleanout or tool cleanout. Mention that it is save old tools and people may be more receptive to gain some karma points. Scrappers around here often get a reputation for wanting something for nothing; I would be sure to try to set myself apart from them. A lot of these old sheds of tools are owned by old widows. Maybe you could do an outreach program to offer to help clean up around these sheds/properties or do minor repairs in exchange for old tools. I think many would jump at the chance because they have no use for them.
 
William Bronson
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Gilbert, the clean out business makes a lot of sense, especially as a shared source of material.
A truck, few trailers ,a yard for sorting and breakdown and storage.
A rocket incinerator heater for the office trailer.
There are a lot of institutional partners to take anything you don't want.
The human animal produces the richest waste streams.
The trick is drinking from the firehose without drowning.

Yesterday I spent about three hours retrieving and breaking down a couch to retrieve about a hundred dollars worth of foam for my kids costuming project.
The costume in question would cost about 300 dollars to buy, bet he is making it himself.
Aside from the foam have three  huge bags of cloth, fluff and soft foam I  don't want, a pile of scrap wood I can use, and a pound or two of couch springs.
I would have gladly paid 20 bucks for the used foam and save myself the time and effort.
I would love to donate the fluff, foam and cloth I don't want, and I still might...

All of this gets away from your original goal, crafting and repairing tools.
It seems that you either have to pay a premium for someone else to source your raw materials or you have to build a system to make that happen.
Unless you are getting premium prices for your work, paying much of anything for materials would be self defeating

Maybe we need to start with the squeeze and then  work on the lemonade and source of lemons.
When I was baking for my church, I started out sharing at coffee hour, move on to selling whole loaves for 4 bucks each, and settled on giving them in return for whatever the person had.
This let us give loaves to those who had little, subsidized by ten dollar donations!
At the same time my quality, volume , efficiency and cost per unit  got better and better.
I was gonna bake bread no matter what, that was me squeezing lemons.
I never got into grinding my own flour nor have I ever sold bread at higher volumes and prices, because both of those things were off mission for me.

So I guess we are trying to figure out how can you can afford to do the work you want, but avoid mission creep?

I wonder if it's possible to hone in on a single waste stream to product conversion, a lemon to lemonade process if you will.
For example, bed rails to broadforks.
Bed rails are insanely tough and  often available for cheap.
Broad forks are expensive and need to be durable.
I can picture a very industrial broad fork made of nothing but bed rail.
I think you could even do it without welds, just with bolts, advantageous for shipping.
The off cuts  can be heads for other tools and/or recycled.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Great ideas everyone!

Somebody told me I should check with the local Habitat for Humanity Restore: they get used tools in to sell, and probably don't want to fool around with broken ones. If I provided a bin, I might get quite a lot of tools that way. (Maybe in exchange for a few of them coming back repaired?)

In one sense, I see mission creep as a good thing. My end goal, far into the future, is an interlocking web of cooperative permaculture businesses run by different people; they would all work so much better by cooperating. As the project grew different branches, more people could be brought onboard. I have the luxury of a fair amount of time, and am willing to run this as a generalist, not very profitable project at first, so that I can develop something others can get on board with.

Imagine a large industrial site with all sorts of different waste products flowing in from the surrounding city, from scrapped autos to wood chips, feeding dozens of interlocking businesses across the site, producing their own energy and recycling all wastes within the site! A pipe dream, probably, but a nice one.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Anyone know the legalities involved in repairing electrical tools, whether corded or cordless? A quick google search is only turning up stuff related to OSHA and to potential voiding of warranties.
 
Kenneth Elwell
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Anyone know the legalities involved in repairing electrical tools, whether corded or cordless? A quick google search is only turning up stuff related to OSHA and to potential voiding of warranties.



The power tool repair place near me has "factory-trained" technicians, which might be the answer to warranty issues. Maybe make an inquiry to a manufacturer about getting trained would be a start?
They also have a policy of replacing ANY damaged cords if they do ANY other work on a power tool, and charge for both... I'm certain this is to avoid liability on their part, and it's just good sense!
 
Dan Boone
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:One of my friends salvages leather from old couches to make leather items.



This is brilliant! I'll never look at old couches on the curb the same way again.  (Or, around here, not so much "on the curb" as "dumped beside a quiet stretch of county road".)

Jordan Holland wrote:I know a guy who sometimes pays for the contents of an entire property after a sale, etc.



I don't have the people/dickering skills to make a business of that, but I've done a small-scale thing at estate-type sales.  Every garage and barn in those places has a shelf system of some kind where all the small cans and bottles of fluids and chemicals are.  Spray paint, cleaners, lubes, automotive fluids, glues, et cetera.  It's all going to the landfill after the sale -- yes, it's mostly hazardous waste but that's where it's going anyway (nobody around here does household hazardous waste collection to keep it out of the landfill waste stream).  I've had really good luck gesturing at that shelf and saying "I'll clean off that shelf for you, take everything, even the empty rusted-out cans, leave you with a clean shelf, how much do you want for it?"  Typically there's not one thing on that shelf that costs less than $3-$6 dollars new; if I hear any answer in the $10-$20 range for my offer, I take it.  Again, this makes me very popular with the relative whose shop I use; we have a very deep inventory in there now of stuff like chainsaw bar oil and air filter cleaner and silicone lube spray and other handy chemicals like that.  I also have (or I had; the pandemic has crimped my style and inventory has dwindled) a huge plastic toolbox I use as a spray paint locker that is always full of nearly-free spray paint when I am going to sales.)
 
Robert Ray
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People bring me odd stuff to repair all the time.  I wish that it was something that would be a stand alone viable business, but I do use it to add to my pocket change. From silver soldering a vintage coffee maker for a local resort to casting knobs and lenses in resin for car enthusiasts. Having a broad range of talent would help. Acquiring tools to do new/different jobs as you go.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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To make this work economically, I'm going to need to learn to make my own wooden handles. I know that riven wood is stronger than sawn. Does anyone know of a book or website which covers the process of riven tool handle making from log to handle?
 
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