Scavenging Materials

From TheBeard Science Project Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search


  • Check the dumpster area in large apartment complexes. People often throw out furniture with good wood. Apartments usually don't want their tenants to throw out furniture on their lot because the trash collectors charge a fee. So the apartments probably won't mind if you take some of it. Just don't leave a mess.
  • Futons are actually pretty nice: easy to disassemble, decent wood. Don't waste your time with particle board.
  • Here's a good article on scavenging wood:


  • Go to a thrift store and look for those cheap picture frames, the ones with crappy extruded plastic frames that are press-fitted to the picture. I think people tend to win them at carnivals and then get rid of them. They usually have a 1-2mm thick piece of plexiglass covering the picture.
  • Flat screen TVs often have several layers of plexiglass (or similar sheet material) in the screen. Check the dumpsters at large apartment complexes or look in the free section on Craigslist.


  • Dollar stores sometimes have 8.5"x11" picture frames with real glass. They are actually the perfect size for most 3D printer beds (but expect them to break after a couple uses).
  • Scanners and copiers have glass beds.
  • Microwaves and toaster ovens sometimes have glass.

Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF)

  • Clipboards. Check thrift stores, dollar stores, etc.
  • Check the backs of picture frames. Sometimes they have an MDF backing, even the cheap ones.
  • Framed movie posters might have MDF backing.
  • Dressers, drawers, wardrobes, and chests. The backs of some furniture have MDF panels. The bottoms of drawers are often MDF.


  • Angle bar: bed frames
  • Indium: scrap cryogenic gaskets



  • The dollar store has small speaker modules that plug into a headphone jack. Those have two 8 ohm speakers.

High-Voltage Electronics


Microwaves are full of treasure. Find them near the dumpsters in large apartment complexes or get them free on Craigslist. Even broken ones still have a lot of working parts. Their useful parts include:

  • High-volt/high-amp transformer
  • High-voltage capacitor
  • High-voltage diode
  • Magnetron (Microwave gun), each has two powerful ceramic magnets
  • Limit switches
  • Thermal cut-off switches
  • AC motor
  • DC stepper motor
  • Fuses
  • Digital display
  • Sheet metal
  • Glass pane (sometimes)
  • A nice thick power cable

Always safely discharge the high-voltage capacitor before you touch anything inside a microwave. Use a screwdriver with a plastic handle and make contact between the two leads on the cap. The magnetron can also be very dangerous. Each end of the diode has a ceramic insulator (usually white or pink) that could be made from beryllium oxide. If the ceramic is cracked and particles get into the air, it is extremely toxic and carcinogenic. Modern microwaves will likely use a safer material, like aluminum oxide, but there's no way to tell. When handling a magnetron, always wrap the ceramic insulator in tape to protect it and to contain the material if it breaks. Never dispose of magnetrons in the trash! Take them to your local waste transfer station.

Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TVs or Computer Monitors

Find them near the dumpsters in large apartment complexes or get them free on Craigslist. Even broken ones still have a lot of working parts.

  • Flyback transformer
  • Power mosfets
  • Capacitors
  • Inductors
  • Rectifers
  • Heatsinks
  • Fuses

Other Electronics to Look Out For

  • Old radios/stereos
  • VCRs
  • CD/DVD players
  • Computers
  • Air conditioners
  • Power supplies
  • Power tools

Cords and Wires

  • guitar strings: made of steel, high tensile strength
  • Picture frames