Free Materials

I have suspicions that some of us will be using this for more than hobby projects and may venture into the world of capitalism. To maximize profits it only makes sense that we use inexpensive materials whenever/wherever we can. I want to make a thread where we can share places that inspire where to find free/near-free materials for makers. I have a few in mind and will start this ball rolling…


–Obviously pallet wood is everywhere (for the woodworkers of us that can plane it down to proper thicknesses)

–Bike shops order wheels all the time. Those boxes are excellent double-thick cardboard. Check with your local shop and try to work out something to get those boxes!!

–Glass from framing shops or glass manufacturing places. They will probably have lots of drops, probably broken, but depending on your idea you may be able to make it work.

–I found a couple of old acrylic printer stands from an old dot-matrix printer…they were free, they were cast acrylic, they were perfect. I still have them and they will have a new life in the GF when it gets here. (Flea Market!!)


Garage sales, flea markets, and side-of-the-road freebies. Lots of furniture can be found at low prices, then chopped up for parts. Not always the best quality materials, but at least solid enough to hold some weight.


Not free…but inexpensive…places like Goodwill stores, inexpensive picture frames that have either glass or acrylic in them. Trash the frame…experiment with the rest.


Great idea. But to repeat a warning for those who haven’t used a laser before, PVC and vinyl both contain chlorine, which is very bad for your health and your machine when lasered. There are issues with some other plastics too. I would err on the side of caution and not use any plastic unless I knew for certain what type it was. That probable eliminates the free or low-cost sources mentioned above.


I have been given free scrap wood at home depot. Also, if there is a makerspace or an art or architecture school nearby they generate lots of scraps.

If we can form groups based on the cities we live in and the types of materials we use we can also make bulk orders to lower the cost of materials!!


Plastics, yes. I mean, acrylic you can usually spot but everything else is almost guaranteed to have chlorine in it. But the natural materials like wood and paper are still good to go.

yeah. leather couch turned to 20 or 30 leather etched wallets. Awesome.


As long as it’s real leather. Some fake leather = vinyl; back to the chlorine issue.
I’ve been saving cereal and cracker boxes ever since a local maker space got a laser. Great for quick testing the outline of a piece, for example if you are French fitting a tool box.
If you get 1/8" or 1/4" cardboard you can also do a preliminary test fit of interlocking pieces that will later be cut in the same thickness of wood, plastic, or whatever.


Yeah, that thin stuff could be really neat for models and stuff.

If you belong to a makerspace, check with your fellow members – We have a box where folks leave scraps from their projects, which is perfect for learning a quick tests.

Xabbess – used photo frames and mattes can also be lasered into new lives!

The free paint mixers at your local big-box hardware stores…could be good for a quick test/project.


true…waste nothing!

I work for a contract electronics manufacturer and there’s lots of materials for me to practice with :sweat_smile: I have so much chipboard…i wish I could use my vinyl but it had PVC in it :rage:

It’s not free, but seems like a place to be looking for nice hardwoods:

I found an ugly old leather hide jacket at goodwill and used it for projects before. A couch though…hmm. I think I need to to go dumpster diving.

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You might check with any local appliance dealers, they may be willing to part with some of those great big boxes!

We were at Costco checking out when I saw one of the staff hauling flat cardboard sheets away. I inquired what he was doing with them and he said they were being recycled. These must be used as shipping dividers in something they sell. He pointed me back to the cardboard recycling area and I grabbed as many as I could find. They are about 12x16 and ready for the Glowforge!

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Another that many already use I should mention is Craigslist. I was on that site yesterday and found some promising results when using search terms like 1/4" under building materials. It seems, at least in my city, a few carpenters will get rid of scraps or other materials left over from jobs.