Debbie Dion Hayes pickin'
This is the pile I took home.

Last week I shared a pretty post about finding gorgeous patina in a nasty, filthy salvage yard. To some, a place to avoid at all costs. To me – more fun than a fun house! Pickin’ and grinnin’, discovering rusty gold and dreaming of the artsy possibilities.

Here is one pile of potential:

The art of salvage yard Junkin'
Here is one pile I discovered several of my pieces in. Underneath. Of course. I loved the really green patinated one. Wrong size. Bummer.

And here is a huge box of crusty and rusty parts waiting for creating a masterpiece.

The art of salvage yard Junkin'
Huge boxes like this one abound. Don’t pass them by. Often cool stuff inside. I took this one copper piece home.

How did I know where to find what I’m looking for? How did I find out how much my treasures would cost? And, how was I even allowed on the property in the first place? I’m going to share all of my secrets here now to make your experience fun and not frustrating.

The art of salvage yard Junkin'
Love the patina on the pipes. They make perfect drapery rods…

FIRST! Before you leave home:

• Find something else for the kids to do. No children or pets allowed

• Do not wear flip flops or tennis shoes. Dig out your old hiking boots or old winter boots

• Wear old clothes – long pants and a long-sleeve shirt

• Take leather work gloves and a measuring tape. Measure the space you are creating artwork for, if necessary, and write down the dimensions

• Bring your checkbook and/or cash. Many salvage places do not accept credit/debit cards

• Leave your purse at home, not in the car. Put your stuff in pockets. This is a filthy place, plus who knows who is wandering in the parking lot?
The art of salvage yard Junkin'
I bought a piece like this only shorter. Don’t by what you won’t need unless you can use it later.


• You may be stopped by a guard with a clipboard who will note your vehicle license number and ask you to sign a form. I had to give my birth date and show ID. (People do more selling here than buying and the rules are a bit like a pawn shop or jewelry store that buys scrap gold and silver. They want to know who you are in case goods have been stolen.)

• If this is your first visit, ask the lay of the land. For example, the guard can probably point you in the general direction of what you are seeking. (I have never had a flat tire after my visits, but there IS the possibility if you wander around.)
• I go directly to a main building to see what happens to be under cover. Sometimes great stuff, sometimes nothing I want. Ask if there is a room reserved for designers. Sometimes the good stuff like artsy sinks can be there. If they don’t know you yet, they may not tell you about it.
• Ask if they have any copper or stainless, or whatever you are seeking. Generally a helpful guy will walk out and direct me specifically to piles, though I now know where various metals are always found.
• For the ladies: the guys here always walk right over the huge plate in the ground where the trucks pull up to be weighed before and after unloading. If you follow him, yes, they will be weighing YOU inside! They think it’s funny. You may not. Just sayin’. Now I walk around it…
The art of salvage yard Junkin'
Another box of pipe. Different patina.


• Choose a pile and open up your measuring tape to the size you want to fill. Lay it on the ground in a clear area. Then carefully pull metal pieces out until you free the one you want.
• Take your time and be careful. One wrong move and you can slice yourself.
• Start arranging your finds within the confines of the measuring tape area. Many cool pieces will be dirty, bent, covered in glue and tar and folded. Ignore the dirt – this is fun right? Using both feet, just stomp on items to open them and straighten them enough to decide if they are keepers.
The art of salvage yard Junkin'
Almost bought this piece. Weighed a lot. Weight equals $$$.


• So, you’ve had a blast and amassed a lovely pile of goodies waiting to be turned into ART. What will it cost?
• Take your choices to the scales to get a weight and a price per pound. Mine was nine pounds at $4 per pound at the going rate for copper. At that point, unless you went crazy and need to eliminate some stuff, leave it all there and go pay for it.
• Here, there is a little one-person booth to step into. You may be asked to show your ID. Pay. Get a receipt. Done!
In a nutshell, the guys are always helpful. But do use caution. There are giant dump trucks,  picker’s trucks, piles of scrap, and staff everywhere. Pay attention. Come prepared, know what to do, and you will be left alone to create as you please.
One more thing. If you see it and love it, buy it. That stuff gets baled and bundled up often!
(Learned that one the hard way.)
Have fun and let me know about your adventures!
BTW in July on Royal Design Studio’s Paint + Pattern Design Magazine I will be sharing my copper project so stay tuned for all the details and instructions!
The art of salvage yard Junkin'
Isn’t this so stunning? Copper and air doing their thing.

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