Idea #1- Find the Free Stuff! (MR, BG)

This one probably goes without saying, but allow me to elaborate. When word gets out that you like a particular hobby, well meaning people who have a desire to deep clean, sort , yard sale, or trash their belongings  will often find out. I have had this happen numerous times over the years.

They may hear that you like model railroading and so a conversation might go like this- “Would you be interested in Jimmy’s toy train stuff? He has out grown it, and I would hate to just throw it away or yardsale it”.

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Typically, this is your run of the mill train set quality stuff- old TYCO and Life-Like cars, brass track, transformers from the dinosaur era, and assorted people and details. Not the kind of quality products you see in MR these days for sure. Even in the 70’s and 80’s it was of questionable and somewhat dubious quality, but now? I think I will pass. Thanks for the thought though.

Hold up! Wait a minute! Put a little love…. oh wait, never mind. (I never was a fan of Family Force 5 but it you are, enjoy that) Anyways, before you turn away from that quality plastic “junk” from yesteryear, why not take it home and sort through it a little later. Sure, those boxcar’s molded on detail look clunky, but with a little work and fresh paint, or just some careful weathering, you have a decent looking car, that while it may not match the individual quality of a boxcar from Branchline Trains or something like that, it does the job nicely.

The two boxcars closest are both scavenged from cheap train sets. With some weathering, they look pretty decent. They may not hold up on close scrutiny but in a passing train, it doesn't matter.

The two boxcars closest are both scavenged from cheap train sets. With some weathering, they look pretty decent. They may not hold up on close scrutiny but in a passing train, it doesn’t matter.

 

(Like the article I shared in my recent post) Let’s be honest with ourselves. Our goal is to capture the feel of railroading in minature, so we will be running trains, not examining each boxcar very carefully with a magnifying glass.

Or, you could take a sharp knife, carve off the clunky molded on ladders, remove the trucks, and give it a dull coat of paint, and plant it in your rail yard- you get a nice shed at zero cost. Much more economical than paying $9-$11 for a lower quality (by today’s standards) boxcar to use as a shed.

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And it doesn’t stop there. I have a drawer full of these “junk” train details and cars. If nothing else, you can salvage some of the items for detail parts for a scratch-building project. Some clunky plastic buildings can be saved for window castings and doors, and if the wall details are not too bad, it could be a good base for a building project. It can be amazing what a little paint, some careful weathering and drybrushing can do to a model.

A Cheap Bachmann train set building with new paint, a new roof of construction paper shingles, and cinder-block loading dock made from an old kit.

A Cheap Bachmann train set building with new paint, a new roof of construction paper shingles, and cinder-block loading dock made from an old kit.

Granted, not everything is worth saving. Those ancient DC transformers are really not worth saving (unless you need a power pack for your railroad) save for maybe using to power “accessories” like lights or something. That brass track with the massive ties is probably not worth holding onto either for using as track. However, the rails could be chopped up and stacked in a rail yard somewhere for details. The same with the ties as well. A little trimming with a hobby knife, and some paint, and you can add a realistic detail.

This does take work and ingenuity on our part. If you have the cash to spend, you might justifiably choose not to root through the relics of yesteryear for some salvageable details when you could buy nicer ones with much less effort. But, for me, it is more enjoyable to spend my time this way, and keep my cash in savings. (And my wife appreciates it too)

Now what about board games? Those same, well meaning people might hear that you are into board games, and so a conversation might go like this- “You like board games? My kids played them for years. Would you like to have their old games? They had all the favorites:  Clue, Yahtzee, Sorry!, Monopoly, Risk, etc. I would hate to see them collect dust in my closet”

The typical gamer will likely start to back away at the mention of “Clue”. By the time Monopoly is mentioned, he might be running for the nearest exit. The Euro games of today, these ain’t. Instead, these are the ultimate example of the “Ameri-trash” games frequently bashed on the board gaming forums. (For those who like these games, no offense is intended. They aren’t terrible games…..maybe. 😉 )

But hold on. Anyone who has been reading this blog has noticed that I really like to make PnP (Print and Play) games. Many of you are PnP’ers, but I would wager a good many are not. I would also wager that a good many of you are intrigued by the idea, but are held up on one issue- components. Where do you cheaply get the pawns and the dice and the counters and the money and the cubes for such projects?

Boards, dice, pawns. the remnants of an old game or two can be the makings of a new, better game

Boards, dice, pawns. the remnants of an old game or two can be the makings of a new, better game

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That is where these “Ameri-trash” games can come in. Don’t save them for the game itself, but for the components. Those dice can be saved for another game, like maybe Infection Express. The money from Monopoly can be saved for other games like Pay Dirt.

The boards themselves can be papered over for another game board, or if you want nice tiles. It might seem sacriledgous to glue another game board or components onto a Clue board, and then cut out what you need. (I did this to make the unique board for Serica)

I wanted a folding board for Serica. An old Chess board sacrificed itself for a noble cause.

I wanted a folding board for Serica. An old Chess board sacrificed itself for a noble cause.

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The board and chits for this little game were made from an old Monopoly-type game board

Note to self- have a strong, sharp cutting tool, or have lots of patience.

The boxes from these games can also be used- either for cardboard, or for boxes. With a little playing around on the computer, you can make images you can glue over top of an old box to use for a latest project.

Again, this does take some time and ingenuity, but these old tired games can be what you need to make a new board game with nice components. Between the re-used components and the effort you put into it, people might start asking- “Where did you buy that game? It looks really nice.” Or “I enjoyed playing Serica last night, but I couldn’t find it on Amazon. Where did you get it?”

For both hobbies, there are a two caveats.

1. Don’t save everything. While I would politely receive whatever I am given, I will later go through my “goodies” and determine what can be used and what can’t. Collect all the parts you either have a use for or have a project in mind you can use for it, and then junk the rest. Somethings aren’t worth the time. (Example- I went through my brother’s old toy train stuff. I found some useful things, but others were less useful- Ceramic Christmas village buildings and details, plastic toy train track, an old transformer.

2. Be realistic. If you are like most people, you do not have unlimited space. While it can be tempting to store tons of “Someday” use items like I have detailed, don’t take up a whole room with it. Realistically, you will not use all of that stuff. Really it comes down to the same idea from point 1. Save what you need, and pass along/pitch the rest.

This tip has literally saved me a lot of moolah, and has brought a lot of fun. For me, it is fun to re-purpose “junk” and give it new life. Not only that, it is frugally sustainable in its own way.

How about you? What junk have you saved and turned into something useful? Share your story in the comments below!

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2 thoughts on “Idea #1- Find the Free Stuff! (MR, BG)

  1. I can really get into your ideas about using what’s available to make stuff, rather than going out and buying ready-made products. Everyone should enjoy the hobbies in the ways they enjoy them, to be sure, but there’s got to be room for those of us who either haven’t got the deep pockets, or who just get a charge out of the whole DIY process. Nicely written!

    Like

  2. Pingback: #30- A Look Back, and a Look Ahead | The Frugal Hobbyist

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