Need a Parachute?

By Lloyd Graff

Damon Carson likes to tell stories about the goods he sells. He takes the discards of industry and government and reframes them as wonderfully useful products for those clever enough to realize their true value to them.

Damon calls his firm, “Repurposed Materials,” differentiating himself from scrap dealers and recyclers. He defines his company’s mission as taking products which still have value “as is” and finding that unrelated buyer who will buy them to use for a different purpose.

He has a deftly written email newsletter that he sends to 150,000 of his nearest and dearest. He claims a 20% open rate, which piques my skepticism, but more power to him if he nets even half of that. He sends it to a cross section of industrial and service businesses across America looking for the needles in the cumulative haystack who might envision the perfect usage for plastic beer kegs or 275 gallon liquid totes.

Damon is also excellent at re-purposing language. His warehouses have been dubbed “industrial thrift stores,” not factory rummage resale shops.

Damon freely shared his business model with me. He gets his merchandise for little or no money but has costs in freight, storage, handling and marketing. He related one of his latest coups to me with the relish that a used machinery dealer could appreciate.

Comcast was stuck with 100,000 pounds of precast 4’ x 4’ x 4” thick concrete pads – three semis worth. Mr. Carson gladly took them off Comcast’s hands and advertised them to his potpourri of potential buyers. He found a live one in a trucking firm that sends a lot of light loads through wind-swept Wyoming. Sometimes the crosswinds get so ferocious they can overturn a semi on a flat interstate, but the concrete pads serve as ballast. Freight could be carried right on top of them. The trucker took them all. It was the ideal solution.

Parachute used as a wedding canopy

One of Damon’s current hot sellers is military cargo parachutes. They had served the U.S. Air Force well, being used for dropping food pallets and generators into deserts and glaciers, but now they begged for a new purpose.

He has sold some to gold mines in Africa. The mines use them as temporary shelters for workers sweltering in the heat who need shade. In Fort Mcmurray, Alberta, oil tar sands country, he sold one of his largest variety, 100 feet long, to creative folks who draped it over heavy equipment, ran a Salamander heater underneath it and did their maintenance during the frigid winter in relative warmth.

Damon enjoyed talking about a deal he had with Boeing for high quality aerospace paint. It turns out that the airplane regulators will only allow paint to be used that is under 24-months-old. Boeing discards their 23-month-old perfectly good paint and Damon sells it mainly to pig farmers who find it super for their silos and metal barns.

Old firehoses are another desirable product he sells, going primarily to boaters for docking cushions. He also likes “skeletons,” the cutouts from heavy stamping steel, though I have no idea who buys them other than artists.

Damon stays away from electronic materials like the plague. No old cell phones or computers in his warehouses.

Repurposed materials. Cool idea in the hands of a talented storyteller.

Take a look at Damon’s web site here:

Question 1: Do you have a repurposing story?

Question 2: How would you repurpose old screw machine cams?

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5 thoughts on “Need a Parachute?

  1. S. Balder

    Good article and potentially a business I could become a customer of. I rebuild ancient cnc machines that were probably destined for the scrap furnace, but I’ve also repurposed a number of circuit board assembly machines as cnc routers and plasma cutters. These are clean process machines that go obsolete after a few years. They always have good parts to resell and the base machines are built with the best linear components.

    Re-purposing can be an awesome business model!

  2. Tom

    Well… Repurposing… One of my forever projects is to convert a radial arm saw into either a 3d printer or a drill bot for cnc circuit boards.. Another project is that I used cast iron disc brakes for a base of a stand for a display stands for the makerspace/hackerspace I belong to…
    So… are you trying to get rid of some old screw machine cam’s??? The company I work for got rid of it’s screw machines years ago, so I’m a little fuzzy on what these things look like.
    Hackers (or if you want to use the more PC term) makers by definition love to repurpose stuff… Post some picks of what these cams look like and I’ll talk to some of my fellow makers. If you want it interesting, make it a challenge.. We could use some small machine tools at the space… If you have some old iron you like to donate as a reward, It could be a motivator for use to figure a nice re-use for you. 😉

  3. Mike

    I have a great uncle that uses his Korean war Parachute at family gathering. So beautiful and humbling being under it.


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