I asked a question about salvaging parts from used/junk equipment, and it was negatively received.

Many hobbyists cannot afford to buy new parts (such as pneumatic actuators, solenoids and stepper motors) so they often salvage them from equipment. I know I've desoldered plenty of relays and capacitors for re-use.

I realize all most many some shopping questions are off-topic, but is advice on how to acquire parts from used equipment similarly off-topic?


Quantified the comment about shopping questions a bit better. :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you were specific enough to not to be off-topic? \$\endgroup\$ – abdullah kahraman Feb 10 '13 at 22:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Shopping questions are not off-topic. \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Feb 11 '13 at 0:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @endolith Maybe not entirely off-topic, but certainly must adhere to some standards. I see shopping questions closed often. \$\endgroup\$ – JYelton Feb 11 '13 at 3:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, the FAQ says if the question is about "a shopping or buying recommendation [...] then you’re [not] in the right place to ask your question," but in practice shopping questions seem to only be closed when they are not interesting, which seems to correlate well with the experience level of the asker. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Frost Feb 11 '13 at 16:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PhilFrost: Yes, and we've asked for that to be removed from the FAQ. There's nothing inherently wrong with shopping questions (though some people treat them as if there is). They should only be removed if they are too localized, etc. "How to shop " questions are absolutely fine. meta.electronics.stackexchange.com/a/377/142 \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Feb 11 '13 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @endolith A well asked shopping question is not just looking for links, that is in the faq to help keep things simple, so far I have never seen a good shopping question closed under such premise, but I might have missed/forgotten when it did happen. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Feb 13 '13 at 17:25

I'd say salvage questions are on topic. The main reason is because of the information value that could be present. It's a learning experience. Sure, we all know what a solenoid is, or a relay, or whatever.. but building a list of items that may have X or Y item inside them is pretty time-stable, IMO.

For example, printers will always have stepper motors, so it's not a transient question like shopping advice. Also, your point about people salvaging to save money is relevant to the weekend warrior electronics tinkerers and professionals putting around in their spare time at home. Learning how to source parts and sourcing them well is important as a hobbyist and as a professional.

tl;dr: salvaging parts questions seem entirely on topic and they will reasonably stand the test of time.


In a geography where the electronics component industry is extremely hobbyist-unfriendly (e.g. India), questions around salvaging parts, and any useful answers that result, are invaluable. I would dearly like to see the question referred to being reopened, as it is one that every electronics hobbyist in places like India should be directed to.

On a similar note, "if it doesn't have a datasheet, don't buy it" is equally unhelpful for an audience in my geography: Every week, I struggle to source datasheet-supported parts, without being able to meet the MOQs or shipping costs for international ordering. Locally, I am constrained to whatever my city's "electronics street" shops will sell, and what very limited and highly overpriced parts the few online stores offer. I would challenge anyone to source 5 red LEDs with a known part number and datasheet in India, let alone a solenoid such as you have asked for, with known parameters.

Either this site is a global resource, in which case salvaging and making do with sketchily supported or obsolete parts are crucial questions, or this is a very USA/Europe oriented resource, in which case someone needs to propose the equivalent of "Stack Overflow in Swahili" on Area51, for EE.SE too! (I certainly hope not!)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Beyond that, how many different EE.SE in specific language sites would we need just for india. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Feb 13 '13 at 17:25

While a salvaging question could be on topic if asked just the right way, yours wasn't. Your actual question was, quoting directly, "What's the best old equipment from which to salvage solenoids?". There is simply no way to answer what is "best". There may be some opinions, but these type of survey questions aren't a good fit for this site. Note that when I did offer a opinion, your first response was "I disagree", even though I actually have harvested a solenoid from a old printer once.

There is no way to answer "best", and you disagree when someone floats a few ideas, which it seemed you were soliciting. You have left no option other than to close the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, yes the question body contained the word "best" which I admit was probably a mistake. The question title itself, however, was: "From what used/junk equipment can I salvage solenoids from?" Olin, your answers and experience are among the top things I value on the site. I wasn't meaning to disagree outright with you, just with the first point that it was too broad. At any rate thank you for your input on the matter. \$\endgroup\$ – JYelton Feb 11 '13 at 3:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related thread in the main board with good discussion on the pros and cons of salvaging: How to find Junk yards? The geographical context for that thread is US. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Sep 2 '15 at 6:20

I would like to see more salvage questions but some sort of guideline needs to be set up. After reading this thread I posted a topic about salvaging LCDs and it was closed within a day. They cited it as "too localized" which was quite puzzling considering that I never mentioned where I am and devices which parts can be salvaged from can easily be shipped all over the world from sites like eBay. The short description of what "too localized" mean was equally unhelpful and the included link to the FAQ only repeated this verbatim without any further elaboration so it was worthless as well. At the moment I'm puzzled as to what would constitute a valid salvage question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Too Localized doesn't refer to geographic (well, it can, but that's rarely the case). Too localized normally means that the question and the answers that would fit it, are just not very useful to anyone other than the OP. The most specific version of that meaning would be something like "How do I fix part A in highly specialized device B". In your case, the question really was both specific (I need a lcd matching a, b, c, and d) and too broad (what specific commercial products include a usable lcd matching a, b, c, d). \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Feb 26 '13 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ A better salvage question would involve either item identification (I have an lcd with labels x and y, pinned z from a Nokia cell phone, can this be identified?) or a more general "how can I get this lcd working" where people might suggest using a logic probe/oscilloscope or something else. Or how can I remove this without breaking it. Strictly salvage questions of "where can I find x" are either obvious or too specific, so it really is case by case. I agree a blanket closing of these questions is not warranted. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Feb 26 '13 at 13:35

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