Doug Carlson

How do you get rid of wood waste?

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I produce significant amounts of what I will call wood waste (saw dust, plane shavings, or cutoffs/scrap), and thought it might be worthwhile to start a conversation to see how other people get rid of this stuff. 

I never want to throw wood waste into a landfill. So I am always looking for good ways to dispose of this stuff. 

 

Hand Plane Shavings: 

  • I use these in my charcoal chimney whenever we fire up the grill. They are perfect for this use as they are always super easy to light and they always burn long enough to start the coals. And I can stuff a LOT of shavings into one chimney's worth of charcoal.  I can usually get about 1 plastic grocery bag's worth of shavings into the chimney at one time. 
  • I compress down a bunch as best as I can by stuffing it into my steel camping coffee pot again, as a fire-starter while camping.
  • I have a friend who is an artist who has asked me for long, whispey shavings in the past, though she usually doesn't take a large enough amount to really matter. 

 

Saw Dust (From Dust Collector):

  • When my DC needs emptying, I put the bag of dust up for free on Craigslist, and it ALWAYS goes very quickly - always the same day. I have heard from some that they use it as a growing medium for organic gardening. 
  • I keep a 5gl bucket of sawdust on hand in the shop for soaking up oil and other spills. 
  • Any leftovers after the above 2 things have happened goes into the compost pile.

Cut Offs and Very Small Scrap: 

  • This one I always struggle with. I keep a kitchen-sized trash can in the shop and it fills up FAST. I usually end up dumping it into the fire pit and burning it. I have pack-rat tendencies and ALWAYS want to hang onto every piece of scrap - no matter how small but it builds up quickly. 
  • How do you evaluate if a piece of scrap is worth hanging onto or not? 

 

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Scraps get boiled down to species. Pine usually goes strait to the fire pit as it costs more to store it than it does to just buy new. Woods like Oak and what not if they are under 7-8" x 2" they go to the fire pit. As the cost of the species increases the minimum size decreases. The one exception is if it's a super HARD species. Then i keep super small like 1" x 1" pieces to make knobs and what not for. I like the hard wood because i can thread it with thread taps and forgo inserts.

Weird pieces of wood like the off cuts from tapering furniture legs get kept because they make excellent shim material for what ever needs shimming.

Long thin strips I've been keeping to use as experimentation with bent lamination or for random bent lamination projects.

I also save all of my hand plane shavings for fire starting. Dang stuff works better than gasoline.

If you want to use all of your small scraps end grain cutting boards are a good way to use even the smallest pieces. Also small toy vehicles like trucks ect are good as the can utilize a lot of small pieces. I also use small pieces for things like bit setup, depth gauging, stop blocks, sacrificial blocks ect.

My sawdust goes to the landfill. It's just not worth any time to try and do anything different with it. I generate too much. Speaking of that i need to empty my dust bin..... :(

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Thank you @Chestnut- informative and entertaining as always, sir! Yes, you are right about end grain cutting boards being a good uses for cut offs. 

Take care, amigo. 

Doug 

 

PS 

Re: shim stock, I knew that I was either: 

A. Hyper organized, or 

B. Clinically insane when I took an hour and went through and sorted and arranged my shim stock by size and species. At any given time, I probably have between 50-100 pieces of shim stock, varying size and species, all organized and at the ready. And it gets used, a LOT. :)

 

 

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Scraps - fire pit

Dust collector - My brother had a friend that was looking for saw dust to make fire starters, so for about 2 years now she takes most of my dust collector waste.

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No smoker, no uasable fireplace, no fire pit.  A little sawdust for the garden and the rest goes in the garbage. I keep most poplar of any sizes to use as practice and test pieces.

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I live out in the boonies, next a couple acres of woods. I have a "compost pile" of yard waste, pruned branches, etc. All my wood waste goues there. Its about the size of a VW Beetle, but decay seems to be keeping up with additions.

Getting rid of scraps is always tough, since I don't have a convenient source of hardwood. I tend to hold on to stuff way smaller and far longer than I should. I cleaned up last weekend and carried 2 40-gallon trash cans of scraps to the pile.

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I will usually save longer hardwood waste from rip cuts (maybe 18" and longer) even if they are only an inch or two wide. I may later edge glue these together to make planks from which I can later cut interior casework pieces. I don't get too compulsive about it but, it does keep me from throwing out a significant amount of expensive lumber. But then, I'm a hobbyist, not a commercial shop.

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I save cutoffs in a large trash can. Sawdust from the Shop Vac goes into another trash can. Small pieces go into a plastic tub for when I get brave and try segmenting pen blanks. Caution- be careful about throwing fine sawdust on a fire. Did it while not thinking. It flares like throwing gasoline on the fire. Told the wife the same thing if she tosses sawdust on a fire.

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I'm in the process of building a couple of things out of Cedar for a customer.  And, my neighbor stopped by to assist me in ripping 2 sheets of plywood. He ended up taking all the Cedar off cuts for starting a fire in his wood stove he uses in the winter to heat his home.  Now I don't have to burn it.  I'm saving hand plane shavings for starting a fire in the new wood stove I'm putting in this Fall.

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1 hour ago, RichardA said:

I'm in the process of building a couple of things out of Cedar for a customer

good to hear you're back on the saw Rick, show us what you got!

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5 minutes ago, treeslayer said:

good to hear you're back on the saw Rick, show us what you got!

Nah, There's no need to see what I'm building til they are complete.  Some things are best left alone til completion.  Part of the reason, is there seems to be constant changes, that are driving me to drink. Lucky for me the freezer that holds my Jack is only a few feet away, no driving necessary.

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Sawdust goes in the garden; shavings to a friend for fire starter.  Blocks too small to back up a saw cut or a drill hole get tossed (as do the used backing boards.)

 

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My cut-offs are sometimes firewood and sometimes saved as sacrifical pieces.

I was able to sell (cheaply) a bunch of cherry strips to a local lady who made smaller craft items. It was just what she needed.

Sawdust --- if it's not plywood dust (with its glues and such) then I will put it in the compost. Otherwise, bag it for the trash man.

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Be careful with sawdust in a garden you care about. It can throw off the nutrient balance also walnut is a natural herbicide.

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5 minutes ago, Chestnut said:

Be careful with sawdust in a garden you care about. It can throw off the nutrient balance also walnut is a natural herbicide.

I thought oak had that property as well?

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55 minutes ago, Mark J said:

I thought oak had that property as well?

White oak has some natural rot resistance but it isn't strongly allelopathic like walnut is.

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Shavings and saw dust will compost but it takes time. Shavings on a garden will suck up the nitrogen and there will be a deficiency. Been there, done that, and got the t shirt.

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White oak sawdust makes excellent worm beds. My grandfather used to get sawdust from the local barrel stave mill to use for raising fishing worms.

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The s'mores pile takes any pieces of solid wood down to 4-6" in length. Everything else goes into cans for the regular trash pickup.

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