Uses For Your Woodshop Scraps by Steve Casper
Hello and welcome to my first installment on 300Guitars. I’ll be describing to you some of the things we do around our shop, to not only help reduce waste in our guitar building processes, but help out some other people or ecosystems around our community. It will take some research, determination and commitment to carry out most of what we will be discussing here. But in the end, it will be worth it.
Lets set it up, you just finished cutting and shaping (in our case, a guitar) your woodworking project. You have accumulated some sawdust most likely. Most people would just sweep it up and throw it away in the trash and be done with it, move on to the next project or phase of the project. Well, seeing that I’m not most people, I decided to look into an alternative use. There had to be someway to recycle.
The first use I found was to mix the sawdust in with the mulch around the shrubs and flowerbeds. It is fine to use it without mixing, you just don’t use as much as you would mulch. There are a few things to consider before just throwing sawdust on your begonias’. Untreated Cedar and other aromatic woods don’t do well as mulch. They tend to elevate the pH and alter other elements in the soil causing conditions not good for the health of your plants. Be prepared with the proper fertilizers if your plants show any signs of yellowing.
Composting is an excellent option and works very well. Just toss your wood chips, shavings and sawdust into the compost bin and let it “cook”. Most gardeners have a compost bin or pile they maintain. Nurseries will also at times take sawdust to add to their piles. Just talk to the office of the nursery and they will most likely guide you to their pile. They won’t usually take industrial volumes, but a trash can or two has never been a problem for me.
Another is to use sawdust to line nature trails and walkways. Sawdust is a fantastic weed barrier and really outlines the trail well. Wood chips and sawdust decompose very well so it tends to be an excellent organic soil additive richening the soil. When combined with the proper materials, sawdust can most times improve the soil quality making for a more lush nature walk or trail.
Sawdust is also an excellent absorbent. Spill something on your shop floor. Throw some sawdust on top of it and allow the liquid to absorb. Then sweep it up and throw it away. I remember in grade school that was all our janitor ever used.
Another use is to put sawdust around playground equipment. A lot of parks will allow you to restock their playgrounds as much as you like. Just talk to the Park Manager and they most likely will be more than happy to let you dump and spread out some sawdust for them. I use it in the break area outside the shop to help keep the weeds down along the walkway.
I would like to give you one warning when salvaging your sawdust. If you do donate to a park where children will be playing, make absolutely certain that you have checked the sawdust for sharp debris like nails and screws. This can easily be done when you are preparing to place your sweepings into a bag or bin for storage / transport. Take a medium strength magnet and run it through the pile of dust on the floor / bench. Most metals that are present will be on the magnet and can be safely removed. Make one more pass gently with your fingertips to be completely certain there are no objects that could injure someone. This is always a good practice to perform if you are recycling your sawdust just as a precaution. Wouldn’t you hate to get a flat tire on your trail bike after running over a neck screw?
If you run a large shop and produce large volumes of sawdust, you will most likely be best off with a fuel or cooking product operation. Sawdust makes a great starter for campfires and as a cooking fuel when pressed into pellets or logs. Wood can also add an interesting flavor to foods. Alder is great for smoking salmon. Oak, Maple and Cherry are also very flavorful. Experiment, find combinations that you like and share them with us. We’d really enjoy hearing what you have come up with. Until next time, stay tuned-