Does Your Woodshop Need a Spring Cleaning?


Spring is almost here – that means it’s time for spring cleaning in the woodshop! You’ve already got your tools organized and you know where all your good lumber is, but have you figured out how to deal with sawdust and wood scraps? A lot of woodworkers end up with a problem when it comes time to sweep up the debris, you’re not alone.

Dealing with Sawdust

Sawdust is everywhere saws go and it’s a pain to keep clean. That’s why it so often ends up piling up in the corners and under everything. Sure, it’s made of wood, and that should make it easier to dispose of, but the truth is that it’s not that cut and dry. Most recycling programs won’t accept sawdust and just tossing it in a landfill only adds to the problem, but there are other options. Consider:

  • Bagging it in paper and burying it. Tossing your sawdust into your compost pile is a great way to get rid of something that’s otherwise kind of hard to deal with. If you don’t have a garden of your own, see if a friend or neighbor would like to use your sawdust regularly. As long as you don’t have many walnuts or related trees, it will help bulk up your compost and get rid of the mess easily.
  • Using it as animal bedding. Again, there are certain woods you won’t want to use for animal bedding, depending on the animal and the wood. For example, cedar is not the best choice for chickens, but other animals, like horses, are ok with it. This is another time where it might be handy to phone a friend if you don’t have animals that need bedding.
  • Turn it into firestarters. As long as there’s no treated lumber in the mix, you can use your sawdust as a component for firestarters. Soft woods work best, but any will work. Melt some wax, mix the sawdust in and pour it into egg cartons to cool. Easy!

Those are just a few ways to deal with sawdust, the glitter of the woodworking world. There are plenty of others, depending on your lifestyle and hobbies.

How About Wood Scraps?

Many people, even non-woodworkers, hold on to wood scraps just in case they might need them for something one day. The problem, too often, is that the scrap box fills up and someday never comes. At some point, you have to thin your hoard out.

If you have a community recycling program, many types of wood can be added to the yard waste recycling, but do not add your wood to the cardboard or paper bins. Even though wood and paper are made of the same stuff, the processing plants don’t have the equipment to chew through pieces of wood the same way that the yard waste facility will.

There is one caveat to this, though. If your wood scrap is treated, has been varnished or painted, it can’t be recycled with current technology. Instead, toss it in the trash. You can minimize how much wood ends up in the garbage simply by waiting to paint or varnish until a wooden project is finished and only using treated lumber where necessary.

As far as completed or partially completed wooden projects go, if they’re small, raw, and have no nails, they, too, can be tossed in the yard waste. Otherwise, give them to friends, donate them to charity thrift stores, or put them out with the trash. eBay or Etsy are also good options if the piece in question is something you think you can sell for enough to make it worth packaging and shipping.

What do you do with your scrap wood and sawdust? How often do you clean your woodshop?

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