A scrap shoot

I’ve maintained for years that there’s no such thing as scrap. Well, if scrap doesn’t exist, then how is that I have way, way too much of it?

In making preparations for my shop window installation, I’ve had to move some stuff away from the wall where that window will go. That happens to be the corner where I store leftover pieces of sheet goods. No problem, I’ll just move it to the corner by my lumber rack.

Oh, wait, there’s already a large barrel there for long cutoffs. OK, I’ll move it to a third corner where … Nope, can’t move it there, either; that’s where I keep half a dozen smaller containers for shorter cutoffs. I also have a 5-gallon bucket by the workbench filled with very small cutoffs, another next to it for very, very small cutoffs, and nearly the entire lower portion under my workbench is filled with odd-sized cutoffs and boards. A milk crate rests next to the table saw for fresh cutoffs, while another 5-gallon bucket filled with 2×4 cutoffs is tucked under the lumber rack.

There’s no way I’d want to sit down and do the math – it’d take days – but I’m betting I must have at least a thousand board feet of scrap. There, I said it. I used the “S” word.

I find scrap to be eminently useful, and because I make a lot of small-scale items like boxes and clocks, I put a lot of it to good use. I have, in fact, made entire projects from stock pulled from all those buckets and barrels. But I’m saving it faster than I can use and I’ve reached a saturation point. I have to start getting rid of it, and I’m not sure why that upsets me so much: Since I’ll continue to save it, I’ll soon be overrun with it again in short order.

Still, the idea of throwing it away makes me want to cry.

What’s next? Will I decide that I really do have enough clamps?



  • Harry Hill says:

    My heart goes out to you. One cannot keep from creating or doing without scraps. Your description of this plight just hit my funny bone and made my day this morning that more enjoyful. Thank you! 🙂 HH

  • I build furniture and cabinets. Have for about 15 years or more. I have three shelves with roughly 60 sq ft of space filled with offcuts. Plus the dozen or so 5 gal buckets. But I also do artwork and I can use the smallest piece for something. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. I even collected some more from a friend downsizing his shop. Like clamps you can never have too much stock. It’s just that darn space to put it in I keep running out of.

  • James Porter says:

    Truly a man after my own heart. I have been “lovingly” call a pack rat. I don’t keep everything so I am not a hoarder but there are times when there is only a path thru my shop. It hurts me to the bone to throw away something of value. I try to use, sell, give away or recycle before it goes in the trash. I have a couple of things I do that you could try. You can give some to some of your woodworking firends especially the newer ones that don’t have as large a collection, yet. With the volume of shaving a straight blade planer makes, you can make shavings for your all friends with pets. You can make a truck load from an 8′ 2×2. 🙂 On a serious note, there is a project call “Life Legacy Box”. Groups of woodworkers get together to make small decorative boxes to donate to HOSPIS. The boxes are used to put letters, pictures, keepsakes and memories for the family. If there is a group in your area, a donation would be welcomed. Good luck with your “scrap”.

  • Ed McLaughlin says:

    Your comment “I’m saving it faster than I can use it.” is a classic that we can relate to and it should endure. It will be up there with “measure twice and cut once.” Best, EHM.

  • Duncan Mahoney says:

    If there’s a local school or community center with a wood shop, they might be very grateful for the donation of some largish pieces of “scrap”. Some years ago a goodly pile of “scrap” from my workplace went to a program that trained homeless people in basic woodworking. They used the scrap to make toys for homeless children…win-win all around.

  • Mike C. Smith says:

    I love my off-cuts and constantly use them all the time. However no matter how much of the off-cuts I use, the boxes get fuller and fuller the corner gets messier and messier. About every three years I just have to clean up; this last time I almost completely filled my pickup truck bed with off-cuts. That was about a year ago and I have quite a bit of ‘scrap’ accumulated already.

  • My next shop will be round. That way I can’t stack “scrap” in the corners.

  • Jim Barborak says:

    I have a nice neighbor with a big wood stove that he keeps going all winter. When the “scrap” is gone, you don’t miss it!

  • Carole Canto says:

    Hi, I have been reading your posts for quite some time, I really enjoy them. Finally I have a comment to make. All of you who have scraps: Consider offering them to your local Scout Troops, I am sure they would really appreciate them. I work for a furniture company and am a Scout Leader, and everytime I take scraps they are very well received. I am not artistic or creative, but I provide the material for those who are. They make beautiful pieces for projects, or use for woodburning an awards plaque or many other uses. Once in awhile I grab some scraps for burning (I know its a waste – but they would be thrown out otherwise) but I am never allowed to burn them. I am given firewood to replace my scraps.

  • Alex Traxler says:

    This is great! I’ve been woodworking since I could walk. I also run my company on the premise of reducing the environmental impact.. With that said I use ALL my “scrap”. I’ve been able to produce a whole line of accessories in fashion and much more.

  • Mark Slafkes says:

    My scraps save me going into the woods and collecting kindling. Some of my scraps save me from stripping those moderate branches and cutting them up. Finally my scraps save me from having to dry all of that stuff before using it. Even with all of that, I still give away scraps to my neighbors for their smokers and kindling needs, too. The bigger stuff is another issue which I still struggle with. Thank god the waste collectors utilize my good (not walnut) sawdust chips for composting or I’d be in real trouble.

  • Gary Schmidt says:

    When I’m running out a lot of scrap I box it in managable size boxes and pass it on to my elderly neighbor for kindling in his wood stove.

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