Scrapped out

My scrap situation finally reached critical mass. I hated to do it, but I had no choice: I needed the room so the scrap had to go.

I’ve always maintained there’s no such thing as scrap, that every last piece of wood is useful. But last June after spending hours relocating one of my several scrap caches, I knew I’d eventually have to deal with it on a more permanent basis. But, as with many things on a woodworker’s to-do list of onerous projects, I put it off.

Since then I got a new floor model drill press to replace a smaller benchtop machine. No matter where I put it, and despite that it has a mobile base, it was in the way. I had to find a permanent parking spot for it. The best place for a floor drill press is in a corner, but of the four corners in my shop, three have scrap piles (the fourth has steps and a door into the house).

So, that was it. A scrap pile – my largest, as it turned out – had to go. I made a quick call to the local scout troop to see if they needed some wood, but they didn’t. With nothing else to do with it but toss into the trash, I decided my artillery reenacting unit could use it for firewood. My group restored an old cabin at a local historic site, where we frequently build a fire. In fact, our annual Christmas living history event is coming up, and we need a ton of wood. So I began culling and cutting, not just from the stuff in that corner, but from all my other scrap piles as well. That’s the thing about hard cleaning: After a couple of hours of being careful about what you keep and what you toss, you really start not caring all that much. The more tired I got, the more scrap got tossed.

By the time I was done, I had taken two full carloads, with the seats all folded down, of scrap wood up to the cabin. While I couldn’t begin to do the math to figure out the board footage from all those cutoffs and pieces, my wife (who helped me load up the car each time) figured I managed to get rid of between 500 and 600 pounds of wood.

Although that old wood won’t go to new projects, it’ll still be useful. We’ll be warm and toasty next month around the campfire at our Christmas event, and I cleared away an entire corner of my shop where the new drill press now resides.

The best part is that scrap is a self-renewing natural resource. I doubt I’ll have time to even miss the old scrap before I have a nice pile of brand new stuff accumulated.



  • Carole Canto says:

    Thanks! Glad to hear you checked with the Scout Troop, hard to imagine they didn’t jump at the chance…I am NEVER allowed to burn any of the scrap I take in the off chance it will be needed. It is always “rescued” by someone. But I am glad you found a use for it!

  • Danny H. says:

    Oh my , my scrap pile is also in need of serious culling too ! The last time I took a whole Tundra truck bed to the dumb, which angered the neighbors who could have used it for fire pit wood at the beach or desert.Time to call the neighbors !

  • Bob Eilers says:

    Well it was a good thing that you tried out the local Boy Scout group but did you try the local high school shop classes. As a former Cabinetmaking teacher I was always on the lookout for scrap wood. With the advent of technology education the classes now use smaller pieces of wood to construct their various projects—perfect for odds and ends.

  • Kurt Barensfeld says:

    I’m going through the same process at the moment and am almost at the finish.
    I heat my shop with wood and pellets so that’s a win win. What a liberating feeling to see that new space being created. I have to fit in a wood lathe in my corner.

  • William Duffield says:

    No, the best place for the drill press is not shoved into a corner of the shop. The best place for it is bolted to the floor at the right rear corner of your table saw, just beyond whatever extension tables and out-feed tables you’ve added to the table saw.

    You can place your jointer or your planer or your chopsaw or your router table against a wall, but I can’t think of any piece of stationary machinery whose function is not severely limited by placing it in a corner, except a lathe or a dust collector. And the drill press and table saw are worst, unless you are only planning to use it to build bird houses. Imagine trying to drill holes for mortises in the middle of a stile for an entry door, or dog holes along the front board of a bench top.

    Another alternative is with its column backed up against an outside corner or against a post outstanding on the shop floor, so you have 270° access, but these locations don’t give you the advantage of using the table saw’s extension table for holding parts you are drilling.

  • Randy Johnson says:

    Although they may be easier to find here in New Orleans, I usually try to give my scrap to local artists.

  • Blue says:

    My next shop is going to be round, so I can’t stack scrap in all the corners.

  • Harold Bricker says:

    THANKS!!! I am renewed to know that I have at least 1 Scrap pile body!!!!

  • Carl Evans says:

    I have been making my living as a woodworker for 30 or so years and have had a wood stove in most of the shops I have had. I have always maintained I have the most expensive firewood around. Although you do need to try and save scrap while the project that created it is in progress as soon as it is completed everything that is not savable (full boards or close too) it all gets processed to stove length. I do this because I would be overwhelmed otherwise. But you also need a place to stack the processed material in the warmer months.

  • A.J. Hamler says:

    Bob — Neither of my two local high schools has a woodshop class that could use cutoffs. The local tech school has a building/construction department — a fine one, in fact, and I’m good friends with the director — but almost all of their work is large-scale and they make more than enough of their own scraps.

    Randy — The little town where I live has a population of only about 2,500. I don’t think we have any local artists. Wish we did.

    William — In my case and for my needs, yeah, the best place for a floor drill press is angled in (not “shoved” in) a corner. It takes up about 2 sq. ft., and has a horizontal clearance of nearly 4 linear feet across the table, more than enough to meet 99% of my needs. Also, if you go back and read again you’ll note that it’s on a mobile base, so If I have to drill anything larger (you know, like maybe a really, really big birdhouse) I can just roll it out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Terms of Use.