when is scrap not worth keeping

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Blog entry by DamnYankee posted 08-08-2011 04:13 AM 2384 reads 0 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was finally getting around to cleaning up my shop after my last project and ran into what has become an ever lasting quandry…. when is a piece of left over/scrap not worth keeping and should used as firewood/kindling?

Do you base it solely on size? Or does it depend on things like type of wood? Or quality of piece?

Well I finally have worked out a system; I throw all my short cut-offs into a bin, we burn those cut-offs whenever we burn a fire in the backyard fire pit. This tends to keep enough on hand to make the occasional use of the scraps while also keeping the amount down to a reasonable level (not sure if this will be the case come summer).

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

23 comments so far

View greg48's profile


600 posts in 2721 days

#1 posted 08-08-2011 05:03 AM

That would be the final test Grasshopper!

-- Greg, No. Cal. - "Gaudete in Domino Semper"

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2950 days

#2 posted 08-08-2011 05:19 AM

The general rule around here seems to be a size/type mathematical formula. The scheme generally is as follows:

Dimensional: 24”+
Ply/MDF/etc: one square foot
Other soft: 12”+
Hardwood: 6”+
Exotic: 1”+


-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3677 days

#3 posted 08-08-2011 05:32 AM

Jen (my wife) would say chuck it all and buy new when you have another project…she doesn’t get it.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Manitario's profile


2629 posts in 2847 days

#4 posted 08-08-2011 05:33 AM

Lis, maybe we need an iphone app for this….:)

I’m in the process of moving many small “scraps” of wood to my new house…it is annoying to move them but if I ever need 10 pieces of 4”x4” plywood I’m set…

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3272 days

#5 posted 08-08-2011 05:43 AM

I guess it depends on what type of projects you build. I now keep scrap pieces that I previously would throw away. With box building those little scraps can be used for a knob or accents. If you build larger furniture pieces they might not be as useful.

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3023 days

#6 posted 08-08-2011 06:28 AM

You ask a really tough question. For me, it depends on the wood. For example, I don’t want to keep any construction grade lumber at all, but I usually will save pieces that are 3 ft or longer or at least 1/4 sheet for sheet goods. For hardwoods, I will keep most anything at least 12” or longer. In addition to this, I will keep most any piece of wood from most exotics. One wood that I will keep, regardless of size, is old/antique boxwood. Whenever I get the chance, I will pick up old wooden planes made of boxwood, regardless of condition (if the price is cheap enough). I use the boxwood for repairs and restoration of other old wooden planes as well as making tool handles.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View jumbojack's profile


1674 posts in 2588 days

#7 posted 08-08-2011 06:49 AM

I keep just about anything and everything until it gets re purposed. For example small 2×4 off cuts offs are back up for drilling; after a few holes, into the trash. Longer stuff hangs around until a paint stirrer is needed; then into the hopper for removal. Drill press back ups have ended the useful life of many an offcut. I have actually made some pretty useful stuff from wood salvaged from the bin(s). I am however drawing the line at three off cut bins.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View Transition's profile


340 posts in 2508 days

#8 posted 08-08-2011 08:18 AM

I have a trash can into which my 2×4s and other pine boards go. I generally don’t need more than what I can pull out of there. And if so, I can buy a 2×4x8 for $2.50 so why clutter up the shop.

On the other hand, I have a lod of small scraps of chestnut, walnut, oak, maple, etc., that I have a tough time parting with. I swear I’m going to make more pens, bottle stoppers, earings, and a host of other art after I’ve finished with those ten bowl blanks that I’m tripping over… I currently have two overflowing bins. But when I get to this point I usually take the scraps to a local mulching facility, or to someone in the neighborhood who has a wood stove and is looking to heat their home in the coming winter.

I think you have to have a plan. What are you going to do with the scraps? What type of wood and is it inexpensive and easily obtained? Lis has some good numbers. whatever you do you have to stick to the plan and make it second nature.

Speaking of plans, I like the “rule of ten” – organize/clean-up ten things in the shop, before you get to work. The scrap bin could be on the list.

-- Andrew, Orange County, CA -

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3359 days

#9 posted 08-08-2011 02:04 PM

I keep everything but shavings and dust.
Yes, even construction grade stuff and ply.
Small jigs, rigs and fixtures demand odd bits.
Picture frames, boxes and tabletops can sometimes benefit from pretty oddments.
However, if it isn’t repurposed after a length of time and the clutter is overwhelming (it takes a lot to overwhelm me), then a thorough sorting takes place.
By then I can recognize the things I will either not use again or that there are entirely too many and many more of the same are likely to occur, then out they go.
But good hardwood like walnut, butternut, cherry, etc., rarely goes out.
I can always use tiny pieces to laminate a ring or put an unusual piece in an inlay.
Being born in the worst year of the Great Depression has left its mark.


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2831 days

#10 posted 08-08-2011 02:21 PM

It’s really tough for me because I have a small shop. I’ve got only so much space for wood and when it gets more than what I have allowed for it gets chucked. However, what I plan to do about it as quickly as possible is to build a storage shed near the shop. This will solve all of my most pressing problems and will allow me to keep a better organized shop.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 2455 days

#11 posted 08-08-2011 03:46 PM

I can’t imagine tossing stuff. Even my little project has produced almost as much “waste” as is contained in the project itself.

The only upper bound would be storage space, and then I’d start tossing things based on size. Even that little 1/2” wide, foot long piece will end up as shim stock for something.

That’s how I’ve done it in the machine shop so far. Seems to work pretty well.

View TimL's profile


36 posts in 2738 days

#12 posted 08-08-2011 04:08 PM

Scraps are repurposed. My shop helpers hooked me up with this concept. Curly maple makes a wonderful paint stir stick. Luckily they didnt find the lacewood stir sticks. Almost had a meltdown like a toddler. For me the distinction between functional scrap and things that need to be repurposed is when I feel cutting the piece will result in significant chance towards losing fingers. Most of the time for hardwood though I have a small pile to test profiles and test stains on.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3073 days

#13 posted 08-08-2011 05:05 PM

I only toss if it is completely unusable (too many nail holes, ragged broken edges, things of that nature). Hardwoods and exotics can be used as accent pieces, inlay, small boxes, etc. Construction grade can be used as sacrificial fences, test pieces for blade heights, support blocks to prevent tear out, one use jigs, etc. It just kills me to throw a piece of wood out and then find out I needed something that could be sacrified later.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View DamnYankee's profile


3301 posts in 2526 days

#14 posted 08-09-2011 09:16 PM

It would seem my general practice is generally in line with those that have commented. I don’t have a strict rule, or even really a rule of thumb.

As may addiction ranges from carpentry (including theater construction) and woodworking (ranging from furniture to boxes) I seem hard pressed to throw anything away.

If there is any “plan” in place, I maintain about two cut off bins, as they get to overflowing I sort through them and throw the more common types (type of cut off, not necessarily type of wood, though that enters into as well) into the bin we have for our outdoor fire pit. Generally I hold onto my better hardwood pieces pretty close to forever for all the reasons stated above. I hold onto construction lumber longer if its longer/larger and/or a good clean piece.

Sometimes I’ve been know to clean up my cut-offs – meaing I run them through the table saw to clean up edges and shape.

The big “clean up” always seems to occur when the I can so much as spit into the cut off bins.

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View Tim Kindrick's profile

Tim Kindrick

369 posts in 2518 days

#15 posted 08-10-2011 03:47 AM

I think Greg said it best!!! BUT Bently has a great point also!!!!!! I keep anything that I think might be useful….. by “useful” my rule is…. if it can be turned into a knob, drawer pulls or, in the case of exotics, dowels then I keep it!!! I can’t always find a piece when I know that I’ve kept it but it’s still better than automatically driving to the nearest supplier(90 miles away) for every little piece.

-- I have metal in my neck but wood in my blood!!

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