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Been doing a lot of woodworking recently and have many bags of sawdust and wood shavings. I haven't the facility to compress them into the pellets I get from my local woodyard which are useful for my woodburner, but am reluctant to take it all to the local tip.

Tried the local garages, but they seem to already have their own supply for absorbing oil and water spilled.

So, question is - what do other woodworkers do with the sawdust and shavings they produce, in the way of 'recycling'?

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  • 16
    Might get more ideas at Woodworking.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 16 at 12:51
  • 2
    Did you try to give the stuff to your "local woodyard"?
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 16 at 13:31
  • 2
    No, but since they give the 'pellets' to me free, I reckon I'm doing them a favour getting shut of them. Especially in the Summer!
    – Tim
    Jul 16 at 14:20
  • 10
    @MiG Please be VERY CAREFUL if you give these to anyone to use with animals. A lot of lumber is treated with things that shouldn't come into contact with animals (who often deliberately or accidentally eat some of their bedding), and some species of wood are toxic to different animals, e.g. red maple should NEVER be used with horses. Jul 18 at 13:19
  • 4
    Whatever you end up doing with the bulk of it, keep a small jar of it for later. Sawdust + wood glue = DIY wood filler. Likely a better color match than the store-bought stuff too.
    – bta
    Jul 18 at 20:49

9 Answers 9

25

Easiest is to use it for mulching of gardens/lawns.

If lucky your neighbours will bake cookies for you.

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  • 5
    I give away many yards of shavings & horse poop for exactly this and your shavings are finer usually and compost faster +
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 16 at 14:18
  • 4
    Same here but no one wants the cat poop.+
    – JACK
    Jul 16 at 15:38
  • @jack my dog thinks that is kitty Roca kinda like almond roca for humans , other than that I agree
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 17 at 2:23
  • 2
    In addition to this answer, sawdust is also excelent at protecting seeds of freshly sowed grass from birds. Most birds will have a hard time telling the sawdust from seeds and will give up. Jul 18 at 7:36
  • 2
    @Tim Contact your local parks or highway department. They typically have a lot of land to maintain and minimal budgets, and they might welcome a bulk donation of mulch. Your local highway patrol office might also be able to use it for cleaning up oil or animal blood after roadway accidents.
    – bta
    Jul 18 at 20:55
22

For me:

  • Sawdust gets scattered on the lawn.
  • Shavings gets mixed with left over candle wax, dryer lint, and stuffed into old paper towel/toilet paper roll tubes (cut about 2" long) and turned into fire starter briquets. I'll also use shavings as kindling.
  • Scrap wood that is not usable in a future project goes into the fire pit.
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  • 4
    As long as it's not from treated lumber or plywood/chipboard, the fire starter thing is great. Good reuse of dryer lint and TP/towel tubes too! (Treated lumber can produce toxic fumes when burned)
    – Doktor J
    Jul 18 at 20:34
  • 2
    Correct, never with treated materials Jul 18 at 21:03
  • But dryer lint is bound to contain a lot of plastic if you wear synthetic clothes. Maybe you don't...
    – Nobody
    Jul 19 at 9:38
19

If the sawdust is not from treated lumber and free of trash or contaminates, it's perfect for composting. Many people compost their food scraps, but many people don't know that adding carbon-rich biomass to their compost piles significantly improves the quality of the compost, reduces the smell, significantly reduces the time it takes to biodegrade, and boosts the nutrient value if you put the compost back in your garden.

I do enough composting that my own wood shop doesn't supply enough sawdust, I have to get more from a local sawmill.

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  • 3
    Other half won't have a composter. Next question, how to convince..?
    – Tim
    Jul 18 at 8:07
  • 7
    +1 for "not from treated lumber".
    – Carl
    Jul 18 at 10:41
  • 6
    and not from plywood or chipboard, unless you're sure which glue was used
    – CSM
    Jul 18 at 12:22
  • 1
    @CSM Don't know if this study is credible, but composting plywood sawdust should have a "significant decrease in toxicity by day 180", don't know how much "significant" is or how long it needs to be composted for it to be completely safe though Jul 19 at 8:30
  • 1
    This is trickier than the answer makes it out to be. You have to be very careful with carbon to nitrogen ratios when adding sawdust to compost. Very little sawdust can cause a big swing in C:N and cause nitrogen starvation that essentially grinds decomposition to a halt. I find that my shop produces WAY TOO MANY shavings to be useful for household compost. I give mine to a community composting program who has the capacity and expertise to use my shavings.
    – user278411
    Jul 19 at 21:14
13

Are these shavings and sawdust from particle board, manufactured or glued woods like plywood/customwood/MDF, from ground-treated timber or from painted timber?

If any of this is true then the output is no use for recycling in any form so pack it into the waste stream.

If you only work on "dirty" woods like this occasionally, then consider emptying your dust systems before and after, to separate the contaminated dust from reusable dust.

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  • I know this doesn't give the question in a positive outcome, but does address the opposite side, so is more than a comment.
    – Criggie
    Jul 17 at 4:48
  • 2
    Good point - I should have said oak and pine.
    – Tim
    Jul 17 at 8:20
  • 2
    Here the municipal waste recycling site collects treated/painted wood and particleboard separately from clean wood. The latter gets composted with the garden waste; the former, I suspect, is burnt in a waste-to-energy facility.
    – Chris H
    Jul 18 at 5:43
  • 2
    FWIW our local recycling center takes all forms of timber in a single bin. No idea whether it gets sorted, recycled or just burnt :-(
    – Carl
    Jul 18 at 10:42
5

If you enjoy camping or having outdoor fires (or already have a small business that sells things) you can always make them into fire starters!

I haven't tried this one exactly (so you might want to read up on them) but this is the kind of thing I'm talking about: https://www.instructables.com/Sawdust-Firestarters/

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3

For particularly fragrant woods, grab a cupful and put them in your house. The aroma can be very pleasant.

Macrocarpa and Sandalwood are delicious, and fresh Pine smells wonderful. The smell of pine drops off quickly in strength though macrocarpa can last for months.

Stir the bowl-full occasionally to expose other surfaces to the air - I guess this is like pot-pourri from the `80s but without the flowers.

Do remember it's a fire hazard so common sense and keep away from ignition sources.

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  • Only oak and pine. Ironic - pot-pourri, literal translation - rotten jar!
    – Tim
    Jul 18 at 8:15
3

Lots of good suggestions for the dust and shavings and I have one not listed for the scraps.

If you have independent (locally owned) paint stores or hardware stores that do a lot of transparent stain matches, they would love to have the scraps.

In my store, we use them to match transparent stains. It's often the homeowner doesn't have the wood they are going to be staining for us to match on. When you have the same species of wood to match on, you can be much more accurate in the match.

3

I use our sawdust in a composting toilet in our woodland.

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HI I use my sawdust for soaking up oil spills in the carport as I also do automotive at home.

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  • For many years that's exactly what I did. Now, I don't mechanic any more though.
    – Tim
    Jul 22 at 6:27

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