What to do with Scrap Lumber?

Lumber is expensive. That’s why it is important to reduce waste and use as much of each board as possible. Often, at the end of a project, you may find yourself looking for ways to utilize scrap pieces.  But finding those projects that utilize scraps can be somewhat of a challenge.  Here are five tips to help you manage the scraps in your shop:

Organization

The first step for handling scrap wood is organization.  An organized shop promotes an efficient and safe working environment.

You’ll want to have some sort of scrap bin to store your lumber scraps.  This bin should also have different sections, allowing you to separate scraps by size and possibly even species.  This makes finding specific pieces of scrap much simpler and faster.

Set a Size Limit

Typically, woodworkers will save even the smallest scraps, even if they don’t know if they’ll ever use them.  But if we look at this honestly, some scrap wood only has one use: firewood.  How do you know what scraps are too small to save? Set a size limit.

This size limit may be the logical size for use in future projects.  But I suggest using a minimum size limit based on how safely that scrap can be machined on your equipment.  If the piece of scrap wood is too small to safely manufacture, it goes to the burn bin.  The little money lost from discarding that piece of wood is a lot less than a medical bill for a future injury.  Take a good look at your equipment and determine the smallest size board that you can safely manufacture.  Check out our blog, “General Safety Tips,” as a reminder of some safety protocols.

Set up Pieces

Using scraps as set up pieces is often overlooked.  Just about every project has joinery, and just about every joint uses a setup piece to make sure it is set up correctly before making the cut on the finished pieces.  Having a setup piece is super helpful even for the simplest joints like pocket holes.

Many woodworkers will cut an extra piece when they rough cut to use as a setup piece.  But consider going to your scrap bin first.  After all, it doesn’t need to look pretty or even be the same species, it just needs to be the size of the other pieces.  Yes, this might mean you’ll waste that piece of wood, but that extra setup piece would have been going to that scrap bin anyway.

Woodworker measuring with scrap wood

Finished Wood Projects

The most obvious use for pieces of scrap wood is for future woodworking projects.  Ideally, this would be just one or two parts for a wood project, but sometimes you decide to make something just to get rid of scraps.  Here are some project ideas for your scrap wood projects:

The most iconic scrap project is cutting boards.  These easy DIYs can use scraps of different sizes and different species.  They are quick to make and generally easy to sell, which makes them the perfect project for using scraps.

Cutting boards aren’t the only great kitchen scrap wood project.  Coasters, napkin rings, napkin holders, drying racks, and knife blocks are also good options.  There are plenty of useful kitchen tools that can be made out of your wood scraps.

Your office is another place to find some inspiration.  Business card holders, paperweights, and boxes for paperclips, pens, and pencils are all great DIY projects.

Scraps can also make beautiful wall hangings or art pieces.  Some woodworkers have even made a shop wood wall with their miscellaneous scraps.  It doesn’t take much to make a statement piece.

Another great use for scraps is games.  Checkerboards are super easy, and you can even make the pieces too.  Tic-tac-toe boards, triangle peg games, and cribbage boards are a few more ideas.

Not sure what to charge for these scrap wood projects?  Check out our blog, “How to Start a Successful Woodworking Business.”

Firewood Bundles

Firewood bundles are the simplest option for those small scraps that are too little to save for future projects.  If you have a place to burn them yourself, wrap up or box the scraps and pull them out as needed.  If you don’t have a place to burn them, you can give them away or even try selling them to neighbors or on selling platforms like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Craigslist.

Final Thoughts

With lumber prices incredibly high, utilizing your scrap wood in new projects is a smart way to get the most out of your investment.  With these tips, you can approach using your scrap lumber with a well thought out and smart plan.

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