There’s money in that scrap box

In his post last week, Dan put out a call to other members to see what we do with our scraps. I generate enough scraps each year for kindling for my house and my neighbor’s, but before anything makes it into the kindling box, it has to be really small and useless. I like to squeeze as much additional money as I can out of my scraps. With the price of lumber these days, a 1 foot chunk of 8/4 kiln dried cherry scrap is like a $10 bill lying around. I’d rather save that and make something out of it, and heat my house with a piece of split firewood that costs under a dollar instead.

Reminds me of a story: Do you know a true Vermonter can stay warm all winter on one piece of firewood? Go outside, get a piece of firewood, bring it into the house, take it upstairs, open the window, and throw it outside. Then go downstairs, go outside, pick up the piece of firewood, bring it in the house, take it upstairs, open the window, and throw it outside again. Then go downstairs, back outside, and repeat until you are warm. Keep doing that to stay warm…

But I digress. Back to scraps…

What to do with all those leftover end cuts from boards that just pile up around the shop? In ’94, I started carving spoons from cherry scraps. Sometimes the shape of the handles were dictated by the piece of scrap, and whatever flaws – knots, cracks – had to be worked around. Then I started taking all the really short pieces of scraps and gluing them together to make spatulas for cooking. I use the woods that are safe for contact with food (cherry, maple, ash) for the blade portion, and all kinds of other woods for the handles, including unusual tree prunings like lilac, mulberry, dogwood, rhododendron, etc. Making them has served as a nice way to take a break from the more intensive large pieces I build, and has also been like a quick study in sculptural form. You can see some other examples of them here.

And then there are those really unusual shaped scraps, like Dan talked about that I just can’t seem to get rid of. I have a few that are almost 20 years old, that I still have, and stare at once in a while. I always think about making something with them at some point, but then get too busy, and there they sit, waiting to be contemplated some more.

I also keep a box in the shop to save the best offcuts for kids blocks. At this point, all of my friends with little kids have received a set of hardwood scrap blocks. My nephews were the first kids to get a set of my blocks. Then last year, for my youngest nephew’s 7th birthday, I took these large 4″ thick scrap poplar chunks from a dining table I had just finished, and made a set of all kinds of ramps and bridges for his cars. Fun with the bandsaw! The portions that were cut out from under the bridges were then cut out again to make garages. I got on a roll, and ended up filling a pretty big box for him. Below is a photo – click to enlarge.

Custom toy bridge orders gladly accepted.


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