Professionals and Amateurs Together

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What do you do with your sawdust?—Hal Liberty


Bill Taylor replies: What seems like a good title for a woodworkers book can be a problem for the suburban woodworker. Here are a couple of thoughts that may help. I also heat a shop with a wood stove. Sadly my wood is ash from all of my dead ash trees from the ash borer.

I do use planer and jointer shavings to start my morning fire. A little smoky but holds pretty well to get the larger stuff burning. I avoid the sawdust because air does not get into the material to burn. I only use shavings in a paper bag to start a fire once I have things toasty.

I have thought of using my shavings/dust also around the base of my blueberry bushes. They have very shallow roots and the plant suffers in a dry spell. Apparently pine needles are really good for blueberries by raising the acidity level of the soils and holding water. While wood dust and shavings will hold moisture I don’t know about the nutritional value to the blueberry plant.

Another thing is donating the shavings to a horse owner. A horse will make you cash poor quick and they may find value in your shavings.

Bagging the dust and shavings for curbside pickup is just an arduous task, agreed?

Garrett Hack replies: I use it as bedding for my animals, then compost it in piles on my fields. A thick layer around blueberry and raspberry bushes keeps down the weeds and keeps in the moisture. I wouldn’t use much on the garden without composting it with a source of nitrogen. You could always spread it in the forest too.

Richard Oedel replies: I try to separate sawdust to keep the walnut dust out of it. It turns out that Walnut dust is an irritant to many, an allergen to some, a mild herbicide (someone told me it was good for killing the weeds between bricks in a sidewalk) and a toxin that is especially bad for horse bedding since is absorbed through their hooves. Also avoid the Rosewood family (Dahlbergia) since it also has an ability to severely sensitize humans to its dust and oils.

But in the ordinary course of business, I use softwood sawdust as bedding for my blueberries and other acid loving bushes, but only after it breaks down for a year or so. And since Mahogany and Teak don’t break down much in the weather we have here, they also could be kept separate.

So, depending on what you are using for wood, you might be able to sell some to local nurseries or to a local horse farm. If you have a wood stove, you can put some sawdust on newspaper (if you still have those), roll it tight and use it as a log in the stove. Never put sawdust directly into a stove.

Steve Colello replies: I have a whole shop central dust collection system with four bags. My work mainly uses rough cut lumber so I do a lot of jointing and planning which produces a lot of wood dust and shavings. I found a very good solution to disposing it all.

I empty my bags into a plastic 55 gallon drum liner and take it to our local waste transfer station. The town is very grateful and uses the shavings at the transfer station to contain spills and the Department of Public Works maintenance shop uses it as well for spills. Works for everyone. Maybe your town would like the same.

Tags: Dust Collection, Wood