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How much waste is acceptable?

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  • How much waste is acceptable?

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ID:	832989Who has ever questioned the amount of scrap is created when making a project?
    Recently I purchased 29bf @ $4.75/bf of 1 1/2” thick x 7” wide x 14’ long Ambrosia Maple to make tapered legs for Tiny Tables. I’ve always been aware that there was a lot of scrap wood created making tapered legs but I guess I’ve never gone to the trouble to bundle up the scrap beside the cut out legs. Here is what my 29bf of wood looks like. The pile of scrap in the clear plastic bucket is the scrap, the pile of squares are 7 sets of legs and the 2 boards on the right are going to be used for a table top. The 2 boards would have been 1 more set of legs but a really big knot and rotten spot made that section of board too short for legs. It’s hard to tell what the ratio of usable wood to scrap is but by weight I’d say it was 60% scrap to 40% usable wood.
    If this was a legitimate business venture it would surely fail.
    Last edited by capncarl; 03-24-2018, 07:15 PM.

  • #2
    I can't see the picture.


    • #3
      I guess it would have to depend on your project and of course the style you are looking to execute. Obviously, something like tapered legs, beveled panels, or turning is going to produce a lot more scrap than square legs, flat panels, and squared edges. There is simply no way to avoid this, IMO.

      For example, I have a pretty decent sized library with shelves on all available walls of a roughly 14 x 20 ft. room, add to that the wife's cookbook room which is approx 10 x 9 with windows on two walls. That was a lot of 1 x 10 x 8 ft pine, and for window seats in both rooms a lot of edge glue-ups. (I don't like plywood because it's too heavy and the edges are always a challenge.) So, how much scrap did I get out of all of this? Roughly one lawn-bag of sawdust and a small box of end cuts that I keep for other little projects.

      But then take into account the raised panels for finishing off all the outside exposed sides of the book cases (those sides that border window and door ways). That produced about 40 wedge like strips, each close to four feet long. Nice if I could do something with those, but other than cutting them up into some future decorative wedge-like configurations, they're worthless. I did bundle them together and they sit in my scrap bin... but will they ever find a use?

      As a retired technical illustrator, I think I'm pretty good at laying things out with my graphics software, and thus I can pretty much plan to do so in a manner that minimizes waste... as long as everything is straight edged or otherwise shaped to take up every linear inch possible. But let's face it... if you're going to cut circles, curves, tapers, etc.... well let's just say it's like the old "can't fit a square peg in a round hole".... there's going to be excess material, "waste" if you prefer to call it that.

      I think the bottom line on "waste" is simply a matter of consideration.... your particular style will produce excess material, it's a necessity. Do you criticize Gutzon Borglum for all the scrap rock and stone he had after carving Mt. Rushmore? I don't think so.

      Last edited by cwsmith; 03-24-2018, 07:49 PM.
      Think it Through Before You Do!


      • #4
        If I'm using rough lumber (and we're not talking about the wastage from jointing and planing), I'd estimate at least 1/4 to 1/3 of the wood goes to scrap. Usually the board isn't wide enough to get one more piece or not long enough to get one more piece or you have to work around a defect. I have not been able to escape it unless I want to redesign my project to use different sized pieces of wood.

        For your tapered legs, I'm wondering if you could get 2 legs from a skinnier board by cutting out one tapered leg then flipping the offcut board end to end to cut the other taper. Maybe you're already doing this rather than cutting legs out of square stock.


        • #5
          I don't know if you turn pens or not, but in the pen turning world, the most worthless cut-off knots, gnarly or punky wood (3/4 x 3/4 by 5 1/2 inch) turn out to be the most expensive pieces of wood if bought from those who sell to pen turners and sell for $5 to $7.50 each. (Plain straight pieces sell for $2.00 - $4.00). Pieces with live edges are cut lengthwise to allow half to be wood and half cast resin. These 3/4 x 3/4 by 5 1/2 inch blanks sell for $12 to $20. Cross cut pieces and mitered crosscuts (3/4 x 3/4 by 5 1/2 inch) sell from $2.50 to $5.00 depending on the uniqueness of the grain.

          AS to straight uneventful grain pen blanks, several people on the IAP (Pen turning forum) work in training under privileged and handicapped people. Several people donate their uneventful wood cut into blanks to these folks just for training. Even when a newbie comes on and asks about getting started, several people donate a couple of dozen blanks to help get them started. (Bear in mind, one very helpful condition is to label each blank with the kind of wood it is, either with a magic marker or label. IF they are all the same wood, just note it on the box or in communication.

          Looks like you have money on your hand that you don't realize!

          This is one with live edges and cast resin:

          This link is to a forum mostly with exotic blanks but you can get an idea:

          Last edited by leehljp; 03-25-2018, 11:57 AM.
          Hank Lee

          Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


          • #6
            Thanks for the suggestions...... I started this thread with the intention of getting more discussion going, kinda like some of my favorite boating forums that start out like” how to fix a crack in my boat windshield” and goes on for several pages and ends up in a heated discussion on which is the best bait for squid!

            Scrap accumulated in the shop seems to always get brought up anytime we have discussions on shop layout, cabinets etc. so regardless what you do in the shop there is some waste materials involved. When looking at my lumber storage, my board racks are probably 1/4 full of cut off pieces that I can’t bear to throw out and am holding onto just in case I can find a use for them later!

            When I build a large dining room size table I figure my scrap is around 10% of the weight of the table while the scrap created on a tiny table is closer to 50 to 60% of the weight of the table. One day just for kicks I’ll weight it to see.

            My major scrap is crated when I cut the taper on my tiny table legs. They are 25” long x 1 1/2” x 1 1/2” with the taper starting 4” down on the leg, tapering down to 5/8” thus they can’t be cut in pairs. I usually have to glue up 3/4” boards to get leg stock since my sources don’t have 1 1/2” thick stock unless it has extremely nice characters...... then you have to gasp for breath when you look at the price. Getting legs out of glued up 3/4” presents additional waste problems because I need about a 6 1/2” board to get 4 legs out of a cut. So... a 6” board that measures 5 1/2” looses me a leg and adds to the waste bin while an 8” board measuring 7 1/2” might give me an extra leg it doesn’t allow for saw blade thickness and forces me to reduce my leg size. That is not a real problem since I plane all the legs down to 1 3/8”, but it is not unusual to have a knot or something wrong and loose one leg out of the 5. I even changed my leg tapering process from a sled jig on my table saw to a sled jig on my band saw. I like the band saw taper jig, it doesn’t cut quite as smooth as the table saw but is a lot safer and the change over steps are quicker and require no walking around the outfeed table after each cut.

            i do save every piece that I can for possible pen turning or doll and bird houses. I’ve even tried glueing up the scrap pieces for various projects but boy what a mess when you try to glue up tapered boards.



            • #7
              I recently made a mantle for a friend from a hunk of Wenge that was just a mess, but beautiful. Had to start with a sled and a trip to place with a huge drum sander to get one decent surface on it. Lost almost 20% just getting it flat. Then lots of resawing and lot of specific cuts to get the nicest parts of the grain. I doubt we had even 50% in the finished piece.

              I have lots of scraps. I have a hard time letting them go. I do use them here and there. A couple times my brother and I have had a competition to build something starting from a scrap and have as little left as possible.


              • #8
                I guess any project I do that is not 100% scrap is a good one! I use every piece of scrap that I can, but make myself get rid of small and really irregular shapes pieces due to the small size of my shop. It takes a lot of planning to minimize it, but I worry a lot less when I'm using pine verses hardwood.
                "I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in."-Kenny Rogers


                • #9
                  Originally posted by capncarl View Post
                  and goes on for several pages and ends up in a heated discussion on which is the best bait for squid!
                  What is the best bait for squid? Is it squid?

                  I kept a tall cardboard box in my shop for hardwood scrap. I usually chucked pieces that were less than 1 1/2" wide or too short to safely run through my jointer/planer. We also had a firepit. When my wife wanted to toast smores with the kids, it gave me a good opportunity to empty the box. Once I knew we'd be moving, it got a lot easier to fill that box. Before the move I would on occasion rifle through the box if I needed just the right piece for something, but it didn't happen too often.


                  • #10
                    If those legs had been turned, the "waste" would have been just shavings and dust, so I'd say it's acceptable. When I have cutoffs from tapered legs, I give them to a friend that installs hardwood floors to use as wedges. If the waste was shavings and dust, it goes into gardens as compost material, so no waste.
                    Jim Frye
                    The Nut in the Cellar.


                    • #11
                      These are tapered legs, 1 1/4” x 1 1/4” x 25”, tapering to 5/8”, cut on 2 sides. It would be nice if I could find boards 1 1/2” thick but the sources I have rarely have anything but 1” rough cut that I slice into 1 3/8” x 25”, plane then glue up into leg blanks. It seems that I always have an odd piece of waste wood after each slice. Then there is the 2 wedges created. The shavings from the plane and saw do go to the garden compost pile, but it still looks like money to me.


                      • #12
                        Looks like a lot of shot glass shelves in there if you make a shot glass cabinet or 10. Looks like there might be a lot of door frames for the same cabinets as well.


                        • #13
                          My brother and I have had scrap competitions where we pick a board and build smaller and smaller things until there's no scrap left.


                          • #14
                            Most of the scrap is from roughing out the legs. 1 1/2”x 1 1/2” x 25” , milled down to 1 1/4” x 1 /14” creating 2 nice paint stirrers. Then 2 sides tapered 20”” down to 5/8””, creating 2 long wedges. Not much good for anything. Not even enough for a pen blank. I don’t throw them out because someday I might come up with a use for them.
                            Last edited by capncarl; 06-05-2018, 11:21 AM. Reason: Auto correct was wrong


                            • #15
                              Do you have a lathe? Because those look like pens waiting to happen to me...
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