Zero Waste Workshop?
@Lataxe deserves credit for this one, so I’m quoting him:
“When I am Supremo, anyone found gabbling into a prattle box whilst ignoring those around them, or failing to cycle at least 27 miles a day in a considerate manner, will be sent to the landfills to dig out all that valuable stuff they threw out 20 years ago. Why waste good human labour by sending them to the despatching-wall, eh?”
I think I will have to find a shovel…
I would love to make my workshop a zero waste space, and am interested in ideas you might have or have used yourselves to increase sustainability, whilst avoiding spousal accusations of ‘hoarding’ wood.
So far I have come up with:
Composting sawdust – I separate treated and untreated wood waste, cleaning the shop between changes of material so that I can compost the better stuff after it has been used for chicken bedding.
Wood turning – you can make lots of things out of small pieces.
Burning – really doesn’t count but I think it is better to burn pieces to thin to turn rather than setting them in plastic to turn them – you just make plastic waste that way.
Using only recycled rags (hardly dramatic)
LED lighting to reduce power use.
Also, what do you think is an acceptable level of wastage? In my shop, I try really hard to buy only just the right amount of lumber and will incorporate imperfections, but this is not a option I think for some finer woodworkers – What sort of scrap percentage do you feel is reasonable (Sawdust excluded…)
Just for fun, here is a pic of a scrap project – this is a small unicorn made from a piece of ash left over from another project. About 20mm thick. It’s having ‘hooves’ added after the fact as the Artistic Director thought it needed walnut hooves and muzzle, so the poor thing is strapped to the table saw and about to meet it’s fate.
Char is wood burned in a 55-gallon drum until it becomes a crumbly charcoal to be added to topsoil to make a super soil. Brazilian native Americans have done this (not with 55-gallon drums) for who knows how long. It made otherwise leached out jungle soils into productive soils, and not only adds nutrients but generates beneficial microbes. So, don't burn scraps - make char for your garden.
I'd be very interested in this char-making, as the ladywife is an avid gardener, also intent on doing the gardening in a manner that encourages the diversity.
At present my shavings & sawdust bags are emptied on to a smallish patch of ground that's well below the level of the rest of the garden. The large dip also receives minced-up stuff from the hedges, shrubs and other things growing beyond their allotted space. The vacuum cleaner muck goes in there too (90% dog hair & dust).
It does eventually break down .... and the nettles & docks and brambles grow in there (and how!) if allowed. But it doesn't compost in the normal fashion. Perhaps this charring will improve the rot-pace though?
Lataxe, also a fan of fires and the watching thereof.
The composting process/breakdown will be greatly accelerated by the addition of some nitrogen-containing material. In my garden I use horse manure. Your mixture as you describe it is heavy on straight carbon material, which is indeed slow to break down, as the microbes that feed on it need nitrogen as well as carbon.
The char is also referred to as bio-char. It is a relatively stable form of carbon, and has a huge amount of surface area for its overall amount. You should be able to find ways to make it on-line. It can be added directly to the garden soil; no composting required.
Horse manure is freely available here, as there are many who retire out to West Wales from a former life in Busyville to relax upon a horse, in a large field of vegetables they grow themselves or some other smallholding-type place. We often meet a horsey lady in Fforest Brechfa who has offered us tons of her horse product. Char, horse-dooty and minced hedge clippings .....
When we moved to this house, three years ago, the large gardens needed renovating. The soil was a mix of slate and mudstone with clay, only an inch of proper soil on top. We bought around 30 cubic metres of bark from the local sawmill, at 3 bags a time, to spread about as we dug out the nettles and weeds. It's transformed the soil, which is now alive with worms, insects and even the newly arrived moles. This bark, though, used to cost £80 a cubic meter but now costs £150!
Char & horse-poo enriched hedge clippings it will be then. :-)
Over the years, I've learnt to make more and more use of the chunks of wood going into the scrap basket, as I make this or that particular item. Months or even years later, chunks are retrieved from the ex-basket loads to make things like knobs & handles, Greene & Greene cloud-lift brackets and similar small things.
Mind, I now have a box of wooden knobs and handles that sit about for years.....
Just lately I've acquired that wunnerful Nova Voyager drill press, along with a circle cutter and now some dowel making cutters. Already I have lots of shop-made 8mm & 10mm diameter dowels of various hardwoods, which will go into the furniture in place of the shop-bought dowels I've used until now.
I'd like to figure out a way to make my own hardwood dominoes too. It's a bit dicey doing so with a router table & round-over cutter on those short little scrap-chunks, though.
Cut out circles from the drill press, especially the thicker ones, are good fodder for making feet, amongst other things. The central drill bit of the circle cutter leaves the attaching screw 'ole and the thick disc can be chiselled & rasped into various shapes.
One may also make wooden washers, which are quite useful in jigs of various kinds. I've just made two hold downs for the drill press fence using thick wooden washers and sections of the steel bar from an F-clamp that crumbled i' the grasping parts.
Small bits of plywood are still a problem to find a use for, though. I have a pile of them that always seem 5mm too short to make that next box bottom .......
Lataxe, too mean to throw stuff out.
I used to have very little waste from the woodshop. Still not much. I use the planer shavings as mulch for the paths in my garden, with a layer of cardboard under it. Besides being comfortable to kneel on, and not muddy, it keeps the weeds from growing. In the beds, I use rotted sawdust over a couple layers of newspaper. Both moderate the loss of water in dry spells in the summer, and can help plants that suffer in our southern Tennessee heat. When planting seeds in that weather, I put a thin layer of fresh sawdust over the seed row, to reflect the sunlight and help the dirt to stay moist between waterings. My house and several others here in our valley have composting toilets, which do best when high carbon material (i.e., sawdust) is added along with the human manure, to provide the correct balance of materials for easy breakdown. (Warning: walnut sawdust is toxic to a wide variety of other plants, including many garden plants. Keep it separate if you plan to mulch with sawdust/shavings. Also treated lumber sawdust.)
For the 40 or so years that my partner (now retired) and I heated with wood, scrap from the shop was used for kindling, and also for the wood cookstove that liked small pieces of wood. When my wife's smoke sensitivities ratcheted up about 5 years ago, we installed a mini-split heat pump, which also helped with her mold allergies from the summer humidity. I have a neighbor who sells firewood; he will take all the long thin strips of scrap I generate, but can't use the chunks (that used to feed the wood cookstove.) I now put them in a land fill, which is better than burning things unnecessarily and furthering climate change. Fortunately it's not much volume. I have a woodstove in the shop, but the building is passive solar, earth bermed, (think walk in basement with a wall of windows facing south, without a house on top) so needs almost no heat in the winter. I do save a box or two of scrap in the fall in case I need it.
The wood ashes, with a bit of char, get spread thinly in my garden, or on my compost pile to eventually end up in the garden.
Plywood scraps are always in short supply, as I use very little plywood. So they are saved and used for jigs, clamping pads, etc.
So far all my rags are recycled from other uses.
I am able to recycle glass, metals, cardboard, paper, and some plastic. What little doesn't fit those categories gets dumpstered. Not much except blister packages and used finishing rags.
I haven't generated many uses for small scraps, but do save anything that can go thru the planer (14" min) if it is not all defects. The disks that Lataxe makes with a hole saw can also be used as wheels for children's toys. I did that many years ago to make a flat-bed truck for my grandson. I should have bored out the 1/4" center hole to a larger size, as it wasn't very long before he had broken one of the 1/4" axles. Sigh!
If it is for environmental reasons, wood waste would be my last concern on the list. Personally I burn small leftovers and mulch shavings from turning and planing, in either case, the wood would have been recycled by nature if it were still in the forest. The challenge for zero waste in the workshop is what to do with spent sandpaper, glue bottles and steel cans for finishes and solvents, new tools packaging waste, rags and paint brushes, broken tools, worn bandsaw blades, etc. For that I have no path to zero waste.
Modern life and its packaging! A serious problem on many fronts. The real answer would be to make various kinds of damaging and excess packaging illegal - but that would interfere with the freedumb of Big Business to offload the costs of their pollution on to "someone else".
In the county of Ceredigion wherein I abide, there is a very well developed recycling arrangement in which our rubbish (trash) is separated by we householders into various categories, which are all collected as such and recycled in various ways. They've developed a way of separating out all sorts of reusable stuff from a more generalised collection of rubbish containing virtually every kind of packaging, for example. Only a very small percentage ends up in a landfill or an incinerator.
But a better solution would be to stop the retailers from adding a load of spurious packaging to everything in the first place, especially of the plastic stuff that isn't easily reused. Some retailers are at least trying. Three of the on-line tool sellers I buy from use corn-based "polystyrene" beads with paper and cardboard of an easily re-usable kind (without added plastic reinforcers).
Blister packs and similar packaging is the worst offender. And yet any government worth the name could ban problem plastic packaging types tomorrow, as there are many alternatives just as good or better. And sometimes no need for such excessive packaging at all.
Lataxe, still a dirty little consumer, mind.
I will think about this one for a while. One tangential thought I had is compact discs. In the early 1990s, the music industry was working hard to get rid of the wasteful "cardboard packaging" they came in. Took a while but eventually happened. If we as woodworkers wrote in en mass and demanded more environmentally friendly packaging (cardboard over plastic, etc) we might be able to change things.
One thing I would love to do is a hydronic heating. Using an outside wood furnace and a radiator and fan set-up. Using sawdust, wood chips and paper to make wood briquetts. Not zero waste but zero wood waste. Why not just use a wood burning stove? Requires a wee bit of extra space for safety which I don't have. Andnthe whole open flame ina room full of flammable things.
There's now a lot of evidence that wood burning stoves cause some of the worst pollution of the kind injurious to human (and other creature) health. Outdoor atmospheres can be severely polluted with lung-damaging particulates if the number of wood burning stoves per acre goes above a certain limit, much lower than you might assume.
But the worst effects are from the individual stove indoors. Unless the stove is 100% sealed from the indoor airspace, which is not really possible, then concentrated amounts of the invisible but highly damaging particulates get in to the householder's lungs in no time.
Wood burners have become a problem in some cities because they've become fashionable. In addition, the market for wood to burn sees a lot of unfit fuel - wet wood, wood full of tars and other not-good-for-heating stoves stuff. New city stove users have no idea of the dangers of such stuff so buy it because its inexpensive compared to properly prepared wood stove fuel.
Wood stoves are also highly inefficient, in that 90-summick percent of their heat is vented up a chimney or otherwise to the outside as the flames draw in cold air, through the house, and push the warm air out somewhere else.
Personally I've adopted ground source heating (vertical boreholes) and solar panels. I'd like a windmill too but there isn't enough wind-push down in the valley here. What's needed is a more efficient windmill than the three blades on a pole kind.
Totally with you on the ground source heat pumps. Sadly the boss hates them. They also use electricity which is in short supply for the time being. Future yes, present - well maybe.
Log burners are extremely efficient - you can get upwards of 80% efficiency. Mine will need cleaning out once every week or two with daily use, though we don't usually need it in daytime (warmer climate)
There was a time when due to a persistent temperature inversion problem (nearby hills...) we would get smog, but that is a thing of the past - open fires (which are about 20% efficient) are banned and you can only have a log burner if it's an ultra-low-emission-burner. No outdoor fires in Winter either, and none at all unless you live on more than 5 acres. Probably 1/3 of houses have at least one log burner and the air is clean and sweet.
I have one of these: https://www.hotspotinstallations.co.nz/product/12/Woodsman-Serene-Ultra-Low-Emission-Burner-ULEB which is fugly but warms an enormous space efficiently.
You hit on many of the reasons I haven't done this yet. I live in a densely populated area. Rhere are future plans to live in a much less populated area. Its an idea on how to get the full value of the lumber I buy. My dream heat would be radiant floor heat. But thats down the road.... when I build my dream shop.
Back to the main topic.
A scull about Fine Woodworking turns up quite a few things that can be done with offcuts. Carving decorative things is one-such pursuit. Although I'm personally not one for doodwats and thingymajigs, these objects took my fancy:
I do sometimes have a large thick chunk off the end of a Big Plank and such carvings seem the ideal thing to do with them. I need to improve my poor carving skills. Yes, I do.
I just remembered that I also give away my small pieces of special wood to a friend who is a knife maker. He can use pretty small pieces for handles, and off-cuts become display stands for the knives. In turn, he is alway happy to give me a hand if I need it, now that my partner has retired and moved away.
Woodsmoke?...! Since the dawn of man we've huddled up next to the fire. If in 40,000 or 100,000 or 5 million years ,depending on where you count from, humanbeings haven't developed a tolerance for woodsmoke we're a doomed species and should just throw in the towel!
The regulators make a big deal about heating with wood because someone can't stand the fact that someone is getting something for free and because they are absolutely powerless against big oil,big coal. They're hired to make rules so they make gratuitous rules. Or bully cigarette smokers.
The only thing that was free in the grocery store was that they gave you a bag but now they pass rules that charge you for the bag! This of course will save the world ! So now people carry their own filthy bags that they keep in the trunk of the car or the backseat with the dog into where all the food is keep , this is better right?.....while Japan dumps all that Fukushima water into the Pacific Gyre! By the way,to quote Tim Robbins,the only object made by man that doesn't look out of place in nature is a brown paper bag!
Used to be you went to the hardware store to buy something -- a hacksaw blade maybe, and hanging on a hook was a stack of hacksaw blades with a sticker that said 79 cents on each one. You took one off the hook and paid the man.. Now it's packaged in three times it's bulk in polystyrene with some kind of bar coded you can't sneak it out of the store devise attached.
I recycle and heat with wood and all those chips end up in my garden. I compost, I grow my own vegetables. I have a gray water set up and use sustainable materials and reclaimed wood when I can. Ive been doing that for over 50 years. But all in all from what I can see we're not getting better we're getting worse!
I think the answer for the OP is --build yourself a waterpowered shop!
On the compost thing--if your pile is very carbon-rich from lots of wood chips/shavings, an easy and convenient source of nitrogen is urine. There's plenty of info about it online. I would just urge anyone to not make composting too complicated. If you have time to spare fussing over your compost pile, I would suggest you spend it sharpening something instead;)
Another tack: I've been thinking a lot about how to weigh trash versus dirty water. When I clean up after finishing, what's worse, throwing away stuff or washing a lot of stuff down the drain? Landfill space is finite, but removing dissolved stuff from water is difficult and expensive. And some clean-ups, such as those involving paint, sure take a lot of water. I don't have an answer, but it's definitely something I've started to give more consideration to.
Of course we clean our good brushes but on the time is money scale ,and I've done the math, the time it takes to properly clean a brush is often more in cost than the value of the brush even a pretty good brush. I keep old 5 gallon drums for spent solvents and the dump here has a toxic waste disposal set up. You can drop off your old paint cans and bug spray,solvents, and waste oil.. Water based clean up disposal is a bigger problem. They've reformulated most household paints to the point that it's probably pretty safe to pour on your cereal- but the other stuff? I've thought about some kind of evaporation set up where hopefully most of the bad settles to the bottom but it would take some real science to know if that works. I'm on septic so whatever I dump down my drain will eventually leach into my own yard! Saving that cleanup water for disposal would mean hauling 55 gallon drums.