Nov 172015
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What do you do with the shavings and sawdust that come out of your dust collector?  I use mine as mulch, usually, for trees and bushes in the yard.  Keep in mind that anywhere you put sawdust on the ground, it will kill anything that tries to grow in that area.  The reason is that the high carbon content in the sawdust chemically binds the nitrogen the plants want to use for food.

Mulch also prevents sunlight from reaching the ground.

Speaking of food, it’s generally recommended that we shouldn’t mulch food crops with shavings, in case the wood might be contaminated with things you wouldn’t want to put in your mouth.

Back in the 70s I was in college and wore a sign on my back that read, “Po’ College Student.”  I wanted to have a garden on a budget.  I went to the local feed store, where I found tomato plants for 50 cents each. On my budget, I could afford six plants.  Dejected, I wandered back out toward my car, when I noticed, leaning against the front of the store, some lonely, wilted, scraggly tomato plants tied in bunches.  They were marked 75 cents per bunch.  I could afford three and still buy a little bag of butterbean seeds.

Arriving home, I got a shock.  Within each bundle were 25 little bare-rooted plants.  Having already turned over an area of my back yard, I found I needed to open a bigger rectangle! My neighbor came over to see what I was up to, and I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t afford fertilizer for my project.

“You’re in luck,” he replied.  “I have a horse, and his stall hasn’t been cleaned out for a while.  There’s enough fertilizer in that stall to boost ten gardens the size of yours.  There are shavings in there, too, that came from a planer mill in the swamp.  They should be well-broken-down by now.”

My designation as Lt. Overkill isn’t a new moniker.  I cleaned out the stall and took all ten gardens-worth of “fertilizer” home in my self-made utility trailer.  Into the garden it went, well-mixed, and followed by the 75-or-so tomato plants.

As luck would have it, over three score plants survived, no, thrived.  I gave away tomatoes.  I ate homemade spaghetti sauce, I canned tomatoes and froze tomatoes.  You never saw so many tomatoes in all your life!

Butterbeans?  Those plants did well, too.  With that much “fertilizer” how could they not?  Still, I didn’t eat a  single butterbean that summer.  I had two little Beagle puppies, and it turned out they liked butterbeans as much as I did.  As soon as little pods would appear, Sam and Blossum would go down the two rows and clean up.

Too bad they didn’t like tomatoes.

Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home. Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

  8 Responses to “Poll: What do you do with your dust collector’s output?”

  1. I burn all my wood waste

  2. When it’s too cold for salt to melt the snow and ice off my driveway, I use the sawdust and shavings on my hill for traction.Works great!

  3. I use small amounts to create my own wood filler when I need some to match wood used in a project. As to the rest of it, I experimented for a while with using sawdust to make my own firestarters for my wood stove. I developed a process that made very successful firestarters, but dropped it when I found that the cost of buying the paraffin wax put my homemade production cost too close to the cost of simply buying a good commercial firestarter that also seems to be made partially with sawdust. Currently, I just dump my sawdust into the woods behind my shop, in places where I want to discourage the growth of weed plants.

  4. I bring my collection to my son who raises chickens. It goes in the chicken coop for whatever they use it for. I have responded to numerous inquiries from various sources and I never hear back for the results . I would appreciate hearing back to find out what others are doing.

    • It’s always good to know our efforts are worthwhile, isn’t it, Robert? At least you know your son (and his chickens) appreciate your efforts.

  5. I have someone who has some chickens, uses it as bedding.

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