2 hours with a scrapy geezer

I assume that I am like most woodworkers, I can’t bear to throw away scraps. Now there are times when I will get rid of some, but by and large, I have a lot of scraps in “Ye Ole Scrap Bin.” Some how, some way, I usually find a way to incorporate my scraps into a furniture projects, and sometimes I have used my scraps for accent pieces for turning. More than once my bin has saved me a trip to the lumber yard or Woodcraft, and so today, it saved me again. I just happened to have two long strips of Mahogany that were wide enough to use for the project. Whew! And I would like to state for the record again, Mahogany is my favorite imported wood for furniture making. Do you have a story about how your scrap bin saved the day? If so, tell us your story!

Scraps to the rescue


I think with age, some aspects of my patience has increased, especially with of the use of hand tools. However, whenever I whip out a plane with my Sunday student, his eyes start to glaze over after about five minutes. But when it comes to the use of a power tool, his eyes light up! It’s funny how my patience has increased for woodworking, but my patience about kids has gone down. Man, I must really be getting old. I see kids today and I want to shake my fist in the air and say, (in my best geezer voice) “Pull up those baggy pants, pull out those ear phones, get off that dang cellphone!” In the shop, my inner geezer voice says things like, “I’ll show you how to use that ding dang jack plane. You don’t need no new fangled jointer to joint boards flush, that’s just a waste of electricity. Planning makes a man outta you! Now pay attention boy, and lem’me show you how it’s done!” I think I am turning into Foghorn Leghorn?! Thank goodness I still have the ability to keep that inner monologue quiet. Once I let that out, I’m sure AARP will hunt me down!

The milling is slowly but surly coming along. All the large pieces have been milled out, and now, all we have left are the smaller pieces to mill. I really hope we can complete the milling work next week. The main part of our session was milling out the pieces for the back panel, planning them down to the correct thickness (we did do this via the power planer BTW), jointing the pieces together, and gluing up the panel. I asked my student to use his finger to smear the bead of glue along the 3/8” thick boards for the back panel, and this was the first time I think I have ever heard a kid say they did not want to get glue on their finger. (geezer voice once again), “back when I was a kid, I’d smear glue all over my palm and fingers, let it dry and try to peal it off in one piece!” One of the pluses for woodworking is that it is okay to get dirty! Go figure?!

The glued up back panel

Till next time, keep that Victrola spinning!


About yaakov

Husband, Abba, Furniture Maker, Turner, Bookseller, and all around working stiff.
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4 Responses to 2 hours with a scrapy geezer

  1. knottywood says:

    I could fill a book about scrap wood piles. They are great when you can find a use for some orphaned pieces that you know you paid good money for, and know that it could be useful some day. The problem comes when your stash gets so big that it becomes layers upon layers of “valuable” material in every nook and cranny.

    There is a point where the space it occupies costs more that any real usefulness is worth. I hit a point where I refused to store any soft woods in the shop and only saved hardwood. It only took a couple years for the shop to become a Chinese Jigsaw Puzzle of material I couldn’t bear to part with. The crazy thing is when at some point you start to move the piles looking for something, and you find all this good stuff you have long forgotten about, or find nice White Oak rips in among the Honduras Mahogany. Is it really worth anything if you don’t even know you have?

    The last place I lived in California, had a corner of the property that was all overgrown and invisible to the street. I began to store my contractors equipment like wheelbarrows, scaffolding, utility trailer, demolition equipment and some 20′ long 4×6 and 4×12 fir beams used for shoring or form bracing. Little by little, job after job, pieces at a time, the lumber pile grew. My criteria was; long, thick, clear or few knots. No junk, no nails, no holes, no knots… no foolin’.

    I pulled hundreds of lineal feet of 6×6 posts, 6×10 beams of old growth Red Fir cut locally from stands of trees long gone from the Central California landscape. All this stuff was clear, tight, vertical grain timber that was the underpinning for a turn of the century home having the foundation replaced. Another job produced 300 lineal feet of bone dry, old growth California Redwood that netted 2 1/5″ by 11″, in lengths of 12s’ 14s’ and 16’s with a stunning 19 footer… all straight pieces that had been a deck railing for nearly fifty years.

    Eventually the pile was four feet wide, twenty feet long and six feet high. When I moved I couldn’t find anyone to take it. There was a craigslist but nobody knew about it yet. I spent $340 to get a wood recycling dumpster and spent a grueling eight hours filling it with my precious wood pile.

    When I moved the shop, I filled another dumpster with the “good stuff”… all my hardwood stash. There was 200′ feet of 8″ wide Cherry crown moulding from a church remodel, where I had shaper knives machined and ran off more than I needed, just in case. I had a chunk from a Claro California Black Walnut trunk that was 5′ wide 9′ long and 4″ thick! I gave it to a woodworker friend that stored it for 8 years until he made a conference table out of it selling for $10K. The deal was that he had to take two pickup truck loads of Black Walnut burls in the two, three and four foot square and 4” thick range. He had to sneak it into his shop and cover it with a tarp. He said his wife would kill him if she saw more lumber.

    I tossed 75 assorted custom cabinet doors left over from years of various kitchen and bath jobs, and all kinds of door and window casings, baseboards, chair rails and crown moldings. I’m not talking about little off cuts here, but bundles of eight to sixteen footers!

    Oh well, so it goes!

  2. I wish I had that issue – I don’t do house demos and such (and though I have a source of free building lumber, I won’t be getting the good stuff). I tend to keep scraps I think I’ll use in my every growing I’ll-get-to-it-someday pile.

    Speaking of teaching yaakov, love to chat about it. You have some great advantages by choosing to teach a young person (you have the tools right? Especially ones that could CUT HIS HAND OFF!!! Yeah, how cool is that?) and some challenges – not teaching in a traditional setting (you aren’t grading him, right?). I’ve been in both places and found a lot of rewards.

    –Mr. Patrick.

    • yaakov says:

      I work and teach in a niche market. That is good and bad. The market is smaller, but it is right for me because I live in this community. My students are the same way. Most of my students don’t play sports, they arn’t girl crazy, most of them don’t have TV’s or videogames, and spend most of their days, six days a week in school. So my students are not like my high school shop classmates. I primary only teach with handtools, but on occasion, I have a student who wants to build a certain project and they want to use powertools. The good thing is that I have two eyes on them at all times. Besides, kids learn a lot more in the one on one environment. I really prefer handtool teaching because it is less dangerous, and being sued for everything I own makes me extremely cautious.
      Thanks for commenting!
      Mr. Bar Am

  3. Which hand tools have you found the most excitement over both as a teacher and your students? I can’t wait to get a true bit&brace set again – I find my students make excuses to use ’em. I have my own love love affair with hand planes, or the “hamster shaver” as a kid calls it.

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