How to clean up the wood pile

I’d imagine it’s the same for most if not all woodworkers. You buy wood, are given wood or the wood you already had somehow breeds and you end up with piles of it in every corner of the workshop. You cut it up and use it and all that seems to do is create more of it until it eventually takes over every surface and stops you working.

I’ve been trying to get my wood pile under control these past few weeks, and have been doing pretty well. Here’s a few bits of advice I’ve come up with as I worked through it.

1) Stop bringing in new wood immediately. The only way to start to get it under control is to stop the problem getting any worse

2) Discard anything that is beyond your power to use – anything too thick to cut or hard to work with the tools you have access to. If it’s good, try and sell it online but if it’s still there in a week or two get rid of it anyway. There’s often web sites where you can list it for free if all else fails, or if it’s good quality contact your local wood group and see if they want it.

3) Allocate wood to a specific project and cut parts. This helps you work out what you are going to use everything for and makes storage a lot easier. For example, I had a lot of short thin stock, so I cut out 30 spoon blanks out of scrap.

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Then I went through and cut a pile of parts for ‘easy’ projects – Breadboards, Guitar picks, Drawer parts, Tool racks & Bowls. Masking tape and a permanent marker make it easy to label things and helps remind you what you’d planned for each piece of wood you’re keeping. It also impressed any visitors who happen to see it as they think you’re far more organised than you really are!

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4) Sort small scraps

Start by putting everything out onto a flat surface. It will look like a huge mess but this way you can see everything you have

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Sort it into types of wood. if you dont know or only have small amounts, into size will do

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If you’ve found anything that can be bundled do so and put into the project area. Anything you can’t immediately allocate to a project should be bundled with the other piees of the same species or size. This keeps them from falling over on the shelf and lets you label them neatly for later use.

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This is what this corner looked like when finished. Any semi finished projects are on the top shelf, parts labelled with species and planned use on the rest. It means that I can walk in, pick up parts for a project and make progress on them without wasting time thinking about what to do while in the workshop. It also helps when you only have a few minutes of time spare – I’ve finished 4 spoons just potting for 10 minutes at a time because once cut out I can just pick up a carving knife and shape a blank. If I’d had to get out the jigsaw and cut each blank every time I wouldn’t have even started on one of them.

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The shelving unit holds the majority of what remains of my wood stock, there’s still a little bit of big stuff in the other corner to be dealt with – sheet goods and longer stock that I haven’t cut down yet, but it’s stacked neatly and the longer stock is in a bucket to keep it neat. It’s had the same process applied – labelled with the intended use and species, and so I know exactly what is available when needed.

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I hope these tips give you some inspiration for dealing with your own wood pile.

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