What to do with sawdust from woodworking – 8 uses for sawdust

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Last updated on March 24th, 2021

A sawdust collection system is a must-have tool in a woodworking shop. It helps keep your workshop clean and tidy and the air free of debris and saw dust. In fact, OSHA recommends the use of a dust collection system as an engineering control for managing saw dust and debris in a woodworking shop.

One of the most common woodshop dust collectors is a vacuum system. A vacuum sawdust collector, popularly called a shop vac, works by sucking in saw dust and debris and storing it in a dust collector bag. The dust collection bag is part of the dust extractor system and needs to be emptied regularly. If you are working on small wood projects, you may need to empty the sawdust collector bag once in several weeks but if you are working on big projects, the dust collector fill reduction cycle may be more frequent.

However, the biggest problem in dealing with sawdust is not how to collect it, but rather what to do with it after collecting. In this article, I will share with you some creative ways of disposing of sawdust after emptying the collector bag. Read on to find out.

Uses for sawdust

1. Use sawdust to build up low areas

One of the ways you can deal with the piles of sawdust from your woodshop is to spread it in your yard. Specifically, you can use it to build up low areas. However, be careful not to pile it too high so that grass can grow through. Sawdust can also be a breeding ground for termites. So do not heap it.

2. Put sawdust in your garden

Sawdust is very good for your flower and vegetable garden. It helps with retaining soil moisture and killing weeds. It also decomposes to enrich the soil. Just spread it around the base of your garden plant but remember to include some nitrogenous material as well. Otherwise, your plants will be deprived of nitrogen as sawdust needs it for decomposition. An example of nitrogenous material is compost or green garden waste.

When using sawdust for your garden plants ensure it is not from treated wood. Sawdust from treated lumber is poisonous and may poison your garden. Also avoid sawdust from oak unless it has aged for at least a year. Oak sawdust binds with soil nitrogen very well and this may cause nitrogen deficiency to your plant.

3. Soak oil spills with sawdust

One creative way of using sawdust in the workshop is to use it to clean oils spills. Oils spills in the workshop can be a trip hazard and should be avoided. They are also hard to clean and may even stain your rag. The best way to deal with them is to use sawdust.

sawdust storage bucket

Sawdust has good absorbing properties, especially fine sawdust. This makes it good for absorbing oil spills in your work area. I always find it good to keep a bucket of fine sawdust in the workshop for use to clean up oil spills on the floor. Here is how to do it.

How to use sawdust to clean oil spills

  1. Scoop a handful of fine sawdust from your sawdust bucket
  2. Sprinkle the sawdust over the oil spill
  3. Let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes
  4. Use a hard broom to spread and turn the sawdust in order to absorb all the fluid.
  5. Add more sawdust if you still can see oil.
  6. Use the broom to sweep the soaked sawdust to the dustpan and dispose of it into the trash can.

4. Use sawdust in animal bedding

dog sleeping on sawdust

Sawdust and wood shaving make very good bedding for animals. You can use it as horse bedding, chicken bedding, and bedding for dogs. The only thing you have to avoid is using sawdust of shavings from treated lumber because it can poison your animal.

Sawdust and wood shavings are good absorbents. This makes them good for animal bedding because they absorb urine very well hence keeping the sleeping area dry and comfortable. Comparatively, sawdust is a better absorbent than wood shaving but it is dustier nonetheless. But the finer the sawdust, the dustier it is. And the dustier the sawdust, the more problematic it is for your animal because it can cause respiratory problems. The best thing, therefore, is to avoid very fine sawdust for animal beddings. It is even harder to wash from the animal’s skin.

Another property that makes these by-products of wood good for use in the animal beds is the spongy feel. They make the bed very comfortable for the animal.

5. Use sawdust as weed killer

Sawdust from some types of wood such as walnut is a natural weed killer. You can use it to kill vegetation in unwanted areas. For example, you can use walnut sawdust to suppress weeds that grown in the cracks of your walkway. Just sweep it in the cracks and it will kill any weeds naturally. Butternut sawdust is also a natural weed killer.

6. Use saw dust as mulch

Sawdust from all trees but walnut and butternut can make good mulch for your trees and plants. Just apply a layer around your tree and plants to improve the water retention capacity of soil. Sawdust also suppresses weeds but be careful not to use so much sawdust that will steal nitrogen from your plant.

You can also use sawdust to make fertilizer. All you need to do is to mix up with chicken coop or compost and topsoil. This will make very good fertilizer for your garden.

7. Make wood filler with sawdust

You can make very good inexpensive wood filler by mixing fine sawdust with wood glue. This DIY wood filler can be used to fill holes and cracks in the wood. I use it to fill screw holes in wood then sand with sandpaper or sander for a smooth finish.

How to mix sawdust and wood glue

  1. Put a small amount of fine sawdust in a small container or a scrap of wood.
  2. Add wood glue gradually while mixing in thoroughly using a stick to form a putty or dough-like texture. Mix in quickly before the wood glue hardens.
  3. Apply the paste onto the hole or crack you want to fill.
  4. Let it sit for 10 minutes to dry
  5. Sand it down using sandpaper or sander.

8. Make fire starter or fuel block with sawdust

One of the most fascinating uses for sawdust is making fire starter cubes or fuel blocks. They are good for starting fire in the fireplace or you can use them as camping fire starters.

There are many ways of making fire starters with sawdust. The first method involves mixing candle wax with saw dust. The second method involves mixing sawdust with paraffin, and the third method involves using diesel.

How to make fire starter by mixing sawdust and wax

  1. Head to the dollar store and buy cheap candles
  2. Cut the candles into small pieces and put them in a small metallic container.
  3. Melt the candles on the stove and work quickly to mix fine sawdust into it.
  4. Keep mixing until it feels like a piece of composite.
  5. Compress into fire starter cubes.

You can also make fuel blocks using old egg cartons or cupcake liners. This is how to do it.

How to make fuel blocks with sawdust

  1. Fill old egg carton or cupcake liner with sawdust to level
  2. Pour molten wax over it
  3. If you are using an egg carton, cut it up and wrap each block with newspaper. Otherwise, wrap each cupcake block.
  4. Now you have fuel blocks or fire starters for use at home or when camping.

Alternatively, instead of using wax, you can use paraffin or diesel. This is how to do it.

How to make fire starter using sawdust and diesel/paraffin

  1. Pour 1 cup of diesel or paraffin into a container with a lid.
  2. Add about 5 cups of sawdust or just enough to soak and absorb all the diesel or kerosene.
  3. Cover the container and let it sit for a day or two before using it.
  4. Use it to start fires in your fireplace or campfires.

Clearly, there are many things you can do with the sawdust you collect from your workshop. However, for sawdust from treated lumber and any excess sawdust, you can load it up on your yard waste cart and place it outside for scheduled collection. Just don’t let sawdust pile in your backyard because it might attract termites and rodents.

Julius

Julius an engineer. Throughout his career, he has encountered many tools and learned that getting the right tools for the trade is key to getting the job done right. That is why he talks about tools.