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Woodworking Waste

What do you do with your waste pieces of wood? I’m not talking about obvious keepers. To me, achieving the rank of “keeper” (and thus, be returned to long-term storage for a future project), an offcut piece of lumber must be greater than 12" in length, 3-1/2" or greater in width, and must retain parallel edges. These guidelines are loosened for some species (I’m likely to keep quite small pieces of tiger maple or cherry, for example). I don’t use a ruler to establish these measurements, mind you, but this is the ballpark for pass/fail. Maybe you have similar standards in your shop. But what about the lesser bits, those little offcuts, the odd, tapered pieces that often find their...

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The Axe & the Campfire

“The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter, and is about as ample at one season as at another. It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth and dryness.” – Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods (1864) My family hiked to a remote, backcountry lean-to in early October, at the peak of fall foliage. We spent a few days exploring, canoeing, talking to squirrels, and soaking in the solace of the wilderness – doing all of our cooking (and coffee making) over a wood fire. And keeping that fire going required some work. Baxter State Park allows the gathering of dead and downed wood to burn, so I brought along that quintessential tool...

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 A Prerequisite to Benchwork

Yesterday my family spent the morning stacking firewood for the coming winter. Having both my seven-year-old and my (almost) two-year-old handling so much split wood I think embeds within them a deep awareness of the nature and properties of wood as a material. Eden (7) has known for years which logs make great splitting stumps and which ones are great for riving. He watches out for crotch wood and knows the implications of knots. Besides serving as a basic introduction for kids, I think all woodworkers should have some of this experience. Straight grain is understandable in theory but seeing how grain runs on a split burns it into your mind in a way you’ll never forget. If you haven’t...

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