Valuable, versatile sawdust
Every fully stocked wood shop has a table saw. You can usually find a pile of sawdust under it, even if it’s only used occasionally. If a shop has a belt sander or band saw, there’s probably another pile of finer sawdust under that. Even people without stationary tools have to deal with sawdust accumulation on their workbenches.
Sawdust recycling may not be the first thing on the mind of DIY woodworkers, but it’s a priority in large industrial shops.
Because it’s the main ingredient in particleboard, medium density fibreboard (MDF) and composite wood products, sawdust is a valuable resource to be carefully collected and sold. Small-scale woodworkers may not produce enough sawdust to sell, but that doesn’t mean they should throw it away.
Of course, virgin sawdust from solid, untreated wood is the most valuable and versatile. It comes in handy in the shop, in the garden or around the house. Sawdust from engineered wood products like plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), MDF, particleboard or pressure-treated wood is toxic and shouldn’t be used around plants or animals, but that doesn’t make it useless.
Next time you sweep the shop floor or dust off your workbench, save that pile of sawdust. Here are some of the things you can do with it.
Consider recycling sawdust as compost
Sawdust has a high carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. That means it can a substitute for dry leaves or whatever “brown” matter you’re tossing in with your leafy greens to provide a good compost mixture.
Chemically treated sawdust shouldn’t be put in a compost tumbler. But if you have a pile in the yard, you can leach these chemicals out of the mixture by dousing the pile with water a few times during the summer. Untreated sawdust is also an inexpensive and effective additive for composting toilets.
Mix your own wood filler
Mix the fine dust that collects in the bag of an orbital or belt sander with glue to make wood filler. Avoid the common mistake of adding white carpenter’s glue, which will turn the mixture into a grey mush.
One advantage of wood filler made from sawdust: It has wood’s natural colour. To preserve that, apply a clear resin-like lacquer or polyurethane. For a super-strong filler you can wrap around corners, go with epoxy glue.