Every woodworker who does any amount of work is eventually confronted with the problem of what to do with all those piles of sawdust and shavings. Rather than sending them to the landfill, where they will do nothing but add to a bloated waste stream, you can reuse them in a number of different ways, or give them to someone who will.
Sawdust and shavings are ideal for mulching around the base of trees, in gardens and on lawns where you are trying to choke out unwanted growth. Different types of woodworking create different types of waste, ranging from the dense sawdust that comes from a table saw to the light and fluffy shavings from a hand plane. Experiment with these different materials to find out which works best for your particular mulching needs. If you have a blower in your shop, keep two separate bags: one for pure wood waste, and the other for things such as plywood and MDF. You don't want the waste from these latter materials spread about on your lawn, as they have glues, formaldehyde and other nasty things in them.
Wood waste is ideal for animal bedding. Spread on the floor of the barn. It absorbs urine, softens the floor for the animals' hooves and gives them something comfortable to rest on. When the bedding becomes dirty, it can be dumped in a back area and will simply compost into the soil. If you create a large amount of sawdust or shavings, contact local farmers and inquire whether they would like your wood waste. Many woodshops have arrangements with farmers where the farmers come by every week or so and take the waste away, thus solving two people's needs.
Shavings don't do so well in this application, but sawdust does. Sprinkling sawdust on icy parts of the ground, particularly on a sunny day, causes the ice to melt because the bits of dust absorb the heat from the sun and work their way into the ice. The only problem with this use of sawdust is that it can be quite messy in the springtime when everything melts, leaving a sodden pile of sawdust in your yard.
Although this usage has fallen by the wayside due to the mass production of commercial mattresses, it used to be quite common. The shavings that are produced by hand planes are very thin and take up a lot of space, with a lot of air between them. Stuffed into an oblong cloth bag, they make a passable mattress.
- Photo Credit wood shavings image by David MacFarlane from Fotolia.com