Creative Uses for Scrap

October 26, 2012

I had the LEAN training and I have truly tried to see scrap as the enemy of productivity. However, when I see stacks of wasted panel products of various thicknesses sitting next to the $500 a pull dumpster I go crazy.

We build custom woodwork so there is every different type of material type and thickness from 1/4" to 3/4" LEED, regular, PB, MDF, PLY, Fire Treated (not fire treated), PLam, veneer, raw. Iím just trying to keep inventory for the various projects is daunting. Even with optimizing software, we have small, medium and large pieces all the time. We have considered using the materials for interior cabinet shelves but the post laminating of small parts is difficult since most of our materials are laid up prior to cutting.

I have an idea to cut my scrap into 5" widths x even foot lengths; 2', 4', 6', 8'. We will fire treat the material for re-use as blocking for wall panels. We will set the power feeder on an expendable saw and then have the employees cut it during down time. The parts will be set in a rolling rack then off to finishing to process whenever they are spraying the fire retardant sealer. I'm not sending people home when it's not super busy anyway so labor would not change.

I created an Excel spread sheet and by cutting the plywood LEED scrap in this manner we would save 690 square feet (21 sheets) x price per sheet (raw ply). The math is great. We would save more than $1,000 by not cutting fresh stock for blocking.

Someone mentioned that a shop in town has a press and uses it to sandwich pieces (scrap materials) between two pieces of 1/4" ply. I don't have a press so I am thinking to join pieces with a spline to make sub tops.

The LEED requirement for panel wood products in a certified project definitely makes re-using the leftovers more worthwhile, like taking home the doggie bag with your Ruth Chris steak for lunch the next day. I have a feeling this is how finger joint was conceived. I would appreciate any suggestions of how others are handling waste and re-use of scrap.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor F:
Laid up panels that are complete sizes we turn over and use the white liner on as the interior on other projects. Customers that we do repeat work for we keep it for the next project. We have a material called ANY 3/4" drop or waste (and 1/4, 1/2, 1", etc.) that we use for concealed materials to consume it.

We cut drop into 4" rips for nailerís, otherwise either yard sell it or throw it out, it costs too much to keep moving it around. (We end up building stacks of drop from custom veneer panels.) In multi phased releases we enter the drop from previous production as available size for the next release and cut it in the next release. If you have enough and space there are some good grinders coming up in auctions.

From the original questioner:
That's a great idea about the panels with white liner. I called my supplier this afternoon and it turns out the using white liner for a balance sheet is actually less expensive than gator back and would make your idea of re-use for cabinet interiors a bargain.

Thanks for the suggestion. I started using it today. As for the ANY, we use a similar system leaving those drops on a rack for cross cutting but it's easy to do so it overruns the shelves.

This weekend we are cleaning out the mica rack and any unused materials we will send to lay up as the concealed balance sheet on any plastic laminate or veneer lay-up panel. I do have a grinder but it keeps breaking when we use it with plywood, plastic laminate, or solid lumber so right now it is only a huge paper shredder.

From contributor Y:
I have built all the furniture in my house with scrap from the shops I have worked at. I have a ton of expensive scrap in the garage waiting for my next idea I love it and refuse to pay for most material I make personal project out of. Itís a gold mine and I hate to see good stuff thrown away. I could fill my truck up once a week with scrap that is thrown away.

From contributor O:
I hate waste. I try to even keep the 2' lengths of moulding, even though I know I won't ever use it again. It's a conservatory attitude, and it's a good thing. But it can get overwhelming. Recently I had a nice fire in my fireplace, courtesy of stacks of moulding. I just hate to waste it, but my shop is my garage, so I am limited on space.

I am a finish carpenter, so I do everything. I have PVC moulding, chair rail, crown, dowels, chair parts, small exotic wood cutoffs. I had to dedicate a whole wall to just pieces under 2', precut chair legs, etc. It gets hard to function with all that scrap, but if you can use it, make it happen! I build art projects out of those pieces that are small - boxes, picture frames, plywood chairs, etc. At least it gets some use.