Finding a Use for Scrap Sheet Goods

A cabinet maker asks, "What can I do with all those drops?" March 17, 2005

What do you do with your drops of 1/2, 3/4" stock of ply/melamine? Maybe I could be doing something better, but I have around 75 - 100 pieces of 1/2, 3/4" melamine that are 23 1/4" wide by 27 3/4" tall, and some 11 1/4" by 25" tall.

After ripping the ply to 23 1/4" for the sides of my bases and cutting them to 34 1/2" tall, I'm left with all these drops. The uppers never really used to be a problem, because the majority of the kitchens I did had 30" uppers. But the trend in building today is no soffits in the kitchens and the uppers are ranging from 36" - 42".

Do you just toss these out? Seems like such a waste. I did get lucky one time and did a job for a mobile home that had 27" uppers. No waste on that project.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
I use drops anywhere I can (shelves, corner gussets, drawer runners, toe kicks, etc.). If you use corner gussets on the top of your base units, cut 6" x 6" squares and cut the squares diagonally. Have them pocket drilled and on the shelf ready for upcoming jobs. You can do these in batches because they go quick on a good size job.

From contributor J:
I'd try and minimize waste first off. Why not buy 9' melamine? You'd then only have a few inches of waste. We build our boxes without toe-kicks, so we get 6 base sides out of a 4 x 8 sheet.

From contributor B:

You'd be surprised at what folks buy. I put an ad in the most popular paper a few years back: "Good quality scraps and off-cuts for sale cheap." I still have folks that come by regularly for plywood scraps and kindling, and even a worm farmer who gets the sawdust.

Odd doors get sold periodically, too. I've found that cutting an 8 X 10 out of a nice door and rabbetting the cut-out makes a pretty picture frame that is a good "thank you" gift for fast-paying customers. SS scrap is used for cutting boards, etc.

From the original questioner:
I wish my supplier would carry 9' melamine, but unfortunately he doesn't - only 49x97. As far as the gussets go, I use the metal ones, but the scrap ply would be a good idea instead of buying the metal ones. I would have to exhaust my box of 1000 first, though.

From contributor I:
The drops are paid for. They take up space and take time to organize. When a project is complete and installed, scrap materials related to that job are tossed. Then you can start all over again.

From contributor R:
I build separate kicks, cut my gables top and bottom at 30.25 inches. This way there's no waste. The base ladders I build in shop or on site in minutes. It's also a lot easier to level one ladder than a bunch of boxes.

From contributor T:
We don't use melamine, but plywood, for our cases and shelves, but we did have a lot of those 26-27" cutoffs from cutting base side panels. We got four panels and two scraps out of a 4x8 sheet. Since buying the panel saw, however, we now crosscut a ply sheet 34 1/2" first, then rip to width. This leaves us with a piece of off-cut large enough to get a cross grain panel out of, which we then use for drawer bases where the grain really won't matter. We gained a base panel from each sheet of ply. There always seems to end up being a place to use the offcuts, especially the ones that big - either a shelf, a stretcher, short (stove/fridge wall cab) panels, or something.

From the original questioner:
Contributor R, I have thought of that very idea. That's how my dad and grandfather did it 30 years ago, but they were building the cabinets on site in new homes and they would make an entire run as one cabinet.

What do you make your ladders out of - 2x4's or ply? Also, how do you mount the boxes to the ladders without screws showing in the deck of the boxes?

From contributor W:
We use basically the same size panels for our cabinet sides. We crosscut the sheets first, which makes your drop roughly 24x48. Then you make the rip cut for your sides. The drops then become bottoms for base cabs.

From contributor E:
I think back to the day when I was a youngster going to the Boys Club. The woodshop had plenty of small cutoffs and we made projects from them. Thirtyfive years later, I ended up working in a cabinet shop that the Boys Club director gathered cutoffs from for us kids to make projects.

From contributor R:
I make my ladders out of k3 or plywood. I prefer to use plywood. 2x4s won't work because they're only 3.5 inches and a standard kick on cabinets is 4.25" - 4.5" depending whether you're using 30.25" or 30.5" gables. As far as attaching the boxes to the kick, I usually just put a screw in the bottom of a drawer unit, or in a long run that goes in a corner. You really don't even need to bother. A small unit can be screwed on from the bottom.

I've installed lots of cabinets for companies that use built-in kicks on their cabinets and I find that the cabinets look cheap. I also found it a pain to install. I'd rather level one base ladder that's easily accessible than 3-4 boxes that you're pulling in and out trying to shim.

From contributor W:
Tried ladder boxes, euro feet, etc. and found that it is much more cost-efficient to build the boxes with the integral kick. It saves time, period. If you cut the material a little different, you won't have a drop bigger than 6". More importantly, when you are moving those base cabinets around that have no base, they don't get damaged from sitting directly on the floor.

From contributor Y:
I build my base cabs at 30.5" with separate kicks. I just tack any old piece of scrap to the bottom as a temporary cleat so the bottom does not get damaged. This method seems to be the easiest on my brain.

From contributor R:
This is how I do it now. I order all my material ripped to 12" or 24" full 8 ft long. It comes taped and drilled. I have the drilling set up so that I can rip off the extra and use the 24" for vanities. I don't do a lot of them. I then cut the gables to length, usually 30.25". This works evenly into 32 mm. so they are balanced panels. I like doing this because it's a lot less complicated than handling material multiple times. I can cut out a kitchen before coffee and have the plain boxes together by the end of the day myself.

From the original questioner:
Some great responses here thanks. If I don't go with ladder type bases, I like the idea of doing the crosscuts first, which gives me an additional gable piece. Most of my cabinet jobs have at least two banks of drawers, so after cutting up four sheets of ply, I would have four extra gables to use for these banks of drawers. The rest could be used for the decks of the cabinets as well. That would minimize my waste a whole lot more.

Do you mount the ladder to floor or just screw it to the wall? I'm in Arizona where all the floors are concrete or tiled. Would I use a metal L bracket and mollies in the concrete to anchor the ladder?

From contributor B:
I don't anchor ladder bases to the floor, just as I don't anchor base cabinets, unless they're islands, of course. Just level from the high spot, screw to wall and let gussets keep 'em square. I use 4" x 4" blocks screwed to the inside, then run 'em to the floor to hold base level rather than shims. Also, I rarely screw cabinet to base. Usually just shoot a couple of finish nails through the floor.

I just can't see throwing away a piece of plywood that someone else would love to have. Waste isn't wise, no matter what the material. Once the word is out you've got 'em, it doesn't cost a thing to have local craftspeople come get 'em. Paid for or not, anything useable has a place somewhere besides the dump.

From contributor A:
We give away all our falloffs to the local high school woodshop.

From contributor G:
How about adding to your cabinet lineup by making utility cabinets with slab fronts? People always want cabinets in their garage or home workshop. Sure, the uppers will be a little short and the toe kicks will have to be raised or you'll have to use taller leg levelers (if they make them). How about some type of children's furniture or desk? Rollout shelves for base units, adjustable shelves. Put the word out at the local high school that you have material to make those friggin' boom boxes. They will lay a path to your door. The possibilities are endless.

From contributor K:
You can try donating to a local school or Habitat For Humanity. Get full value for the donation at the end of the year tax deduction.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor P:
I go the route of "ladder" bases. I too find it much easier to level something 4" high with full visibility front and back than to shim a 34 1/2" base cabinet. I make the base of 3/4 raw particleboard, use scrap and screw it to the back plate, and then shim the front, and hold that position with a 2x4 placed just inside the ladder. I screw the ladder to those 2x4's in the front. Going with 30 1/2" cabinet sides also gives me six sides from a 47 x 97 sheet, as another mentioned. What to do with scrap? I've given some to the local high school, some to a woodworking friend, some to a "Home Resource" outfit in Missoula. It's a place where contractors donate building scraps of every conceivable kind, from lumber to sheet goods to plumbing and electrical leftovers.

Comment from contributor U:
I made boxes out of scrap plywood for storing short stock sticks and cut offs. One for maple, one for red oak, one for teak, etc. These boxes sit next to each wood in stock, so I always have short pieces when needed, without cluttering the selections. When my scrap boxes get too full, I cull them for firewood kindling.