Shavings Piled Like Snowdrifts

Sawdust, wood shavings, waste wood. Hand tools or not, going from rough-sawn lumber to finished furniture makes a mess.

The main benefit of hand tool woodworking is the significant reduction in breathable particulate matter (i.e., wood dust) in comparison to power tools. Not a total elimination, of course, but with hand tools you don’t need breathing protection just to cut a joint. Ditto for hearing protection (although chopping mortises in hardwood in an apartment sometimes calls for earmuffs and sound dampening technology [more on that in a few months]).

That having been said, whether by scrub plane or power jointer, by tenon saw or table saw, by mortise chisel or plunge router, you’re still removing stock and the waste has to go somewhere. And that somewhere tends to be the floor around the workbench.

In my shop, I never let the shavings pile like snowdrifts (as romantic as the image may be). After each task, the waste is swept and sorted. Chips in the trash, shavings in the drum liner [seen in the background of most pictures], dust in the shop vacuum. Shavings and wood dust are slippery and there are few things worse than extricating embedded splinters from my living room rug because I tracked chips all around the house.

A clean shop is a safe, happy shop. When your shop is also your home, that is doubly true.


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