Wood Turning and the Compost Pile - A Problem in the Shop is Gold in the Garden

by Darrell Feltmate - Date: 2007-04-27 - Word Count: 626 Share This!

Wood turning generates shavings. This simple rule seems to escape many who take up the craft of wood turning, however, it quickly becomes apparent as the floor disappears under the growing mound. Stage one of removal is obvious and many simply resort to a garbage can and snow shovel to restore the floor space. The problem is, a couple of twelve inch bowls later the garbage can is full and more shavings come quickly.

Assuming the yard is large enough, a home composting station is the answer. Compost is desired by home gardeners and commercial ones alike. While many communities now offer a recycling setup with yard waste removal and will take the shavings away, even a yard waste container fills quickly. Compost may be spread on a lawn or throughout the flower or vegetable garden for a long lasting soil amendment and fertilizer.

Compost is simply rotted organic matter. Some complicated systems exist for making it but mostly it is a matter of supplying what makes things rot; moisture, air, and food. The microorganisms that cause rot for composting east carbon and nitrogen as well as a host of other micro nutrients. If the first two are supplied the rest will take care of themselves.

The easiest way to compost the shavings is to pile them up and leave them for a few years. Material at the bottom will be composted and the stuff at the top goes at the bottom of the new pile. Unfortunately for the prolific turner, this can make a lot of large piles in a hurry. It is best to speed up the process.

A three pile system works best for fast composting. Pile one holds material that is accumulating for a full pile. The second pile is one well underway and the third is merely waiting to be used. The real secret to making quick compost is the right material correctly fed and watered.

The right material to collect is a mixture of green and brown materials. Brown plant matter such as dried leaves and grass tend to be higher in carbon than green materials such as garden waste, kitchen waste and fresh grass clippings. These green materials are higher in nitrogen in the form of proteins. For the wood turner it is obvious that brown material will come from the wood shavings and the problem moves to a solution.

Wood is designed to rot. Trees that fall in the forest eventually become part of the forest floor. Poplar and birch, two favorite North American woods for turning, are two of the first trees to start after a forest fire. They grow quickly, especially poplar and fall easily in the woods. They also rot quickly replenishing the soils for the other trees to follow. Turners will recognize which woods rot easily as they look for spalt lines in wood. These are markings of microorganisms which cause black and tan designs that are indicative of beginning rot.

Equal parts of brown and green materials in a pile of about three feet diameter and three feet will create a compost growing atmosphere that will cause the organisms to generate a heat that will pasteurize the pile, killing weed seeds and speeding the composting process. Water must be added to keep the pile moist and often in the cool of early morning one can see the steam rising from the pile. Oxygen is best added by forking the pile from one location to another, close beside it. While a pile left alone will compost in a year, one that is turned every three to four days will be finished in as little as two weeks. This should be sufficient to remove the problem of growing shavings piles and provide enough compost for one's own garden, no matter how large.

Related Tags: garden, hobby, compost, craft, woodturning, lathe, wood turning, shavings

Darrell Feltmate is a juried wood turner whose web site, http://aroundthewoods.com , contains detailed information about wood turning for the novice or experienced turner as well as a collection of turnings for your viewing pleasure. You too can learn to turn wood, here is the place to start. Wondering what it looks like? Follow the page links for a free video. http://aroundthewoods.com You can easily ask your questions about wood turning at his blog at http://roundopinions.blogspot.com as well as comment on any thing related to the web site, this article or other aspects of wood turning, art and craft.

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