The road to cabinetmaking excellence is littered with part failure. The miscues that can send a part to the reject bin instead of cabinet assembly are many and varied. Sometimes, the rush to complete a task leads to a botched part. Other times, not adhering to routine maintenance schedules of equipment and tooling rears its ugly head. Even when a flubbed part can be corrected, it usually comes with a price: extra handling, additional labor, possibly more machine time, and more than likely time lost against the deadline. Not convinced? Then find out for yourself by doing some of the following don’ts. Making heaping piles of scrap without really trying is easy! Just follow the waste-producing tips below, and you won’t reduce a single scrap.
Don’t Control the Humidity in Your Plant
Wood is a hygroscopic material, meaning it can absorb and lose moisture. To royally screw up your wood supply, open your doors for long periods during the summer to let humidity into your shop; watch in awe as your wood swells and warps. Or, during the height of winter, shut down your humidification system and watch your wood shrink, crack, and splinter.
If your goal is to turn cabinet parts into scrap, then definitely don’t follow the recommendations of Dr. Gene Wengert, a.k.a., the Wood Doctor:
“Lumber should be kiln-dried to 6.5-7 percent moisture content (MC), especially in the wintertime, unless the products are to be used in a humid location like New Orleans. A plant should be heated no more than 30F above the morning’s low; if more heat is required, some humidification is prudent.”
Pick Up the Pace
Rushing through a project is practically the best way to amp up your scrap production. Why be thoughtful when you can turn perfectly good cabinet parts into trash! It’s like the old phrase says, Errare humanum est. In case you need a slight Latin refresher: “To error is to be human.” Scrap isn’t so bad after all; it makes us more human!
Creating scrap is easy if you follow Rockler’s equation:
woodworking – patience = firewood
So whatever you do, don’t take Woodworking for Dummies‘ advice:
“Many mistakes can be avoided altogether if you slow down. Going too fast is the most common pitfall that woodworkers fall into. You get in a hurry and get excited to finish a project. Don’t do it. Not only will you be much more likely to mess up your project, but you could end up damaging something even more important — yourself. Hurrying is the number one cause of workshop injuries.”
Who wants to methodically plod along and reduce scrap anyway?
What’s 1/8 inch or two off? Close enough, short or long, is close enough if the result you’re looking for is an unsightly overhang or open joints.
If scrap is the goal, keep on eyeballing it per usual and utilizing your handy scrap-producing tape measure. You’ll far surpass your waste and rework goals for the year. Because, really, when was the last time you had your eyes checked? What about your colleagues? Not all the guys in your shop have 20/20 vision, so eyeballing parts and using a tape is a sure way to increase that scrap heap.
Bonus Material: If you’re going to create scrap, you might as well do it to the best of your abilities. Go big or go home! So follow the Russian proverb and measure seven times before cutting. This will not only still result in wasted and inaccurate material if using a tape measure, it will take seven times as long! “Time is money” is so last year. If you didn’t already know: your tape measure is only as good as your eyeballs, and it’s the most expensive tool you own.
Don’t Account for Kerf
Another great way to quickly mis-size a batch of parts is to forget to factor the width or kerf of the blade when measuring your cuts.
This rookie woodworker made a mountain of scrap doing just so:
“My first project was to build a workbench. I went with my 1x2s to a woodworking class and started cutting 6′ pieces with the chop saw. Measure, chop, measure, chop, measure, chop. Easy. Then I stacked them and saw each piece was shorter than the one before it. I had been cutting directly across my mark, not accounting for the wood lost to kerf. Every piece was 18″ shorter than the one before it. I look back now and think, ‘Where the heck did you think sawdust was?!'”
Don’t Worry About the Accuracy of Table Saw Fence alignment
Squared-edge parts are overrated if your true goal is to make a design statement with cabinet components cut at 88 degrees.
On second thought, consider this sage advice from Rockler Woodworking:
“For your saw to cut cleanly and safely, it is extremely important for everything used to guide stock past the blade to be parallel with the blade. In other words, you need to make sure that both the miter gauge slot and the saw’s rip fence are in as near perfect alignment with the blade as possible.”
Ultimately, if the goal is to create a plethora of scrapped parts, you should steer clear of a TigerFence automated positioner. It will only keep your tolerances tight over and over again for years to come and only help you to reduce scrap.
Don’t Worry About a Dull Saw Blade
Better to accept tear-out of your panels than waste time changing the blade. The blade might be duller than a butter knife and maybe even missing a tooth, but it’s still doing a great job of adding parts to the scrap pile. Plus, that extra load on the saw’s motor will give it the workout it needs to stay in shape.
On second thought, Marc Spagnuolo, a.k.a., The Wood Whisperer, says its clearly time to clean, re-sharpen, or replace your saw blade when:
“You realize you have to push much harder than you used to for something as simple as a ripping operation. You will also notice more burning on woods that didn’t burn before. In addition, you should notice more tear-out on your cuts. If you don’t notice any of these changes, or they just aren’t that severe yet, then I would say the blade is still sharp.”
Don’t Use the Correct Bit for Boring Construction Holes
Speaking of dull, what could be more boring than worrying about boring machine miscues? Dowel holes too big? Try using more glue! Dowel holes a smidge too small? Try your patience by sanding the diameter of each dowel to size. Then feel free to give each an extra whack with a mallet to take out your frustration.
On second thought, there’s a good reason why Rockler dubs drill holes too big or too small among the “Top 10 Workshop Annoyances.” Make sure you select the right drill bit for the job, that is, unless of course your interested in upping the ante on your scrap pile.
Don’t Practice Good Housekeeping
Over-tax your dust collector and let the chips and sawdust fall as they may. You think oil and water don’t mix, then wait until you see how sawdust interacts with machine lubrication and how much gumming up the works negatively impacts your production operations. Or positively impacts if the goal is to manufacture as much scrap as humanly feasible.
Sawdust in your finish? No problem. Simply convince your customer that it’s a new organic speckled design. Plus, after you stain the cabinet, not only will the beauty of the grain be highlighted, but as a bad cabinet bonus, so will any scratches or blotches.
Typically, when it comes to running an efficient woodworking shop, cleanliness is indeed next to godliness. Not having and maintaining efficient dust collection at all times is not only bad for the lungs but bad for the finish and machine functions. For the sake of your employees and the longevity of your machinery, don’t scrimp on investing in good dust collection.
Use Pen and Paper as Often as Possible
Optimizing material using a pencil and paper is a great way to make waste. It’s also a great way to create a screaming migraine. If you’d like to up your scrap-making game, then pull out the old pencil and paper and get to calculating.
We’ll give you five minutes before you give up and resort back to cutting parts longest to shortest per usual. Who wants a headache when you can create scrap headache-free? Cutting material longest to shortest is a solid way to turn expensive cabinet parts into complete garbage, apart from using handwritten paper cut lists.
Can you say “operator entry error” five times fast? Operator errors can be quadrupled using paper cut lists because:
- They don’t automatically keep track of which parts have been cut
- They don’t alert you when measurements have been misread
If you’re interested in wasting time and material, use a pen and paper as often as possible. For those who want to reduce waste and increase yield, Dynamic Optimization and Dynamic Pack Optimization are your best bet.
Don’t Miss an Opportunity to Find New Ways to Wreak Havoc
The above is like the soup starter of bad cabinet practices. It’s a short list that can easily be expanded through a creative dose of ineptitude and a knack for unsuccessful experimentation.
But in all seriousness, folks, this has been a public service announcement from your friends at TigerStop reminding you that high-quality parts start with accurate cuts. Don’t accept less. Make every cut a precise one with TigerStop and reduce scrap and waste. Your shop’s quality control depends on it. Learn more about how TigerStop products can reduce your heaping scrap pile and keep it that way for good.