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The Shop Junk Drawer

Every kitchen in out there has the infamous junk drawer. You know the one with a flashlight, rubber band ball, dog medicine, and batteries in it that is all buried under the detritus of day to day life? It seems like a necessary element in any household and some of you may have more than one. I have one in my office that is filled with ethernet and usb cables! We need a place to stick the little stuff and like a goldfish that grows to fit the size of the bowl, the junk drawer never seems to outgrow its space. You keep adding stuff to it yet never remember pulling anything out.

scrapdrawerI have a drawer like that in my shop. Except I am constantly dipping into it and pulling things out. It is my scrap wood drawer. Lately I have been particularly militant about the scrap wood I keep as it just piles up and never gets made into anything. But as soon as the scrap falls below about 12″ long and 4″ wide and just about anything thinner than 1/2″ thick will go into the drawer. I don’t work with too many exotic woods anymore but these species are usually candidates for the drawer when the small pieces show up. Lately I have been using a lot of steel and brass for tool making projects and I’m adding in little off cuts of this stuff too.

I know this looks bad, like I’m some kind of hoarder clinging to useless, tiny scraps of wood. The thing is there is usually not a day that goes by in my shop that I don’t dip into this drawer. Think about all the times when you wish you had a small piece for a wedged or tusk tenon in a cool contrasting species. Perhaps you screwed up and need to patch a groove in a frame and panel assembly. Need a peg to drawbore that joint? Grab a small block and pound it through the dowel plate and you’re ready for drawboring. How about a hand sculpted drawer or door pull? There’s probably something in the drawer to help. How about a batten to hold something on the workbench or a sacrificial block to put between a clamp and the project. Or a glue block. Or scrap you can turn into a profile specific strop for a complex moulding plane.

Here Are Just a Few Things Made from “The Drawer”

I could go on but I think you get the idea. These little parts are just that, so little that it seems a shame to saw up another board and plane to size, especially when you do all that by hand. It is also these little needs that pop up that slow us down and break our rhythm more than anything else. When I can simply open the drawer, rummage through it a bit, and come up with a piece perfect for the task at hand it is a thin of beauty.

Even better is that with every project I generate more of these little off cuts that go into the drawer so it seems I will never run dry.

How About You?

Do you have a shop junk drawer? Is it useful or just a black hole? Please share your insights in the comments below.

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