Shavings are a waste product for a woodturner. But I’ve never seen it that way, after all I put a lot of effort into producing a vast pile of shavings. The shave horse shavings are perfect firelighters. particularly with a handful of dry lathe shavings and we use them all winter in our woodburner and our open fire. I’ve seen them sold as ‘rocking horse pooh’ but never as a premium product. They also work during the summer on the bbq and at shows when they power my kelly kettle. But do they have other uses? And if so how to establish a value for my shavings?
I have a number of friends and neighbours who keep chickens. When they are away it’s not unusual for us to be on chicken duty to let them out, feed them and shut them up for the night and of course we appreciate the eggs – they make fantastic omelettes. I’m on chicken duty tonight which is what has prompted me to finally get around to posting on this.
I noticed that the bedding is normally commercial softwood shavings which made me think – aren’t my shavings the Rolls-Royce of the chicken bedding world? Unlike the commercial softwood shavings mine are native hardwood (I don’t turn yew or exotic hardwoods so there is no confusion or danger of mixing up shavings) and the greenwood process limits the amount of dust which is produced.
A few trials soon revealed that my Birch/Ash/Gean/Rowan mixture is indeed far superior and it doesn’t stop there. Robert’s chickens would not sleep on the pine shavings and for a while he was unable to put bedding down until he started using my shavings – and Dave’s chickens refised to go back into the shed when he ran out of my shavings and bought a bag of commercial shavings.
Contrary to rumour, in this case Chickens are not stupid. Some reseach on the interweb thingy reveals that the commonly available commercial softwood shavings have to be filtered to remove the pine dust which can contain nasty chemicals, and other softwoods such as western red cedar are even more of a problem. Whereas the English native hardwoods are not toxic and turning them green means that dust production is eliminated in spindle turning and not too much of a problem in bowl turning.
So in my limited survey 100% of local chickens prefer bodgers bedding! and I’ve cornered the local market in chicken bedding.
Part of the problem is convincing myself to believe that my waste is premium product and has value. The good thing about this use is that is provides a very clear value by comparison with the price of the best chicken/animal bedding in retail outlets. The retail price comparison also helps to establish a barter exchange on an eggs for shavings basis. I’m happy to take more eggs when there is a glut and to provide more shavings when I have a glut – which is how things should work in my view.
Fire lighting and chicken bedding is a good start, but is there more? A friend in the Hampshire Coppice Craftsmen Group put me on track for the next application when I noticed him selling his oak chips from his shinglemaking at shows. Matt presents them as a premium product by bagging them in hessian sacks – in this case sand bags which are not too hard to get hold of at a reasonable price.
It turns out that if you use a gas barbecue – the one thing you really need to do is provide the cooked food with a genuine woodsmoke flavour. Apparently cooking on wood has never occurred to the modern convenience world, instead they prefer to buy wood chips to provide the smokey flavour – the world is barking mad!
Oak smoked is obvious, but I turn a mix of ash/birch/cherry and rowan is this as useful for smoking food – it turns out after a little more web research that it’s very useful for food smoking.
After talking with Matt I decided to follow a similar line and now sell both lathe shavings (for animal bedding and food smoking) and shave horse shavings (for firelighting and food smoking) at £2 a tightly packed hessian bag – and although I don’t sell a vast amount it does seem about right as I have a limited amount of shavings to sell. But if you have more then Robin Wood, on his blog, recently told us that he is now providing his bowlturning to a local craft business, I think it was a potter but I may have remembered wrongly. as a natural, sustainable and recyclable packing material.
If you haven’t had enough of my shavings yet then Richard Law on his flyingshavings blog will help you out!
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