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For truly enlightened woodworkers, cleaning the shop is difficult. That’s because there’s so little you actually want throw away.

I have a large barrel in my shop with a sign taped to it quoting the great Roman philosopher Cicero: “Illic est haud talis res ut reliquum.” Or, it’s what he would have said if he spent as much time in his workshop as he did in the Senate. And if he had access to Google translator and was pretty fast and loose with what he entered. And if English had been invented then.

Because, surely one so wise and knowledgeable would realize the truth in the statement, “There’s no such thing as scrap.” (OK, it literally means, “There’s no such thing as the rest of it.” Paul Harvey might not have approved, but I thought it was pretty close.)

Yesterday, I made three things that – with the exception of fresh glue and screws – consisted entirely of what the unwashed would call scrap. One was a jig for my drill press, made of walnut, plywood and a bit of Western red cedar. Not pretty, especially with the ugly, black drywall screws I used, but it did the job perfectly. The second was a compact, but roomy, wall rack behind my lathe for turning chisels, made entirely from a handful of poplar from my barrel. Finally, I turned a small but lovely bowl for my daughter out of a leftover chunk of spalted maple cut off a larger workpiece a couple years ago.

Didn’t pay a penny for any of that stuff, at least not in the sense that I had to go and buy it for those three projects. Sure, I paid for it originally, but what I used to make two useful shop projects and one nice gift was what most people would have thrown in the garbage.

Not me, because like my good bud Cicero, I realize the value of scrap. And that value is it doesn’t exist. Is it any wonder there is no direct translation in Latin? Yeah, you’ll find Latin words for things like “remainder,” “small” and “fragment,” but those don’t carry the exact meaning of what modern English calls scrap.

So while certainly not rare, I think we can all agree that scrap is a wonderful thing. Which, but the way, is miraculum in Latin.

Somehow, that’s no surprise at all.

Till next time,


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