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Turning Waste Wood Shavings into Briquettes

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

As a Woodturner, I create a lot of waste byproduct from making bowls, turning ornaments and general woodworking in my workshop. In the first few years of my business the only way to get rid of the waste shavings was to spread it around the garden to kill weeds but this was not a long term solution at all because I was producing so much of it.


Hiring skips for waste removal is very expensive and not ideal for a small business. After a lot of investigating and trials of lesser methods I finally bought a proper Briquette machine. I now turn all this waste into a useful product instead of having to dump it and I get some money back from selling Briquettes to the general public. The remainder, I use in my fires around Christmas time.


Everyone wants to Turn Waste Shavings or Sawdust into Briquettes

Everytime I show pictures or short videos of my Briquette production I get bombarded by questions about anything and everything related to it. I have a few videos out there on My YouTube Channel which I have embedded below but I need to go into more detail as I miss mentioning certain bits and pieces. I'm not a professional video producer so don't expect high production value in any of my videos ha ha.


Everyone thinks that Briquette making is a huge moneymaker from an otherwise worthless material. You can make money but it requires the information I am going to share with you below. Stay with me now!




The Quick Fix Easy Money Method

This method doesn't exist I'm afraid. People are looking for a cheap quick fix to start using their waste and perhaps make a bit of money in the process. Everyone wants to make use of their waste shavings by turning them into Briquettes in some shape or form. It galls most woodworkers to dump all this perfectly good material because they don't have a way of processing it. Making decent briquettes is a bit more complicated but stick with me here and I'll try and explain.


I will deal with my earliest attempt first as most people will have gone down the same road and then go on to my PH Briquette Maker Machine. What you need first is something that almost everyone forgets, you need space; lots and lots of space! Turning waste into briquettes requires quite a bit of work area and then storage of both the raw material and the finished product which must be stored in a warm, dry area.



The Wet Paper Briquette Press

I had delusions of grandeur when it came to using the cheap hand press. I developed a very basic system where I could make spongy briquettes using paper and dry shavings mixed together. It was really messy going and then I came to the point where I needed to dry the pressed briquettes. This is where my experiment died. I realised that I had nowhere near enough space to make this pay so I dropped it. Once these were dry, they then had to be brought into the house to be stored until they could go in the fire. Not a good idea bringing that mess inside. I eventually gave up and went looking for a proper machine. Read on below.



Hammermill for pre-Production

I knew that I was also going to have to purchase a Hammermill to prepare my material before ever using a Briquette Machine. Woodturned waste would have much heavier particles than the joinery waste that the PH Briquette machine was designed for. I spent ages searching Google for anything reasonably priced. I eventually found a small single phase Hammermill from an Italian company for something in the region of €600. The mill was designed for a small workshop needs. It is slow enough but capable of making the pieces small enough for Briquette production. I made a sorting table so I could manually go through the waste removing tools, nails, screws and anything else that might harm the mill hammers. After some time I added a long tool magnet to the edge of my sorting table which increased the finding of small metal bits/screws and sped up sorting time considerably.



all waste shavings must go through a hammermill first
hammermill for preparing the waste shavings

Here is a quick video of the hammermill with some more explanations. I have a video of it in action somewhere, if I find it I will add it to this Blog. The sorting table magnet was not added at this point.




The PH Briquette Maker Machine

I did a lot of research into briquette makers until I finally realised that I was going to have to spend money if I wanted to make anything out of my waste shavings. The PH Briquette Maker seemed to be a good fit for a small workshop so I contacted the company and asked for a quote. At something in the region of €6,000 it was quite an investment to make. I should add that this was prior to Brexit and I presume the price plus Customs Duty and VAT would push this machine beyond most people's budgets now. I am VAT registered so that took the sting out of it for me.


Single Phase small workshop Briquette Maker
PH Briquette Maker Machine out of the box

The Briquette maker isn't exactly plug and play when my production waste is going through it. Once you start it up you must keep an eye on it. It takes about 10 minutes of tightening the pressure handle until the machine clears the pipe of the last production and you start making new briquettes. The previous Briquette length comes out cold and once it clears the pipe you have to adjust for the new hot Briquettes. Another 5 to 10 mins of micro adjusting until you get it right for the current material before it starts making a consistent new batch.


With my coarse waste material, the hopper cannot be filled beyond a certain amount or the agitator will stop turning. As you add new buckets of material you have to recheck the consistency of the briquettes as the material changes from each bucket to the next. The PH Briquette maker was designed primarily for joinery waste so my material slows down production considerably. I normally carry out other tasks while the machine is operating and I keep checking and feeding the hopper continuously. I will start early in the morning and stop filling so that the hopper is empty by lunchtime. This way I don't have to disturb my lunch by having to go out for checks.


This is my second attempt at making a video showing the process, it won't win any awards.




Lots and lots of 30 Litre Buckets

I wasn't prepared for the quantity of waste I would need to keep on hand as I had only a few plastic bins to use for all the waste. You also need containers for the finished briquettes before they are bagged up. The biquettes are hot when they come out and require some time to cool before going into the bags.


I ended up buying 30 Litre plastic carrying containers from Lidl which worked very well. I currently have about 30 of them which I bought over time to deal with the ever growing sprawl of waste material. Someday, I will add a picture here of all the buckets stacked into each other so you will see what I mean.


30 Litre Buckets of freshly made briquettes
30 Litre Buckets of Briquettes

This was an early attempt at a video, just showing the machine working without any talk. I got a few thumbs down for that lol


In Conclusion

As I mentioned above, everyone wants the quick fix solution for next to nothing and I will just remind you that it doesn't work that way. This system I use cost me a lot of money with fairly limited return in the short turn but it does sort out any issue of waste removal.


Waste disposal is something that we probably don't factor in too often but it is something that I may have to prove to a public authority later on. As a business, I have done this as a long term investment so it may well pay for itself eventually. I do like the fact that after it brings in some money for me, I still get to enjoy some heat as I burn the remainder at Christmas time. If you have any questions after all that, pop them in the comments below. All the Best, David



Addendum

It has been a few months since I wrote this post and I have just processed my briquette batch for 2023. I created a mock up auto-feeder for the hopper out of chipboard and plywood. My intention when testing is finished is to get a new one made from stainless steel so that the vibrations of the machine will push the waste at a consistent pace. The wood in this test design dampens the vibrations a good bit but it is still a good proof of concept. My material, which normally stops the agitator from turning if too much goes in at any one time, now falls consistently based on the angle of the auto feeder. I still have to top up the amount in the hopper from time to time but I'm not worried about stopping the agitator now and blowing the capacitor. My only worry now is the price of making this in stainless steel which has gone up in recent years like everything else. I hope to add a photo of the finished feeder once made.



Shavings falling into a briquette maker using an auto feeder mockup
Auto Feeder Concept for the PH Briquette Machine





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