Wednesday, May 12, 2010

building a birdhouse

Today, I helped the preschool kids at Clear Spring School build a birdhouse as you can see in the photo at left. Then, at home, in addition to sanding small boxes in my never ending friendly competition with the Chinese, I've also been conducting an experiment called, "do sawdust and oil mix?"

I am concerned as many are about the impact of the BP disaster, and based on my observations about sawdust being an excellent hand cleaner for oily hands, I began to wonder if sawdust might be utilized to remove oil from the surface of water. Not having a laboratory, my experiment is likely flawed. You can see the results in the series of photos below. Some of you may have seen my tip in Fine Woodworking about using sawdust to scrub oily hands. I saw an internet post on hair-brained clean up ideas and illustrated with a photo showing oily hands. Seeing that photo, I remarked to myself. If my hands were that oily, I would need sawdust to clean them up. That led to today's experiment. Starting out with a clean bucket of water, I added oil, then sawdust, then observed. After the floating layer of sawdust was removed, very little oily film remained. I expected the bucket to require detergent to clean. No oily film was left when the bucket was emptied. Amazing. More can be seen in later posts, Part 2, and Part 3


  1. I love those cool looking blue "Star Trek" safety glasses and I bet that the kids liked them too. A little less hassle when it comes to safety is always a good thing when the kids think that they look funky-fine... and those kids do. I'm gonna have to look into those!

  2. The oily sawdust would make a great sweeping compound for concrete floors. Not so sure how that would go over - BP branded floor sweep - but one of the guys I used to work made his own all the time. Really cleaned up the dust.

  3. Those miniature safety glasses were a real find and relatively inexpensive.

    My Dad had a sweeping compound for the floors in his hardware store that was made of sawdust with both oil and wax, so it cleaned and developed a shine.

    I'm not sure BP brand has suffered much as too few seem to care about the natural environment. As long as the iPhone is working, everything is A-OK.

  4. Unfortunately, you're right about the iPhone. Frances and I sat through a minor league ball game Monday night--dollar night. There was a porky kid, maybe 17 or so,down a row and to the left who spent the entire game playing games on what looked to me like a Blackberry. That's all he did except for two hikes down to get himself a bunch of fries and one buck hot dogs.

    Why he paid even a buck to get into the game was beyond me.

    When I worked for Katonah Altar Factory some 55 years ago--nah, it can't be!--the floor never had oil even when it was spilled around some machines. A push broom and burlap bags was the only dust removal system back then.

  5. I have a thesis and my study is connected with this. Entitled "Varying Amount of Saw Dust as an Oil absorbent". But my teacher told me that sawdust can't absorb because the weight of sawdust is bigger. But I will defend my study and help me to do it. Thank you

  6. You'll notice that oil and sawdust both float at the surface of water. They physically co-mingle and clump. In the process some oil is fixed in the surface of the sawdust. Some is likely absorbed into the fibers. Pour oil onto a wooden cutting board. Now try to get it out. The wood absorbs the oil. How is that different from sawdust? Teachers actually don't know everything. The good ones admit it and encourage their students to advance their own theses. good luck.