Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Great Trick - Why Didn't I Think of It?

One of my friends soundly beat me to the punch with this one, a trick that is so simple and makes a task easier. Let me explain. 

I save wood ashes from my woodburning stove. While I burn mostly tree wood, I also burn the worn out wood pallets I use for various projects here on the farm. I also use waste pieces I get from several local woodworkers. Some of this has nails, screws, or staples in it. These metal bits end up in the ash and I prefer to get them out mainly so that I don't end up being poked by them. I also don't like the idea of adding nails and screws to the soil which can be potential tire puncturing hazards for wheelbarrows, the atv, etc. 

Above, the magnet has captured the wayward metal in the wood ash. 

Up until now I used a large shop magnet to get out the metal bits. I'd have the cold ashes in a bucket and swish the magnet through them, snagging up all those screws, nails, metal flakes. Of course, I'd end up having to try to remove all the metal bits from the magnet afterward, plus wash my hands and arms. Getting the metal flakes off the magnet is a pain in the neck. Kind of like dealing with etch-a-sketch guts. A bit messy. A difficult task. The magnet looks like it has a 3 day stable beard and you just keep pushing the hairs around. Hard to get off. 

Photo, the magnet and my hand inside a plastic bag. After swishing through the ashes, the captured metal is on the outside of the bag. 

Guess what a friend told me? Put the magnet inside a plastic baggie, then sweep the wood ashes for metal. Once the magnet has them all, simply turn the baggie inside out over the magnet. Wallah! All the screws, nails, whatever are inside the baggie and the magnet and hand is clean. Wow. Why didn't I think of that! 

Photo, the inside out plastic baggie holds the metal bits. The magnet (and my hand) stay clean. 

So I've added this trick to my daily way of doing things. Every time I do it I will remember the friends who told me about it. Thank you "M" & "S" ! 


  1. I place the ashes on a sifting screen over a garbage can before I go over it with the magnet. As I work it over the ashes fall through and the metal is removed and the charcoal remains on the screen. I then use the charcoal for biochar and spread the ashes with a drop spreader to reduce the moss on acid soil.

    1. Sounds like a good method, Hans. My house wood stove is one of those efficient buying types that doesn't leave any charcoal behind at all. So I make my biochar in a different setup.