Is there any practical way to use pieces of drywall which has lost its tapered edge and finish the butt joints smooth? I know it's inexpensive to buy new but thought I could minimize waste and material transport.
Butt joints are unavoidable so getting used to doing them right is a plus in the long run. A trick I use is to bevel the but edge of both pieces. I use a utility knife and drag a 45° on each. Then, I don't push them tight together. If there is a 1/8" gap and the bevel, then there is a place for your initial layer of mud. Otherwise, you get very little mud under the tape, unless you use too much.
My other routine is to push hard to force the mud out from under the tape, at least as much as I can. By holding the blade at an angle as I drag it the length of the tape the excess mud squeezes out the low side. In addition to forcing excess mud out, you are forcing the mud into the paper tape and that prevents lifting.
I've seen drywall contractors throw out 2/3rds of a sheet, two reasons. One, they don't have to mess with salvage and two, they charge by the sheet .
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