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Home is where the heart is

8 Feb

This winter hasn’t been the best for visiting my shop. I’ve been tired, a little blue, and distracted by work, car troubles, and family obligations. I’ve been longing for my shop to be CLOSER. A thirty minute drive can be a huge deterrent to just popping in and tinkering on this project and that. Add to that the fact that winter makes me want to hibernate, and I’m left with very few shop visits. I hope to move into a house in the next couple of years, and one of my priorities will be to have a shop space attached. It’s a very exciting thought- to be just steps away from resuming a project. Ideally I’d like to find a basement workshop or even a garage, either would probably be just as large as the shop I currently have. I have a real estate listing or two on the fridge that I consider dream options- but I’m willing to compromise!

All this to say that I visited my shop for a second or two while visiting my mom yesterday, and I miss it! I went in on the pretense of checking for leaks etc., but I really just wanted to be in the shop. I suddenly realized that part of the reason I’ve been feeling a little blue of late is that I haven’t had shop time. It didn’t occur to me because I basically woodwork all day at my job- so how could I be missing woodworking? The answer is simple, work is not the same as time in my shop, doing what I want, how I want. I really want those two things to mesh into one eventually. But for now I have to recognize that I haven’t been fulfilling a need. So starting this weekend I will head back to the shop and kick up some sawdust.

Here are a few pictures of a little reorganization I did over the holidays.

Before shot:


When I suddenly added this sander to the shop I had to think quick and come up with a stand for it to sit on. I happened to have a workmate lying around so I used it for this end, but as you can see it was a clunky affair, not really a permanent solution.

After pic of sander:

While this stand may also just be temporary, I find it much more easy to tolerate as it has opened up loads of space that I frankly wasn’t functioning well without!

Before pics of fastener storage:

A flurry of cutting my parts to dimension was the beginning of the project. Then followed a lot of edge banding.

Top left you can see my previous fastener storage system on the end of my bench.

It's a bit cleaner than this now. There's a dust collector in the background. I haven't found a window treatment for the door window yet...

In this photo you can just barely see the back right corner held blue bins along the wall for fasteners. It worked for a while but eventually the racks failed and the bins would drop off the wall spilling their contents all over the floor.

After pic of fastener storage:

This storage solution, which incorporates my paper dispenser for protecting my work-surfaces during glue ups, has me wondering why I didn’t think of it sooner! Ah what a difference!!

Yesterday I noted how much this reorganization session had changed my space for the better. My previous setup had created a lot of frustration from tripping over the workmate, and from searching for dropped/ spilled items on the floor. I’m certain that the current state of the shop will improve how productive I am in the shop.

As an aside, I recently had to suffer through a bout of  second hand car shopping, as my car (that I recently posted about!) needed replacing much sooner than anticipated. I had been wanting to change up from a sedan for quite a while as I found it was a rather formidable limitation to woodworking. I couldn’t pick up machinery, or transport furniture that I’d built with a sedan, although picking up boards of wood was surprisingly possible. Because I wanted to purchase a car outright rather than be tied to payments, I went with a second hand car. And because I wanted more flexibility to transport woodworking related items, I went with a hatchback. And finally because I was worried about day to day fuel consumption I compromised a bit on size. The car I went with has 64 cubic feet of cargo space.

2003 Suzuki Aerio SX

I just thought it was interesting to mention that woodworking can even influence a car purchase! Also I figured out that in a few years when I might need a “real” woodworker’s car, with more cargo space I might want to get a Honda Element- the cargo configurations were made for surfers and mountain bikers, but they also would work perfectly for woodworkers!

Happy woodworking!

My Shop… the tour!

25 Feb

The jumbled beginnings…

Once I was allowed to take over my future shop space I was SUPER eager to clean it out and fill it up. The timing was unfortunately a bit backwards. I got the space, had enough time to clean out some major shelving units and lots of stuff, and then  immediately afterwards I had the delivery of my table saw. I’d planned to paint the floor before hand- but I was forced to paint it afterwards, in sections. This required moving all the shop contents to one side and then the other, and on my part a lot of sweat and patience. Even more so because I had to coax  away 10 years of  dirt from the concrete with a steel wire broom, some degreaser and THEN treat the floor with concrete conditioner before painting. I had to wait a full day after conditioning and eight hours between coats of floor paint ( I only added  a second coat of paint to high traffic areas). It all happened in the full swing of summer.  Thankfully I had a few old fans to use. Next summer I might consider finding a cheap air conditioner!!

After much cleaning out and some organizing

These shots are after the delivery of my table saw but before painting the floor

You might be able to make out the outline of two massive shelves that were a struggle to remove by myself and stripped screw heads were also a delightful twist

All the stuff needed to be piled out of the way for painting the floor...

I got a lot of exercise this summer!

I wore a gas mask for painting, the fumes were pretty thick in the hot summer air AND it was a tight space.

I couldn't wait to paint over all the rust patches

I was glad that at this stage I hadn't really "installed" anything permanently so everything was easier to move (ie. my bench was still collapsible)

Finally, the floors were sealed!

And then smooth sailing… except….

I had this very optimistic timeline projected onto me by my friends and family members. Surely I’d be set to start woodworking in no time. I had a job to go to and was only fitting in what I could on weekends. I had to arrange the layout satisfactorily and hang up new brackets for wood storage, fix up some kind of bench, and attend to a load of other details that don’t become apparent until you’re facing the need in question. For instance I found it absolutely necessary to track down a sound system. I did so for $20. Then there were other needs piling up, where to sit, how to put up the peg board, where to put this or that, how to make it easier to pull the bandsaw out for use. It went on and on, it felt overwhelming.

Other things weighed heavily on my mind as well. I needed to re-roof  one half of the structure before the first snowfall. I bought shingles, and felt paper and luckily had nails and other supplies.  With the help of my sister who had previous experience with roofing, it was done in one day.

I’ve only found ONE of the “before” shots of the roof and no “after” shots. Oh well. One side of the roof  had shingles that were almost comically corroded. That same side of the roof  now looks immaculate and has proven leak proof thus far.  The building now has a thick layer of snow on top as does the yard.

The before picture! Look at those nasty shingles!

I still have an issue with carpenter ants nibbling away at the framing in the walls. I discovered it around the same time as re-roofing and I tried some house hold product solutions to no avail. I’ll have to call in a professional it seems. Procuring and maintaining a shop space is not always a walk in the park like we’d like it to be!

But after much toil… the moment you’ve been waiting for!

Here are the photos of my shop just a week or two ago.

There's a dust collector in the background. I haven't found a window treatment for the door window yet...

My jointer was made in 1986! There's my planer that I built a base for, but I still lift it up onto the bench.


There's my makeshift bench, bench vise, and dehumidifier.


And here's my precious.


The drill press nook. I have to pull the router table out for use generally.


One of my newest additions.


The bandsaw that is on loan to me, and the fence that I made-- more on that later.


I actually fit quite easily by everything. 8'x16' is tight but so far it's working out.


I hope you enjoyed the tour! Next I’ll be talking about the shop furniture and fixtures that I recently made. More specifically: a cross cut sled, an infeed table for my table saw, a rolling base for my planer and a fence for my bandsaw.

Lessons from woodworking school- Safety

22 Mar

Okay so if youtuned in last time, my class and I had to visit 3 woodworking businesses and report back. Now we were done researching the field, and were ready to start woodworking!

Not so fast! Turns out the school thought we should cover shop safety first. Okay- fair enough! So we calmed our antsy selves and learned all of the dangers of working in a woodshop.

Aside from the basics (ear, eye, skin, foot, and respiratory protection), we read articles, talked  about common sense, poured over statistics, and drew out a shop plan that would provide key safety features. Before I go into detail on the shop plans we drew up, I’d like to list some of the safety tips and advice that have stuck with me and are relevant to seasoned woodworkers and beginners alike.

General safety information:

  • your attitude will determine how safe you work
  • never approach or touch someone while they’re using a machine- wait until they’ve finished and it’s best to approach from the front.
  • do your most demanding work in the morning, when you’re sharp.
  • understand and respect each machine in your shop
  • keep workpieces as large as you can for as long as you can, a lot of accidents are caused when a workpiece is too small and unstable on a machine.
  • keep your blades sharp
  • keep your work area clean
  • use push sticks and guards whenever possible
  • if it feels dangerous, don’t do it or find another way
  • table saws cause the most accidents because more people own them and use them more frequently than other machines. Make certain you’re focused while on the table saw.
  • prevent hazardous airborne substances when ever possible. Avoid spray finishes by using brushed on oils or varnishes, and avoid dust by using hand tools (plane, scraper)
  • unplug or shut off the secondary power box to any machine before changing the blade or bit.
  • avoid eating heavy lunches, a lot of accidents are reported to occur after lunch and before 3pm
  • know when to quit for the day, accidents happen when focus has been lost or a job has been rushed
  • chisels cause a lot of accidents, keep both hands on the chisel and you’ll easily avoid jabbing yourself
  • choose safety gear that feels comfortable, you’ll be more likely to wear it and prevent hearing loss, eye damage, or even cancer
  • always be aware of the possible dangers of a set-up before starting (know where to stand, which is the safest operation, and that you have enough clear space to maneuver safely)

For safety tips and guidelines for specific machines, stay tuned. Those will come in later shop lesson installments.

Several quizzes later, we had a solid understanding of shop safety. We then needed a crash course on shop layouts.

The shop plan required we have:

  • good flow from machine to machine
  • a logical place for wood storage
  • a work bench
  • natural light, and electrical lighting
  • a cabinet for finishing supplies
  • a fire extinguisher
  • an eye wash station
  • a first aid station

The shop was to be the size of a typical double car garage 18’x22′ and we would have to show how an 8′ board could clear all of the walls and other machines, and also take into consideration that each stationary machine needed a minimum space around it to operate properly and safely. One other consideration was to make certain you had the kickback zone behind the table saw aimed at a benign area of the shop where something could go flying and not harm or damage anything or anyone.

click to view closer up, the list on the side is the legend

I’ve included my sketch. We did this by hand, with rulers, but as you may have seen in my previous post, using google sketch-up is very useful as well!

Shop layout illustrated- Google Sketch-Up will blow your mind!

2 Feb

It’s a snow day here- a perfect time to obsess over google sketch-up and shop layouts! Picture an object in your mind, any object… now search sketch-up’s 3D warehouse and POOF(!) you’ve got a virtual 3D version of that object! Okay so that’s only useful if you are,  say, trying to arrange a layout for heavy objects without having to move them physically. I’ve been living in a virtual 3D warehouse for a couple of days figuring out my future shop layouts. Here are the fruits of my labour…

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I originally was planning to rough out some boxes approximately the right size and move them around the floor plan- so if you’re about to create your own shop layout by all means do whatever is easiest or quickest for you. Sketching on a pad of paper works. I chose this route because A) I found it too cool B) I could get a realistic idea of spacial relations in the layout, and C) most of the ready-made models not only look awesome, but are the correct 1:1 sizes (the only dimensions I had to gather were those of the shop space).

As for layouts:

You can see I included the current layout and state the shop space I’m considering… it’s a mess!

Next I removed all of the items I hope to purge in the upcoming months (read: stash anywhere else)

Then I arranged the tools that I currently have into some semblance of a functional shop (which I hope to have “running” in May 2011).

And finally I couldn’t resist having a motivational foray into my dream shop layout. (including upgraded machinery)

I found this to be an excellent exercise in planning . I recommend that anyone who’s starting a woodworking  shop/business draw up a quick shop layout to figure out :

  • is there room for all the machines you plan to put in your shop space?
  • do you have enough space to move between machines?
  • does the flow of the shop work?  (moving traditionally from the miter saw, over to the jointer, planer, then table saw, and over to the bench from any given place in the shop)
  • where are the best places to put outlets and what voltage?
  • is your bench close to natural light?
  • can you store wood close to the entrance and/or miter saw or jointer? (this will save you from walking unnecessarily far, and wasting time)

That last one reminds me- I didn’t picture my wood storage in the layouts because I have existing overhead shelving along  two sides of the shop that I’ll use for wood storage.  Have yet to decide where plywood and other sheet-goods will be stored.

Also research layouts that work. I already had two books I had bought second hand because ” looking at other woodworking shops is fun”. But I finally put them to good use and studied the layouts. Especially the shops that were of similar size to mine. If you’re looking to take books out of the library, the ones I have and recommend are:

Woodshop Lust by David Thiel, published by Popular Woodworking Books

The Workshop by Scott Gibson, published by Taunton Press (finewoodworking)

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