2020 Shop Makeover

This is a follow-up to my post-project evaluation from the printer cabinet. I made some decisions and already got started on making some changes to help streamline the shop and make projects more enjoyable. Even in the course of making these changes I have had other issues highlighted for me.

Sheet goods are a pain point for me, and it has been that way since the beginning. I’ve tried several solutions: a Centipede work support, rigid foam, a small table with foam, etc. In all of these situations one of the things that has hindered me the most is the fact I have exactly one level spot on my property. This is a thin patio attached to my house, which is down the hill from my shop. It is convenient for unloading sheets from my truck, but it also means I have to bring everything I need to break them down to the patio. Surface, foam, saw, rails, etc. So I decided to build up the area in front of the shop and make a patio there.

The original idea was to build a deck, but there is a lot of red tape with that. Retaining walls under two feet require no government oversight, so I went that route. It is a U-shaped wall that is situated at a perpendicular approach to the front of the shop. At the moment I write this, the front (including steps) plus the wall that runs along the front of the shop is done. What is left to do is the run farthest away from the shop, including removal of the old shop ramp to facilitate that. Then I need to order dirt to be delivered, then finishing touches on top such as pavers and tall toppers. It will be mostly level (drainage), and it will eliminate the large step up into my shop (good for when we eventually move and have to remove these large stationary tools). Included here are some in-progress pictures.

Also on the sheet goods front, I’ve picked up a couple of accessories and have had the opportunity to try them out. I mentioned in the previous post about buying some TSO Products, including the GRS-16 rail square, and guide rail connectors. I also picked up one of their parallel guide kits since then. I’ve had the opportunity to run them through the paces and have had some mixed results. The guide rail connectors are pretty obvious what they do, but they allow me to connect two rails together to achieve one long rail that is capable of rip cutting a full sheet of plywood. These worked pretty well and aligned the rails nice and straight.

The rail square and parallel guide however have had some teething problems. The guide square is intended to make a nice 90° cut based on the front edge of the sheet. The guide securely attaches to the rail, and the front edge mates with the plywood. I never had issues with the square attaching to the rail, but I was rarely able to get my marks to line up with where the rail was placed. I did a massive amount of troubleshooting on this, and eventually figured out that I was placing the absolutely smallest amount of pressure on the end of the rail shifting it off where it needed to be. I think I’ve fixed this and will need to make more sheet good cuts on following projects to make sure. I think this could be improved in design to make a better registration on the plywood, something that could be addressed with another of their accessories. However for the price these things are, this small amount of aluminum L-stock with a couple holes and two machine screws could be included. What’s more is that this accessory isn’t compatible with the parallel guide, because they use the same mounting holes on the square. I didn’t have any issues with the parallel guide per-se, because I think all the issues I had were with registering the square itself. That is to be determined, though. Thanks to some market research I did, I was able to get the parallel guide at no cost to me. To be completely honest though, these are very expensive products and not having great results off the bat were disappointing. Thankfully the small errors did not impact my projects that much and were overcome. (I also after I initially wrote this picked up the official systainer, and will eventually pick up the other square).

Time to finally get around to said projects in this post. After much thought and consideration I decided to overhaul much of the interior of my shop. The main goal was to provide more storage so that horizontal surface accumulation would be reduced to allow for a calmer building experience. I decided that I needed more shelves and drawers, but I had nowhere to put them. The solution that I came up with will hopefully solve these issues plus give me additional and improved systainer storage.

It turned out I already had a blueprint for this in Timothy Wilmots’s shop plans which I purchased with his MFTC cart plan. I already had two banks of double-depth systainer storage, but I had considered modifying it because a couple of them rubbed on each other. His plans called for more efficient use of the space by reducing the width and height of the systainer drawers. By using his dimensions instead of mine, I was able to have the same amount of storage for the double-depth banks in less horizontal space. I did end up increasing the height by a half inch as well just to ensure I could fit what I wanted.

The biggest actual change here is that I replaced the lathe stand. It was designed and built in the old shop when I didn’t have so much of a premium on space. I replaced it with drawer and systainer storage that is exactly the same height as the systainer banks, just single-depth. This does raise the lathe up quite a bit, but based on how little I use it I am not concerned. This is why they make stools. This has proved to be the most useful change to this point because it gives me space for a handful of drawers, and a bit more systainer storage if the time comes. It also gives me space to store and easily access my portable air compressor and oscillating spindle sander. Since I don’t need access to these very often, I put them in the bank behind my drill press.

With the lathe being raised up, it caused some follow-on issues. I had to relocate the hollow chisel mortiser shelf higher, and in doing so I made a bit more effort to secure it to the wall. Feels much more secure now, and I can still get to it on the rare occasion I need to, and it isn’t too heavy to lift up there and get down. I also had to redo part of my dust collection, which was the more difficult and time consuming portion. The head stock was going to interfere with the main hose for that side of the shop, so everything up to the ceiling had to be redone to clear various tool operations. This took the better part of three hours to sort out, and the lower two blast gates are now harder to get to, but I think it will work.

I also completely remade the upper miter saw storage based on the same dimensions as everything else. This allows me to make drawers to the same dimensions for ease, allows for even more systainer storage if needed, and brings a third full column of shelves. A side benefit of the same width used is that will better transfer weight to the floor, but the cabinets are also attached to the wall. More shelves, a few drawers, and doors are in the plans. In reality, the only thing left from the old right side of the shop is the miter station surface and the two supports that are situated under the miter saw.

When I reduced the width of the upper storage, I lost my spots for the Fastenal hardware bins. I knew this when I looked at the plans, so I had to figure an alternate solution out. I considered having them stored under a miter saw support wing, but settled on purchasing a metal cabinet for them with drawers. This is the perfect height to go under my workbench, but that also means everything under the workbench needs to be redone. So I emptied the drawers and ripped the old cabinet out. The hardware rack was installed on the left side, and I cut the old cabinet down to what fit beside it. Unfortunately, it is about 1/2″ too narrow for the socket set to fit like it did. To be determined about any drawers or shelves.

I also have done some rearranging of smaller things on the walls. I moved the hand tool cabinet closer to the corner and rearranged most of that wall from there. Battery chargers relocated to the TV wall, and I moved the computer down to where I could get to it easier. The Festool rails moved over next to the systainers, because something flat needed to be behind where the drawers open. Just a lot of small rearranging based on use and need. In the place where the rails used to be, I put up a couple of hooks to store my tall auxiliary fence. I also cut down the blade storage to only fit the full side blades and fit it under the hose reel. The dado stack has now found a home inside my drill press cabinet.

I also am testing out reusing the old systainer drawers as regular drawers in my MFT, small flat items that don’t have a great home elsewhere – remotes, small measuring tools, etc. These will eventually get remade into actual drawers, but maybe not before the entire MFT sysport gets remade…eventually.

All of this has taken place over the course of a month, and is still ongoing. At some point I need to finish this post up and get it published or I never will. On deck are even more drawers, and a couple neat tricks.

Post Project Evaluation – May 2020

While I was making my printer cabinet, I noted several things I wanted to address when I was done. From storage in the workshop to holes in my arsenal or skills lacking, this is going to be a lengthy post talking about all of it. Perhaps this will be a series going forward, which is why I added the date to the title. I have done tool wish lists and shop goals in the past, this is meant to be a complete comprehensive review of myself and my shop after a major project.

By far the biggest problem during this build was the amount of junk on any and every horizontal surface. Some of this was cutoffs from either the walnut hardwood or the walnut veneer plywood. Some of it was tools that I was between uses. Some of it was things in the shop that didn’t have a great home or no home at all. The first thing that I had to do was address this problem, as going forward I would have even bigger projects and more potential for clutter.

The cutoffs during a project should be addressed as they happen. I need to do a better job of identifying what is usable to keep, and what simply needs to be discarded. In particular, unless the plywood is of a certain size, toss it. Hardwood or softwood should be sorted and stashed away if there is room. If not, or the piece isn’t usable, into the scrap bin for burning or trashing. Don’t let it pile up on a surface. This was egregiously bad on my workbench to the point it was unusable. You can see it in the pic below.

Find homes for things. I can do a better job of making homes for things so that they have places to sit not on horizontal surfaces. I was moving some things around from tool to tool because they were constantly in the way. Things need to not be too good for their home.

Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate layout, processes, anything if it comes up. If a problem prevents you from accomplishing a goal, that problem needs to be addressed in some form. These are all general things, it’s time to dive into specifics I saw, and either addressed or in the process of doing so. I’ll do this in a clockwise fashion from the door.

The table saw’s function was mostly fine, although I did find two problems with dust collection. One, I wasn’t getting a lot of suction from the bottom. I filled some additional gaps with duct tape and seemed to get a bit of suction effect on the zero clearance insert. What’s left is to address dust collection at the guard – the hose is too long and bulky for most cuts and shifts the splitter to the fence side trapping the outfeed. I want to come up with something similar to what I had with my old table saw that is a fixed overarm dust collection tube. I’m still evaluating my options here. I also found that I have never made a dado cut on this table saw, and when I went to do this for the panels, I could not because I had no appropriate insert. I ended up ordering a metal insert from Lowe’s made for this saw. Eventually I will make a bunch of insert blanks.

The drum sander is one of the newest additions, along with the bandsaw. It worked well, but I did notice next time I go to use it I need to adjust the tables a bit upward. Trying to use the oscillating sander stored underneath, it became quickly clear that this had to change. The sander had to come completely out to use, and there was some contortion involved. After the project I found a home for it under the lathe, and now the large grinder sits there, temporarily.

The bandsaw is just fine, but I do need to make more dust inserts, because each time I forget to set tension one breaks. The dust collection hose is a bit bulky between the saw and the MFT, but that’s a low problem. No issues with the parallel clamp storage, but perhaps I could improve the spring clamp storage.

The MFT sysport can be a bit of a pain to get to the air tools, and I’m considering relocating that systainer. Not sure where yet, because it isn’t something I need very often, but when I need it I shouldn’t have to move a bunch of other stuff. The rail also tends to hand on the bottom of the TV when moving, so I need to consider moving the TV up, if not also over a bit to cut down on glare from the light directly in front of it.

There are a couple of issues I found with working at my MFT sysport, and they involve the Festool CT vac mounted underneath. One is that I need to improve the boom arm by making the hose both better attached to the arm and able to easily be removed. One is that I want a better way of activating the vac without having a tool attached. One is that I want to directly attach non-Festools to a power source supplied by the vac (which would also address the second point). I did order two conversion kits, which one I will use on my Dewalt 611 palm router. I’ll post up about that when/if they arrive. That would reduce a lot of need for having the vac come on without a tool, except for the TSC 55.

The workbench area will be greatly improved just by keeping it clear during a project and available for hand tool work. I am planning on moving the hand tool cabinet over closer to the corner. What this will do is allow for taller pieces and better access to my end vice. I am worried a bit about being able to access it well, and it may be that I have to rethink that. The under-bench cabinet should be redone at some point, as whenever I access my socket set it is gouging the MFT sysport with the drawer slide. Also, the drawers were not specifically made for this and often fall off track. This storage can be better used.

The miter saw/systainer cabinets suffered greatly from junk. My spare batteries and the Bosch chargers littered the surface. These have all now found a home, including wall mounting the Bosch charger (and I’ll mount the other one exactly the same way). The charging location may move based on need and convenience. I need to do a better job keeping the systainer area clear of larger boards and ply pieces, as I was continually moving items to get to different tools. This will be critical as I continue to add more and make all the drawers double depth. The upper cabinets need to be used more efficiently, and I’ve started this process by moving over all my finishing supplies out of the previous cabinet. Two part epoxy, glue, and other finishing items were adding to the clutter. I will be considering adding to or redesigning the cabinets to fulfill more needs as conditions warrant. The miter saw is awful at capturing dust, and may or may not be completely accurate at times. I am going to try to resolve some of the dust issues first before I follow through with a replacement. If I do replace it, the Kapex will be the choice. It is expensive, and it comes with a couple of other drawbacks, but it is the only thing I’m considering that actually takes dust collection seriously.

I used the jointer and planer pretty significantly during this project, and am thankful I addressed the jointer and tuned it up. The only issue I have with it is one of capacity, and I don’t think I can upgrade to an 8″ jointer in this shop. The planer needs to be upgraded with a helical head, but more importantly the height needs to be addressed if possible. Using the planer at the height it is was very uncomfortable, but I’m not sure I can fix that effectively. It is as high as it is to accommodate everything else in the shop. I will be looking to see if the cart can be higher and sit under the right side of the table saw, or if I can try again to combine the drum sander and it into one stand. That would be the ultimate space saver if it is possible.

No issues with the lathe, it really hasn’t been used since it came into this shop. I do need to adjust the dust hose there as it comes out right where the headstock is. Move the blast gate up is the most likely outcome, or it is possible I could actually move it down and to the left of the headstock. To allow the osciallting sander to live under the lathe, I had to remove and disassemble the drawer holding the turning tools. They are now just sitting on the lathe table, which is fine for now. Above the tailstock I made a short shelf to hold the hollow chisel mortiser. It was getting in the way on the floor and falling off the drill press base when it was there. It is situated behind the drill press head and think will be a great spot if the shelf holds. May need to make it slightly bigger.

With the drill press base clear, I made a small cabinet to store drill bits. My forstner sets were floating around a bunch and getting in the way, and making a spot for them. I’ll be adding a bit more storage in this spot as needs come about. This would be a great spot to add some light storage on the side for table saw accessories, because that’s something I neglected to mention above.

As far as upgrades or needs go, specifically evaluated during this project and a very small one after. I don’t have a great way to address full sheets of ply. I have to crosscut everything first, unless it is some 1/8″ material. Then I can rip it on the table saw but it flops around everywhere and doesn’t want to clear my workbench. It also isn’t that accurate.

So I need to find a solution for rip cuts, and I’m starting out by purchasing some guide rail connectors. This is a trivial expense compared to a long rail, and much easier to store. These will be here this week, and I can’t wait to test them out. The first project with them may be a new workbench cabinet. If they don’t work as well as I’d like, I’ll sell them and buy a 118″ rail and figure out a way to store it. If they do work, I may buy one more 55″ holy rail so that I can swap between crosscuts and rip cuts easily. The other aspect to this is that I need to have a wider surface to do these outside the shop cuts on, the 4×2 table I have outside is simply not big enough for this purpose. I was thinking about getting some nice sawhorses to set up occasionally, but the price shot up before I could pull the trigger. I’m hoping to work on the area outside of the shop in the next few weeks to have a level surface behind a retaining wall. Unknown when a finish date on this might be, it depends on how hot it gets and how difficult it is to dig the trench for the bricks. I also purchased a TSO rail square so that I can ensure my sheet goods come out square. I will be attempting to redo my parallel guides, as I will need those when I make the tall bookases.

I desperately want to upgrade my miter saw, but $1500 is a lot of money for some marginal difference and some better dust collection. I’m going to attempt to address the dust collection first with some scrap. If that doesn’t work, then I might address this need.

I have a few holes in my arsenal at the moment, and the struggle is determining which ones to address first. My block plane is just about destroyed from rust from dried glue on a previous project. I am going to try and fix it for continued use on plywood, but I finally ordered a Veritas one and a couple of accessories for it. It would have been very handy to use for chamfers on the printer cabinet. I discovered I did not have a 1/4″ shank roundover bit for my palm router, I addressed this yesterday by grabbing one from Rockler. I also replaced my broken router collet wrench last weekend. I’ll be ordering a new chuck for the old Triton router and perhaps it can be a second router table somewhere.

There are other holes that I want to address soon, but I honestly don’t know what the importance and order should be. I want the larger Domino to make larger projects, but I don’t have anything on deck that needs it. Down the road, yes, which makes me think it can wait. I don’t have a way to strip finish or paint, which is where a Rotex 150 would come in. Again, though, not immediately needed. What would be nice about this though is that I already have most of the paper I need for it. I also cannot spray any finishes or paint without a sprayer, and I actually might be leaning toward filling that hole soon. I am debating making our new kitchen cabinets, and being able to spray them would be a huge time saver. Not sure I want to be building them, though. I could also theoretically get a similar finish with a cheaper paint gun.

It’s a bit tough because I think I’m too the point where I don’t have too many pressing needs, and it’s all about strategy right now.

 

The Home Office Build – Printer Cabinet

In my current home office setup, my printer sits on an Ikea Expedit 2×2 (or Kallax, I don’t remember which one it is) piece of furniture behind and to the right of me. It sits under a window, and over an air vent. There are four drawers – two of them hold printer supplies, two hold various cords and cables, and the two bottom sections hold junk.

(BTW, the top left set of drawers aren’t discolored, it’s that Ikea sold two different finishes on white, and I guessed wrong for the door and the top right drawers).

It is adequate. I mean, the printer never fell off, so I guess you would consider it a success. Furniture that doesn’t fall apart is good furniture, right? What it lacked was any sort of style or depth. It also lacked great storage for what I really needed it for – video game systems.

I got into system collecting last year, and quickly acquired most of what I wanted from the 1980s and 1990s. What the consoles didn’t come with though was a space to keep them. For months they sat at the end of my desk, piled on top of each other. For the sanity of my marriage this had to change. Thankfully, early on in the printer cabinet design I started thinking it would be a good spot for them.

This first project in the series took quite a long time to bring from concept to fruition. The main reason for this was because what I did here would influence the rest of the components in this series. I had to nail a design that would translate to the rest of the pieces, would serve my needs, and I had the capability to pull off. The basic build is a bookcase with doors and some adjustability in shelf location, so using it for different purposes down the road is no big deal. I just had to figure out how I was going to build it with the supplies I purchased.

What I bought (on sale) was common #2 8/4 walnut. This had a lot of knots I had to deal with, and an inability to resaw completely for full use. I designed the rails and stiles all the way around to use 1″ thick boards, to complement the 3/4″ walnut veneer ply I knew I could source. 1/2″ plywood as far as I could tell wasn’t readily available for me. I ended up sticking with this plan for thicker wood, even though it meant wasting more wood. I’ll have to find 5/4 or 10/4 for the future.

This 8/4 walnut was jointed, planed, resawn, and drum sanded to get to 1″ thickness for both the side panels, and the doors that came much later. These were also cut to 2″ width and various lengths. To make the grooves to accept the panels, I used the router table and a regular straight bit. One day I’ll pick up a couple of spiral bits, but the straight bits worked out okay. The one issue I ran into was not realizing the fact I was doing a climb cut on my second pass, and one board shot out of my hands and messed up one end a bit. I figured that out for subsequent visits on this technique. The plywood panels were also done at the router table, making a rabbet with a larger straight bit. I also added a decorative curved profile to the bottom rails.

The most difficult decision came to the panels themselves. I designed everything to have a middle stile, but unfortunately I was not going to have enough material to complete the project. I also was concerned about wood movement of the middle stile. With the way I had designed it, the inner panels would be completely flush. I felt I would have also had to add an expansion gap that would ruin the look on the inside. So I didn’t. I made the panels fake, with the middle stile being applied directly on top of the bigger plywood panel. I felt this would be the best compromise, and allow the middle stile to move slightly as it was not glued to each edge. This allowed me to use some of the waste material generated by resawing the 8/4 boards to 1″ thick as well.

The completed panels were all assembled using traditional methods, tongue and groove and mortise and tenon. The top and bottom rails had tenons made again at the router table, using my new Rockler sled. These tenons were then notched to fit into the stopped groove on the stiles. The ends of which were squared with the hollow chisel mortiser, something I haven’t used in years. Great application for this, even though they needed some additional fine tuning. The initial panels were glued with Titebond III and clamped. The faux third stiles were added after the assemblies were dry.

With the two side panels complete it was time to make this thing three dimensional.  First up was making the curved rail to match the sides, which was done at the bandsaw and cleaned up with sandpaper. This was connected to the bottom panel (shelf) with domino tenons. Then that assembly was connected to the back panel, again with domino tenons. Then it was time to carefully put mortises in the side assemblies for both panels. The back panel was lined up with the back of the side assembly, so that was easy. The bottom panel had to be lined up in the field of the side assembly towards the bottom, which necessitated a guide rail to reference off of. Thankfully I am becoming more skilled with the Domino and all of this went down smoothly.

Two additional shelves were made with more of the 3/4″ walnut veneer ply, capped at the front with some scrap walnut. Since these shelves aren’t going to hold a lot, I didn’t make the edging too thick. Perhaps later if these shelves need to hold books I will revisit that. Everything got two coats of Arm-R-Seal semi gloss and it came inside to be used with a temporary top of plywood.

The top was made with the last piece of walnut I had left, and as such was a bit thinner than I had planned. After jointing, planing, resawing, and sanding the height came out to be just under 7/8″. I was aiming for 1″, so I’m glad I didn’t have to go all the way down to 3/4″. Again I used domino tenons to align and connect. I did have a large crack toward the end of the boards I used for the back and front, so I bought a inlay kit from Rockler and I learned how to inlay bowties to keep the crack from spreading. When the panel was done, I put a nice big bevel on three sides, which I got some inspiration from Harvey Ellis here. This will be a feature of all the projects in this series. Again, two coats of Arm-R-Seal were applied. I also learned how to fill knots on this project using two part epoxy. The design on the top even got me a follow on Instagram from a well-know celebrity. Head over to see who if you are curious.

There was a bit of a misadventure attaching the top to the cabinet with figure-eight washers, and I think I’ll have to go back eventually and use table clips. But, it does work (I can’t move it by the top). The cabinet could have been stopped here for now, but I often stop working on things when I’m 90% done so I pushed on.

Here’s where the second part of my design dilemma came in, and it is because I wanted to have a leaded glass insert. The only problem here was that I have zero experience or skill doing this. So I translated my potential design to a piece of plywood where I hoped to recreate the look. Unfortunately my plan didn’t work out, but I did find an alternate.

The doors were made in exactly the same manner as the side panels, with the exception of adding a third rail. Then I completely removed the inside rabbet in the upper section to be able to after-fact insert this plywood panel that serves as the glass substitute. I took the design from a Frank Lloyd Wright leaded glass panel, and created the same pattern on the plywood using pencil. I then went along these pencil lines with a 1/8″ router bit mounted in the table. The Incra fence system came in very handy here, allowing me to really dial in where the bit was cutting. I used stop blocks attached to the fence, and I can say I only had one incident there.

I had the foresight to make this panel four times, instead of two. This gave me some leeway in case I messed something up, and naturally that did occur. The idea was to inlay some dyed black veneer into the grooves I made to emulate the leaded glass. It was difficult to get the veneer to cut well, and even more difficult to get it in the grooves. I had to use CA glue to get the veneer pieces to stay, and attempting to sand it off took a lot of veneer with it. I certainly wasn’t going to succeed with this method, but thankfully I did like the look of just the cuts in the panel itself. So that became the final product. These were installed in the door, and secured with pivot pins like are used in framing. The backs of the doors look a bit off with this panel being wider than the one below it, but too late at this point.

Cup hinges were installed, and a 7° bevel on the mating edges to allow for full closure. I did my very best to prepare for installing the hinges to the cabinet, but I mixed up my spacers (one was 2″, the other 2.125″) and there was too much gap at the top. Thankfully, this happened to be the exact width I needed to clear my N64 controller cable, so I consider that a happy accident. I added period correct pulls from Rockler, drilled a few cable holes in the back panel, and that’s the project done. A component switch allows me to choose my system of choice for a retro gaming session.

For anyone wondering, these are the consoles:

  • Nintendo 64, NES, Nintendo Gamecube, Sony Playstation
  • Sega Genesis Model 2 with Sega CD Model 2 and 32x add-ons, Sega Genesis Model 1 (hot spot)
  • Super NES, Super Famicom (Japanese SNES), Nintendo AV Famicom (Japanese NES with composite output), and Nintendo Famicom with Disk System

I have a few wireless controllers for these, which I prefer over corded, but sometimes the cord is required. I really like 8bitdo’s 2.4g wireless controllers, which you can see a couple on the middle shelf. I also have a bluetooth version that I use for emulation elsewhere. The Gamecube uses Nintendo’s own Wavebird wireless controller, which is excellent. The 8bitdo controllers can be swapped between the US and Japanese counterparts, or the two Genesis units when needed. The hot spot I refer to is the fact I can swap out a different system in this spot if needed, and plug into the front of the component switch. I have a Saturn and a Dreamcast that aren’t represented here, and I know at some point I will want to do some gaming on them.

This was a fun project that stretched my skills decently. In particular, both inlay portions. The two part epoxy went better than I could have imagined, but I do need to get better at taping. I learned some things going forward, and if I never get a chance to address my small mistakes on this project that would be fine. That’s a momentous step for me, delivering a project that is good enough to be permanent.

Next up in this series should be the computer desk, but we’ll see.

 

The Home Office Build – Design

Early Twentieth Century furniture has interested me even before I started woodworking. Our first pieces of furniture were Mission style from Target. They weren’t heirloom pieces by any means, but they were nice enough and lasted for a long time.

As am now approaching ten years of working wood, I went looking for a style to call my own, and starting this office series was the perfect catalyst to put plans into motion. We took a Midwest trip in 2018 that had us visit the Field Museum in Chicago. There was a furniture exhibit that had a few early 20c pieces, and I knew that my style would come from somewhere in this period.

I dove into research about Frank Lloyd Wright, Gustav Stickley, and some of their associated designers and builders. I considered Greene and Greene, but I thought it was slightly too ornate for both my taste and skill level. The furniture is breathtaking, but I also didn’t want to be constrained to copying a specific style throughout. I wanted it to have elements of early 20c, but not be a slave to it. My take on something classic, as it were.

I don’t know if what I came up with can be described properly. It’s “inspired,’ but not clearly from who. I designed the top because I liked Harvey Ellis. I went with walnut because I’m not a massive fan of QSWO (it’s very nice, but I like a bit darker wood). I wanted stained glass but I don’t have that skill set, so I used a wood substitute. There’s modern hinges but period-spec handles. Corbels were in the first drafts, but not the last.

What is in the featured image is the office area I started with, all Ikea and all white to contrast with the dark grey walls of our bedroom. Anyone with a van can go and duplicate this, and I ultimately wanted something unique, something I created, and something a bit more specific to my needs. This picture was taken in June 2017, and hasn’t largely changed. A few more LEGO models, the pics on the wall are different, but otherwise what I’ve been working with and on.

This is what I came up with.

This was my vision, as it was formed at the beginning of this series. Some changes happen along the way, so I’ll save final design language for when I actually start building them. Some of the design aspects are aspirational, like the stained glass windows. It keeps the basics of the setup, but I add quite a bit more storage.

I also designed a new TV stand and tall bookcase to go along with these, just in case I’m ever able to have it all in one room.

Again here will ultimately look a bit different as my design style evolves, but the goal is to have a mostly uniform look. The dream of having one office where all of these reside is a long ways off, but we are in need of a new living room suite anyway. These would not go to waste being built.

For right now, though, it’s time to tackle the smallest job as a way to ease into all of this.

The Home Office Build – Intro

Almost a decade ago, I gained the ability to work from home. It was a slow start, but in 2011 it went 95-99% full time. Since around 2016, it’s been 99% full time if not more. I might have to travel into work once every couple of months for a couple hours. I’m very fortunate, and I’ve resisted moves that would take me out of this opportunity even for more money. I value my time not spent in traffic, and I value the freedom it affords.

At first I was set up in an Ikea Mikael computer desk next to our dining room table. Then we moved this desk to our very large master bedroom (it’s out of proportion to the rest of the house thanks to a remodel about twenty years ago). When I needed two screens, we had to ditch this desk and go to a wider, flatter one. I’m still using this desk today, with modifications, and still in our master bedroom, although in a different spot.

We have a set of Ikea Expedit shelves creating a barrier between the living and working space, another short unit serving as storage for modern consoles attached to my desk (and more desk surface), and yet another short unit serving as our printer stand and storage. There’s also an Ikea bookcase nearby that houses our physical books, magazines, and some of my work-related tomes. So, yeah, Ikea is a popular destination for us. And it makes sense sometimes, when you consider how expensive a sheet of ply is compared to a bookcase in a box – the complete unit is cheaper.

What I don’t have right now, and won’t for quite some time, is a separate office space. We have considered moving, but it isn’t a good fit for us at this time with repairs we need to put into the house. I don’t think constructing another building is wise either, considering the expensive technology that would need to go into another unconditioned space. We have no better places for me to work from, so we make do. One day we will either move, or the kids will move out (or both), so it is something to look forward to. By then I may have to go back into work regularly, too.

What I can do though is make this space a bit more conducive to my everyday needs, and do it in a way that gets rid of the sea of plastic-ish white surfaces. It’s not a bad look pared with a dark grey wall paint, but I’m a woodworker. I could do better if I wanted to. So I am.

So next up I’ll get into what the goals are, what my requirements are, and what the design process is. Then we’ll get into the projects themselves. Should be fun.

The Other Hobbies – Video Games

To know me is to understand I have quite a few different hobbies that I ping-pong between on any given day. Presumably, you’re here because of woodworking. Today I talk about video games – my general history and recent events.

Being a child of the 80s of decent means, my family bought a PC for me to learn on and play the occasional game. In my case there were a couple. I assume the first one was a Texas Instruments TI99/4a because it was released first. I learned BASIC, I played games like Parsec and ZeroZap. Then there was the Apple IIc where I played Lemonade Stand and countless others. I think the first dedicated console we had was an Atari 2600, which had it’s charms.

The first real foray into video games for me though was the Game Boy. I had one near launch and played so many games that I can’t remember them all. Occasionally I’ll get a faint memory and try to pull on it to see what title it was. I had a ton of accessories for it too. I took it everywhere, and while the handheld and the accessories have been lost to time, we did hold onto most of the games and I took those back last year into my collection.

The real star of the show, though, was when we bought a Sega Saturn. This would be the hook that has kept me around. Need for Speed was a highlight, as was Daytona USA and World Series Baseball ’98 (it had Atlanta Braves star Chipper Jones on the cover). The game of the console for me though was Road Rash.

Road Rash was such a formative game, and in all likelihood my most played while the Saturn was our only console. Moreover, it introduced me to my favorite band of all time, Soundgarden. I had just really found my niche in music only two years earlier in 1994, catching on with bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, etc. STP was a drug for me, but it wouldn’t hold a candle to what I eventually found in Soundgarden. Just hearing the intro to Rusty Cage takes me back to August 1996.

So that month would prove to be one to shape my life for over thirty years now. I still love video games, I still love hard hitting music, and I feel the need to break out the Saturn every now and again to scratch an itch. It isn’t the original one we bought because it broke, but I’ve had this replacement one now for sixteen years. Around this time I got a Playstation and actually got to keep it in my room, soon after upgrading to the PS2 with it’s DVD player. The Saturn largely fell to the wayside after this due to the various failings of SEGA and the lack of content.

From there it went. In 2004 I bought my Xbox, which introduced me to Microsoft’s vision of what a console was. Upgrades to Playstation and Xbox came. I also started buying the consoles I missed out on originally. The SNES, N64, the Gamecube. I had Master System games I couldn’t even play. I got into the Dreamcast. Shortly after the kids arrived, and I sold off the Nintendo consoles when I bought the Wii. I’ve purchased every single console since.

Well, in 2019 I decided I would buy back those classic consoles I previously sold and more. I kept the Dreamcast and Saturn, plus the old 2600, but sold everything else what wasn’t current. So I spent quite a bit of time on eBay and in local stores buying pretty much what I could find and afford easily.

Now, I have pretty much every mainstream console made since 1977. I also have several of the “Classic” consoles, updated flash versions of the older consoles with built-in games made by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and now Neo Geo and NEC. I also have an Nvidia Shield TV and a couple of Rasberry Pis to allow emulation whenever I want. And of course the handhelds, including several DS/3DS, a couple of PSPs, a Vita, and an emulation handheld in the style of that original Game Boy that houses a Raspberry Pi.

What I don’t always have though, is time to play them or display them properly. A nice cabinet would go a long way…

 

The Unexpected Year

That escalated quickly.

I, for one, was not expecting things to progress as they have. I should have my Saturdays filled with softball and soccer for my kids, and getting ready to head to Florida for a wedding. At first it was a ripple, then it was a groundswell and a sudden explosion that our lives had changed. Some of this is setting in, some of it is still processing.

Thankfully we were able to complete our Disney trip in late February as we planned. Who knows when it will open again, and what that will look like. Spring sports around the globe have been put on hold or canceled, including my daughter’s last chance at playing softball. My son will have other seasons to play soccer, but the softball was the one that stung. Gone as well are their school schedules, their social opportunities and their other extracurricular activities. Outside of someone getting sick, these will be the things that hurt the most for awhile. They are resilient, though, and one day these events will either be a passing but notable event, or they could be a demarcation line. Until there is a vaccine, there is a non-zero chance things will be fundamentally different.

For the adults, things are much the same as they have always been. There is more schooling done during the week, and my weekends have cleared up significantly. I am running 5Ks three times a week to stay fit, and I miss the Chinese restaurant. I have to be careful not to get to-go from the Mexican restaurant too often. My work is virtually unchanged, so with my weekends free I have more time to get things done. If I choose.

I have started iRacing, but I don’t know if that will become an extended activity with the costs associated. The membership is fine, but it’s the additional costs of tracks and cars, etc that can add up. I’ve built more LEGO in the past three weeks than in the past year. I’ve made some progress on a project, and seen one of my previous ones start dissolving. I’ve played more video games. What I notably haven’t done much of is write. Or go to the gym. I miss the gym, too. I’ve discovered new music. I’ve started to tick off some series I’ve been meaning to watch. Both Discovery and Picard were very good, and I’m hoping to binge The Wire soon if I can keep the kids away. I gave myself a haircut and it’s one of the better ones I’ve had in the last couple of years.

What I’d like to do is to write about a lot of these things in small doses to keep this site alive. Even if it is different things that aren’t necessarily woodworking. It’s very difficult to keep things segregated on a WordPress site, so unfortunately they are all going to be mixed in together unless I can figure something else out. But that’s who I am, I’m a mix of all these things. Woodworking, technology, LEGO, video games, food, entertainment, sports, and more. Maybe I’ll go on a writing spree and have things cued up for awhile. Hopefully stick around.

The unexpected month

I posted my 2020 wants and needs on January 4 at 11:19 am EST. I had no idea what would transpire in the next eight hours that would change all my plans for this year and beyond.

To set this all up, this was a rare Saturday my wife had off from work. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this. I had been looking at older models in green, but this was a 2019 with super low miles at a dealer fairly close by. So many of the other ones were nice, but I couldn’t find a feasible way for me to get there via plane even if I could afford it at the time. This one was within a three hour drive and was just over my price range. I knew it wouldn’t happen, but I sent the email anyway. Then I went to the gym. While there, I decided that I would go ahead and pay off my van loan four months early. I still wasn’t expecting to go and buy a truck, much less that one, but I had the money so I just did it.

When I got back to the gym I found out that it was still available, and I fell in love with the color seeing different pictures of that particular color. My wife surprisingly said to the kids to get in the car and off we went. I got to the dealer about 45 minutes before they closed for the day and knew this was my truck. I closed the deal a couple hours later and we were back in Atlanta before midnight.

It’s a 2019 Tacoma TRD Sport, six-speed manual 4×4, in Cavalry Blue. In the just over month I’ve owned it, it has already become a star in the stage world. I’ve been able to make runs to and from storage hauling a trailer, I’ve been able to hit up Home Depot or Lowe’s at a moment’s notice, anything I’ve needed to do for both shop and set building. Hopefully this will be a tool that sticks around for a very long time and onto whatever awaits in the next shop, whenever and wherever that is.

I’ve already done some limited mods to it, things like a new grille, a new radio, and a couple other aesthetic things. When I added the new radio, I bought metal brackets to mount them. But they needed to be modified, and I made the dumb decision to try and cut them on the miter saw. I should have used a cutoff wheel. The first part went well, until one of the blades caught and ripped the bracket out of my grip. Thankfully my hand didn’t follow it. The bracket shot backwards into the saw itself and rebounded off to the side. Again, thankfully, I did not get hit by it. It ended up destroying the bracket, breaking the bottom left fence, the top right fence, and one of the bed inserts. Plus, obviously, the blade. That radio install got a lot more expensive in short order. I ordered a new blade off of Amazon (the old one was purchased in 2013, so not a horrible thing to have to rebuy), and the other parts from ereplacementparts.com.

The other aspect to January was the one show we were responsible for this year. Within a couple of days we were already putting the truck to use buying supplies to build with. I figured out real quick that I needed to make some bed rails so that sheet goods wouldn’t slip between the wheel wells. It also did work towing a couple small trailers to ferry set pieces between storage, the house, and the theater. I also built the set pieces as well, and I didn’t have to do a lot for once. I built mobile bases for the previously-built porch, bases and new flats, and a couple other smaller things. The truck came in real handy, but I’m also learning to adapt to not having a trunk. I might have to get a tonneau cover eventually to protect cargo.

It was a very unexpected and fun month, and while it did mean some other changes will have to come along, I will certainly enjoy it.

Wants and Needs – 2020 Edition

I have often written about the material things I hope to have in my shop – wish lists. At times, they have probably come across as ungrateful for what I have, and that has never been the intention. I write posts like these to have some sort of game plan and put my thoughts to paper, as it were. These wish lists don’t always work out, and I’m sure there’s some things on my very first one that I haven’t acquired or addressed.

I addressed quite a bit of wants and needs in 2019, including a reliable bandsaw, fixing up my jointer, and buying a drum sander. There’s little that I actually need in terms of material wishes, but there’s always items or tools that I could use that would make things easier.

Hand tools is certainly where my wish list is the longest. I will always have a soft spot for Veritas hand tools, and while I did add the set of three spokeshaves around Thanksgiving, the list is barely dented. I’d love to have a cabinet absolutely full of them, and I’ll get there eventually. The biggest want currently is a block plane, as my current one is all sorts of messed up from planing plywood. I don’t know if what I see is rust, or what. I will eventually trade out all my other ones, starting with the Groz ones. Perhaps some better card scrapers, another nice saw.

I still desire more Festools, for the simple fact is that they are so good and make working enjoyable.I certainly still want a Rotex 150 to aggressively sand more than my 150/3 is probably safe to do. I’ve been staring at a dresser that needs a refinish for years, but I won’t do it without the Rotex. I desire the TS75 to rip large pieces of hardwood, it has more power and a deeper cut than my other saws. The Domino 700 is probably at the top of the list for making bigger projects like shop doors. If the smallest or biggest routers made their way into my shop, I wouldn’t complain, but they’re the lowest want.

For the first time, I think I’m pretty much set for large tools. I could use some enhancements, like a new insert for the router table, things like that. Enhancement, not replacement. If you could call a welder a big tool, that. It’s not strictly woodworking, but would benefit some woodworking projects down the road.

Systainer upgrades

Back in March, I finally upgraded my air tool systainer to make things more organized and easier to find. With a fantastic Christmas gift and a great deal, it was time to get a couple more upgraded as well.

For Christmas, my wife bought me something that was on my wishlist for quite some time, the Bosch FlexiClick set. This is a 12v driver that has four attachments – right angle, compact bit driver, drill, and offset. This set joined my other three Bosch 12v drill/drivers, and it also brought my battery total up to five. I needed to have all these things together and easy to find. The prior situation was throwing the Bosch drivers in with my Ryobi 18v drivers in a systainer and letting things bounce around. I picked up a sheet of thick kaizen foam to see how easy it was to manipulate.

The idea is all over the internet, keeping things neat and separated. I decided to make one systainer for the Bosch 12v tools and batteries, and another would be for the Ryobi 18v tools. The systainers really only required one layer of the thick kaizen, so installation was pretty easy. I used the template I made of the systainer for the air tools, and it lined up pretty closely for the foam. Only I didn’t need to quite follow it because the indentations that exist at the very bottom of the systainer weren’t there at the level of the foam top.

The foam is pretty easy to work with, easily cutting with a breakable razor blade. There is a bit of a learning curve to shape the indentations and holes to fit your needs, and you can tell I started with the driver on the left that has the battery installed because the hole is too big. The reason for this partially is because I tried to stand it up and it was a bit too tall without adjusting. Otherwise, things went as expected. All my drivers, attachments, and batteries fit without issue in the Bosch systainer. I even used the special edition one to closely match the Bosch colors.

The Ryobi one has room to take a bunch of batteries if I absolutely have to.

The reason for this is because Home Depot was running a deal where I could get four batteries and a charger for $80. The last time I bought batteries was a few years ago, so it was time for a refresh. I have some other 18v tools that I use for yard work and etc, so they are handy to have around.

While systainers are by no means the most space efficient means of storing things, there is that just pleasurable feeling with everything having a place and finding it easily. I’m hoping that I can use some more kaizen in some drawers to better find things in the future.