A sabbatical and a rethink

It will surprise no one who has ever read this sad sack of a website to know that I basically took the summer off again from my shop. Other hobbies took over, as they usually do. My mind didn’t stop scheming, and planning, and trying to improve both myself and my workspace.

I have had the desire for a bit to branch out and gain more skills and more ability. To that end, I have investigated small CNCs and other tools and automation to allow me to be productive and make better use of my time. Or to do things I could not do before. All while trying to squeeze even more usability out of my shop.

I’ll get straight to the point – I’m adding more things and attempting to revamp the shop layout once more.

Having a small shop is a puzzle that never truly gets solved. You mess with the pieces, move them around, until you get something that sort of looks like a complete picture. But then the picture changes at some point, and the puzzle needs to be redone. This particular puzzle has had a decent display, but the most recent attempt to improve upon it really did more harm than good. My lathe bench that has a ton of drawers? Basically unusable, because you have to move the table saw to get to them. And then you still can’t really get to them. Same thing goes for the portable air compressor, which I had to access several times this summer. You have to move the drill press to the middle of the shop, in the only walkway until you are done. Not great. Then there’s the continuing issue of accessing the attic, which if I can’t easily do, I can’t exactly store stuff up there.

Time to run through the list, even if it’s only for my own good.

To get to the attic right now I have to move the MFT cart, which blocks my way out of the shop. So bringing stuff in and out or up and down is a chore. I need to be able to consistently swing the ladder down without moving anything. That means the MFT cart has to find a new home. It’s pretty big, and I constantly use it, so that presents an issue. Other things I constantly use are the cabinets, which contain my systainers. I constantly need things out of the finish cabinet, small mechanics-type tools, things like that. Those drawers I made that hide behind the table saw don’t exactly allow me to get to easily. If I want to bring more of my tools out of the house and back into the shop, those need to be super easy to get to. I need to more easily get to my portable compressor, even though I just got one for my truck.

I don’t have a ton of use for the lathe or jointer, so putting those in spots that are harder to get to would work. I don’t use the planer all that much either, but I do use the drum sander a decent amount.

Two things I just added were a 3D printer, and a small welder. I’ve been using the 3D printer constantly, and can monitor it remotely. It doesn’t need to be front and center of the shop, but I also need to get to it to change filament and retrieve prints. This would be a great candidate for a wall-mounted cabinet. The welder is pretty small, and I’ll likely never be using it in the shop. Tucked away would be fine, but I also need to store accessories like the helmet, etc.

Obviously additions usually mean subtractions. In this case, I’ll be getting rid of my traditional workbench. It has served me very well for the better part of a decade, but I don’t do a lot of hand work, and what I do currently I can handle with either the MFT cart or on a regular height cabinet. The lathe might also have to go, but I also have room to put it in the attic if I install a hoist. The workbench will be the big casualty here.

The replacement will be two regular height cabinets which will be modifications of the systainer cabinets. Double-depth, probably MFT and 20mm hole tops with clamp access from the front. Basically, a deeper version of Timothy Wilmot’s design. Plenty of room for systainers, and there will be at least a couple of drawers that I can put stuff in like pliers, scissors, etc. That will be the back wall, and the miter saw will sit in the middle of that. At least for now, I’m considering going without at some point. I’m trying to fit the planer under this, so I can just pull it out and use along the face.

There should be enough room in front of these cabinets to not only pull the drawers out, but pull the attic ladder down.

Above the miter saw will be the cabinet for my 3D printer. Flanking that on the wall will be more shallow cabinets that should hold a majority of things that I have in other cabinets now. The hand tool cabinet that is infested with bugs will be scrapped, I’ll do something smaller and more efficient.

The bandsaw will swap walls to the right side. I should have good access to use it for light use, but could be pulled out. The jointer will be the hardest thing to get to, as usual, because I use it the least. The drill press will basically be where it is now, just tucked more into the corner.

The MFT cart and router will swap spots. I think this is a best of both worlds scenario, because I don’t have to worry about the dust collection port constantly hitting the back of the table saw. The drum sander will stay where it is, but I’m hoping at some point to improve the stand.

Really at this point I am sweating the details. Where do the things that occupy the space below the workbench go? Do I have a plan for all the things in my upper cabinets? The items that are attached to the walls?

 

A virtual return to the shop

I needed a bit of a spark to get back into woodworking, and ultimately the shop layout did the trick. I have always spent way more time and energy on the shop than actually building things, so where else would I turn to get off the schneid?

But to what end? I built the shop based on the layout I’ve had for the last four years now. How much could I change? Would it really make a difference? Would I have to give up anything? The last thing I wanted to do was to make things worse, or have this be a waste of time.

Why change? Well, I was tired of having to deal with a few shortcomings. One is that I have to move my MFT any time I want to get into the loft. I was up there the other day searching for a dead animal (under the shop, thankfully or not thankfully), and I brought down a massively overfilled dust bag. The MFT is a bit hard to spin to the side to gain enough clearance. Another aspect is that I will often run into clearance issues with my router fence and outfeed from the table saw. Another is having to be trapped temporarily while I use the drum sander. But the biggest annoyance by far is the new lathe cabinet I built, and the drawer storage that I started on. I have to move the table saw to get to any of it, and that was a massive oversight on my part.

Addressing really any of these took some thinking outside of the box. There’s only so much room in the shop, and some of these things don’t play well with others, particularly since most of it is right at the same working height. The jointer tables are going to interfere with the table saw, and the MFT, and…well, everything. So I had to start thinking about deletion possibilities. What could I live without? Or, more appropriately, try to live without?

There were four options that I settled on after thinking about it some. I could get rid of the miter saw. I could spend a ton of money on a combo planer/jointer. I could get rid of the table saw. I could get rid of the workbench. All have their upsides and a lot of downsides.

Getting rid of the miter saw is fairly doable, considering that I am limited in length that I can crosscut. My Festool HKC can handle crosscuts anywhere, after all. But there’s something to be said for repeatability of cuts, and getting rid of the miter saw would really only get rid of the tool – I’ve paired the footprint need down to almost just the tool at this point. I can certainly revisit this option in the future, but I actually think I’ll go in the opposite direction and upgrade to the Kapex at some point.

The planer/jointer combo is something that has intrigued me for some time, but it is an absolute fortune. I also don’t think it will save that much room, to be honest. I’ll still have to have at least the same amount of floor space dedicated, and with the planer being separate it allows for a little more leeway in placing things around. The planer/jointer would also likely require 220v, which I cannot do.

The table saw is an intriguing prospect, because I could do a lot of the tool’s task with a track saw and guide. The only thing that would be an issue is narrow rip cuts. However, unless I replace it with more horizontal surface I have no way to do full sheet breakdowns inside the shop. An idea that I could maybe hold onto.

The workbench. I built this early on in the life of the shop, and has done well for me since then. It is super solid for planing and chopping tasks. Getting rid of it would mean not having these things, and a place for my hardware bins and scrap storage underneath. But it would get rid of a weird-shaped item and allow for some different layouts that the workbench is the main reason I can’t use.

It’s a big decision to undertake, but one I’ll need to follow through on to make my shop work.

A Slow Burn

A few years back, when I was first getting into the Festooliverse, I watched a lot of Paul-Marcel’s tutorial and review videos. I thought they were direct, well made, and engaging. Then he stopped making videos, because he took up another hobby and got really involved in it.

Sometimes you either grow out of hobbies or the spark does not burn for some time. It has been like that for me for a good year, now. Just different life priorities, and a bit of burnout. I at times thought about selling off my tool collection, but resisted, thinking the desire would one day return.

That’s where I am at today, that desire starting to come back around. Working on projects around the house again, with a massive investment to get things fixed to where they need to be. I’m also looking to finally make my new desk, perhaps a couple of other things I’ve been thinking about for awhile.

What I need to address first, though, is the shop. It has straight up not worked very well for my needs and it is time to address it in ways I had resisted until now. I’m currently designing a new layout that should finally make the best use of my space. I’m going through old pictures to catalog everything I need to account for before I begin, and that will be the next entry here on the site.

European Replay – Day Eleven

The last day of our trip, travel day.

We awoke in the hotel adjacent to the terminal, walked over, and ate breakfast in the very large lounge area after we went through security. We picked up a few parting gifts, like a big bag of Cadbury Roundies, some teas, and etc. We boarded our Delta flight to JFK and we had left Europe.

We arrived at JFK and were a bit surprised to have to exit the airport completely to go to the other terminal. We went through security there, got some lunch at Wendy’s and waited for our flight to Orlando. Flying during the day is much nicer than flying at night when you are expected to sleep.

We got to Orlando and had to wait about three hours for our next flight, so we had dinner at the Outback there. It was okay, but it was probably better than that at the time because we needed it. We were really tired at this point and the last flight back to Atlanta was seriously uncomfortable.

Make it though, we did. Our trip was at an end. We thought we had made it through unscathed until we went to return our mascot to our son, and realized we had lost it on the very last day. We know it made it out of London, but it must have been left when we got off the plane at JFK. We unfortunately never saw it again, even after sending messages to Delta, TSA, and JFK lost and found. My wife was inconsolable, but thankfully our son understood and was happy to have us back at least.

It was an amazing trip, one that I will never forget. It may have been a day or two too long, but also the miserableness of Versailles may have played a part as well. I’m glad we didn’t try to do the Rome to London itinerary. We are already looking forward to our next trip, and we got our kids passports during this one year anniversary so they can come as well.

European Replay – Day Ten

Our last full day in Europe, unfortunately. We made sure our things were packed up, but we were allowed to keep our suitcases in the apartment while we went to Atelier des Lumieres. This is basically an old warehouse/plant that shows digital imagery on the walls and floor. The images can move around in whole and in part – meaning that the entire image can pan, or parts of the images can be put in motion.

In 2019 this facility had a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit, with two additional sets of artwork exhibited. One was Japanese art, and I honestly don’t remember the other one. So in this exhibit you had the major artworks of Van Gogh digitized, set to music, and exhibited all around you. It was amazing to see this artwork come to life in this way, and I’d recommend this type of artwork exhibit to anyone.

We took the Metro to the nearest station, got some breakfast while we waited (pain au chocolat is brilliant), and took in the exhibit. After, we had a bit of time before we needed to pick up our stuff so we went back to Ile Saint-Louis and got a crepe and enjoyed it on Pont Saint-Louis and just took in the environment.

Our time in Paris had come to an end, so we grabbed our bags, took the Metro to Gare du Nord once again, and boarded the Eurostar for London. Our trip home would be the next morning, and everything I heard said you didn’t want to be taking the train back and trying to fly out on the same day unless it was a late flight.

We sped through the French countryside again exceeding 180mph, went under the English Channel and arrived in the late afternoon in London. We attempted to hit the Harry Potter store in Kings Cross, but the line was absolutely obscene – we thought it was for pictures, but it was the line to just get in the store. We debated hanging around in town to get some dinner, but decided to end our trip experience early, take the train to Heathrow, and eat dinner at the hotel.

We were decidedly exhausted at this point. We went to bed at a reasonable time, having watched our last bit of BBC/Dave for the trip.

European Replay – Day Nine

Rain. Cold. Miserable.

That was our day at Versailles. But first, the Metro drama.

We entered the Metro again at Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, so we could catch the RER to Versailles. Now, I had heard horror stories of the French police catching tourists out for not having their tickets for the duration of their trip. Unlike say the Underground, the Metro largely uses paper tickets that are also required for you to exit the station. So, hold onto them. The police will go after obvious tourists and check for them, and it’s a pretty hefty fine if you can’t produce.

So, what happens shortly after we enter the station? We lose a ticket. So I had to exit using my ticket, and buy two new ones. This also meant we missed our original train, so we had to do some juggling there to catch a couple of different ones. But it all worked out.

The day I couldn’t say got much better. The line to get into Versailles was absolutely massive, and it was raining. And we only brought one umbrella, because it was only overcast in Paris. So we hit the gardens first, hoping the line would reduce. (Spoiler: it did not)

The gardens were nice, and it would have been orders of magnitude more enjoyable in good weather. We didn’t explore maybe five percent of the grounds, just the things closest to the buildings. We never even got to the chateaus which are basically mini palaces. You can rent carts and bikes, and I think even boats.

We ate some food outside in the Brasserie De La Girandole and just did manage to stay dry while we did. Versailles is expensive, and we were losing endurance. The rain and the length of the trip were making this day pretty miserable.

Then we went inside the palace and it got worse.

The line to get in was horrible, and we were getting soaked for at least ninety minutes. I was getting more soaked, making sure my wife was as covered as possible. We did finally get in, and we were happy to be inside even to just start getting dry. But there was absolutely too many people to make the experience enjoyable.

Without assigning blame to an entire nationality or race, without doubt the group of people who most contributed to the misery were the groups of Chinese tourists. They were pushy, they were loud, they did whatever they pleased, and it didn’t matter if you were trying to look at anything or move with the crowd. As a result, Versailles was the thing my wife wanted to see the most in France and it was the least enjoyable experience. We saw things, but we couldn’t really see much of anything at ground level. Simply too many people. They need a reservation system, a timed system, anything would be an improvement. We went on the shoulder season, but I’m not sure there could have been more people in the building.

As a result we left earlier than we had originally planned. We walked back through the rain to the train station in town and back to Paris. We explored the Ile Saint-Louis (the smaller island), got some macarons, tried to get ice cream, and eventually settled on dinner from a small store, premade wraps, chips, and soft drinks. I think we were both ready for the day to be over and the trip to wrap up by this point. We did walk by Shakespeare and Company while we wandered, but were too wet and miserable to go in.

We ended the day by watching some French TV. I can’t say I recommend it. Perhaps if I knew more French, but most of it was news or dubbed 80s American shows.

European Replay – Day Eight

We woke up, finished packing our stuff, and hopped on the tube to Kings Cross. After we got off the tube we walked next door to St. Pancras and got our travel documents in order. We were on the mid-morning train to Paris on the Eurostar.

I had yet to have a bacon sandwich while I was in London, but thankfully the Pret in the train station obliged. We had breakfast while we waited to board. Then the escalators up to the platform opened up and we boarded our train. It had been a goal of this trip to travel at least some distance on a real train, and while we did board trains from Slough to London and London to Hampton Court, this was a big boy train that would travel to another country.

The Eurostar train seats are about as comfortable as plane seats, at least the standard ones. We opted to sit forward so that my wife wouldn’t get motion sickness. She ended up closing her eyes anyway, as she does. It was awesome seeing the countryside of SE England before we approached the Folkestone tunnel entrance.

Then, the tunnel. I mean, it’s a dark tunnel with no cell signal and the train’s wifi isn’t great. So nothing much happened there. Then you enter into the sunlight at Peuplingues, France. If you were on the car train, this is where you would disembark. But on the train to Paris, you keep going at speeds exceeding 160mph. I think we got up to 180mph in France, but you are speed limited a bit more in England, particularly as you get closer to London.

Even better than the English countryside was the French. It really is pretty rural in northern France, at least along the Eurostar route. I saw a couple of old-style windmills and a few modern ones. Some French farmhouses and tons of land.

Shortly we arrived at Gare du Nord, and for the first time in both of our lives were in a country that did not speak English primarily. While England was always my primary goal to visit, I’m not sure if I could have considered the trip a success without this. We got some Euros from an ATM at the station then boarded the RER for the city center.

We emerged into the daylight at Saint-Michel Notre-Dame station and immediately Notre-Dame de Paris towered over us. It had been damaged by the fire a few months previous, unfortunately, but still stood. We would not be able to see the beauty inside but at least the exterior was out of danger.

Our rented flat was actually on this island, Ile de la Cite, just a few hundred feet from the Notre-Dame grounds. We met the owner, who was a very pleasant guy and his flat was amazing. This was our daytime view.

At this exact same time I had arranged a bit of an anniversary surprise. I got in touch with Yanique who runs myparisianlife.com. I purchased a Welcome to Paris bag that had some cheeses, fresh bread, preserves, and some wine. We had a nice picnic lunch right on the point of the smaller island you can see in the pic above. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Some of the cheese was nice. The stinkier ones I could do without.

With nothing planned for the rest of the day we bought tickets for the Batobus, thinking we could do a bit of exploring above ground. We took the boat to Place de la Concorde, where we saw the second Cleopatra’s Needle of our trip. (The third is in NYC.)

You could just see the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysees. You would normally turn around and see the Louvre, but construction barriers were up. We headed back to the Seine.

We caught the next Batobus and saw up close and personal the star attraction, the Tour Eiffel.

We were getting hungry at this point so we decided to try and find some food, and this made my wife nervous. She knows almost no French, and my French lessons over the summer didn’t really do much for me. I could greet people and do some very broken phrases, but I was always hoping to turn the conversation to English.

Anyway, we took another Batobus back down the river and got off near the Louvre so we could at least see the glass pyramid.

We walked down the main street next to the river back towards our flat hoping to find some dinner. What we found instead was a climate protest. This was extremely cool to see.

After we walked among the protestors we found a nice restaurant near our rental that gave us a pretty nice view while we ate. Outside on the sidewalk, naturally.

After we ate we retired, and were greeted with the view at night.

Unfortunately the next day would not be that fun.

European Replay – Day Seven

Our last full day in London, unfortunately. This has already been the greatest trip of my life and we had one more day to soak it all in. 

Because we did not make the West Ham match yesterday, we took the tube to Stratford and hit up the team shop at the stadium. I bought a couple of t-shirts and got a reusable bag. I need to make another order soon for a couple of masks. It is a massive complex, and sits next to a large shopping mall called Westgate Stratford. Here we ate lunch and did a little looking around. 

That was pretty much our day. We made our way back to the flat and ate some leftover food we had from our various shopping trips. Then I went back to the pub for a couple more pints of London Lager. It was supremely cool to walk home buzzed and not have to worry about a DUI or an Uber or anything. We need more neighborhood bars here. 

Our bags are pretty much packed tonight to leave in the morning. 

European Replay – Day Six

Our time in London is drawing gradually to a close. On this day we walked to Kensington Olympia station and took the Overground to Clapham Junction train station. Here we took the train to Hampton Court Station and saw the palace most famously occupied by Henry VIII. The train station is on the south side of the river, but you only need to cross the bridge and you have arrived.

This is a much bigger castle/palace than Windsor, and is closer to London along the River Thames. We actually only ended up seeing the palace itself and the close-in grounds, apparently the actual historical grounds are absolutely massive. There’s a ton of history here, and we enjoyed this much more than Windsor for that fact.

We had lunch in the cafeteria and it was actually very good. We walked around the grounds and towards dinner time we arrived back in London. The goal was to see the West Ham (my team) vs Crystal Palace match, but the kickoff was changed and I couldn’t end up going. So instead we headed back towards Earls Court and found some excellent Indian food at Masala Zone.

To walk it off we wandered around a bit and found the Earls Court Tardis, then walked over to Holland Park. The old Halcyon Hotel was where they filmed a small portion of The Saint (1997). This was the movie that kicked off my love for England and Europe in general. I’m a full on Europhile at this point, so I had to get a picture.

After this we hit up yet another small grocery store and headed back to the flat.

 

European Replay – Day Five

Today was truly a day for history as it started out at the British Museum. We hopped on the tube and emerged at Tottenham Court Road and walked our way to the museum. There was a long line to get in, however a nice security guard pointed to the rear entrance, and we were one of the few to take the chance. It was a great tip. We got in without delay and explored the museum for hours.

This is an absolutely massive place, filled with millions of items. There’s always a question of appropriateness of displaying items taken from conquered lands, so I won’t get into that here. The things we saw were amazing, from the Rosetta Stone to a full Roman building facade. There was so much that I saw I hardly remember any of it.

We had a nice lunch at the very modern middle of the museum which has a cafe and shops. We were plenty tired at this point, even from a mental aspect as much as physical. The long walking spells over the last few days were catching up to us. We left the museum after lunch, and explored a bit of the surrounding area before we went back to Kensington.

We got back on the tube and headed to Kensington Palace so that we could indulge in some high tea at the Palace Pavilion. This was a very nice, calm experience as well. We sat outside in the cool autumn air, had some nice black tea and some sandwiches and scones. I came to very much appreciate raspberry and creme on a scone, and consider it perhaps the best treat I had there. After all, I can get pretty much anything I want in terms of chocolate or crisps here now.

After tea we wandered a bit more, having been temporarily refreshed. We went south in front of the palace (which is smaller than you would expect) then east around the Round Pond. We meandered south and came across the Albert Memorial, which is simply stunning. I was able to catch a great picture in the sunset as we walked further east.

We went north on W Carriage driver over the Serpentine, then walked along it and exited Hyde Park at the Albert Gate, and along Knightsbridge again and picked up the same bus we picked up after Harrods the day before.

We wanted to hit up an actual supermarket while we were here, so we took the bus over to the Tesco Superstore near Earls Court. It was fun to see all the different things that wasn’t available to us, and it was particularly amusing to see the American section. We picked up a few more things, but not a ton considering we would be heading to Paris in a few days.