Sometimes when you look ahead at a difficult task you need to look back at how far you’ve come for inspiration. I occasionally get depressed thinking about what my situation is, but I really need to be thankful of what I’ve been able to accomplish. This is a reminder to me and a review for anyone new to the site who doesn’t wish to wade through the archives.
Late 2008 brought our first house, and with it a shed up on a hill in the backyard. It was previously owned by an elderly couple, and I can only assume the shed was a spot for the guy to drink some beer and have his own space. There was carpet and drapes inside, along with an outlet, a light fixture and a floodlight. However there was no indication where power came from. Before the house remodel it could have run above or below ground, but there is no permanent power running to it to this day.
One other problem with the shed was that it had sustained water damage in one corner due to half of it sitting on ground. Sitting on the ground on one side also brought on a factor of being not level. Due to debris behind the shed, I am still having to deal with it. To make a long story shorter, the interior walls and ceiling were covered with 1/4” plywood, and on the walls they were attached via wood planks to the studs. The studs and planks were infested with carpenter ants, again due to one side sitting on ground. I have removed ¾ of the walls and planks and replaced with OSB. The ceiling replacement or removal will take place in winter, because I get the feeling there might be wasps or bees or furry woodland creatures living above. Never can be too careful, I was lucky to start replacing the walls one winter as the carpenter ants moved much slower. I could have been easily overran.
So, to recap, I’ve replaced ¾ of the walls, ripped out the carpet and have a fairly decent MDO(?) floor with only one spot that isn’t flush. I have carpenter ants and possibly bees or wasps. I have an unlevel building with little insulation and a window that won’t close completely. It’s 11.5×11.5 and a 7 foot ceiling. But it’s mine, and I make the most of what I have.
Progress has been slow getting to this point because each time I add a stationary tool it requires a re-think on my layout. That, and I have been known to change my mind frequently to try and squeeze even more out of the space. I am on my third miter saw station and second miter saw. I made three router tables and have destroyed all (I am currently without a dedicated table). I had two 2×4 workbenches and now have a Holtzapffel-style bench that is 90% done. I have gone from a small vacuum to a big vacuum and hoping to move to a true dust collector. My dust separator has gone from 5 gallon to 30 gallon. From one cordless drill to 4, and from two batteries to five. One router to three. I am nearing the end of major tool collection and morphing into making my work more accurate, and thus getting into buying more accurate or just plain better tools, helpers and measurement. Aside from adding a dust collector, I’m really in the last phase of layout trials. Things like better lathe tools, better sharpening, a miter gauge…those kinds of things. I may at some point replace the table saw and planer, because then we’re talking about capacity or accuracy. In the case of the planer, something that’s a bit different shape to fit easier and a newer model.
So, a history isn’t complete without some pictures of the past so here they are.
(In the beginning)
(The initial signs of a working space)
(The carpet comes out)
(Look, it might be a workshop!)
(First wall replaced)
(Workbench. It’s officially a shop now)
If you’re still reading we’ll get to the tour of the current layout and tools. I’ll try to keep the tour to a clockwise order.
First up in the front left corner we have the overflowing scrap pile. I’ve struggled with this for quite awhile, because I have no real means of disposing of plywood, my archenemy. Can’t burn it due to the glue, you’re not supposed to throw it in the trash, and putting it outside in a pile in your backyard to be a bug breeding ground is generally frowned upon. The pile I created will probably require a dumpster beyond just what’s in the shop. I’ve been doing my best to reuse and cut down and throw out, but it’s a slow process. There’s a rack on the wall and a bin on the floor. Some of the bigger sheets are also on the other side of the door. Here on the front wall I also have my fire extinguisher and little safety cabinet, along with the reel for the air compressor, which may at some point find another home if I can create a sound-deadening enclosure for the compressor. Right now I wheel it into the grass so it’s not as loud, but sometimes that’s not an option. I’d love to create a lean-to on one side to have a dust collector and larger compressor. My safety cabinet needs to be redone because it’s too shallow to put a door on. Making it deeper, I could also then make it shorter because the glasses could go horizontal.
Moving along the left wall we have a stand-alone cabinet for my Ridgid Orbital Spindle Sander, along with a drawer for bit tools, of which Torx is a favorite. My Kreg K3MS and centering and countersink bits live here. Drill bits are on a wall, but that will soon change. Above that is my well-loved Kobalt socket and wrench set I picked up on discount a couple of Christmases ago. Love, love that set. Every guy into constructing or deconstructing things should have one or two sets of sockets and wrenches. My old Craftsman set is nearer to where our vehicles are stored. The socket set is on a drawer platform, so I can pull it out and open the lid, giving a stable platform to get at both the top and bottom of the set. One of the great things I’ve done, honestly. Building a sliding platform at a usable height for a tool or anything else saves you from taking that space on your counter or workbench.
The next cabinet is the entire miter saw bench. I have several drawers throughout, right now holding a ton of smaller things: manuals, good chisels, less used tools such as tile, reciprocating and orbital saws, and I have one drawer for pencils and tape measures. I honestly have a few too many drawers, which is why I’m going to redesign the station. I have two open sections that are used for the vacuum, and previously the dust separator. Being where it was presented hose problems, and moving it to the general floor area freed that cavity for the scrap bin until it gets recycled. The top is half-lap 2x4s, plywood and hardboard, with a T-track running the length for a stop block and hold downs. I made an error partway through the build, because the saw was too heavy and I had to add a plywood support. In doing so, I didn’t construct the drawers correctly and it’s a big mess. Also my method of construction saved plywood material, but resulted in measurements that were off. For all these reasons it needs to be redone. My Hitachi C12RSH is a huge upgrade over my old Hitachi 10” in terms of capacity and size. Perhaps too big on the size part, but I wanted something that I could crosscut wider boards without having to flip the piece over. It uses a unique sliding assembly that allows it to fit on nearly a standard depth cabinet. I love this saw, even though I’m not exactly sure how accurate it is as I’ve not had to worry about that yet. At some point I will do those measurements, but to this point if it’s off, it’s not by much. The vacuum is a Ridgid WD1450, and I have greatly enjoyed it since I’ve gotten it. If I can upgrade to a DC it’s not because I am displeased with its performance, but that I need a true DC. The Craftsman 21907 mortiser I got at a deep discount would prefer to find a home in a cabinet, but isn’t too much in the way as-is.
On the wall we have a outlet strip and multiple battery chargers for various tools, namely the Ryobis. I have a plane till that I just built, which could be converted to a finish cabinet or anything because it’s a modular construction. The big cabinet is something I built a couple of years ago for various things, I’m slowly trying to find places for most of it to get an idea of how much storage I need. The planes came out a couple of weeks ago, and things like the finish brushes and WorkSharp will find more permanent homes soon. Attached to the bottom of the cabinet is a glove holder and shop towel holder. My trusty toolbox sits on the far wall for the odds and ends little tools.
On the back wall is a French cleat system that takes up about a quarter of the wall. Here is where I keep my rasps, files, hammers, saws and pliers. The old chisels are there, and I usually reach for one when I need something sliced open, since I care little for them now I have a nice set. The files will find a home wherever the good chisels do, and while the hammers and mallets function fine where they are, something nicer might be an enticement to change it up. Some saws will go into a till, the nicer ones may go in a hand tool cabinet if I have room. The rest of this wall is pretty much taken up by floor tools. I have upgraded the HF bandsaw with a Powermatic 6” riser and an upgraded tension spring. The Ridgid DP1500 has been a reliable drill press which I grabbed used. Next to the bandsaw and separator is the ‘Big E,’ a Craftsman 23224 jointer. This thing is huge, and frankly too big for my shop but it isn’t going anywhere because it’s too awesome. Hard to move around, but it joints beautifully and purrs.
The workbench requires its own paragraph. I had two 2×4 workbenches that I built for about $20 each (seriously, I think you can Google $20 workbench and find what I made) that did service for awhile, but when I started trying out hand-cut dovetails, were too light even with a vise. I was inspired by Christopher Schwarz and his love for workbenches, so I built this Schwarz/Holtzapffel hybrid which is nearly done. I only started on it in June of 2012, I believe. It is entirely SYP, the legs and top laminated over the course of a few long hot weeks. The legs have holes in them to store the Gramercy holdfasts (which I adore, even though I’ve never really used them). The reason it is not quite done is that I was a bit too scared to try and level the top after all that work, so I plopped down a hollow core door I had lying around as a top (and protection). I’m planning on leveling this thing, finally, within the week. I have summoned enough courage after watching Mark Spagnuolo level his split-top Roubo again the other night. After that the dog holes go in along the vice axis and I’ll get to work either building or buying a dual vise for the side. Because of my arrangement, I will attempt to place it on the opposite side away from the wall. Fingers crossed. The vise is an underrated 10” HF quick release no longer in production. I believe it’s a Wilton clone. On the floor under the bench is a trusty HF 8 gallon compressor.
On the right wall are my clamps, my large spotlight, the window, my router cubby and fence and another outlet strip for the big tools. Not much to discuss here. The lathe is the newest addition, HF’s clone of a Jet 1236. Easy speed adjustment, swivel head, fairly solid stand…the only thing that could use improvement is the tool rest locking mechanisms – they tend to still move. May replace them at some point, but I’m just beginning to learn to turn at this point. On the lathe sits my new (guess this is actually the newest thing) Rikon 8” slow speed grinder to sharpen these cheap HF chisels.
Along this wall also is my Ryobi AP1300 planer, sitting on a custom cart. The planer is another Craigslist special and has performed rather well. Snipe can occur, but the tables do a decent job. My wish is to replace this with a Dewalt DW735 at some point. The cart has hardware containers on one side, sandpaper on the other. The sandpaper side isn’t the greatest use of space, but at that point I was looking for something to put there.
On the front right side are my saw blade caddies sitting above my centerpiece and my oldest stationary tool, my Craftsman 21829 table saw. I bought this at the beginning of my transition from home handyman to woodworker in 2011, at a deep discount thanks to some stacking coupons. I have upgraded it with some zero clearance throat plates and a Shark Guard from Lee Styron, both work great (I need some more throat plates Lee!) I wasn’t enamored with the sliding miter table so I replaced it with a couple of miter slots. One day I’ll get a miter gauge. It’s not the greatest saw in the world or most powerful, but it has worked well for me. One feature that I like but don’t make enough use for is the folding, rolling stand. It made a lot of room early on, but haven’t used it as much since I created an extension cart, then table for it.