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.

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