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?


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