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?


The New Shop – Fifty Weeks

In two weeks will be the one year anniversary of breaking ground. As such, I’m trying to be done by this arbitrary deadline. The last couple of weekends involved getting the upper wall siding installed. I bought new Z-channel that fits the siding thickness a bit better, and installed it on the front and back, removing the old stuff from the front. It went up with some spare off white bathroom caulk – really just needed some sort of adhesive that could stand up to water.

I really had to guess on the angles at the roof, as I did some massaging to the width of the roof rafters to not have so much overhang. It did not go well, with a couple inch gap in places. The grooves in the siding do match up pretty well to the ones at the bottom, though. Thankfully, the plan is to use trim up around the roof, so it will be pretty well covered if I can get the angles to be right.

I don’t know how much will be done by the time the one year anniversary comes around, because I know it won’t be completely done. But the attempt will be made. PVC trim on the outside, a bit more insulation and a fake wall on the inside. Only expense needed is the trim. Thanks to my dad for letting me borrow the ridiculously tall 24′ ladder. It’s almost too tall for this.

The New Shop – The Beginning of the End

Writing this post is taking nearly as long as this step of the workshop build has. I haven’t had time to write lately, or I haven’t had the impetus. Both, really. I took the latest step in my career path on Saturday, finally taking and passing my RHIT exam. I’ve had emergencies around the house to deal with, physical and not. The shop hasn’t had much activity since I finished up my son’s table.

That doesn’t mean it has been completely dead. Slowly, three panels at a time, I am covering the Zip System with the exterior panels. I am using an LP product, and while it isn’t branded Smart Side, it is a composite paneling with a redwood texture in a T1-11 style. These are the same panels I have already used for the door and immediate surround.

There are two aspects of putting this up that concerns me. One, is getting the upper panels on the end walls cut correctly and installed twelve feet up. The other is cutting out accurate holes for the windows.  I’d also need to paint what was up on the front wall, plus all the rest. I went with a Behr outdoor satin, in a color called English Channel. This is a color that looks a bit purple when wet, and has different hues of blue if it is in direct light. First up was the front wall.

It’s really light here in direct light. I did a combination of painting before I put the panels up and after. The first three panels I painted on the ground, the rest I did on the building.

I carefully measured the opening on the first window and cut it with the Festool track saw. I did a test fit and it came out basically perfect.

With my methods sound, paint went on the first three panels and they were installed. I cut out the second window after I had painted, which left a lot of dust on the panel. I had to use regular nails for this, as I forgot to buy exterior finish. On the last panel I also carefully measured where the power wires came through, and successfully made the holes in the right spot.

There’s a decent amount of difference between in the sun and shade.

Next up was the small spaces next to the door, which were taken care of by cutting a panel roughly in half.

By this point I had picked up exterior nails. I also decided that I would just paint on the building to speed things up, as I didn’t have to wait for it to dry before painting another panel or installing it. Getting the right side on was a little tricky, as I had to slide it under the shiplap edge. I didn’t nail close to the edge, but it was still very tight to the wall. This was painted, then I moved to the back wall. This lower portion is easy, as there is no cutting.

Again, installed, then painted.

This is where it stands today, with rain, funds, and other tasks forcing me to take a short break. Likely on next paycheck I will buy the next three panels to install. Nine are installed, Nine remain. One gallon of pain expended, hopefully only one more to go, but there are spots in need of more. I wish I had a paint sprayer. The upper panels will obviously have to be painted before they are installed. When I have the right panels installed, then trim will go up.

Also, obviously you can see the roof is done. This was hired out with the help of my MIL who supplied the money in exchange for some yard work favors. Many thanks.

Getting closer. Almost done.



The New Shop – The Punch List

A few weeks ago the roof finally got completed. I hired out the process and it cost just under $1500. My MIL graciously offered to pay for it in exchange for some yard and exterior house work that will be coming up soon. The crew was a two-man operation and they had it done in about three hours and it looks great.

With that completed, it’s time to look at the punch list and see what all needs to be done to consider the building portion of this project finished. I will then make a separate entry with some things I would like to accomplish as far as functionality goes.

The most obvious thing that needs to be done is button up the exterior. I need a dozen or so more panels to completely cover the exterior, in addition to more Z-channel flashing on the tall sides. I don’t think any of it will be particularly easy, but getting a proper cutout for the windows and installing the upper walls will be a challenge.

After the panels is all the trim pieces. Corners, transitions, etc. These are fairly simple and won’t take a lot of time. Then I’ll need to caulk/fill the nail head holes on everything and paint. I already have my color picked out.

Moving inside, the windows need trim to cover the foam insulation. I also need some trim around the edge of the ceiling, and perhaps around the attic door. I need to replace a couple of the ceiling outlet covers with wider ones.

That’s really all that comes to mind at the moment. I may add small tasks to the list, but I’m hoping that construction will be complete within a month or so. Depending on finances to buy the exterior panels. It will be a shame whenever we move, as I am completely loving working in my new space.

The New Shop – Mid-December Update

I am currently in a holding pattern. I am waiting for the roof to be done, which is seemingly just waiting on the weather to have the right combination of temperature and precipitation. Basically, dry and above 50F. We’ve not been able to get that combo lately. If it’s warm, it’s raining. Dry, it’s cold. Last week on Friday it snowed nearly a foot. There is still snow on the ground today, which is an extremely rare thing a week later.

There is a minor amount of insulation to be done on the roof, which will be done after the roof is complete. I still need to build stud walls for the attic sides, which will then take insulation themselves. One wall will have my wood rack installed. I have to buy 2x4s for a stage play project this weekend, I’ll just grab a few more and start on making at least the wall for the wood rack. Then I can put the insulation in. I’ll end up using the 2×6 insulation if I need to. Just something to cut the wind, it doesn’t have to keep the space that warm.

The final thing will be to finish the exterior panels and trim. This will be done in a couple or more stages as I can get the full 4×8 panels home. Figure one side at a time would be a good plan, which is three or four panels depending on the side. The actual sides need three, the back needs four or maybe even five, the front needs three or four. Then, trim, but that will be fairly easy. Then, paint. Or I might paint the panels before I put them up for ease. I’ve picked the color, and I think a gallon will do it.

I don’t have a timeline for any of this to get done. I probably won’t be buying any new panels until after the new year, or at least until after Christmas. I’m hoping to have everything wrapped up in early February though.

Giving Thanks – 2017

I’ve written a few posts like this before, 2014 and 2013 immediately come to mind. I am thankful for my family, for the job I have that allows me to spend on my hobbies, and I’m thankful I have the ability to build things like my new shop.

Something else caught my eye when looking at old posts around Thanksgiving, and that’s one from last year that was a five year plan for 2021. It was interesting seeing the goals there and what I have accomplished already in right at one year.

I hoped to be in a new shop, even if it was the same size. I said I could add an attic and a porch. Well, except for the porch that is already current status. I’ll be building a deck at some point in front of the shop that will accomplish the porch thought. I wanted to upgrade my router table to a new top and plate, and that’s still the plan at some point. I wanted to work on miter saw dust collection, and I have a couple of thoughts on that. It doesn’t involve a new saw at this point, though. I thought I might upgrade my bandsaw, and downgrade my lathe. Well, I do want to buy a new bandsaw, and I might be getting rid of my lathe entirely. I hoped for true dust extraction and I’ve accomplished that. I do still want to upgrade my hand tools.

My new shop is phenomenal. It is exceeding my expectations with how much I love it. It’s not big, but it is bigger. Being able to move dust collection, air compressor, and even the scrap wood has changed things. Not quite as much as eliminating the lathe, though. Once I got over that hangup the layout just came together. I have the best layout I’ve ever had. Having the ceiling one foot higher also has benefit.

I’ve spent the last few late afternoons and evenings getting some of the last things over from the old shop and finding them a home in the new shop. I’m straightening up, getting gaps sealed, putting things away. I’m still waiting on a roof and the last bit of insulation, but the inside is almost done. I got my workbench completely clear for the first time since the day it came into the new shop, and even sanded it a bit.

I hope soon to do a detailed tour when I either find a home or find a plan for all the little things.  Perhaps even this weekend should things turn out well.

Bench Shavings – 11/18/17

Sometimes I find Instagram the best way to share something, but then sometimes I don’t have a picture to go along with it. Sometimes I want to share something that really isn’t long enough for a post, and I hate Twitter. Sometimes, the thoughts stew around long enough to combine, and then they become Bench Shavings.

I didn’t get out to the shop much during the week, so Friday afternoon and Saturday were crucial to getting back on track. I set my attention to the left side of the dust collection leg first. I repeated everything I did in the attic that I did before, and again hooked it up to the 45 degree jog just below the ceiling. This time though, it was harder because the attic was already in place. I taped here, and on the entire run on both sides.

The rest was uneventful.

Not pictured is the transition to a flex 2.5″ hose that connects to either the bandsaw, drill press, or for general cleanup on this side. With that, dust collection is complete. Here is the right side all taped up and neat.

Then I started working more on the attic insulation. I didn’t want to totally complete this until the roof was complete, due to a couple of very small leaks, but I did want to get it right up to that point. Nothing exciting here, just exacerbating my elbow bursitis with the hammer stapler. I’m probably about 75% done with the insulation at this point.

So, at this point this is the remaining to-do list for the shop:

  • finish roof insulation
  • have roof shingled
  • insulate attic walls and create at least one “wall”
  • remaining exterior panels and trim
  • exterior paint

There’s also the possibility of trimming out the ceiling and ladder, plus of course bringing over the remaining items out of the old shop and finding them homes. It’s November 18, and that small list contains all that’s left? That’s outstanding. I’m happy. I think I’ve also picked a paint color, too.

The New Shop – Ducting Awesome

I’m at the stage now, so close to the end, where there isn’t really any big leaps of progress. Things move slow, but it is important work.

The past few days, when I’ve been in the shop, is about getting the dust collection system up and running. I had to shove the flex hose back into the attic when I installed the last bit of insulation and the ceiling. I talked about using PVC sewer pipe, and I picked up two ten foot sections, plus some fittings and went about making the extractor usable again.

I started on the right side, the main side, so that I could get the majority of the tools up and running the fastest. Plus I figured I could pull the hose over to the bandsaw should I need it. The hardest part was making a round hole in the ceiling that wouldn’t look awful, mostly because I didn’t want to spend $35 on the requisite hole saw. So I used the hole saw to mark the outline, and used a drywall saw and the recip saw to cut the ceiling and the insulation. Because this section did not have an attic floor over it, I was saved that hassle.

I used a long sweep 90 degree fitting, plus a section of pipe long enough to come through the ceiling. This section and sweep were glued together for structural integrity. All other fittings and sections were secured with 5mm Euro drawer screws, and foil tape will take care of any leaks. Once the long sweep was in and wouldn’t fall through the ceiling, I could install the jog.

The jog is two 45 degree fittings installed opposite of each other so that the vertical section can both clear the ceiling joist but not block the window. I cut a short section of the pipe just so it would mate the two fittings together, then it was installed to the section already in the ceiling.

After some trial and error, I decided on two wyes for this side. The first wye is just below the jog, and provides a 2.5″ spur to the miter saw. A metal blast gate and anchor is installed to the wall, and a flex hose goes directly to the saw. This doesn’t get all the dust coming off the saw, but it does help. Below the wye is another section of pipe and then another wye. This one goes in the opposite direction of the miter saw branch, this one intended to be used with the oscillating sander. Perhaps on the table saw guard, too. This also has a blast gate. Attached to the bottom of this wye is a 4″ metal blast gate.

Now, under this main blast gate temporarily is the entire 4″ flex hose that attaches to the tools. This is way too long, and is way too inefficient. I’ll at some point go buy a fitting from Rockler, add another length of pipe, and have the flex hose connect near the floor. I’ll then cut the flex to a length I need, because air moves more efficiently with a smooth inner wall as opposed to the ridges inside the flex hose. This runs through the right side of the miter saw station, and cutting that hole was a huge pain in the butt.

For now, though, attention will be given to setting up the left side pipe run. This will be exactly similar to the right side except there will be no wyes. The attic floor on this side is in though, so that could make it more difficult. I unfortunately haven’t been out to the shop in a couple of days, so I’ll go ahead and publish this and update it when I can get the other side done.

The New Shop – The Floor is the Ceiling

Something I really want to take care of soon is the attic ladder, but the prerequisite to do so is to have the ceiling in place. So, on Sunday, that’s just what I started on.

I had been trying to decide what material to use for the ceiling for a few days, and on my errand trip on Saturday came across an unexpected contender: 5mm underlayment. It looked really nice, was cheaper than any other option besides drywall, and was really light. The only disadvantage it had would be that I really couldn’t secure anything to it. After thinking about it and comparing it to 7/16″ OSB, I realized that my air cleaner would have to be secured to studs anyway. The lights could be secured partially to studs, so the concern was no longer an issue.

With that decided, my parents were nice enough to meet me at Home Depot to get the five sheets I needed. For some reason, I bought six. I’ll have to get that one back to the store when I buy the ladder. I thought about different ideas to cut them and get them up easier, but what seemed the best idea to me was to cut them in half and have nine panels covering the ceiling. I would work from the back of the shop to the front and do the outside sections and fit the middle panels to exactly what I needed.

I installed the panels with 3/4″ 18ga nails from the air nailer. This was another advantage of going with the 5mm ply. The first panel in the back right went up without issue after cutting to make sure the edge aligned with a rafter. The next one was the back left, which was complicated by needing a hole for the ceiling outlet. I placed the panel up to mark the edges on two sides to coordinate exactly where I needed the hole. It was extremely close to being perfect, I just had to extend one side. Then I measured carefully and cut the third panel to fit in the back middle. All three of these panels overlapped the attic hole by a bit.

The second row went exactly like the first. Albeit with one issue: I had this strange bowing in the middle panel and I tried to fix it with more nails. Even after making a huge mess of it with so many nails, it still bowed. I took the panel down and discovered I forgot to remove two of the light hangers. Those removed, the panel went up fine. It just looks real ugly. Thankfully, when I reinstall the lights they should cover most of it.

I did install one light right above the workbench, and I may go ahead and order another set. Or move it back now that the middle section is installed, the two lights in the middle do seem to do a very good job of providing almost all the light I need. I did find one issue with the lights, the mounting pattern isn’t very intelligent – it requires the screws to be slightly in toward each other, so that one set will go in the holes, and you push to seat them. Only then can the other set enter. In other words, all four screw heads can’t go into the mounting holes at the same time. Annoying, but only slightly. Six panels and one light were done when I called it an early (due to DST ending) night Sunday.

Monday afternoon I took my extra sheet of ply back to the store and picked up my ladder. I followed the instructions to make sure there were no issues, and the first thing I figured out was that I could have done this without the ceiling being in. The way I did it will end up being easier, but the cover for the ladder will end up sticking down slightly, probably about 1/4″.

I placed my son in the attic before I put the ladder in to do the initial screw driving. He did a fine job, and the rest of the frame installation went without too big of a hitch, aside from returning to the store to pick up more shims. The only thing that is disappointing is the cover, which seems to be misaligned. One day I might have to fix that. I followed the instructions again and cut the aluminum legs to the indicated length and applied the leg ends with rubber feet. I sheared a bolt by overtightening, but it was easily replaced with yet another trip to the store. The ladder is solid against the floor and the lag bolts give me comfort at the top.

I had expected that the outswing for the ladder might hit either the systainer storage or the MFT, and I chose for it to hit the latter if so. It does, but at least I can move the MFT to swing it down – I can’t move the systainer cabinet.

I used the window and trim spray foam to seal up three sides, I will have to use a piece of wood or something along the other short side, opposite the hinge. The specs given for the opening is too generous. Other than that though, the ladder is done, and that is where the ceiling was on Tuesday night.

There were three panels left to install and one small batt of insulation, right where the hose comes down for the dust extractor. I need through-wall connections here and on the opposite wall to cleanly collect dust on all my power tools.

I got the fourth side of the ladder opening sealed Thursday evening, and on Friday I finished up the ceiling install. I shoved the dust hose into the attic, and finalized the insulation install. Then the last three plywood panels went up to give me a completed plywood ceiling. I should trim out the outside edges and perhaps the panel edges, but otherwise it’s done for now. I cut out access holes for the air feed and discharge lines, plus the mounting point for the air reel.

The back light is attached flush to the ceiling, but the lights will have to be hung like the one in front here, just really close to the ceiling. The screws will not hold in the 5mm ply adequately enough to flush mount. A minor inconvenience.

The New Shop – Duct Hunt

I am finishing up the ceiling install this week, and I’ll have a blog entry about it once it’s done. Something I have to figure out first though is routing the dust collection pipes I need.

The plan is to use both inlets on the dust extractor, a HF special, to come down on either side of the shop toward the front. The run on the left will take care of the bandsaw and drill press, currently both needing 2.5″. On the right will cover everything else – the miter saw, jointer, planer, router table, sander, and table saw. Both lines will be 4″ down to about halfway up the wall, then hit a blast gate. After that the BS/DP line will taper to a 2.5″ flex hose that can be used on either tool. On the right, after the blast gate there will be a wye – the branch will go to the miter saw. There will be another wye to branch off a 2.5″ flex to use with the sander or overarm for the table saw. It will then go to the floor where it will hit a 4″ flex to hook up to any of the floor machines. Since I have to move so many things to use my tools, I have to use a decent amount of the flex hose.

The choice for the duct was to use metal or PVC. I examined the pros and cons, and decided on PVC. It is slightly cheaper, the risk of static buildup is minimal (and honestly a bit overstated), and it’s easy to work with and requires no special tools. It was not an easy decision, because working with metal was appealing. I could only find 30 gauge duct though, and there were some reports of it collapsing if the lines became blocked in some manner. The sewer PVC is light, fairly cheap, and Lowe’s sells all the fittings I need at a reasonable price. I figure I’ll need two 10′ lengths of 4″ pipe, four 45 degree elbows, and two 90 degree long sweep elbows. Probably some foil tape, a few screws, and a hole saw. And at least two 4″ blast gates.

The decision is made, look for updates on this after the ceiling gets finished.