The Unexpected Year

That escalated quickly.

I, for one, was not expecting things to progress as they have. I should have my Saturdays filled with softball and soccer for my kids, and getting ready to head to Florida for a wedding. At first it was a ripple, then it was a groundswell and a sudden explosion that our lives had changed. Some of this is setting in, some of it is still processing.

Thankfully we were able to complete our Disney trip in late February as we planned. Who knows when it will open again, and what that will look like. Spring sports around the globe have been put on hold or canceled, including my daughter’s last chance at playing softball. My son will have other seasons to play soccer, but the softball was the one that stung. Gone as well are their school schedules, their social opportunities and their other extracurricular activities. Outside of someone getting sick, these will be the things that hurt the most for awhile. They are resilient, though, and one day these events will either be a passing but notable event, or they could be a demarcation line. Until there is a vaccine, there is a non-zero chance things will be fundamentally different.

For the adults, things are much the same as they have always been. There is more schooling done during the week, and my weekends have cleared up significantly. I am running 5Ks three times a week to stay fit, and I miss the Chinese restaurant. I have to be careful not to get to-go from the Mexican restaurant too often. My work is virtually unchanged, so with my weekends free I have more time to get things done. If I choose.

I have started iRacing, but I don’t know if that will become an extended activity with the costs associated. The membership is fine, but it’s the additional costs of tracks and cars, etc that can add up. I’ve built more LEGO in the past three weeks than in the past year. I’ve made some progress on a project, and seen one of my previous ones start dissolving. I’ve played more video games. What I notably haven’t done much of is write. Or go to the gym. I miss the gym, too. I’ve discovered new music. I’ve started to tick off some series I’ve been meaning to watch. Both Discovery and Picard were very good, and I’m hoping to binge The Wire soon if I can keep the kids away. I gave myself a haircut and it’s one of the better ones I’ve had in the last couple of years.

What I’d like to do is to write about a lot of these things in small doses to keep this site alive. Even if it is different things that aren’t necessarily woodworking. It’s very difficult to keep things segregated on a WordPress site, so unfortunately they are all going to be mixed in together unless I can figure something else out. But that’s who I am, I’m a mix of all these things. Woodworking, technology, LEGO, video games, food, entertainment, sports, and more. Maybe I’ll go on a writing spree and have things cued up for awhile. Hopefully stick around.

The unexpected month

I posted my 2020 wants and needs on January 4 at 11:19 am EST. I had no idea what would transpire in the next eight hours that would change all my plans for this year and beyond.

To set this all up, this was a rare Saturday my wife had off from work. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this. I had been looking at older models in green, but this was a 2019 with super low miles at a dealer fairly close by. So many of the other ones were nice, but I couldn’t find a feasible way for me to get there via plane even if I could afford it at the time. This one was within a three hour drive and was just over my price range. I knew it wouldn’t happen, but I sent the email anyway. Then I went to the gym. While there, I decided that I would go ahead and pay off my van loan four months early. I still wasn’t expecting to go and buy a truck, much less that one, but I had the money so I just did it.

When I got back to the gym I found out that it was still available, and I fell in love with the color seeing different pictures of that particular color. My wife surprisingly said to the kids to get in the car and off we went. I got to the dealer about 45 minutes before they closed for the day and knew this was my truck. I closed the deal a couple hours later and we were back in Atlanta before midnight.

It’s a 2019 Tacoma TRD Sport, six-speed manual 4×4, in Cavalry Blue. In the just over month I’ve owned it, it has already become a star in the stage world. I’ve been able to make runs to and from storage hauling a trailer, I’ve been able to hit up Home Depot or Lowe’s at a moment’s notice, anything I’ve needed to do for both shop and set building. Hopefully this will be a tool that sticks around for a very long time and onto whatever awaits in the next shop, whenever and wherever that is.

I’ve already done some limited mods to it, things like a new grille, a new radio, and a couple other aesthetic things. When I added the new radio, I bought metal brackets to mount them. But they needed to be modified, and I made the dumb decision to try and cut them on the miter saw. I should have used a cutoff wheel. The first part went well, until one of the blades caught and ripped the bracket out of my grip. Thankfully my hand didn’t follow it. The bracket shot backwards into the saw itself and rebounded off to the side. Again, thankfully, I did not get hit by it. It ended up destroying the bracket, breaking the bottom left fence, the top right fence, and one of the bed inserts. Plus, obviously, the blade. That radio install got a lot more expensive in short order. I ordered a new blade off of Amazon (the old one was purchased in 2013, so not a horrible thing to have to rebuy), and the other parts from

The other aspect to January was the one show we were responsible for this year. Within a couple of days we were already putting the truck to use buying supplies to build with. I figured out real quick that I needed to make some bed rails so that sheet goods wouldn’t slip between the wheel wells. It also did work towing a couple small trailers to ferry set pieces between storage, the house, and the theater. I also built the set pieces as well, and I didn’t have to do a lot for once. I built mobile bases for the previously-built porch, bases and new flats, and a couple other smaller things. The truck came in real handy, but I’m also learning to adapt to not having a trunk. I might have to get a tonneau cover eventually to protect cargo.

It was a very unexpected and fun month, and while it did mean some other changes will have to come along, I will certainly enjoy it.

Wants and Needs – 2020 Edition

I have often written about the material things I hope to have in my shop – wish lists. At times, they have probably come across as ungrateful for what I have, and that has never been the intention. I write posts like these to have some sort of game plan and put my thoughts to paper, as it were. These wish lists don’t always work out, and I’m sure there’s some things on my very first one that I haven’t acquired or addressed.

I addressed quite a bit of wants and needs in 2019, including a reliable bandsaw, fixing up my jointer, and buying a drum sander. There’s little that I actually need in terms of material wishes, but there’s always items or tools that I could use that would make things easier.

Hand tools is certainly where my wish list is the longest. I will always have a soft spot for Veritas hand tools, and while I did add the set of three spokeshaves around Thanksgiving, the list is barely dented. I’d love to have a cabinet absolutely full of them, and I’ll get there eventually. The biggest want currently is a block plane, as my current one is all sorts of messed up from planing plywood. I don’t know if what I see is rust, or what. I will eventually trade out all my other ones, starting with the Groz ones. Perhaps some better card scrapers, another nice saw.

I still desire more Festools, for the simple fact is that they are so good and make working enjoyable.I certainly still want a Rotex 150 to aggressively sand more than my 150/3 is probably safe to do. I’ve been staring at a dresser that needs a refinish for years, but I won’t do it without the Rotex. I desire the TS75 to rip large pieces of hardwood, it has more power and a deeper cut than my other saws. The Domino 700 is probably at the top of the list for making bigger projects like shop doors. If the smallest or biggest routers made their way into my shop, I wouldn’t complain, but they’re the lowest want.

For the first time, I think I’m pretty much set for large tools. I could use some enhancements, like a new insert for the router table, things like that. Enhancement, not replacement. If you could call a welder a big tool, that. It’s not strictly woodworking, but would benefit some woodworking projects down the road.

2020 Vision

New Year’s brings yet another in a series of posts about my goals and plans for the new year. 2020 makes a decade that I’ve had my shop as a going concern, and it’s also the same anniversary for writing about it. I’m hoping it is one of my most ambitious years in terms of projects. Here I’ll talk about goals, not plans, because plans always seem to change.

I’d like to get the shop finished. I said this last year, and I hope this year I don’t suffer from the same burnout I did last year. I have a plan for flashing and trim on the outside, trim the interior windows, trim the ceiling, finish out the fiberglass in the attic, and put the last piece of the attic floor in. Then I can truly call the building finished, and anything further are improvements.

I’m hoping 2020 is a productive one for furniture. I have some office/entertainment furniture planned and lined up, and hopefully with my recent run of upgrades allows me to not only get started on these, but build them to a high standard.

I have a separate thread I do from time to time for wants and needs, but I do hope to add a welder to my arsenal, and at least a couple of woodworking tools that will fill some gaps – a Rotex for aggressive sanding, a big Domino for furniture making, a long Festool track for plywood ripping. Things of that nature. As stated, there will be another post about this coming up.

The old shop needs to be dismantled, but I don’t know if this will occur in 2020. I could probably get it taken down with a couple day lead notice, as there isn’t much more than scrap plywood, OSB, and siding left inside. It does require renting a dumpster, but more importantly I do need a follow-up plan to build something new in its place. I simply don’t have room for scrap storage in the shop outside of a few boards upstairs. There needs to be a cohesive plan, and I wouldn’t mind having a deck already in place or started before I do so.

As for any shop projects, I largely hope to continue to fine tune and find permanent homes for all the things that tend to get left out and piled up. I will be revisiting the Festool/miter saw counter, in that I will be remaking all the drawers for them, and will have enough to fit everything planned. I don’t know if this means the cabinets on bottom will be remade, if I’ll need another inch or so upwards. I hope not, because they are in really good condition and sturdy. The counter will be remade, to allow for the miter saw to be cantilevered off (and supported from underneath) to allow for the jointer to slide under without adjusting the fence. To make up the difference in height from the miter saw surface to the counter, I was thinking about putting in drawers to hold my screws.

There’s a decent chance I will rebuild my lathe stand to allow for my oscillating sander to fit underneath. It is really the perfect spot for it considering the dust collection, and workflow. I also don’t use it that much, so having to move the table saw out of the way wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s either that or it goes up on the wall or on the floor in front of the lathe, which then needs to be moved to use the lathe. I will also explore rebuilding the cabinet under my workbench, in particular making the socket set easier to pull out and not interfering with the MFT sysport. I’ll also see what needs to live in those drawers.

Above all, I hope that anything that comes out of my shop does so with an accuracy and quality above what I’ve done before. And I hope when I take a look at this post in a year’s time, that I’ve at least come close to meeting all my goals.

2019 In Review

Welcome again to one of my favorite things, to revisit a post from a year prior and see how wrong my predictions and plans were.

The 2019 Outlook can be seen at the link, but I’ll largely recap it here.

First up is talking about the theater sets, I had two to do but that turned into four, which in turn led to an extended sabbatical.

I wanted to finish up the shop with insulation, trim, etc. Exactly none of that happened because of the sabbatical. I did make the air nailer systainer insert, which can be seen in detail in this post. I also did follow through with closing off the table saw cabinet, making dust collection a good bit better. I’ve started to explore how to effectively capture the dust above the table. I finally enclosed the router table cabinet and installed dust collection there as well. The plan is still to change out the insert to an Incra one, but that got put on hold.

I decided to purchase plans from Timothy Wilmots for his MFTC mobile cart, and I’ll likely store it when empty in the old shop. I made a huge investment in the shop with a new bandsaw and a drum sander, and am still dealing with a bit of the space issues that came with that. Nothing serious, just sorting out some workflow, some efficiency, and some future plans.

I still need to address the door, but I did seriously cut down the water entry by installing a drip edge above, and it isn’t 100% effective but around 95%. I also can’t say that the other 5% I see is from backspash from the ground. Still hope to soon install rubber around the doorframe for air sealing.

With a purchase of some spokeshaves, I did have a push to make more progress on the hanging tool cabinet. I should make a bit more progress in the first part of next year. I started to tweak my storage after the drum sander, so I am making good on some of my goals.

So, in summary, this year did not work out like I expected at all for around eight full months. It has picked up considerably in the last month, and hopefully I can keep that momentum into 2020. The 2020 Outlook will be posted around the first of the year.

Working out some details

From time to time issues pop up that impact how I work in the shop. This could be storage, layout, anything. Right now there isn’t a lot of fine woodworking going on, just set building. As such, it’s a good time to talk about what I’ve taken care of recently and what’s still to come.

I have had my air nailers in a spare systainer for a long time, and it hasn’t been the best solution. Everything was just piled in, and the compressor oil fell over and coated everything. Nails came loose and were everywhere as well. A solution was needed. The pic below is after I cleaned everything up, as I can’t find a before pic. You can see the oil residue left after I wiped up.

I downloaded a template for the systainer bottom, and proceeded to cut out a floor from 1/2″ plywood. I taped the template to a piece of hardboard that I can use down the line to make more if I need to, and in turn taped that to the plywood. It wasn’t perfect, and needed some adjustment particularly along where there are little structural nibs at the front and back. Some trimming with the bandsaw took care of it quickly. You can see them on the paper template, six in back, one up front.

Once I got the bottom to fit in snugly, it was time to take it back out and make a spot for the oil. There was no reason to keep the compressor oil in the systainer anymore with the compressor upstairs. But I do need to tote around the oil for the guns, as you’re supposed to use a drop or two on each use. Being better organized, I plan on doing that. The oil sits up front in one of the irregular corners with two pieces of ply butt joined.

Next up was the nailers, biggest to smallest. The biggest one would fit in nicely with the head going through the floor to where the rear feet are on the systainer, so I drilled a hole umm…close to where it needed to be and it worked out well. A divider along the length keeps it in place.

From there things just started rolling until I had everything in and in place.

Four guns (including a newly added Arrow staple gun), a impact driver, a couple attachments to fill tires and blow surfaces clean, the oil, and storage for nails. These Dewalt cases aren’t great, but I’m hoping to find something that fits the space that is better. I made some cutouts in the dividers to better help grab the guns, and I’ll be throwing in a pair of safety glasses to permanently live when I’m out of the shop. I’ve been caught out before. The impact driver has almost no use to me anymore, but I don’t know of another place to put it. If the new nail storage needs that space, it’ll find somewhere else to live. This systainer currently lives in the MFT Sysport for easy access.

A major project for getting things squared away is the Hanging Tool Cabinet. The current task with this is to move the tools from the wall into the cabinet, and figure out how usable that new wall space is.

The next project is actually a way to solve the dust collection problems I am having. This will consist of closing the bottom of the table saw up and putting in a full port for the hose. I will need to remove a couple of parts from the saw, in particular the existing small port that moves with the arbor. I also need to finally put a door on the router table and install a port in the body of the cabinet. Once I can finally upgrade the table and plate to one with better dust collection, my issues will largely be solved.

What is preoccupying my mind lately is a bunch of smaller storage and implementation issues. I’m not particularly happy with the storage I have above my systainer wall, but I don’t really know how to really improve upon it. I want it to be more custom, but more custom doesn’t lead very well to future use. I want to move the sanding discs to the Sysport, which will open up some storage room. Maybe a drawer in the future related to the below.

I do want to redo the systainer part to add more long drawers to hold more systainers at double depth. This involves taking the short unit out and putting a long unit in. Also adding more holes to allow for more height combinations. Simple stuff, but it might be easier long-term to just redo it from scratch. This isn’t a huge deal right now because I don’t have that many systainers, and I don’t have immediate plans to add more. Long-term, yes, but not right now.

This really all boils down to how I can work efficiently, happily, and to a higher standard in the future. I also have to consider what is going to happen to my lathe, considering the old building is in dire need of demolition. I also have a desire to add a turbine, a drum sander, and to upgrade my bandsaw. I only have so much room, and it needs to function as efficiently as possible. I am happy with the layout for the most part, and the only real change I could conceivably make is to modify the MFT Sysport to store a drum sander, spindle sander, planer, or a combination of the above. To do that, I would need to expand my systainer storage on the wall as above, plus find a bit of room for things like the clamping elements. It’s not a bad idea. I wish I had thought of it last year, to be honest.

Bench Shavings – 03/21/19

It’s been a long time since I had the opportunity to write, and I find myself making excuses when I do get the time. Most of my sharing now is on Instagram, and unfortunately I can’t get an automatic process to share the blog on IG to work. In fact, this post has taken me over a week to write.

I’ve been busy working on set design and building. We’ve had three performances thus far, although the materials for the first were borrowed from the second one. From Screen to Stage has more details on those two plays with the front door set. The third one just wrapped up, and was a fairly simple build, at least from a hard product standpoint. I reused the blocks I made in All the Workshop’s a Stage for a base for a few sheets of plywood.

The goal was to make an elevated stage on the stage for a panel to sit on with chairs and a desk. I painted the plywood and pinned them to the blocks. I made a simple desk frame out of 2x4s and loose tenons. I also made frames out of MDF molding for a cityscape that was mounted on rigid foam. I also made two short steps to get up onto the elevated stage, plus another full set of steps for the actual stage.

I also worked a bit more on the Hanging Tool Cabinet, and some systainer storage solutions, which I will post about at another time. It’s hard enough to finish this post without adding more.

2019 Outlook

This is always an interesting post to do at the beginning of the year, as I can’t always follow through with all of my stated goals. I always try to also follow up on the post from the year previous, but I didn’t do one for 2018.

There will be a couple stage projects to do in the first half of the year, but the big build should be done with via the front porch project. Second half of the year obviously is unknown at this point. The theatre group operates on a public school schedule, and the year goes from September to May. There will be a flower cart, a talk show set, and a couple other minor things.

One of the main things I want to accomplish is “finishing” the shop. What that entails is completing the insulation in the loft, switching out the one light in the loft to the ones I had in the old shop, installing trim on the outside, and trimming up the windows and ceiling inside. I plan on getting the insulation done first before it gets too warm, as it will also free up floor space up there and I can toss the rest. I will also be fencing off the underside of my shop, as my dogs (and perhaps other things) are trying to eat away at the insulation.

I will be improving my air nailer storage by making a custom systainer insert. This will keep the inside from being a mess, hopefully. That’s the plan, as I think it’s a better one than dedicating wall space to hang them. I can fit the three trim nailers, the wrench, the nails, and the oil in one systainer, so I think that’s valuable storage usage.

I will be improving the dust collection in the shop. The table saw that I have is very nice with that exception, and it’s only gotten worse. I will be closing in the base and creating a port where more dust can be evacuated. I will also finally be closing in the router table and creating a dust solution there as well. That in and of itself will solve 90% of the dust problems in my shop, but at some point I also hope to swap out the router top with one that will allow for the Incra Cleansweep rings. I just wish I could get it locally and save shipping charges. At some point I may make other upgrades, but I will see how these two changes get me through.

I’m going to work to make things more mobile, in case I need to build on-site. I don’t like to disrupt what I have going on in the shop, so I need to make it very easy to grab anything that I might need for a set build. I’m still sorting how I’m going to do this. I’d like to make a mobile cart that will hold some systainers and be a work area, but I have so much that I would have to bring. I also don’t really have anywhere to store it.

I don’t really know what might be in store for tool upgrades or additions. I will likely look to start filling out my new tool cabinet, but that is rather pricey. I have my eye on a new bandsaw and some jobsite things, but again those are expensive. I would rather put money into trip funds that I will need to work on very soon. Those are more important.

I will attempt to fix the door situation, which is that it has gaps around the perimeter and sometimes sticks to the other door. There is also some minor water entry at the door which I need to investigate.

I don’t have any set expectations for projects, although I hope I finish the hanging tool cabinet. I’d like to tweak some storage and layout if ideas come to me, but nothing concrete. I would like to continue to refine my techniques, learn new things, and enhance the quality of my home and the sets at the theatre group.

Odds and Ends – Wrapping up 2018

There were a few things that I got accomplished towards the end of the year that I either didn’t have time to write about, or they weren’t worth dedicating a post to. Here we go.

I built an outdoor table to help with breaking down sheet goods and large assemblies. It is just a skeleton at the moment while I decide how best to do a top for it. I also may add other features, like a shelf at the bottom, a hook for the cord reel, etc. I built it out of pressure treated lumber, did pocket hole screws throughout, and it should hold up much better than the previous one. I also built it so that it is level on the uneven terrain.

Instead of building a mirror cabinet for the master bath, I went with an Ikea unit. Made much more sense based on cost and time. The old mirror will be reused in the other bath, and I will be making a frame for it. I’m just procrastinating or it would already be done by now. Perhaps that can be the first project of the new year.

I did some general cleaning up of the shop the other day, and it finally feels like an actual shop again, one where I can come in and do work. I moved a couple of things around to help better organize, but it’s something that will continue to be addressed in the new year.

I used thread locker on the MFT’s hose arm, as to stop it from flopping over at just about every opportunity. I think I may drill into the arm and put in something that I can wrap the end of the hose back to to keep it out of the way.

I tried making wooden rings. It didn’t go half bad, but I don’t know if it is something I will try to keep doing.

I bought some new tools, sold or gave away some old ones. I went on some adventures, and resolve to go on bigger ones next year. Thanks for reading.


Video killed the blogger star

I am attempting to document projects on YouTube, and this is the first spoken video on the channel. I am currently filming progress on my next project, so feel free to subscribe for any videos I might finish.

Sooner than this project will be finished will be a shop tour.