Working in 144

(The final entry in the Working in 144 series)

Working in a space more suited for a walk-in closet isn’t easy. That space also being unconditioned, un-level and un-powered makes it even trickier. Fore the foreseeable future though, it is what I have to endure. It’s not the worst space in the world, and I’m happy to have it. How can I make it enjoyable, though?

The first thing I have to do is continue finding a space for all the little things. Right now my workbench and other surfaces are littered with small items like bits, old bolts and screws and the like. I also have some odds and ends like cutoffs. As usual, they don’t have a home. Those small cutoffs will absolutely have to find a home if I want to have a happy shop. Under one end of my workbench would be a great spot for a drawer or perhaps a rolling cart with low-profile casters. I am thinking about making a shelf for my wall shelving that would help hold smaller pieces. Very simple task that would be, I would just have to get it done. That will wait until after the layout is settled, though. Also, if I move the shelves away from a corner I can use that little space to store them. I quite like that idea. Some of the things like screws and bits I just need to do a better job organizing them in hardware containers, a systainer, or some other system. I don’t know if I will have a dedicated driving drawer in the future, so it’s something to consider.

One annoyance I have working in my shop now is dust collection. For smaller power tools, I don’t have the connections to hook up to my separator, and I’m currently working on that. I ordered a Bosch hose that is designed to hook up to Festools, and I just ordered an adapter that hopefully will allow me to hook up most of the rest of the small diameter ports I have. For the table saw, I’m hoping to have a smaller diameter overarm setup in the near future to both hopefully grab more dust and not be quite as in the way. It probably won’t solve the issues that come with using the dado or thin rips, but being a help with everything else would be great. For the miter saw, I need to remember to turn the vac on, but also to make an easy to use and reach blast gate instead of disconnecting the line. The bandsaw needs some modification to get the dust into the port, but it can be done. I’m not too terribly concerned about other tools as the dust collection is either unfeasible or just fine.

I need to do a better job of having access to things during assembly, like clamps, glue, hardware and small tools like drills. The clamps might be a challenge because the obvious place to put them is also a great space to slide a big tool out of the way. A challenge to be sure. Sort of the same problem with everything else, but smaller. I need to remove my detailing cart, the spare planer and the yard tools stored on the door.

I have come up with an idea that will help give me on-demand flat surfaces. The design can be seen below. Basically these are mini versions of Ron Paulk’s workbench and similar designs. It has swing-down, extendable legs on one side, and a mechanism to attach to T-track in the opposite side. I will be attaching T-track to my miter saw station, router table and my workbench. They should be able to also attach to my table saw to serve as an outfeed table. This would come in especially handy if I had to move my saw outdoors. I’m hoping they are stable enough to attach to each other to serve as a standalone work surface.

The real genius of this idea is that I’ll also be able to attach them to the interior surface of my doors. I’ll have at least two of them be able to attach in tandem to get a 2’x4′ surface. With both doors having these attached, I can then put down foam and have a spot to sit sheet goods on for a comfortable breakdown process. These will store under the miter saw when not in use, and I think I should be able to get at least four under there if my height isn’t too bad. I’m not sure I will need more than that. The sides will be made of plywood, and it will have a spot for a removable section of MDF that will have holes in it very similar to the Festool MFT. I’ll have to fudge around with the overall dimensions to get the right spacing from hole to hole and to edge correct. I have the measurements (70mm from edge, 96mm on center, 20mm holes) so it’s just a matter of sizing the box around the top and keeping it able to fit in the storage allotted.

I think with this plan I can go forward comfortably knowing that none of my efforts will be wasted. All of this can transfer to a new shop, and also transfer into storage if there is a period where I am without a shop (hopefully only transitioning between shops, such as construction). I will also make an effort to get the place level, if it’s feasible. I am considering adding a new floor, and I will improve upon the insulation. I can live with that plan going forward.

Laying it on the line

(Part of the Working in 144 series)

You wouldn’t think it would be this hard. Smaller space should mean less effort in a layout, but it’s exactly opposite. It’s awful. You have to worry about so many things in a smaller space, namely room to use the tools themselves. I constantly doubt myself and my layout.

I have two possible combinations I’ve come up with. I’ve used the same components, knowing what I need to get out of my storage. So in theory I could try one, then swap it out. One of my goals for my MSS was to incorporate storage for my hardware bins, but realized with the amount I had it didn’t make sense to design a major piece just for that. I’ll mount them on the wall or under my bench I suppose.

The first layout option is something that’s very familiar to me right now, because it’s basically what I have now.

I swap out the old MSS for the new one, and with the gained space I put the jointer near the door with the air compressor and separator partially underneath. I add a router table, and it’s basically done. No reinventing the wheel with this layout. I really haven’t had much problem with my current layout aside from not being able to put stuff out of my way.

However I like change. I like to move things around. I get an itch to see about an improvement. So that leaves us with option two.

What I’ve done here is move the bench to the opposite corner and have the miter station slide over one corner. Everything else just kind of finds a home. In the render I’ve moved the lathe out from the corner and front of the window. It can be in the corner as well, but I wanted to see how much more room at the entrance I could get. Also, I can put the vac and separator in that corner. That bit is undetermined.

What this layout does is give me room to move things out of the way where I want them and not where I don’t. Maybe. Looks a bit cluttered right around the router table and lathe, so I’m not completely sold on that layout yet. I do like that I can’t really put anything in front of the bench since that is the doorway. There’s also some minor details not changed in that render, like the new location of the clamps, etc. Long crosscuts at the miter saw are a problem as well.

I’ve tried a couple of other things, but it all seems to be a bit of a hash on the computer. I don’t quite yet know what my final design will be at this point, but these are the components that will be involved. Whatever happens I will be putting the wall-mounted scrap collection behind the miter saw. I have a bit of a variation on the second option where the layout is a bit cleaner, but I lose the option of putting the dust collection in the front right corner.

The final part of this series will talk about a couple of upgrades and how I’ll live with the space until I’m fortunate enough to increase the space.

The new MSS concept

(Part of the Working in 144 series)

The whole point of this series is to figure out how best to work in my shop, and the miter saw station plays a big role in that. Why? It’s a great place to store things underneath the surface. It’s one of the reasons I have been so against having a mobile cart with wings. Unfortunately with the size of my shop and all my floor model machines, I couldn’t make it as big as I really would have liked.

I had to meet some criteria for design here. It had to be able to store and enclose a section for my vacuum, depending on overall shop layout. That section would also hold my socket and wrench set on a drawer (one of my favorite things about my current shop layout). The main section of the cabinet would of course hold the miter saw at a bit of a height difference to account for the table of the saw. It had to be wide enough to allow for full swing of the motor, and deep enough to clear the back of the arm and give good support for the stock.

I also wanted to have some storage for my burgeoning Festool collection. Or soon to be burgeoning. Between the depth needed for stock support and the depth of the Festool systainers, I settled on 28″ depth for the entire unit. Depending on the size of the systainers I need, I could get up to 10 in one cabinet. If I get more than that I’ll have to do some jobs to pay for the new shop.

I’m not set on the height of the unit overall. Since it will be at least a month or two before I can get started on it, I can afford to think on it further. It will be at least 36″ high, or perhaps a hair under. This would allow me an extra 28″ or so of clearance for the table saw should I have it oriented behind it. I could build it higher to about 40″ or so if I still wanted to park the lathe next to it. However, the front of the saw where the stock would be should clear the front of the lathe since there is a bit of a depth difference. So perhaps 36″ tall is a good decision after all.

The most important aspect of the construction is to make it modular. I’ve learned my lesson in making very big singular construction pieces – to make a change you have to significantly weaken the structure or ditch it completely. I want more flexibility this time around to swap the ends or change the middle if for some reason I change my saw or need to address dust collection.

With all of that said, a picture can tell a thousand words. Up to this point I’m only at about 500.

As you can see, I think my design meets all my criteria. I have quite a good bit of room for the systainers in one module, and the vac and my sockets will do just fine in the other. The miter saw module has a large open section for storage. In the render the saw sits on a shelf for fine-tuning the height, but I’d like to keep as much height as I can underneath the saw. I’ll be explaining what it’s for in the final part of this series.

Everything will sit on plastic adjustable feet, and I will be building these in a kitchen cabinet method. This will give me good practice for my eventual kitchen remodel. The backs will be inset 1/2″ from the back of the cabinet to accept mounting strips on the back. I don’t know what my top will be, but I’m considering laminated hardwood to class the joint up.

There will be some manner of dust collection for the saw as well. With a hose hooked up to the saw I seem to get 80% of the dust or so, which is about as good as I can expect. I have a hose that comes up from the table surface in my current setup that I will most likely duplicate. Depending on clearance I may have to offset the hose hole slightly, but no big deal. I think I will use a smaller diameter hose this time to create better velocity and not get too much in the way of the saw. This hose can be detached from the saw to suck up any dust on the table.

In the penultimate part of this series I will show at least two potential layout options using the exact same components.

The layout problem

(Part of the Working in 144 series)

The layout. It’s the thing on everything will depend on. The rock. The floor. The foundation. Getting it wrong means so much in terms of how I use my shop. Getting it right means I can finally stop thinking about how to improve my shop and just get on with using it. I think about it so much because it is so important.

One of the hardest things about designing a layout in a shop this size is that you can have almost no thought about workflow. You don’t move around a shop to different machines when the machines are all within a foot or two of each other. Workflow in a shop this size is being able to use the next tool in the flow without the one before interfering with it, and vice versa. You really can’t have the planer ready to go where it would block the path of the feed from the table saw. The mortiser can’t interfere with the miter saw. In a lot of cases it helps to have most things mobile, but how annoying is it to be constantly moving things? I’m constantly moving my jointer to get at my clamps or hand tools. There’s only so much capability there.

One potential layout I had envisioned was to have the lathe sit under the left-hand extension of the miter saw. The saw would be raised a bit higher to clear the lathe and the extension would flip up when I needed to use the lathe. It really is a brilliant idea, however I do lose the potential storage benefits of having the counter. It would require me to have nearly three feet of clear wall behind it. That’s quite a bit of real estate.Or bring the lathe out a bit to have the shelf take up less height and away from the wall, but how do I make good use of the about 10″ behind the lathe? It’s not light, you know.

This is a very rough representation of what a layout like that would look like

I think I can do better though.

That render looks a lot closer to what I think I am going to do. I’ve played around with layouts for weeks now, and I keep coming to the conclusion this makes the most sense. Why? For the simple fact that the lathe stand is only 18″ wide, it makes the most sense for things to be in front of it when not in use, not in front of other things. The most logical thing to put in front of it is the table saw, just like it is now. If the saw is right up against the door, I can access the lathe just fine for short turns. For longer turns I can fold the saw up assuming I keep the saw on the stand. Otherwise, roll it elsewhere. I should still be able to access most of the drawers without too much effort, however I will have to watch what I put in them and be only for turning, or if I use a drawer otherwise, something I don’t need access to a lot. Perhaps the ‘destruction’ tools I have such as the recip saw, circ saw, etc. That I will have to consider and ponder. I definitely don’t want to put things I would need there in the middle of a project or especially assembly. My grinders would find a good home here, even the Worksharp. Any light maintenance sharpening is done with the tiles, or stones in the future. If I’m at the lathe, I already have access to the grinder.

The lathe doesn’t really interfere with the bench, as I’ve had this layout for a little while now. My end vise is giving me grief with the locking mechanism, but I still have full access to it. I can always swing the end out if I need better access. I think instead of the face vise I will go with a Moxon so I can use it away from the end. Cheaper, too. Problem sorted. Right now on the floor between the drill press and the bench is my old planer, I really should go ahead and put it on Craigslist. Perhaps if I can figure out where all the parts for it are…Also right there is the air compressor, which will move where that box is at the lower left corner of the render. Hopefully putting it into a box with rigid foam insulation will cut down on the noise and vibration. If I can accomplish that, it can stay in the shop.

Under the other jointer table is the separator, which to the best of my measuring ability will fit fine under it. If it’s close, I can modify the design slightly. If I’ve completely done my math poorly, then I suppose I will need another solution. I’d like to keep the vac in the cabinet directly to the right of the separator, but it may have to back yet again in the back left corner where that open space is now. My socket set will share the cabinet. I may have room for a drawer. That open space in the corner is for another cabinet that will hold something, and serve as support to the right of the saw. Probably going to be systainer storage. Under the saw right now is rendered systainer storage, but that is going to change with a new idea I’ve had just the other day.

What I have here should allow me to have a 24×32 offset router table that I can use as an outfeed table, or simply move out of the way. While this design isn’t final, it’s the one I keep coming back to. Workbench near the window, lathe in the corner, jointer near the door, and everything else in the best place it can be.

My one caveat with this is that the miter saw components haven’t been enlarged to show 28″ depth yet. With that, and my seemingly brilliant plan to alleviate my major table problem, I have to say ‘to be continued.’ As soon as I have the revised Sketchup render done and evaluated, I can say for sure what is going to happen. Stay tuned…

Shop evaluation – part two

(Part of the Working in 144 series)

Now, the question about my shop as it sits today is what is blocking me from making these things. Technically, I could do most of it in the shop and layout I have now. What I really would like is more room to assemble or lay parts out. For that, I need more surfaces. One big area of craptitude is making my initial sheet good cuts – sawhorses on uneven ground only does so much. I was recommended with my new track saw to get a sheet of thick foam. A fine suggestion, but buying one means storing one. Where? It is possible to store it under the workshop should I get the impetus to get under there insulated. I could attach a couple of brackets to keep it close under the floor joists. Then I may have to worry about disturbing wasps, but I don’t know of another solution. If I cut them into strips I could conceivably store them in the ceiling joists. With the way my roof is shaped I could possibly keep them up there in just two 3 or 4 foot sections. I will know more once the ceiling comes down in the spring.

The paths for my table saw are plentiful. The positives about it are that it cuts reasonably well for being a light-duty saw. It works on my current power situation, and I don’t have to worry about rust. The negatives include an increasingly hard to operate elevation crank, a short table, being underpowered, and lightweight. I also cannot upgrade the fence or add a commercial router table to it. I would really like to hold off on buying a new table saw until I am in a larger space with dedicated power, which means the replacement path isn’t an option. I don’t really want to get rid of it either, even with the addition of the track saw – it will still only cut things 55mm deep. There’s not a whole lot I can upgrade about it that I haven’t already. I would like to improve the dust collection, especially above the table.

The real question I have to answer is this – how much do I want to improve the weight? I could improve it immensely by building a rolling stand for it. This would also allow me to have storage under it and to the right side I could have more storage and support the top or I can add a spot for a router. I’m not sure that router would take the place of a freestanding one, but it could be used as another setup. Or, it could just be a flat surface to use. What makes me not want to jump in with two feet is that if I do that, the saw no longer folds up out of the way. I don’t use that feature too often, but I probably should. I could even wheel it out of the shop completely for a large assembly. The folding stand is such a huge waste of space, though. It’s so difficult to chose between these two options. To build the saw stand is no easy or cheap matter, and it would be hard to change my mind later. For the moment though it is status quo.

The lathe needs a more beefy stand, and with it, storage. That’s nothing groundbreaking if you’ve read this site before. The only question is of the design of the cabinet. Aside from the vise, the workbench works well. I would like some better storage underneath, right now it is plywood scrap and a bin and some blow-molded cases. My only real restriction under here is to have enough room for the holdfasts to work. This might be a good spot for systainers or a saw till. Anything under two feet deep and probably about 2′ tall would work. I’ll have to measure next time I’m out. The only thing I can do with the bandsaw is to add mobility. For the drill press, perhaps storage on the base. I just built the planer and sander cart, hopefully I can take a day or two before I want to change it.

The jointer is a huge movable landmass. The best I can do is to move it around as little as possible and use what storage I can underneath the tables. The idea was to keep it nearest the door and just trot it out a few inches to clear the door. My miter saw stand has been well documented, but I’m no closer to ideas or solutions. I have a bit of space in the middle, but usually it gets taken up with stuff I’ve had to move to get to other things. The space is going to be reduced with a router table if I go through with it.

In part four I will examine a couple of different layout possibilities I’ve been kicking around.

Shop evaluation – part one

(Part two of the Working in 144 series)

Now that I’ve recognized I have a problem, it’s time to evaluate my choices and decisions to this point to see what can be improved, what can be replaced, and what can be discarded (if anything). However, the first question I need to ask myself is…

What do I want to make?

I have several projects that I want to make for my house. We need new bookcases to feed our ever-growing library of books and magazines. As much as we’ve gone digital there’s still no substitute at times for the feel of paper or the impulse magazine buy. Plus, we tend to borrow a lot of books from the library and those always need a place to sit, at least temporarily. One project I’ve wanted to tackle ever since we bought the house was closet storage systems. I could buy some pre-built melamine stuff, but I have the tools and knowledge to build them myself, so I should. I’ve also been tasked with a new dress-up closet, as the one we have now is woefully short – kids don’t just stop growing. That’s quite a bit of plywood projects just there. I also would like to take on a fancy project, a Morris chair at some point. I’ve wanted to build it for two years but felt I lacked the skills and tools to do so. The tools are there, the skills still aren’t. Neither is the space. I will need to rebuild the dining room table soon. I’m sure there are other smaller projects to tackle, but those are the main ones. I don’t expect to build kitchen cabinets for my house until a new shop goes up.

In part two of the evaluation I will talk about the tools and storage I currently have and the pros and cons.

Stepping back

(New series, Working in 144)

With the new tool cart basically done, it’s time to slow my roll and determine what the next steps are. I have a plan in my head, but I need to really think hard about if it would work, how well it would work, or if some other form of action would work better.

Had a trackback link to a contractor forum where someone was impressed at how much stuff I had and how I’ve been working with it. I was a bit more honest there than I’ve been with myself I think. I also still haven’t admitted what I’m going to admit now – I think I’m right on the edge of functional, and not in a good way. Doing final assembly on the cart, and all the projects leading up to this, I find one thing in common with all of them – I’m practically falling over things and items are everywhere, especially during the last stages of a project. During the dangerous activites like cutting, routing or similar the shop is tidy and clean, so it isn’t a problem. At the end though, I have clamps falling over, the old stands in the way, not a lot of room to work. Really made me question how much longer I can be in this space.

I’m pretty proud at how far I’ve come and what I’ve been able to accomplish, but I think my shop is really starting to impact how well a project turns out for me. I notice it most towards the end where I just want to get a project done. Why? I want the room back. It gets way too cramped near the end and I have to constantly move things out of my way. I need more horizontal surfaces, for sure. I need to not have to move my jointer to get to my clamps. I hate how each time I bump into my saw dust collection it falls off. I start taking shortcuts or start accepting results I really shouldn’t. If I ever want to make that next step I really am going to have to build a new shop.

A completely new and bigger shop is expensive, though. I’m realistically at least two or three years away from being in the position to do it. I’ve already started dreaming about a bigger shop and how I would outfit it. For my sanity (and my quality) though, I need to figure out how to bridge the gap between here and there. So, I’m working on a new series about my shop to go through the entire process from start to finish. To see the whole series, look for the tag ‘Working in 144’ to follow along.

Why am I doing this? Well, I have to be serious about what I want in my shop and what I want to do in my shop. I need to be able to actually work in it, not just have it be a collection of tools. Museums do that, and I can’t charge an admission fee. Storage would need to at least live out the remainder of this shop’s time if not be able to be useful in the next one. I’m trying to use every single inch I can. My thought is that these overlooked spaces, if used properly, may give me enough room to actually complete a project, perhaps on an assembly surface.

Coming up in Part Two: Shop evaluation