Thursday, January 26, 2017

Workshop Makeover, Part 5 - Planning New Bench Drawers

I spent a little time last night thinking about how I wanted to configure my drawers and trays. I used to have access to Visio which is very nice for doing quick diagrams. Unfortunately a license is hundreds of dollars or $15/month for the online version. Since this layout is pretty simple I used MS Excel to help me visualize it.

Last weekend I took the time to re-watch the New Yankee Workshop Miter Bench and Storage and Workshop Hutch videos. Norm's layout for his hutch was one small drawer over two large drawers which may have served him well - the video also shows him with a wheelbarrow full of routers - but when he made his Miter Bench and Storage he made a lot of different storage choices. For example he made a tray to store his spindle sander on. Since it is one large tool it doesn't really need full sides, a shorter sided tray works fine.

In my diagram above you can see that I've named the contents of some of my drawers. I'm going to follow Norm's example and put the spindle sander on a tray in the top left spot. I've got a Dewalt multi-base router combo kit that is in a pretty large custom box. I'm going to put a tray in the bottom left of the bench to hold that.

The bottom of the right compartment is going to be storage for my compressor. I'm waffling between putting it on a tray and just setting it on the floor. I think I'm going to try it on the floor first but give it enough height that I can put a tray in later. One of the things I was thinking was plumbing the shop with piping for compressed air. When I started thinking this the only way to do it was to use copper pipes. There's a new product that is much easier to install. This isn't an immediate plan; however, once I get the shop plumbed I can just leave the compressor in place. I might even run a line into the garage so I can get compressed air out there too.

The rest of the bench is going to be drawers.

On Norm's miter saw bench he added a bunch of shallow drawers to one of the compartments. I like this idea since I have a lot of things sitting on shelves that could be transferred to a shallow drawer very easily and would be stored more efficiently.

Norm used half blind dovetails for his drawers. These joints are very strong and can be made quickly with a half blind dovetail jig. Unfortunately I don't have one. I do have a very nice Leigh D4 Dovetail Jig which I may decide to use. I have to admit, I haven't really learned how to use it yet. It is a little more complicated than most half blind jigs. If I had the time this would be the perfect excuse to learn how to use it. More likely I'm going to just use a locking rabbet joint. It's a pretty strong joint and I can cut it quickly and easily on my table saw. Maybe I'll pull the manual out and give the dovetails a whirl.

Anyway I think I have my layout. I still need to come up with a cut list for the drawer and tray parts. That'll depend slightly on how I am going to join the drawers but I should still be able to get most of it figured out.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Workshop Makeover, Part 4 - New Bench Top

The top of the bench is made up from a foundation of 2x4s that use half-lap joints joinery topped by a sheet of 3/4" plywood with a hardboard top.

The 2x4 frame has two long braces that run the length of the top with seven shorter cross braces joined with half laps. Norm used his radial arm saw with a dado blade to cut all the joinery. I used to have one on long-term loan but I returned it a number of years ago for reasons I won't go into here. However, I still need to put seven dados across two 96" board.

Even if I had the space in my workshop to push a 96" board across my table saw with a dado blade it wouldn't be safe. I thought about using my circular saw to cut a bunch of grooves then break the pieces out with a hammer and then clean it up with a chisel. That might work for one or two but not the 14 dados on the long pieces.

What I decided to do was make a template I could use with my router and a pattern bit. I could have used a collar but I hate having to do math and I figured the jig would come out a lot more accurate if I used the work piece for sizing.

The downside is that I have to have the bit extended far enough that the guide bearing on the bit runs against the jig. I've got to remove a total of about 3/4". The first pass takes about 1/4" and is pretty easy. The second pass is removing almost a half inch and is a little more challenging. I just took it easy and it went okay.

Jig with off-cut to help me center the jig

Second layer of jig to raise the bit

Ready to take the first layer off

I took the middle and worked out towards the sides so that my last pass would take a small amount to get me a clean shoulder.

Did it make a lot of saw dust? Yes, yes it did.

After getting the long pieces done I did the short pieces by using my table saw set up with a dado blade. I used the fence to control the width of the rabbet. This went much quicker than routing all the dados and rabbets on the long pieces.

The next step was to glue them up and put screws in all the joints. That went pretty smoothly. When I'd marked the long 2x4's I'd made sure to mark the ends and then mark both at the same time. This way if my measurements were off they'd be off the same amounts on both pieces. The half-lap joints made it naturally come out pretty close to square.

I'd jumped the gun a little bit. I put the top together before shimming the cabinet level. I set my top aside temporarily so I could shim the cabinet. I'd been putting it off because I wanted to make sure I had my final placement determined before gluing the shims in place. No more time to dither so I shimmed the cabinet level. The front left corner is at least an inch lower than the back right corner. Yikes!

Then it was a simple matter of fastening the cabinet to the wall and putting the 2x4 frame in place. The frame got screws through the frame and into the wall and through the front horizontal strap into the frame.

The plywood top and hardboard was pretty easy. I just set my table saw to the right width and ripped them to width. The plywood got fastened to the frame with screws and the hardboard is just set on top.

Wouldn't you know it but the hardboard was about 1/4" too long.

The easiest way to remove the excess was to use a flush trim bit in my router. I ran it up close to the wall, then flipped the hardboard over so I could get the little bit I couldn't get because the router can only get so close to the wall. It left a fuzzy edge but a little sandpaper on a sanding block took care of that.

Norm put hard wood around the top from his scraps. In his video it looked like quarter sawn white oak but he suggested any durable hard wood. I have plenty to choose from; however, I've moved it all to my auxiliary storage and it isn't convenient to get any one board out. So I decided to trim it out with some of my plywood scraps. I just tacked them in place with some brads so when it's time to replace them I'll just pop them off and replace them with hardwood.

I think that's pretty good for a second afternoon of work. Next up is the drawers and trays. Tonight I'm going to figure out the layout.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Workshop Makeover, Part 3 - New Bench Base

I need to find a new home for my miter saw. I've decided I want to move it into my main workshop and put it on a new bench. Fifteen years ago when I started woodworking I bought the New Yankee Workshop plans for the Workshop Hutch. At this point in time I want to use the bench but not the shelves. The wall space above where the bench is going to go has a wood rack that I kind of like and want to keep.

I'm not going to put the miter saw directly on this bench, I'm going to build a second bench next to this one and put a shelf between them to hold the miter saw. By setting the miter saw shelf a bit lower than the benches I can use the bench tops to keep the ends from sagging. I don't remember where I saw it but I'm going to put dog holes in the bench top. These will allow me to put a removable fence for when I'm cutting boards to length and can put it away when I want some open space.

Day one showed little progress; however, it was a lot of work to get there.  I cut the four vertical panels - two for the middle and two for the ends. My typical process is to break down large panels in my garage using a circular saw and a temporary bench and carry the pieces down to the basement piecemeal; however, the plywood had already been moved to the basement ten years ago. I thought about bringing the foam in from the garage and breaking the panels down as I normally do; however, I decided to run them through my table saw. It worked but the full sheets of plywood were heavy and awkward. After cutting the four panels to size cutting the four horizontal strips was easy.

Norm's plans have cutting diagrams using three sheets of 3/4" plywood very efficiently; however, it includes parts for the hutch that I'm not building. He uses almost an entire sheet just for the drawer fronts and lays them out so the grain will flow from one to the next. I don't particularly care so I am going to source my drawer fronts from two separate sheets to minimize waste.

After getting the panels cut out the vertical panels required a bit more work. The middle panels get four notches for the horizontal strips and the end panels get a 3/4" rabbet on the top, back and bottom sides. I cut the notches using my jig saw and the rabbets using my table saw with a dado blade. I only had a half inch of dado installed in the table so I made the rabbets in two passes.

Including moving all the plywood out of the spot the bench is going into this was pretty much a full afternoon of work.

I did all the work cutting the panels and horizontal strips on Saturday. Sunday I tried buying some full extension slides from my local Woodcraft; unfortunately, they didn't have any. I settled for ordering a half dozen from Amazon. I love Amazon Prime.

Monday evening a friend of mine who is also a woodworker helped me pick up the 2x4s, 3/4" plywood and 1/4" melamine for the top.

Tonight I got a few hours in the shop and assembled the bench base and started working on the top.

I carefully laid out lines on the cross braces for where the panels were supposed to go. The getting the first brace attached to the two middle panels was a bit tricky. If I had a shop helper I would just have had them hold one of the panels. Instead I used a couple of large wood clamps on the bottom of the panels to keep them vertical. I then glued and screwed the first cross brace - the back - to the middle two panels. Then I rolled the carcass over and attached the two bottom cleats. I then checked the spacing to make sure everything was spacing correctly before moving on.

I decided to attach the two end panels before attaching the last cleat. While I was checking spacing between all the panels again I thought, "hey, wouldn't this be easier if I just had a stick that was the right length. Then I wouldn't have to keep pulling out my tape measure." Well, I was almost done so I just kept using my tape measure but perhaps next time I'll remember to cut myself a story stick before assembly.

Anyway, I attached the two end panels and the final cleat. I did need to adjust two of the cleats on one of the end panels but it all came out good in the end. Then I started the process of leveling it. From the back right corner to the front left corner there is about a 1" drop.

I haven't fastened it to the wall yet or glued the shims in place yet. I'll probably do that next time. I figured it would be better to think about it for awhile rather than rushing into it.

I had a little bit of time left so I cut the cross members for the top out of the 2x4s and built a router jig that will let me create half laps with a pattern bit. But more on that in the next post.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Workshop Makeover, Part 2

Did I say the next step was planning the new layout?

I was wrong.

My wife reminded me that the foundation guys were going to be coming to do the work early February. I've got to get the foundation next to the garage cleared so they can get to it to install a vapor barrier. I've got to get my garage cleared out so they can replace the floor. This is going to be a lot of work but certainly possible.

I spent a large chunk of my free time over the new year holiday and last weekend working on clearing out the smaller half of my workshop. Now I could have just moved all the stuff into the larger half but that side is already crowded. It'd make my workshop unusable until I unpacked it all after the foundation work was done. Instead I decided to start by cleaning and organizing.

There used to be a TV show on TLC called Clean Sweep. This show was about a team of people coming into a house to help people who were verging on being hoarders and helping them clean and organize. Their exercise usually involved making these people get rid of two-thirds of their stuff. There were usually tears too.

I didn't care so much about the tears or the drama but they had several good points about how to organize. If there is something you are not taking care of you probably don't care that much about it. If you don't care about it, get rid of it. If you come across something and you had forgotten you had it, chances are you don't need it so get rid of it. When I clean and organize it isn't just buying a bunch of plastic bins and throwing stuff into them and stacking the bins in the corner. I try to get rid stuff. I try to get rid of a lot of stuff.

We have a waste disposal place that takes house hold hazardous waste including things like latex paint, oil based finishes and driveway sealer. I had three half full 5 gallon pails of driveway sealer. One of them from the one time I thought I'd try it, the other two inherited. I made an appointment and dropped off the driveway sealer and most all of my oil based finishes that were too old to use. I still have around twenty partially full one gallon paint cans I need to take or set out to dry.

I started by adding some cross braces to some shelving next to my furnace. It gave me a place to move some of my longer lengths of wood. I decided that I'd use the limited wood storage in my main shop for current projects. When I finish the new shop area I'll add wood storage for my over runs and general stock. For now I'll put it in my new auxiliary storage location. I started with the quarter sawn white oak I'd had had sitting on saw horses and moved them to my auxiliary storage. I then moved some of the stuff I just keep around - 3/4 poplar, some walnut - and some of my other over-run to the auxiliary storage. This gave me room to get the wood for my current projects off the floor and into my workshop.

My next step was to clear out my plywood scraps. I had a lot. They were piled on the floor. They were filling up cabinets. It was a mess. I kept some of the pieces that I thought might be useful but by and large I threw them all out. In the cabinet space that opened up and in the adjacent empty cabinet I moved all my hardwood scraps. They'd been on the floor under my makeshift workbench in the smaller workshop. Now they are a little less accessible but much more out of the way. All the scraps that were shorter than one foot went into the burn bin. If it won't go through my planer it is of little use to me.

With the hardwood scraps out of the way it made sense to tear down my makeshift bench. It was just an old cubicle desk on a couple of saw horses. The desk got leaned up against my shelving in the back of the basement and the saw horses were folded up and put away. Why not throw it out? Well it is heavy duty MDF with a laminate surface. I've cut up another one to make shelves and other functions that needed a water proof surface. It'll come in handy later.

I mentioned my inherited workbench. It's a great bench if what you want to do is sharpen a lawnmower blade. If your goal is quality woodworking, it has a number of deficiencies. I started disassembly by banging apart a bin the looks like it had been cobbled onto the main bench. This shortened the bench by four feet and generated a couple bins of garbage. It also showed me that I have salt leaching through the front wall too.

Since I'd had stuff on the bin lid - containers of bolts, the fence for my miter saw - had kept me from opening it for the last ten years or so. Inside I found a bunch of stuff, most of it junk including a few more partial gallon cans of paint. However, I did find some cool stuff in there.

The Taylor Thermometer is pretty cool. I think that weird thing in the middle and on the right is a barometer; however, to be honest I'm not sure how it works. I think this one is circa 1940 so it's old but not as old as it could be. The wood is also a little beat. It's cool but since it probably also has mercury in it I'm going to get rid of it. I think I found a local antique store that might give me a couple of bucks for it and find it a good home - reduce, reuse, recycle...

Next was the pegboard. I cleaned up some of my cabinets in the main workshop which gave me space to move some of my tools that could be shelved to the cabinets. However, there were some tools that just couldn't be shelved and were best off hung. After clearing one piece of pegboard I cut it to size and fit it into a spot between my cabinets. This gave me a spot to hang those tools which didn't fit on shelves.

I use empty Kraft Parmesan cheese containers to store screws and nails. They're hold a pound of nails or screws, they're durable enough that I've never had one break even after banging it around and best of all if I drop one I don't have screws or nails all over the place. I'd been storing a couple dozen of these on shelves mounted on the pegboard.

I'd been thinking of building more custom storage for these for a few years. Turns out now's the time. I took one afternoon over new years to bang together a quick shelf to store them on.

I don't really use nails all that much anymore. The screws are mostly coated deck screws. These are my go-to screws when I need to fasten two things together that isn't furniture. The rest is a mishmash of miscellaneous fasteners like staples, washer headed screws, etc. When the containers were on the shelf I could see the contents. I'd also put the lid identifying the contents inside the container so I could know for sure what I had.

Now that they are on their side I had to get a label printer so I could label the lids. It is somewhat laborious to use non alpha-numeric characters [/-"] on my label maker so I'm doing a few at a time.

At this point - 40 or so hours in - the smaller workshop is pretty tidy. I've still got the substandard workbench with the miter saw on it but everything else in there is a tool on wheels that can be moved into the main workshop when I need it.

I think the next step is to move the miter saw into the main workshop which will require a new bench to put it on. I've been planning on building a New Yankee workbench for years -about ten - and this is the time.

I'll then be able to get rid of the old bench. It's served me quite adequately for fifteen years; however, it is time to move on. Also, I might have a line on someone who is willing to take the old bench - reduce - reuse - recycle.