Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cinderella's Carriage

Thanks to Roy W. for submitting his customer project to us! What a beautiful wooden Cinderella Carriage. Note: Click the image to see it larger. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Little Shop of Horrors Part 1

Little Shop of Horrors:
Setting up shop in small space

Little Shop of Horrors will be presented in 3 parts. Hope you enjoy!

I know we all want a huge shop with a milling room, a work room, and a finish room, but most likely that’s not what you have. I remember the first shop I had was half of a two car garage. We (my wife) parked on one side and my shop was set up on the other, which meant my truck was outside. I just couldn’t convince her to park outside with me so I could have the whole shop, or garage, to myself (hard to believe, I know). I started out with a Shop Smith and a couple power tools and slowly progressed to designated tools, all on mobile bases or carts, until finally, I had all the tools I wanted (I thought).

Setting up shop in a small space doesn’t have to be an event that you dread. There are just a few things you need to do to make it work to your advantage. Hopefully, this will help give you a plan to follow that will get you started in your shop.

Where to start:
Before you go out and buy your dream tools, which I would love to sell you, be sure that you have room for them all. It would be bad for your shop, and wallet, if you had all those tools and nowhere to put them. In an ideal shop there is room for all the tools you will need and more, regardless of the type of shop you’re setting up (cabinet shop, machine shop, carving, turning, etc.). Space is always the biggest factor, so setting it up with the best overall efficiency is paramount.

The best thing to do before laying out your shop is to think about a project from start to finish (from rough lumber to the final top coat) and how each of the steps in between will be handled. Mobile bases on your tools and benches will be crucial to setting up a small shop, so that things can be rolled out for use and back in with minimal time and setup. Figuring out how much space each tool, workbench, lumber, etc. will take up can be confusing. Not to mention a pain in the back if you just bought the tools and shuffled them around several times until you got the layout you wanted.

Scaling it out on paper or the computer
Start by laying out your shop to scale on paper, or if your web savvy, try using an online planner like the one found on the Fine Woodworking website or Google Sketch. You can also use Photoshop, Microsoft Word, or any other similar software as well. If the web and computer programs aren't your thing just graph out your shop & tools the old fashioned way, to scale on graph paper. Once everything is to scale, cut out the tools and play around with the design, moving the templates around the scaled floor plan of your shop to find the best "flow" that works for your situation.

*Important tip - When you are laying out the shop, be sure to allow room for the infeed, outfeed, and side-to-side cutoff of your lumber. Utilize open garage doors as one way of helping to accomplish this. The tablesaw for instance will seem like it requires an airport runway at times, but with proper layout, taking advantage of those open doors, you can allow for plenty of room. It would be a nightmare if you had room for your tools but not be able to actually use them.

Groups of tools & support
Grouping tools by what they do in regards to the project flow can save a lot of time. If your shop is designated and does not double as your parking spot, then this will make things much easier when you are in the middle of a project. For example, if your lumber rack is near the milling machines – Jointer, planer, and table saw, as opposed to the other end of the shop, then you can get right to work without maneuvering 8’ lumber or sheet goods from one end of the shop to the other, bumping into benches and other tools. Put your machines that are used in a sequence near each other as well. Grouping those milling tools close to each other you can go from one step to the next without a lot of travel. For example: You know you will start with a jointer to flatten, straighten, and square a side and face of a board. Then that board will go to the planer to be milled to thickness. Once milled to thickness, you take it to the table saw to cut it to width and then back to the jointer for a final pass on the side recently cut off. After all that work, you don’t want to have those three tools in different parts of the shop.

Also, allowing for a tool or bench to serve multiple functions can be a huge space and time saver. In the early days of my small shop I had a bench top planer and jointer that I bolted to a mobile cabinet I made, which had a rotating table using a 1" dowel as a pivot hinge. I had a tool on each side, so I unlocked the corners and flipped the table over depending on which tool I needed, and then locked the corners again using eye bolts and plastic knobs. I could change it easily in less than thirty seconds and didn't have to change my dimensional setup on each tool, saving me a lot of time.

Removing the fence, lowering the blade, and placing a piece of plywood on your tablesaw can make for a great assembly table or sanding table. Yes, I said the usually dreaded word, "sanding". Sanding and finishing can make or break a project. If you spend a great amount of time milling and building to precision, you don’t want to ruin your project by a poor sanding or finishing job.

There are several ways of utilizing tools for multipurpose use. Another example is if you build your workbench so it can also serve as an outfeed table support for your tablesaw, this will take up less room than having a designated support table. Speaking of support tables; be sure you have them. In almost all cases, you will be alone in your shop and safety is very important. Don’t attempt to be a hero and muscle around heavy plywood without some support, as it could result in a bad cut on the wood or worse, your finger.

Multifunction tools and storage
You can build storage under the right table board of your tablesaw and utilize that as storage for blades, wrenches, featherboards etc. I built such a cabinet for mine and put a small tray on top to hold pencils, push sticks, and an extra tape measure, which I always seemed to misplace. I had a router table mounted on the left side of my saw that was made of cast iron which replaced my left table extension. With all these additions plus a mobile base, my tablesaw transformed from "just" a tablesaw, into a space-saving mobile mega tool that was a tablesaw, a router table, and a storage center, all on wheels for easy maneuvering.

Storage is a premium so make sure to utilize the space you do have as much as possible. It will allow you to keep your hand tools, finishes, fasteners, etc put up and out of the way so there is room to actually use your work surfaces. It will also help protect those items from being damaged while not in use. You can cut out a portion of a counter or bench and put smaller power tools, like grinders, miter saws, bench top belt sanders, etc on a wood base that will fit into that cutout. This will allow for quick change of tools and allow them to again be stored on a shelf when not in use.

Making a lumber rack on the wall, or even better from the ceiling above the garage door, to stack your various species of wood will also help in creating less clutter around the shop. Be sure that your rafters will support the extra weight if you use this method. You can also make a bin or use a barrel to put the smaller sticks of lumber that you just can’t bring yourself to throw out.

Many manufacturers of tools have seen the need to help out the small shop by making multipurpose machines. There are both positives and negatives to these tools. If you have a small shop there can be many benefits, as space is a premium. If you are setting up your shop and will be cutting sheet goods and milling many different parts, multifunction machines may not always be the best choice. Many of these machines have to be totally changed and readjusted to transform into another tool. My first machine was that way. Some of its features enabled it to be used as a tablesaw, bandsaw, drill press, wood lathe, & horizontal boring tool. Plus it had other attachments available that I didn’t own. The demo guys you see at shows often make it look quick and simple, but in reality it took a good bit of time. If I forgot to make a cut, it then required me to set it all back up again and hopefully recreate the exact same dimensions. This is just a small sacrifice though if you are working in a limited space.

Also, many of these machines work great in one area but not in another. For instance, I am a bit on the short side and when I used the table saw on my multi-machine, it was uncomfortable because the table was high and top heavy, which made it difficult to cut plywood safely to width without first precutting it using a circular saw to make it more manageable, which in my opinion defeated the purpose of having a tablesaw. If small crafts is your primary use of a tool like this then that won’t bother you at all.

Tools like the one Jet puts out, which is a combo planer/jointer , is a very nice tool to have around. It performs nicely during use of both operations. The industrial 12" model has a 3hp motor (FYI - the 3hp version is NOT ideal for a small shop, but will work well if you have the room). We will discuss types of tools needed in your shop a bit later, but I wanted to get you thinking about ways to utilize things in a way to serve more than one purpose.

About Chris Smith
Chris began his woodworking career early while in high school. With three years of woodshop class under his belt, he graduated in 1993 and then began work for a cabinet shop.
His work in the cabinet shop spanned over several years. He continued his skills in cabinetry on his own before joining Klingspor’s Woodworking Shop in 2001.
He found an immediate interest in woodturning while at Klingspor. But, for Chris, it is more than just woodturning as he finds enjoyment in all aspects of woodworking. He has a wealth of 20 years experience in cabinetmaking, furniture building, woodturning, and more.