Workshop Upgrades

My new bandsaw has arrived and I felt the need to add a few more improvements to my workshop. There are three things on my agenda:

  1. Table Saw Storage
  2. Drill Press Table
  3. Router Table

Table Saw Storage

The first project was to add some support extension and additional storage for my table saw and its accessories. I added a support block connected to the side of my custom table saw cabinet.

With an even platform to build upon I was then able to add a cabinet.

It took some effort to get the table to sit just under the table of the saw. A few well-placed shims set it to the right height. I had a piece of some nice Baltic birch plywood that made a nice smooth top.

I then measured the inner area and set up some runners for drawers.

I call this project finished. I have a nice support for the side of my table saw to assist with cutting wider panels, and plenty of storage for all my push-blocks/sticks and accessories.

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Drill Press Table

The next project was to add a good support for my drill press. I wanted a reliable fence and built-in supports, because trying to clamp anything to the table was always a pain. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture much of this process, but you can see the end result.

This drill press table has a nice adjustable fence on a T-track, and two hold-down clamps on the same T-track. There is also an inset and replaceable 1/2″ plywood I can drill into without worry. Unseen in the photos, there are tight holding blocks that help lock this table onto the metallic drill press table.

Workshop Rearranged

I started putting together ideas for my router table, but before that I decided to rearrange my shop. I wanted the bandsaw to be more accessible and found lots of operations had become harder to perform. So I moved all my furniture out of the shop and rearranged them.

The biggest change here was swapping my tablesaw to the other side where I can easily make cuts and still be close to my assembly/workbench. The new bandsaw has been moved near the garage door. Since I don’t have good dust collection for it yet, it’s easy to let the dust fly out into the open air for now.

My dust collection system is now more mobile again and I can have it help clean up the shop again.

The electric cable will be replaced and duct-taped to the floor to avoid a serious safety issue.

The Circuitous Fence

My woodworking was quickly veering into house construction chores as I saw ways to take my new skills into improving our environment. We had long talked about how we would build-up our front yard, with garden beds filled with flowering bushes, like azaleas, roses, and peonies.

One important component to this dream, was adding a circuitous fence to the front yard. As much as I like the seemingly communal aspect of an open front yard that stretches from neighbor-to-neighbor’s lawn, in practice very few people seem to spend a lot of time in their front yards. However, I’ve noticed that people with fences tend to spend more time in that space. I also like how a fence defines a territory and serves as the boundary to a space perceptually. This makes the space seem compartmentalized and visually bound to a designed purpose. For all these reasons, we knew a fence would be in our future.

I put my woodworking skills to the test and designed a fence that met my criterion. More on that later.

Fence posts are cemented into the ground, roughly 7 feet apart.

Here I practiced the overall design to ensure my plan looked as good as in real life.

You can see from the above photo that my plan featured three rails. Two to brace the pickets and a third to ensure a smooth top rail. The kind of rail you can set a drink on top of. I really like the smooth line this creates. I find that traditional picket fences and their spiky tops only look well when camouflaged behind plenty of foliage. I think a smooth line will look great juxtaposed in front of the flowery bushes that will someday rise behind them.

The rest of the rails are installed.

The pickets were easy to install. I made a homemade jig that allowed me to ensure perfect 1 5/8″ spacing between picket boards. Due to the slight differences in post-to-post distances, I had to make a few strips and thickened some middle boards to ensure the spacing was kept consistent.

The pickets are up and the tops of the posts are cut smooth.

Cutting the tops of the posts to the same height was not the easiest. I had to use a circular saw on two sides to clear the thick wood. Then I used my Japanese pull saw to smooth the cut flat.

The beveled top blocks add an interesting feature.

I then took my post cut-offs and beveled them to add a decorative feature to each post top. The fence was finished. Now I need to consider a gate design.

Fin.

Workshop Update & Spice Cabinet Start

The wonderful world of woodworking continues during #lockdown2020. I’ve been quite busy taking care of projects around the shop and generally getting ready for some new equipment. I’ve added two new tools to my shop, taking advantage of some of the Spring-time sales.

The first is a drum/belt sander and should help me smooth out various pieces. The second, and much more exciting tool, is a professional band-saw. I am really excited about the prospect of making precise curved cuts to both express new creative ideas and to recreate classic pieces.

Workshop Update

With these new toys coming, I though I’d show my current shop layout beforehand.

The 11′ x 22′ space is better organized than when I started.
The new drum/belt sander has been moved to the cart, and the drill press finds a new home on the BMW workbench.
This table saw and outfeed table are a perfect combo for long cuts. Additionally, the outfeed table doubles for assembly and general surface area.
This miter station makes precise cross-cuts a breeze. The above lumber storage rack is easily accessible by my homemade stool.
This workbench is the pride and joy of my workshop. It is perfectly calibrated for my height, which makes it the ideal companion for planing wood and general assembly. The two homemade, sturdy hickory-wood vises are easy to use as well.
This storage area has all the tools I need, just a quick reach away. Holding my radio, you can see my quick screw organizer drawers. These handy little drawers are great for carrying around to where the screws are needed.
Moving the drill press was always a pain, and the stand I made would often get caught on my uneven concrete floor. With the drill press on the sturdy workbench, it’s a lot easier to use, and it never has to move.

Spice Cabinet

I’ve been working on my last project for Steve Ramsey’s Weekend Woodworker course. It’s been quite awhile, but I didn’t really like the original design. I eventually settled on a modified version of the plans that is going to serve as a spice cabinet above our stove.

There is still a lot of work yet to do on this piece. However, I am waiting for a couple new tools to arrive to properly finish the doors. I am excited to see where this project goes.

Lockdown Woodworking: Plant Stands

Over the quarantine, I’ve been working on a trio of plant stands. The legs were made out of 2×4’s cut down to 1 1/2 inches square on two sides. The aprons and crossbars were made with premium pine. The top is high-quality baltic birch plywood with red oak hardwood trim around the edges. The half-lap joinery on the taller plant stands ensures strong construction as the legs are mostly glued to the top with a single pocket screw to help hold it into place. The two taller stands had the legs tapered on two sides to give them an elegant thin look. This project required extensive sanding to get the legs and sides to have a nice rounded look and feel. The finish was simply two coats of natural Danish oil. I’ll probably add a coat of polyurethane on the top to protect it from water.

The Handmade Workbench

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a new workbench. I needed something that supported hand-tool use, with supportive vises to keep pieces firm.

The Benchtop

The benchtop is composed of premium 2×4’s of pine wood. I trimmed off the curved sides and cut them down to 1 1/2″ x 3″ x 48″. I then glued up half of the boards length-wise to form a giant, thick plank. I did the same for the other half of the boards and eventually glued the two massive pieces together.

Flattening the Benchtop

The benchtop was now one solid mass of wood, but it was far from flat. There were many imperfections in the 2×4’s shapes that created a very uneven surface. A good benchtop should be perfectly flat to serve as a reference surface. I started planing the benchtop with my largest plane, my No.5 Sargent. This process took many hours as I constantly checked my progress with a straightedge. Eventually most of the rough spots were smoothed out and I finished the surface with my No.4 smoothing plane and sander.

Adding the Vises & Trim

I wanted two vises on the workbench, one on the front-left side, and another larger one on the right side. I cut the wooden vise grips out of hickory wood to add some character. For the benchtop’s trim, I used red oak. To make things a little extra fancy, I added dowels to the sides of the trim.

Frame Mortises and Tenons

Now that the benchtop was nearly complete, I needed to work on the leg frames. I decided to make a solid frame with 2×4’s with mortise and tenon joinery to ensure a sturdy construction. It took quite some time to cut out the 16x mortises, but eventually the pieces all came together smoothly and formed a snug fit.

Workbench Assemble!

With the frame sanded and smoothed, I was ready to attach the benchtop. I went with some pocket-hole screws to attach the benchtop to the frame. This would make it easier to remove if I ever needed to do so in the future. Now I had a solid workbench.

Bench Dogs

To get more use out of the workbench, I drilled some bench dog holes lined up with the vise grips. With matching holes in the vise grips, it allows dowels (bench dogs) to be inserted into the holes in order to hold a piece of wood firm using the vise. The homemade bench dogs still need some work, and the vise handles need to be made.

Vise Handles

I smoothed some chunks of red oak and attached them to dowel rods to create some quick and useful handles for my vises. The workbench is ready for use!

Finish-ed

I added some Danish Oil to all the surfaces to give it a nice sheen and finished look.

Workshop Upgrades

I’m am currently in the throes of building a new workbench (hints of it seen in the photos below). I’ll post more about that project once the process is complete. However, I thought I’d share some of the workshop improvements I’ve been making recently.

I installed a new lightning system, composed of six high-efficiency LED strips. They are provide amazing illumination for the entire shop, using only 240 watts (2 Amps) with brilliant sun-like 5500K brightness. Since I’m running my entire shop of a single 120V outlet, I had to be creative with the wiring, but I managed to get everything connected and out of the way, while still allowing my power-tools to utilize up to 15 Amps of current when they desire.

The second upgrade I made was adding an air filtration system. The air has been seeming rather thick in the shop lately. I almost always wear a P100-rated air filter over my face, but it would be nice not to have to do so some day. The air filtration system claims to remove down to 1 micron-sized particles, which should do the trick for protecting my lungs. I’ll still wear the face-mask for sanding and other dust-producing processes, but afterwards I can run the air filter for 4 hours and clear up the floating particles. Yay! for lung health.

Hand Planes

So far, I’ve been sticking with machine-based woodworking and only occasionally reaching for my cheap chisels to touch up a bad edge. I have recently been thinking about trying out some traditional, hand-tool woodworking. There is nothing smoother than a hand-planed surface. So I needed to get some hand-planes.

I headed over to the local antique mall and snooped around. Unfortunately, I only found two usable hand-planes: a beat-up smoothing plane and a small rabbet plane.

The smoothing plane is a Miller Falls no9 (circa 1941). However, it seems like the woodworker who last used had to replace some parts with Craftsman replacement parts (circa early 1950’s). Overall, the mixed parts seemed like they’d work together and everything I needed was there.

The rabbet plane is quite beat up. It appears to be a Sargent rabbet plane (circa 1940’s). It may be missing a the guide-bar making it most useful for cutting rabbets, but it does have the depth guide, so it’s not completely useless.

I took the planes apart and threw them into a bucket of white vinegar to soak overnight. Unfortunately, there was still a lot of rust on them. So I tried WD Rust Remover with more success. After 24-hours soaking in the solution, the tools began to shine.

Both planes are usable after a good sharpening of the blades.

While I was working on restoring the two hand-planes I had found, I had also begun shopping online (ebay) to see if anyone had some good restored planes that were already ready to be used.

Luckily I had come across Mark Nickel’s page, where he had professionally restored a number of hand-planes. His website (https://www.plane-dealer.com/) is a great resource for restoring these tools. I order a couple hand-planes from Mark to round out my collection. He even included a copy of his booklet on restoring and maintaining these tools.

I added a Sargent no 414 Jack Plane (1940’s), a Stanley no4 smoothing plane ((1942-1945), and a small Stanley no9 1/4 (1940’s) block plane. With these beauties, I’m ready for a glass-like finish on my pieces.

Workshop Layout

My workshop was now insulated and with my new infared heater, I was ready to do some work during the cold season.

After the insulation work was finished, I began laying out the furniture I already had to create some of the workspaces and flows that I had envisioned.

My first addition to this new space needed to be some storage cabinets. I threw together a quick carcass for a wall cabinet and threw it on the wall with some french cleats. The carcass was just scrap pieces of plywood.

Now things were starting to look a bit more organized. At least, I had some open surfaces to use again. My next project was a lumber rack. I wanted an out-of-way space to put all my long boards and nice pieces of lumber.

I threw together these racks over one day using 2x4s and simple cantilevers to hold the racks to the wall studs. My next project was to take an old shelf and turn it into some more useful storage.

I didn’t like the open shelves. They tended to invite sawdust to gather on anything stored on them. I decided to add some drawers to one side and a cabinet to the other. I added back panels to the shelf and some sides and a middle wall for the drawers. While working on the drawers, I also finally added the doors to my upper cabinets.

The drawers were made mostly out of 3/4″ plywood. The handles are traditional craftsman-style pulls made on my router and tablesaw. They look pretty worn and crappy, mostly because I used cheap pine and allowed the end-piece to be composed of end-grain. But at least they are functional and gave me a chance to practice the technique.

Already my workshop was beginning to look a lot better. I added cabinet doors to the other side and the whole piece was near complete.

Now my workshop was really taking shape.

Workshop Insulation

I knew winter was going to make wood-working difficult for me. I wasn’t willing to take a break for the winter, especially since Minnesota winters are about 6 months of the year. I decided the best way to extend my working hours would be to insulate my old garage.

So, I ordered all the supplies I needed and crammed them into my garage as rain and snow began to threaten the project. Space was very limited, so there was a lot of shuffling to get everything where it needed to go.

I used cheap OSB boards for the walls and ceiling panels, with R13 fiberglass insulation between the studs. I had to fill in numerous gaps in the walls and ensure everything had a nice seal where possible.

In the end, it was a great success. Now equipped with a small space heater and an infared heater, the place stays a comfortable 30+ degrees. More importantly, it keeps out the cold wind. I have to wear a coat, hat, and sometimes gloves, but I at least still get to work in the workshop during the cold season.

Now I could start putting together the layout for my workshop.

A Place to Sit and Plan

I decided I was moving my woodworking into the garage and desired to make that space into a full-fledged workshop. However, there were still a number of issues that I needed to sort out.

However, as I was standing in that space, trying to make plans, I decided I’d rather be sitting and planning. So, I looked online for a quick plan to make me a shop stool. I eventually chose to use Steve Ramsey’s shop stool plan, since it seemed easy enough and I already had all the parts.

This project took just a couple hours, and gave me plenty of time to think about other plans for my workshop.

Now with somewhere to sit, I began to draw up plans for my workshop. I laid out where I thought each piece of furniture should go and how it would improve my process flow.

I was working with an 11′ by 22′ garage. There were already very useful storage shelves at the back of the garage. Also, some not so good, temporary shelves along the walls.

I knew I would need to build lots of shop furniture to make the most of the space. That part I was greatly looking forward to. However, I would also have to deal with the biggest threat to my woodworking: the Minnesota winter.