Thursday, October 31, 2013

One month in the new shop.

I spent three hours tonight moving big pieces around, and coming to terms with just how much I want to get rid of, really. It's been a long process, and it's one I really couldn't have done successfully at my old shop... there was just too much space, and it was too easy to indulge myself when it came to not getting rid of things that I didn't actually need. I have 3 routers that I haven't used in years, that are almost new, and a few old planes that I never got around to tuning up. Bags of hardware, a locking doorknob set that was going to go into a huge door we had up in Lawrence, not to mention bench parts... There are a lot of bits and pieces, including 2 old library card catalogs that I was using to hold it all, in the base of a huge storage tower that I originally built to hold the pile of junk that I couldn't quite get rid of. Tonight it hit home that I just can't afford a hoarding habit, even if it only consumes 8 square feet of floor space. One of the projects on deck right now (and due by Thanksgiving... don't want to think about that...) is a hay rake dining table, and I need the real estate if I'm going to build something that big.

It's hard to draw the line sometimes, and decide that familiar things need to go for the good of the shop. That said, I was just reading one of my entries from September, that talked about how the shop needs a mission statement, and a dedicated focus on usefulness and productivity. That sentiment shines a bright light on my need to run a very lean shop... and not just because of space constraints.

On a separate note, I got to meet some of the other inhabitants the other day. There's a catwalk connecting us to the neighboring mill building, and that floor is also filled with woodworkers, with a lot of overall experience. I found out that there's another wood shop in that building that's been up and running for almost 30 years, too. I talked to the finishing guy who works on the second floor. He does some restoration, some refinishing, and was very excited to find out that I knew how to cane chairs. He has some work for me to do, it seems. And so on. When I moved out of Medford in 2008, I felt like my time there had been a failure. Moving out of Lawrence is bittersweet. It was a good shop. But even though it's smaller, the new place feels like it's going to give me more room to grow as a woodworker, and a small businessman.


The wiring went in on Monday, though it's not yet hooked up to the table saw or dust collector. I ordered a stand for the dust collector, which should be here next week, and then I'll get that up and start worrying about ductwork. Not that there's much to worry about. Compared to the old shop...

...this one should be pretty easy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Resolving issues of compatibility: Adding a cast iron router table to the SawStop.

The cast iron router table on my Delta Contractor Saw has been a big player, and a large part of that is due to the ability to use it in conjunction with the table saw fence. I've seen a lot of people put a router table into the extension wing on the right, but having it on the left side of the fence makes more sense to me from a feed-direction point of view: the cutters on the router bit will push the work against the fence, making for a predictable cut. That's especially good for running rabbets and dadoes. With the router table on the right, (in the extension wing) the router bit would potentially push the work away from the fence. Less good, I think.

Moving into the new shop meant giving up one of the table saws. The fate of the Delta is yet to be decided, but I had a second cast iron router table stashed away, so I decided to put it on the SawStop. But in order to do that, there were 2 main compatibility issues to be dealt with: First, the router table is 27", front to back, which will fit many table saw tops on the market. (including the SawStop Professional, and contractor saw.) But the SawStop Industrial saw (which is what I have) is 30", front to back, so there would be some gaps to fill. Second issue, none of the mounting holes for the stock table extension on the SawStop Industrial would line up with the mounting holes on the router table.

A flash of insight hit while I was planning the move, and so I started looking on eBay for some 80/20 profiles to fill the gaps. For those of you who are unfamiliar with 80/20, it's basically industrial T-track. Most of the Kreg, Woodpeckers, Jessem, and Incra stuff in the woodworking glossy pages these days are tinkertoys by comparison. So, off I went to eBay, and what do you know... the profile I wanted even came in Black. Batman would be happy. And, it matches the color of the saw. I'm really not that fussy, function is more important, but the option was there, so I took it. Most importantly, the 80/20 profiles give me the option to mount router table fences or jigs in a very robust way.

To bolt the router table up, I would need to drill and tap some holes in both the router table, and in the saw table: some to bolt the router table to the aluminum profiles, and some to bolt that whole sub-assembly to the table saw. I've done this kind of thing before, and cast iron is pretty forgiving to work with. It's soft-ish, and drills and taps very smoothly. So, I did some head scratching, and made a layout block from a scrap of the profile, to be used with a transfer punch.

In the above shot, I'm actually laying out holes for alignment pins, to help align the table during installation. They also helped hold the weight of the whole thing while I was bolting it up. Holding up 40-odd pounds of cast iron, in alignment, while futzing with a socket wrench, is not fun. The pins made it easier. Installing the pins:

I used a doweling jig to lay out and drill pilot holes in the table top, and tapped them by hand:

The assembled saw... Router table installed, fence bolted on, and the whole thing leveled out to be co-planar with the Festool MFT, with a leveling base that I fabricated this week. At some point in the near future, I'm going to build a bridging piece to go between the saw table and the MFT, to complete the out-feed surface. That piece will have grooves for a miter sled, the MFT will not.

I've gone back and forth on whether or not to make a more solid, leveling base to support the MFT in a folded configuration. My decision was ultimately came down to this: If I need the extra space for any reason, the MFT can be folded up and moved out of the way, but a more permanent base can't be. I'll invest in the diagonal supports for the MFT legs to stabilize it a little bit, but basically, this is my working setup.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

...And, Into the new. (Tour of the new space)

This is a quick rundown of how the space has shaken out so far. My area here is not a full, standalone shop. I'm sharing a fully equipped machine room, with 4 other woodworkers. We all have our own work areas, and our own table saws in those respective areas. A few of the large pieces of equipment that I pulled out of the old shop would have been redundant, so they're on pallets in another part of the building.

Central to the space is the table saw, with a Festool MFT work table sitting behind it to serve double duty as a work table, and as an outfeed table. The MFT was a new purchase when I moved in, but the potential I see in it has had my head buzzing now for weeks. More on that in a future post, and on why I won't carve it up to clear table saw sled rails.

I also have plans to mount a cast iron router table to the SawStop sometime in the near future. That's going to be a project, since the two components won't simply bolt together. I'll explain that one when I get there.

Festool storage and long-term lumber storage is on the right hand wall. I don't like a lot of long-term storage in my work space, but it had to go somewhere, and since it's up and out of the way on the wall, it's not such a concern.

I already have a reputation in the building, for having so much Festool equipment. I don't mind.

Looking out from the back corner... the stub wall that comes out from the windows is going to be the designated area for short-term storage for project materials. The big storage tower was there for a while, but it didn't make sense to me for workflow reasons. I want materials to come into short term storage, flow over and past the table saw and MFT as they're processed, and move from there to the big bench for detail work. Sub assemblies will flow back to the short term area for assembly, and fully assembled projects will flow right back out of the entrance to the space.

That's the theory, anyway.  I want to map all of this out in a future entry, and explain some of my logic.

(Side note: There's a separate area for doing finish work downstairs, with a fully set up spray booth, so I won't be doing finish work up here.)

Back in the corner, you can see that my office is directly behind the work area. (I share the office with one of the shop-mates.) I've been wanting a separate area to do admin and design work for a while, as well as a place to pull out of what I'm doing to regroup when projects get stuck. Taking a moment has been problematic in the past, because it's so easy to get side-tracked by something else in the shop. Having a quiet office that's close to, but separate from the work flow will be a relief, and should help me focus more.

Out of the old...

The move is basically done. Because I'm still friends with my old shop-mates, one of whom has chosen to stay and try to reboot the space, I have a feeling that I'll be called on at some point to help with a final clean-out. But (with a few exceptions) my stuff is out, the floor's been swept, and, well... it's back to a state of pure potential.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dawning Clarity

The new space is slowly coming together, and it's finally starting to look like I thought it would. There have been blips, like the stereo debacle... though that's been resolved at least. On Wednesday I got my shelf brackets up, only to realize that my plywood and plywood scraps were all still at the old place. Sigh...

One of the problems with downsizing is that I can only move so much stuff at a time, and there's no room for new stuff until the last batch is put away. So, if there's something (like plywood) that I haven't brought down, and that I need, it's a mental tweak. ("What do you mean there's no plywood scraps? When have I NOT had plywood scraps just lying around?!?") But in the grand scheme, I haven't had any serious issues.

One of the things I'm looking forward to having is an office: It'll give me a place to do admin stuff without being distracted by any of the million things in the shop,  keep a small fridge and coffee maker, a good place to store books that will be safe from dust or varnish splatters, and a place to disconnect for a few minutes at a time, and regroup when I need to. I'm also going to use it for drafting and as a creative/brainstorming space. I went back and forth on whether or not to bring my desk into the space, I'm glad I did. The office is a mess right now, as it's been catching a lot of move-in overflow while the space shakes out. So, aside from the photo above, there's not much to blog about. But it's going to be very cool when it comes together.

Another thing I'm happy about is my new Festool MFT. I opened the box on Monday night. I didn't think I would be, but I've been reading up on the thing a LOT recently, and decided to take the plunge. I say this timidly, but it may just displace the crosscut sled for my table saw. I've spent a lot of time and head scratching on that sled, and I'll probably rebuild it, just on principle. But the more I wrap my head around what looked like a pretty boring work table with a gimmick... well...

I shouldn't be surprised. Festool has consistently impressed me at a very high level for a considerably long time. I'll write the love song later, but this relationship continues to pleasantly surprise me. 

And so on. Putting together a new shop is a lot of work, but it's basically like building a new bench. It's a workspace, and it's all about functionality. I'll talk about layout soon, and some of the principles at work. Right now, I'm tired.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wow, I have a lot of stuff.

This morning when I came in, the shop looked like this:

The stub wall is down, lumber had taken up the middle of the floor, along with plenty of other stuff. The ambient air cleaner needed to go up, and so on.

By the time I left today, the lumber rack was up, and 4 pallets had been emptied of stuff. My desk is in the office, the air cleaner is up.

Now, it looks like this:

Yeah, I know. Not much different.


Day One

I'm back, 95(+/-)% of my stuff is moved into the new place, and today is the first morning that has started in the new place.

I came in, coffee in hand, ready and motivated to start kicking some of these piles down. And then I realized that I haven't moved the stereo yet.