08 February 2012

Time in the shop

So what have I been doing with my time, lately?  Mostly working in the shop to get a set of drawers and shelves put into my workbench.  I am at the end of Phase I for that, which is getting the frame parts made and a couple of the melamine shelves and its a milestone point to now map out the shelves, drawers, trays, doors and facing that goes on the thing.  I'm doing this to increase the storage space in the workbench and the rigidity of it which leaves a lot to be desired.  I got it from Harbor Freight when it was discounted steeply and had free shipping, and while its not one of those European high end workbenches, it does for relatively light work, like making boxes or reloading (it is sold as a reloading bench at most places).  But try to use a hand plane or even some light hand saws on it and the thing sways all over the place.  Plus it has only four shelves and one large tray on the bottom and that gets taken up real quickly since it is built within the rectangle of the workbench.  I had that thing packed in next to no time with stuff and none of it was really easy to get at.

So after putting together a simple cabinet for the drill press, getting a useable workbench for other projects got to be my top priority.

Here is Phase I, front and back and its been seen in various other posts when I was working on the SKS and Mosin-Nagant:

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Yes I've been working on it!  Making parts to put into the workbench... neat how that goes...

Perhaps doing away with the toe-kick space isn't the best idea I've had, but with the way the bench was I couldn't really get my upper body into doing anything on the bench because it would shift and sway.  So what I did was make three sets of plywood that would allow for drawer/tray/shelf inserts to be put into them.  At the ends I put knockdown bolts through the uprights of the bench so that they plywood would be secure.  This has the benefit of resisting any torsional motion of the bench, which is rotation around any point on the bench to its outer legs.  The third piece goes onto a 2x2 that has a groove in it to add support to the plywood as it will be held in place by that and the shelves/drawer frames.  Finally, where there was toe and foot space under the workbench, goes a 2x2 to connect up the central 2x2 plus one each backing the inside of the legs on the frame (more or less).  Knockdown bolts go through the feet and the front of the long 2x2 pieces to finally put a solid frame on the bottom that will resist sliding of the bench front to back. 

There is no fastener between the pre-existing drawer center piece of plywood and the new plywood upright with the grooved 2x2 under it.  That is due to the compression between the tray frames on the top centering the center piece and the 2x2 being a tight fit so that the center plywood is compressed between it and the original center piece for the drawers.  The long 2x2 pieces then fasten that into place as they are fastened to the feet making it a relatively rigid and tight fit that shouldn't shift with lateral forces left to right on the bench surface.  I could install Z-clips (I would do 2 front and two rear fastened through the original drawer center piece) but will hold off on that since it shouldn't be a problem.

White pieces are melamine which are shelves.  Melamine is an engineered wood product that is a form of relatively dense particle board and faced with a durable surface that is resistant to chemicals, scratches and such.  Since I will be placing some of the power tools and cans of various finishes and solvents in there, that will be a useful quality to have.  Mostly I need a place for my hand power tools and that will be done by those shelves.  The lowest on the left has some dead space under it which is acceptable.  Its companion will have a simple wood piece dropped in for storage of boxed material, like nails, screws, etc.

Early on I decided that the original boards for the mid-level tray could stay as they helped a bit on pulling the bench together.  On the left a drawer (and I'm putting in set of boards to stop stuff from dropping down to the bottom) will go flush over it, while on the left it will serve as a lip for items placed on the lower shelf.  As seen from the back there is a half-shelf above that of melamine meant for smaller objects, and I haven't decided if it is worth putting a low lip around that.  Another, large drawer on the right will be above the mid-level one and then there will be one half-tray per side at the very top.

The finish on the interior wood (not melamine) is Tung Oil for a couple of applications, one of BLO and then another of Tung oil.  The long 2x2s were done with Tung Oil for three applications with each getting one of Walnut Oil between the second and third application.  Over that goes shellac of the Super Blond plus Buttonlac (dewaxed at home), plus a single go over with Orange Shellac before a final SB+B, all sanded with 220 grit sandpaper.  All the finishes got 220 grit sandpapering between applications after drying, and since I'm not looking for a real glossy look that is that.

Out of all of this there have only been a few glitches.  One is cutting the melamine nearly exactly dead-on.  I had forgotten to account for the minimal dimensional changes that oil finish brings with it and getting those pieces in took the use of some of the extension clamps I have plus some hammering with the rubber mallet.  Another is on the rear long board that, somewhere, lost a bit less than 1/8" and needed an MDF shim on the left side, back.  No idea why on that as the two boards Front/Back are dimensionally the same.  A couple of the knockdown inserts had to be pulled out and epoxied in place as they weren't holding in place.  The front long board had to be stripped and re-finished due to a screw-up on the shellac application.

Next up is making the trays, drawers, front facing pieces and then doors.  After that making a rear piece to cover over everything and stop dust and stuff from getting into the back of the bench.  I may have to make wells for the top holes in back or put a ledge back there as dusty open air storage... I'll blow that bridge up when I get to it.

The rest of the shop is pretty tight confines for now as it has one other project ongoing.

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Two router tables may seem a bit extreme, but the small one in back is good for some of the tight work, while I have to multi-purpose the large router to a planing sled.  Here seen to the left of my table saw, leaning up against it.

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Luckily I'm about it for working down there and the rest is just static storage space.

As I go on with this I will be looking at some other projects in the near future:

1) Making an adsorption chiller.  This is a totally solar power, no moving parts refrigerator using methanol and activated carbon.  No designs or plans that I can find anywhere and its used at an industrial scale, right now.  I don't need a real refrigerator, as such, just something to keep things relatively cool on a constant basis.  It is one of those ideas I've run across and if you have an EMP or real CME event, well, a zero electricity chiller sounds like a great thing to have.  I'll do the old Mythbusters small scale test rig first, then see what the results are and plan a full scale rig.  The full scale will just be a current refrigerator from a junk yard or abandoned for county pick-up... so long as it has the coils in it that is all I care about.

2) Modular work platforms for power tools.  Really I don't have room for a massive workbench, but a set of interlocking work stations all at the same height, with mating power and exhaust feeds would do wonders for the shop and allow me to get the stationary power tools into an easily useful set-up.  A real router table (not just a benchtop), a miter saw station and a fine-work station (gun cleaning and minor metal work) would do wonders for the place and finally open up some space.

3) Gun cabinet.  Display, not ready rack... although if I can build one of those in...

This stuff takes a lot out of me, but is teaching me very valuable and necessary skills.

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