29 May 2013

Workshop in work

This is yet another post to show the types of things eating into my time.

Anyone who has been to past posts, like this one from JAN 2013, has noted that my limited work environment is more like a mid-scale chess match in which I have limited movement space and pieces that can only fit a certain way.  Basically that post gives some idea of the problem:



I have long boards sitting along the back wall and then whatever can fit on that, like scrap wood ready to fall over, which means that moving anything is a challenge.  Earlier I had the carcass of the router table sitting on the bench, which meant that it was something to get greeted with when you opened the door to the shop as seen last year:


Not really what you want to have there, but do note that the previous router table from Veritas via Lee Valley, was set up on an old computer table.  That also had the shopvac under it and the new router table will house both in a more compact space and still give me some back table space for work processing.  And this post from early last year shows the main part of the mess in the room that causes the chess match situation:

Shop_08JAN201_ 006

The problem isn't the right side of the room as you enter, but the left side that has a dead corner taken up with a cabinet that really doesn't do anything (although for the $50 I paid for it back in '95 or '96 I am NOT complaining) since it is hemmed in by the other computer table that has the compound sliding miter saw on it.  That table basically kills off the left rear corner of the room and is a mess.  It is a detritus attractor, although on a good day the contractor table saw could just fit back there:

Shop_08JAN201_ 009

What a mess!

Trying to do more with the limited active space in the right of the room leads to a dead loss and frustration: it couldn't be made better.  On the left rear, however, a better organized section of the shop meant a major rearrangement and excessing pieces.  Basically the cabinet in the corner has to go from that room as it is the space killer and isn't large enough to do any real good for storage beyond small items.  The table next to it is killing valuable floor space all to hold up the miter saw and dust collection hose.  What a waste of volume.  And along the back wall the 10' wood has to get up and off the floor because it gets more moisture there and swells, which requires plane use and often re-sawing to smaller board width.  Also to get any real storage in the left rear corner means moving one bookcase from the left to the right of the room, and that still misses getting to the magic of 60" by 1". 

Why is 60" magic?

Simple: common cut plywood board size that I can lay my hands on is 24" x 48" and a 48" set of shelving will not easily take in such material due to the tightness of fit between boards and any shelving.  And there is no way that I can get that final, magic 1" without moving comic book storage boxes, food storage, shelving and basically re-arranging the entire basement and that is a no-go.

Now with that in mind and that I love boltless shelving (aka rivet shelving) I started to look for solutions.  The shelving, itself, is simple to find.  Shipping costs for any decent height (which is 7' as the basement ceiling is only 8' high) means freight shipping in a residential area with liftgate required.  Sucks like an Electrolux because it almost always adds on $135 to shipping costs.  Of course when I look at it locally that same sort of cost is already factored into the price, save that I have to get it home... and the company has added a profit margin to the total price... thus money is spent for getting it home and the total cost is more than what I can freight and liftgate it to my residence.  That is how marginal overhead cost changes prices and why the Internet is such a killer app for sales of equipment.

I would also like additional project space so I can actually have a high energy project going on (like trying to construct a router table while doing a chess match on limited floor space) and a low energy project going on at the same time (like completing my EMP covers for critical equipment which is basically something that requires space but not a lot of effort) but that I can't do as the materials have to be stored and the high energy stuff takes precedence.  Basically digging through piles of stuff to get to another project kills my daytime energy... defeating the purpose of working on a project.  When you spend more time moving stuff to get to stuff you either have too much stuff (too bad it all is on track to be used), too little space (a major problem), or poor organization of what you have (and that is the crux of the matter).

To get that project space in boltless is possible!  It is not, however, cross-adaptable to anything else on the market unless it simply rests on table surfaces or fits between tabletops and a ledge of metal to secure it.  So you can get basic but if you want adaptable be prepared to pay for that and generally get locked into some company's idea of modularity.  Boltless does cost less and that is a major driver as well (at least, you know, with all that shipping and liftgate stuff factored in).  I looked around at the limited offerings for boltless workstations and shelving (if you sell the workstations you sell the shelving, too, but just because you sell shelving doesn't mean you sell workstations) and for the first time in ages I found my normal supplier, Global Industrial, didn't have what I wanted.  After searching around I went to Action Wholesale Products as they did, indeed, beat the total cost of any competitor I could extract a price quote from by nearly $100.  Yes I could take a hacksaw to uprights and DIY, but if someone is going to do the work for you and think it out for you, then it must be realized that your time is money as well.

Thus I did a mass buy of stuff there as I would also by boltless shelving for along the back wall and get all that lumber up off the floor and start a major effort to get everything that I have where I can get to it easily.  Easily is a relative term here, BTW.

For the corner the old cabinet came out, the miter saw got moved, the dust collection stuff spent a couple of days outside under my half of a shelter under my deck, and the bookcase got moved.  That corner would get 24" x 48" boltless shelving and a 60" x 24" boltless workstation.  The back wall would get two 60" x 18" shelving units with extra shelves.

This is what happens when all that goes up first the left rear corner:


I am still in the sorting phase of things, but already things are looking up!  Everything that was on the table, in the cabinet, and just generally laying around and getting too close to the freezer (which had a minor disaster of icing due to lack of door sealing) is now up and off the floor and on shelving!  One can actually walk to the back door without threading through a path of equipment and stuff threatening to fall on you. 


There is a ton more sorting and laying out of material to do, but just with that one, single change, I've gotten back square footage to actually take more than two steps without worrying about my safety.

That dead space behind the workstation that shelving can't be in will be taken up by long saw guides, the router guide used for planing wood, long bar clamps and the like.  If it is thin, under 8' long and used rarely, it will go in that little space and get out of the old wet bar area or other places where it is hard to get to.

Let me back over to the entrance, which now no longer has the workbench immediately obstructing passage, although the router table is there, it is in the final construction phase but had to be dismantled to do all of the shelving assembly:


It is now possible to take a few steps into the shop without having to close the door to get around the workbench.  Temporarily the drill press had to get taken from its stand so the stand could be more easily moved and I have a set of post-construction casters coming in so that piece can be mobile.  The old router table from Lowe's will find a home someplace on the shelving for light use.

Now a shot from the left center of the room looking to the right center to rear:


Once the router table gets back into final construction and then finishing, the table saw will go to the end of the new workstation area.

On the workbench is a mess of hand planes, brace, hand drill, hatchet and other hand tools recently acquired that need to be cleaned, sharpened, lapped, and/or refinished:



The ammo can used to be the vehicle emergency supply unit, but has been replaced by something a bit more sporty.  That can will be used for storage of stuff that is better off in a dark place, not having just a towel thrown over it, which means some finishing supplies.

Once the router table is finished then the workshop will be reconfigurable around the workbench, so that the table can move to the end of the workbench or abut next to it so that the workbench can be a work support or infeed/outfeed table as needed.  In a pinch the table saw can be unlimbered and finished pieces flowed to the workbench or router table, with the other serving for infeed capacity with just a bit of temporary supports to keep things level.  At some point the sliding compound miter saw needs a real table or stand, as does a bench grinder (of which I have two, a 6" DeWalt and a 6" cheap piece of Chinese junk that may not last long but will be good for buffing, at least).

Part of the concept here is to get as much of the equipment's work surface at the same elevation.  The workbench from HF is at 34" and that is a decent level for me at 6'3" to work with.  Anything that is custom made by me for power tools will be at 34" and on casters.  That decision came after I made the cabinet for the bench drill press as it is not handy having a drill press bed a good 10" above a workbench (or any other table come to that) and if it were just within 1" up or down on average, then I would make better use of it, more often.  That is why the router table is at 34" and I would desperately love to get the table saw down from 36" to 34" (and I'll be looking at wheels to see if that can be accomplished without skewing things).

A major hint to any of the major shop equipment manufacturers: if you standardized your power tools to one elevation (table saw, router table, semi-adjustable drill press, workbench, track saw system to fit on a workbench, etc.) then you would gain a leg up on getting all those tools into an individual's workshop because of the damned hassle involved of trying to retrofit or make custom pieces for them.  To get a modular workplace requires that I have a standard height for my work surfaces and a standard dust collection port system for all my pieces.  I gave up on doing that with the workbench as I needed to use its interior volume for storage but may yet add on a simple tube arrangement in back so I can re-arrange dust collection capability at a moment's notice.   I am in the mid- to small-workshop range for one person and it isn't funny just how much of my time is spent asking: 'is there a way to get this tool to a useful elevation?'

Boltless shelving on 1.5" centers gets an allowance, but only a slight one on this score as 0.75" falls within a range of tolerance for work movement.  At 2" things get rough and a bit hairy and starts to require building of roller platforms.  Anything over that is a dead loss.  Perhaps I am the only individual who requires a reconfigurable workspace and, thusly, a high degree of modularity of equipment that all goes towards the same basic work inside the workspace.  My work flow must be modular not just due to space but due to a variety of stuff I'm having to make.  I'm not just making cabinets, or boxes, or chairs, or what have you... I can have two or three different projects ongoing that each require a different arrangement of tooling that would benefit from a modular workflow. 

I don't always need a drill press, but when I do it is usually not for a small piece but a large one (it never fails).  The table saw isn't always cutting down 4' x 8' sheet goods, but when I need it to do that I have to turn to a track saw and saw horses, not use my workbench and router table as a support system.  Heck when I'm taking a cut off of anything over 28" with my table saw I have to go to an alternative cutting system, which means time spent moving the entire workflow outdoors and loss of precious time doing so.  And the reason for the router table having such a large space behind it is not just for precision jigs for front use, but put the fence on the other side and then use the entire back surface to hold larger sheet goods that require bits that you do not want to use with a router by hand.  That is rare but when the table is done that is now possible to do.  This means that one of the major parts of any production processes is addressing the deficiencies of equipment  for something that should be relatively standardized.  I can picture an entire contractor set-up using modularized tables that fold down and then can be transported and set up anywhere, and you get to make the workflow at the worksite that is customizable to any job needing to be done there.  And then it all folds down for quick transport again.  That would free up valuable van or truck space for other hardware or raw materials storage.

It isn't funny the number of times I've had to adjust entire projects because of this single deficiency which doesn't allow for tools to exist at one level work surface.  You would think that a large corporation would see the extra dough they could charge for another $50 of hardware for cheap metal frames and a bit of standardization... I know the cost of extruded metals (steel, aluminum, et. al.) and hardware and am not joking at mass production levels.  Or even just asking the design engineers: 'Hey, have you tried to use this with our other tools?'

Yeah, Dumb Looks Still Free will be the reaction.

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