- (Note: This blog is the most current, as of November 16. It should be #8.)*
Hello winter. We have snow on the ground but nothing like to the north in Wisconsin. Still, timing is everything. I have spent the time between my last blog and now racing the weather to complete the bench and get shop ready for the car to come back. If I had one of those little compacts this would be no big deal, likewise a large garage. But the car is a Durango and the shop is only 18×20. And my plan to make everything fit tucked away like a jig saw puzzle had not yet been tested.
So first up is painting the bench. I hate to paint wood but this project would not stain well I am sure. It’s pine and I want a very heavy level of protection from the elements. Mind you I don’t have a lot of wood painting experience so I took the time to read up and found a lot of different advice. But the main point seems to be sanding is key. I am not a big fan of sanding but the old Black and Decker palm sander did a very good job and the nooks and crannies were not too bad. Used the shop vac to clean everything too. Then I primed. My painting plan called for blue on the leg levelers and apple red for everything else so I took my time with the masking and spray painted the leg levelers first. Light sanding and then a second coat. Then vacuum, remove all the masking and reversed it to protect the levelers. I brushed on the apple red in two coats separated by sanding with a 400+ grit sanding block. The result I am very happy with. Hard and smooth so dust just slides off easily.
If you think prepping the shop for a large painting job is fun, then you will love what came next. I don’t know how much the bench actually weighs but I am sure it’s at least 300lbs. And almost 8 feet long. And sitting up on saw horses. So I called up my Dad and asked his assistance. And then I began cleaning up and clearing everything away too.
When you prep to move heavy objects you want lots of space to work in and plenty of cribbing. In the service I was given the opportunity to train in technical search and rescue. One of our modules was moving large objects with minimal equipment. Translation: move an 8000lb boulder with just cribbing and breaker bars. Incredibly this works. So I applied the same principles to my much smaller bench. The economy lumber bin at Menards is great for cribbing and I also constructed two smaller stands to lower the bench onto. The idea is simple. Build a couple of small cribbing platforms and then use leverage to gently raise the bench a very small amount while you remove a layer from one end. It’s slow and tedious and a little nerve racking but it works. After about an hour and no injuries or damage to the bench the built in leg levelers could reach the ground and act like jacks and we simply ratcheted it down. A big thanks to my Dad for all his help.
The next day I took on phase two: Moving the Craftsmen table saw from its sub standard stamped metal base to it’s new home on the bench. Now please remember I am not a bug guy and this saw is a bruiser, even mostly disassembled. But I knew if I just took my time it would work. I used the cribbing to make a temporary platform for the saw and then pushed the bench up to that. The leg levelers worked great to get exactly the right height too. Off came the bolts tucked in hard to reach spots inside the saw cabinet. A little push and all that steel and cast iron slid pretty easily onto the platform. Inspection of the factory base showed one side had been starting to bend in under its own weight. Great saw, worthless base. Story of Sears sad to say.
So did I mention the saw had not yet been mounted on the bench? You can measure all you want but the proof is when two large objects fit together as planned. So you might consider my apprehension. Not unlike when they mount the elevators to an aircraft carrier, you really want it all to fit. I had a sudden good idea and fished out these 80 year old table runners from my Grandmothers house that I keep around for protecting projects. Felt and leather and very tough. I padded the platform on the bench to protect it, in the event that I might have to slide the saw back off. Then another push and a shove and the saw was on.
Well, you can only do your best. Seems I forgot to calculate in the clearance needed for the miter slots so as to avoid routing slots into the bench-top. Back the saw goes onto the cribbing platform. But I anticipated having to make a few adjustments so I grabbed some 2x stock and built up the base under the saw a little. Then back the saw goes onto the new base.
At this point my planning came in handy. The saw rails and wings fully attached would have made it very difficult to remove from the old base. But to put the saw permanently in place would leave me no access to assemble it. Having levelers that can exactly match the height of the bench to the height of the temporary platform was invaluable. I slid the saw back so it was sitting half on the bench and half on the platform and positioned saw horses and 2×4’s to hold up one wing at a time. These are full cast iron so the idea of having them come down on my head was not appealing. Like I said, keeping spare 2×4xs around the shop is always a good idea. You just never stop running out of things to use them for.
After the wings and rear rails were on, the final test would be to position the saw for bolt down. If my measurements were off, the rear rail would stick out too far and the front of the saw could hang over the front edge of the bench. I felt like an expectant father…very nervous. So very gently with all this top heavy weight, I muscled the saw back into place one last time. Perfect fit!
After that, it was all easy. Bolted down the saw, put on the front rail, checked blade to slot parallelism. All good. And just like that, after a year in storage and taken apart my favorite tool was back in service. There are many milestones in our lives, some big and others small. What is important is we pause and take the time to recognize them.
Over the next few days, I have raced to clean the shop and totally reorganize it. Snow is coming soon and that car has to come in beforehand. I managed to sell the seized up lawn tractor, and the charity collection truck came again, freeing up even more floor space. I have never had any significant open space before in either the old garage or the new. One side was always piled with tools and stuff. But this year has been about turning a garage into a shop, and thinking about how I want to do things. Little by little it all fell into place. No more piles to trip over, or random clamps falling off on my feet. The scrap/plywood storage cart fit nicely in the back, my shop built rolling tool chest slid home next to the fold down bench. And where the bench folds down the clamp cart slips into. The big bench rolled easily into it’s new winter spot. The jigsaw puzzle worked!
Last up yesterday afternoon was wall mounting the bicycle storage brackets for both the kids bikes. No more mess after years and years of woodworking in something more like a dungeon than a shop. Now the new garage has taken big step from an empty box to the manifestation of this vision in my head. Warm and inviting, spacious despite it’s smaller size, and just right for my level of woodworking.
With that, my tasks for this season are done, although I may try to squeeze in a small project or two before the temperature really plummets into the single digits. I carefully backed the car in and was delighted to shut the door and still have room to walk. I promised my wife this would happen before we had accumulating snowfall. And two hours later we had a half inch on the ground. Talk about timing!
I wish you all a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving for you and your families.