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From total noob to somewhat skilled (hopefully) #1: Absolute beginning

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Blog entry by JohnTM posted 08-24-2017 07:42 PM 4515 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of From total noob to somewhat skilled (hopefully) series Part 2: Silly me... »

This is where it all starts, a journey from ”Tedium and Apathy with an occasional side trip to Monotony” to a more interesting life – well, doesn’t that sound all high and mighty? Maybe so. It’s still very appropo.

I’m an early 60’s, retired military guy with too much spare time and limited resources. I don’t own my home so I can’t “build” a workshop. I’m on a very fixed income so I can’t buy the best (and Festool’s color just isn’t my thing anyway). Wood prices leave me gobsmacked when I browse Home Depot and Lowe’s aisles – that’s just looking at construction grade Southern pine lumber. Also, I have absolutely no background in carpentry or any woodworking area – none.

My goals are mixed: ultimately to make some small jewelry/gentleman’s boxes with dovetail joints, carved designs on the sides to give away and maybe some mid-sized stand-alone (not wall-mounted) cabinets for myself. Along the way, I see myself making tools and jigs to get me to the ultimate goal and some pieces I might sell to furnish the journey. I foresee a long-learning curve as I’m not the handiest of men.

Ambition I don’t lack. Skill(s) I do.

I’m starting with an open, double carport with very a small attached storage room (maybe 5’ x 7’). I’ll have to move the cars in and out from under the carport each time I work. That’s just the way it is. With no inheritance of tools from a woodworking ancestor and a very limited budget, I’m fitting “my shop” out from scratch with mostly Harbor Freight and Craigslist power tools. (Whatever happened to Craftsman? I mostly read about DeWalt, Ryobi and Makita now [and of course, Festool]... Time to research for research-sake, I guess.)

Tool-wise I started picking up a few things a couple weeks ago. While library books, Lumberjocks and Youtube are great resources, they don’t provide any (physical) tools themselves. So, my wallet had to be opened (in opposition to being the tightwad that I am sometimes forced to be.)

So far, I’ve bought or found the following:.
- Craftsman 10” table saw “with wings”/extensions – Craigslist buy $75 (needs a little TLC but fully fucntional)
- 10” Compound sliding mitre saw – Harbor Freight $65
- 7” Craftsman Circular Saw – It’s too old to remember when/where i got it of how much or I paid for it.
- 16” Craftsman direct drive scroll saw – Craigslist $65
- Craftsman Jigsaw (same age as Craftsman drill below – old)
- 10” 5 Speed Drill Press – Harbor Freight $54
- Craftsman (hand/power) drill (so old it uses U-blades)
- Angle grinder – Harbor Freight $9
- 6” Woodworker’s Vise – Craigslist $25 (I think I overpaid & it’s smaller than I want but space and the shop being outside limits me from getting/making what I actually want.)
- 4” Ohio Forge Swiveling Bench Vise – $25 (again think I may have overpaid but it’s a good vise)
- Misc clamps ranging in size from 2” to 48” – mostly Harbor Freight, a couple Craigslist – total ~$25-35
- 2.5 gal Shovac – Ace Hardware $19
- Misc tools brought over from past home/auto maintenance projects (screwdrivers, hammers, hand saw, etc.)

I’m pretty sure that I still need to buy:
Router
Sanders – random orbit, belt
Plain old sandpaper for hand sanding

I want, but don’t know if I can afford a (powered) planer and a jointer. Space-issues, as well as cost, definitely figure in here. But with me using pallet wood (see below), I think the planer is probably going to be a necessity. That, or I’ll be doing a lot of hand-planing and THAT doesn’t particularly interest me (okay, say it. I’m lazy).

As of this morning, all of what I have is stacked in that small storage room, except for the table saw. I’d like to make a multi-function table/cabinet, preferably big enough to hold the table saw, router and drill press and maybe also a sander, but small enough to still get both cars under the carport. I saw a YouTube video on a design that really appeals to me and can be scaled to work for my space (it’s not only on rollers, the power tools rotate under a removable top surface to hide them and/or make a flat working surface when not in use). A serious issue here is how to secure it under the carport especially if I store tools in the cabinet as I am most likely to have to. I don’t want to have to resort to something really “ugly”/obvious like a Master lock on each door/drawer.

I still need to make: a crosscut sled for the table saw and a drill press table as two of the earliest “mini-projects”. Tools to make tools I guess.

I’m still thinking about whether or not to replace a 3’ bubble level my Dad gave me – the aluminum edge/base has become pitted. Same thing with a crosscut hand saw he gave me, the blade has become pitted too and I’m totally ignorant of whether or not it can/should be sharpened after 40 years of non-use.

As I said above, wood costs are, well not intimidating, but a serious concern. Then I saw that people are doing amazing things with pallet wood. So, I have collected my first lot of free pallets wood – free for the taking and nothing I’m going to worry about messing up as I make mistakes learning. I DO WISH I had a truck, though. It would be a lot easier than using my Prius.

I guess that’s as good a beginning as I can write. At this point, I’m waiting for it to cool down a bit (probably tomorrow morning), before I start disassembling the pallets. Looks like that should be tedious but productive work.

-- John, SE Louisiana



15 comments so far

View gargey's profile

gargey

793 posts in 527 days


#1 posted 08-24-2017 07:57 PM

Fingers don’t grow back. Be safe.

My trick is to work with 99% hand tools.

View Woodbutchery's profile

Woodbutchery

341 posts in 3337 days


#2 posted 08-25-2017 04:49 AM

Welcome to the site, John, and welcome to woodworking.

Everyone on this site, at one point or another, was a beginner. Most have built their tools over the course of time, and do not have the resources to go and buy whatever would be most convenient and “the best” of the lot.

My advice for new woodworkers with limited resources and limited tool selection is to simply purchase the tools you need for each project.

Don’t know where in Louisiana you’re at, but if there’s a Home Depot nearby, check and see if they have a cutoffs bin. Usually some wood for a very good price, though usually smaller pieces (came upon a dozen 4’ 1” x 6” boards for a dollar a board … several projects and I’m finally down to my last board). Also, if there’s a cabinet shop nearby, check and see what they’re doing with their cutoffs. If you’ve got larger pieces within an hours drive, several places will rent a truck for an hour or so for $20.

Go slow, take your time, and measure twice, cut once. Measuring 3 times is NOT paranoia, it’s experience. ;-)

Your cross-cut handsaw can typically be re-sharpened. There are several web sites that will show how to restore the saw. I tend to like Paul Seller’s methodology and aspects on woodworking, but look around. A lot. Then choose the guy or gal or group that gets the info to you in a relatable way.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I find that over 50% of my time in my workshop is spent making jigs and pieces to help with projects. Another 10% on cleaning and straightening, another 10% on finding things after I’ve straightened, which leaves less than 30% of time actually working on projects. At some point their may be a difference in the breakdown, but so far, that remains pretty consistent.

On hand planing; I would once again recommend Paul Sellers. His take on hand tools and method of teaching their usage and maintenance have steered me more toward hand tools than I once would have suspected. He has a lot of youtube tutorials and demonstrations, as well as projects to build (and some wisdom on why a certain step is better than another).

What you have right now as far as equipment is concerns sounds serviceable for quite a lot of different scaled projects. Keep your blades sharp, your metal surfaces clean, and remember that quite a lot of very good work can come from a small shop.

I wish you luck in your new adventure, and thank you for your service to our country.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

View JohnTM's profile

JohnTM

43 posts in 30 days


#3 posted 08-25-2017 05:08 AM

Thanks for the welcome and comments guys, particularly Woodbutchery.

I don t know about everyone else, but I find that over 50% of my time in my workshop is spent making jigs and pieces to help with projects. Another 10% on cleaning and straightening, another 10% on finding things after I’ve straightened, which leaves less than 30% of time actually working on projects. At some point their may be a difference in the breakdown, but so far, that remains pretty consistent.

On hand planing; I would once again recommend Paul Sellers. – Woodbutchery

I had to laugh as I can totally relate to your time management comment. It SOOOO applies to computers and me.

I’ve already “found” Paul Sellers on the ‘Net & in the local library and he’s actually been a definite influence in motivating me to ”Go and Do something – anything. Just do it” as they say. You’re right about him being quite understandable. I usually watch at least one of his videos every couple of days – mostly just to admire his encouraging style. I’ll probably eventually do a lot more hand tool work but I think that I’m mostly going to be using power tools for starters – except for chisels, planes, etc. for trim work and dovetails.

Again… appreciate the comments.

-- John, SE Louisiana

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

7202 posts in 2080 days


#4 posted 08-25-2017 12:04 PM

Welcome aboard and best wishes as you kick off your journey.

You’re in some what of a catch 22 (and it’s a common one) in that you don’t have a place for a stationary jointer & a planer (though a portable lunchbox planer can serve very well), but without those, it’s difficult to square up and size rough stock. And working from rough stock is the best way to get the cost of wood down.

You’ll figure it out, I’m sure. But it can be a challenge.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

25818 posts in 2089 days


#5 posted 08-25-2017 12:55 PM

Welcome to Lumberjocks

Know your tools. Follow safety protocols. Yes power tools can be dangerous to work with, so can driving to work. Many successful woodworkers build things every day without incident because they follow protocols. Biggest thing, never take your eyes off the spinning blade.

Good luck and ask questions as needed.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View CaptainSkully's profile

CaptainSkully

1489 posts in 3310 days


#6 posted 08-26-2017 03:34 AM

I appreciate both your enthusiasm and your commitment. For myself, I started with a small set of tools then rationalized each additional tool purchase based on what was needed to execute the next project. For example, I bought a mortising machine because the Greene & Greene projects I was embarking on had dozens of mortises in them. This allowed me to pare my mortising step from dozens of hours of hand/chisel work to just a few hours of plunging the square mortise bit, etc. Your tool needs will expand organically with your skill level and the difficulty of the projects you embrace. Make sure your projects tend to be outside of your comfort zone so you continue to evolve. My $0.02. Your mileage may vary… Good luck, welcome wholeheartedly and we look forward to your contributions…

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View JohnTM's profile

JohnTM

43 posts in 30 days


#7 posted 08-27-2017 12:36 AM

Today was “learn how hard busting pallets is”. I wore myself out. Then I came inside for a break and searched youtube for a “better way” – found a BUNCH of videos on how to do it smarter than I had been (simple claw hammer and big ole screwdriver is not so effective). So, tomorrow I’m heading to Home Depot or Lowe’s to get some pipe and other hardware to make a “pallet buster”.

Spent more youtube time watching some Sketchup tutorials. Click, click, click instead of click, drag, release – whodathunkit? Got a preliminary (very, very preliminary) design worked up for a multi-function workbench that will house the tablesaw, router (that I’ve yet to buy) and drill press in a fliptop-hideaway manner. I’m thinking that I’ll have the mitre saw on a foldup mobile base that has in- and outfeed at the same height as the workbench. (It should be small enough to fit into my storage room when the wings/extensions are folded.) That way I can have both the table saw and mitre saw ready to go simultaneously without interfering with each other. I’m probably going to basically modify a commercial design I ran across (Portamate PM-8000 Portacube – I don’t need all of the adjustability it has and, of course, mine wlil be made out of wood – I like the hideaway handle and the big wheels!).

It wound up being 93F and really high humidity by 1pm so there wasn’t any motivation to return to my inefective pallet busting efforts or the heat after the youtube surfing. So, I watched more youtube woodworking stuff and read a grunch of forum posts here… The collective knowledge is impressive.

Such was my day waiting for Hurricane Harvey to turn its eyes my way after it’s finished with Texas. I did dig out my swim trunks and scuba gear just in case.

-- John, SE Louisiana

View JohnTM's profile

JohnTM

43 posts in 30 days


#8 posted 08-28-2017 03:35 AM

Today was just a Sketchup day.
Took measurements of all the power tools and began to create simulacra of them in Sketchup – okay, models, not simulacra (but I like big words when I can use them). Then I began to TRY to create basic cabinetry for each power tool (table saw, router, drill press) that I want to put into the multi-function table – as well as a “stand alone”, yet mobile, cabinet for the mitre saw. Mediocre results ensued…again…and again.

I do not have “control” of the program yet. But even with the errors I introduced, I basically got general placement, scale and structure down. It would take forever to “clean up” the models I dd end up with, so, for “build drawings”, I’m going to have to re-create them from hardcopies or screenshots when I “generally” finalize things.

Overall, a somewhat satisfying day and an escape from far too much discouraging coverage of the flooding in SE Texas.

-- John, SE Louisiana

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

7699 posts in 1237 days


#9 posted 08-28-2017 03:45 AM

How close are your u to the Baton Rouge area? I have a 10” planer gathering dust.

I get scraps from a local cabinet shop on a regular basis. Hell. Laminated over 100 of them to make my workbench top. They’re a good source of figured maple too since the don’t like running it through their shapers because it fuzzes up.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

603 posts in 246 days


#10 posted 08-28-2017 03:53 AM

Welcome. Be sure to check out Steliart’s workshop in Cyprus- he also works from a carport if memory serves me and all his tools are mobile.

http://lumberjocks.com/steliart/workshop

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View JohnTM's profile

JohnTM

43 posts in 30 days


#11 posted 08-28-2017 03:54 AM

How close are your u to the Baton Rouge area? I have a 10” planer gathering dust.

I get scraps from a local cabinet shop on a regular basis. Hell. Laminated over 100 of them to make my workbench top. They re a good source of figured maple too since the don t like running it through their shapers because it fuzzes up. – TheFridge


Wrt your location question, about 70 miles…For something more specific, see private message.

I’ll have to check the local area to see if I can duplicate your cabinet shop hauls around here. Hadn’t thought of that.

As far as the planer goes…hit me up with a PM if you have a price in mind… Cash is short after my initial layout for tools so I was probably going to be looking at the old credit card for a future purchase of a planer…unfortunately. That or hand planing a bunch (unappealing as that is to me right now).

-- John, SE Louisiana

View Woodbutchery's profile

Woodbutchery

341 posts in 3337 days


#12 posted 08-28-2017 04:16 AM

John, one last piece of advice.

Do all the safety stuff. All of it!

Wear safety glasses. Wear hearing protection, don’t wear gloves while running power tools or loose clothing that could get caught in blades/bits, etc.. Keep your hands and fingers as far away from whirling blades of death and spinning bits of disaster using push sticks, etc. Even with hand tools. I was chipping out a dado today with a 3/4 inch chisel and one hammer-stroke plunked a chunk of wood on my cheek, and was a gentle reminder that I should ALWAYS wear some type of eye protection, if it’s nothing more than my regular glasses.

A breathing mask if you’re going to be working in a small room is also something I’d consider essential, especially with power tools. They don’t cost as much as all that and will keep your lungs happier. I know sometimes that it’s a pain to get all of these things in place, always using the push stick (block, device), but I’ve had some fortunate accidents that re-emphasized the need to wear or use safety equipment (each time, was following the safe way to do things, and no injury (and some could have been humdingers!).

Start off with that, and you’ll be happier that you did in the long run.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

View JohnTM's profile

JohnTM

43 posts in 30 days


#13 posted 08-28-2017 04:23 AM

Welcome. Be sure to check out Steliart s workshop in Cyprus- he also works from a carport if memory serves me and all his tools are mobile.

http://lumberjocks.com/steliart/workshop

- TungOil

Thanks. Hadn’t seen that. Very interesting.

-- John, SE Louisiana

View JohnTM's profile

JohnTM

43 posts in 30 days


#14 posted 08-28-2017 04:24 AM

John, one last piece of advice.

Do all the safety stuff. All of it!
<snip> Even with hand tools. I was chipping out a dado today with a 3/4 inch chisel and one hammer-stroke plunked a chunk of wood on my cheek, and was a gentle reminder that I should ALWAYS wear some type of eye protection,
- Woodbutchery


Noted.

-- John, SE Louisiana

View JohnTM's profile

JohnTM

43 posts in 30 days


#15 posted 08-28-2017 11:28 PM

Water, water everywhere – too much to allow even pallet breaking. Despite the “official” rain numbers here in my area, my carport and street flooded – miniscule i comparison to what’s happening in SE Texas, but enough to stymie my attempts to do anything remotely constructive woodworking-wise.

So again it was a Sketchup kind of day.

Figured out how to import existing models of table saw, miter saw and drill press into “my drawing” and that makes things more realistic and interesting visually. But, I haven’t figured out how to modify those imported models (or even if they CAN be modified after being imported) other than mere scaling. I need/want to delete some aspects of each of the models I did import – a stray line here and there, an accessory/feature that isn’t applicable to me, that kind of thing. Since I’m looking at using flip-top and similar design concepts with my multi-function workbench, these superfluous “extras” could affect my design if not removed.

On another note, I do have a line on a reconditioned router that looks affordable and relatively feature-rich wrt its cost to me. We’ll see how that works out.

A public thanks to TheFridge for his behind public and behind the scenes of of assistance to me. We Tiger-fans do support each other! Geaux Tigers!

-- John, SE Louisiana

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