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From total noob to somewhat skilled (hopefully) #3: Overthinking things without any actual woodworking

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Blog entry by JohnTM posted 08-31-2017 11:50 PM 6403 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Silly me... Part 3 of From total noob to somewhat skilled (hopefully) series Part 4: An unwanted and unexpected delay »

Warning – this is a long entry…
Having not made a single cut or turned a screw yet is semi-depressing.

Why, you may ask? To be honest, it’s a case of paralysis by analysis.

I’ve scoured LJ and the ‘Net in general for about two weeks looking at workbench designs. At first, I was absolutely enamored of Roubo-style benches but soon realized they are primarily for hand tool-centric work and not really for hybrid woodworking (at least as I understand it). Then I ran across some knock-down, fold-up designs and really liked the “Ron Paulk” idea. But I’m really not going to be taking my bench anywhere, only possibly moving it around my “shop”/carport area. So, having something that uses temporary/saw-horse leg supports made me consider moving on. Still, I like the torsion-box construction—wait…wait…wait. Open sides/holes where plywood edges are exposed to the environment 24/7, like will happen under my carport, probably isn’t the best design idea for my purpose.

Then I ran across this – “Workbench Ultimate Garage Space Saver Woodworking” – a multi-function workbench whose real appeal to me is the tools are hidden away making it look just like a big cabinet when not in use (possibly deterring theft from under the carport). This design incorporates rotating tool bases as opposed to the cantilevered saw support that the Paulk workbench design uses. Trying to figure out exactly how to implement that (as no plans are provided) led me around the ‘Net again where I found not only vertically rotating tool cabinet designs but also horizontal turntables and a number of “flip-top” designs (at least 2 designs with 3 tools rotating around the same axis). Variations on the theme include: a) whether to use dowels, carriage bolts, pipe or rods for the central rotation axis, b) locking mechanisms (shims, bolts or eyebolts pushed into unthreaded holes; combinations of the former; bolts or eyebolts threaded into t-nuts/nuts epoxied into recessed holes, etc), c) rotating base thickness (1/2 or 3/4 inch plywood, and 2 or 3 piece construction), d) cabinet construction (screwed butt-joints, lock joints, bridle joints, dowels, biscuits, pocket hole joinery…and on and on), and e) which tools matched up best with which other tools.

The last variation consideration had me stop in my tracks and start re-thinking my initial thought that I’d just copy the “Workbench Ultimate Garage Space Saver Woodworking” all but directly. Well, first I needed to design plans for that and work out the rotation issues. So, that slowed me down. Needed to measure the tools involved. Ooops, didn’t have them all – yet. So, went out and bought some tools. Still, the question of what tools work “together”, how, when and where wasn’t answered in any obvious manner. Then, I stumbled across the “free” pallet wood in concept which raised the question of whether and how I could “process the reclaimed wood” into usable lumber. Oh.. right.. a planer… do I need a jointer also? Add another tool? 2 tools? to the list….???

One of the tools I have already bought is a used Craftsman table saw with extension wings (actually one cast iron wing and the other just an angle-iron frame for a wing). And it’s on a stand that isn’t particularly attractive, sturdy or desirable in numerous senses. But the stand can be removed (I’ll hacksaw the ** thing off if it doesn’t unbolt easily.) It’s 19”L x 41”W x 11”H without the stand so that’s a “major” design consideration as I need the workbench to intrude out into the carport away from the wall as little as possible.

Still, no actual design came to mind much less any actual cutting or screwing.

Finally, being a woodworking noob, I needed to research work process, which tools are used together or sequentially and which tools are rarely used together or sequentially. How the heck do you “research that” or learn that without actually doing it? Well, I watched a bunch of “build videos”. So many that my eyes began to wobble inj a strange and unfocused manner. While I would like to say I made good use of the bad weather, no actual woodwork downtime, I have to admit that quite a bit of that time was simply “Wow, that title sounds cool. Watch that video!”

So, where am I now?

Still , as noted above, nothing designed or built yet. All my previous Sketchup designs/models are in the computer trash bin.

I’ve come to the following “conclusions for my design premises” – feel free to enlighten me or offer other considerations if anything seems way off base.
1. Table, mitre, jig/band/scroll, and circular saws may all be used near-simultaneously on a single build. One should not interfere with the other.
2. Drill press and various saws are fairly often used sequentially, irregularly going back and forth between them for final fit adjustments.
3a. Mortise and tenon joints are stronger than dovetails but both are frequently used.
3b. Pocket hole joinery is UGLY but works.
3c. 3a is preferable to 3b (for me, not necessarily for others and probably not when speaking of single builder mass production). I’ve gotta learn at least one of the 3a types of joinery in order to avoid being forced to use 3b (which does have its place – maybe I’m just being dense/overly biased against it).
4. If I’m going to use pallet wood, I need to get a planer. A jointer would be nice but is not necessary.
5. I can store a mobile cabinet in the 5’ x 7’ carport store room but most of my big tools will need to reside in an enclosed workbench cabinet to try to minimize environmental damage to them.
6. The mobile cabinet should augment the workbench cabinet – the surface should be the same height, should provide access to a tool or tools that may be used sequentially with what’s exposed on the workbench cabinet and it should be strong enough to be moved frequently without “racking”. Of course, it needs to have brakes and be able to be leveled.
7. Routers – fixed base, plunge and in-table. Sigh. So many considerations here including: cost, accessibility to adjustment, power needed for what I’m ultimately going to do (make small things, not furniture-sized things after initial “shop basics” construction), cost again, and did I say cost? Can’t believe how expensive a router is in comparison to say, a table saw!!! Get the most versatile and reliable for the least cost – consider refurbished. (Did it.. got a re-conditioned one, details in later blog entries.)
8. Sanding – by hand (need to make blocks), circular, orbital, drum, belt…. Can I do with just one? Which one? Um, there are plans for creating and using drill-powered circular and belt sanders. Or you can buy a $50 combo from HB. I have 2-14.4v drills and 1 corded beat-up old, single-speed Craftsman drill that could be dedicated to that.
9. Vises. I want a foot-wide by 3 inch tall vise with a side order of a leg vise. I haven’t seen such a design on a multi-function bench – only separate vises in separate locations on a MFT.
10. Infeed/Outfeed/Assembly table considerations. I don’t think I’ll be working much with 4’ x 8’ sheets. I can get at least the initial cut done at HD or L/some other lumber yard/store. My max “closed up and put away” workbench size is 3.5’ x 6’ (3’ x 6’ is less problematic with 2 cars under the carport). The saw table section can be covered for use if otherwise needed.
11. Table saw and router can/should be easily co-located/located near to each other to both utilize at least one mitre slot. As the table saw I bought has an “empty space begging to be filled”, this seems like a natural fit – mount an under-table router there…. but a really versatile one or a limited feature one?

Can we say “over-whelmed”? I can… after a beer…

This has gotten long.. far too long….

To be continued….

-- John, SE Louisiana



18 comments so far

View Redoak49's profile (online now)

Redoak49

2705 posts in 1740 days


#1 posted 09-01-2017 12:11 AM

I could not read all of this….are you a wood worker or what. A bunch of words getting no where.

Please do not continue this…..Stop writing and make sawdust.

View sras's profile

sras

4574 posts in 2881 days


#2 posted 09-01-2017 12:48 AM

My practice has been to not build or buy anything until I have a consistent need.

If you have a couple sawhorses then you have a workbench.

Best guess is that no matter what you build when starting out you’ll want to build a better version later.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View JohnTM's profile

JohnTM

43 posts in 30 days


#3 posted 09-01-2017 01:00 AM

Appreciate both comments so far….

“My reality”/personality is that I try to plan ahead, hope to “measure twice, cut once” even on non-woodworking stuff, and end up somewhat close to a “finished product” (something close to my actual idea when I started a project). I realize that things develop over time and the previous post was merely a documentation of that early development process.

Had Hurricane Harvey-associated bad weather not messed with my initial enthusiasm and had I not counted on Amazon Prime to get my pallet buster here Monday (which it didn’t and which still hasn’t arrived), I’d probably have made cuts already on a design that would have locked me into something I’d end up taking apart next week to completely re-do. At least that’s how I feel right now.

Actually, I do have a couple sawhorses – bought after another instance of “paralysis from over-analysis” trying to decide whether to make my own or buy some… Decided thtat HB’s $12/pair couldn’t be beat…. Was ready to cut (something/anything) and then Harvey wound up not being a “friendly Pooka” but a pain in the butt.

We live, learn and eventually make progress.

-- John, SE Louisiana

View Rick's profile

Rick

10077 posts in 2132 days


#4 posted 09-01-2017 01:25 AM

There is a limit to how well you can plan for something with which you lack experience. Woodworking is art and engineering, some you can learn from a book but some must be practiced and refined by doing. My suggestion for you would be take a class. Otherwise, pick a small project and build it. Pick another project and build it. Everything else will take care of itself.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View EricTwice's profile

EricTwice

211 posts in 285 days


#5 posted 09-01-2017 01:31 AM

The object of hobby woodworking is to make stuff and have fun, (I am a professional, I get paid to make sawdust, and sometimes mistakes)

You have some tools, (toys) You’ve gotta go try them out. (you have to, those are the rules)

Sometimes it’s not about making things it’s about playing with your toys.

You get a feel for your comfort zone and skill level. (don’t worry skill level goes up with practice)

Now, go have some fun and get saw dust in your pants

-- nice recovery, They should pay extra for that mistake, Eric E.

View SirGareth's profile

SirGareth

101 posts in 1952 days


#6 posted 09-01-2017 02:02 AM

All good advice. My first bench was an MDF sheet on sawhorses. I made it work for five years while I built some stuff and agonized over the same overwhelming styles of benches. In the end, I realized that for me, I needed some ways to hold work and wanted to start using some hand tools.

Earlier this year, I built a variation of Chris Schwarz’s 2-Day Workbench. It doubles as an out feed for my table saw. I couldn’t be happier.

Build stuff… then you will figure out what you need.

-- Even if you fall on your face, you are still moving forward. - Tim, Southern California

View JohnTM's profile

JohnTM

43 posts in 30 days


#7 posted 09-01-2017 03:21 AM

Again, appreciate the comments…..

Last perspective-style comment from me on my reasoning and process (at least tonight):
1. I’m on a limited budget (though it may not seem like that considering my initial outlay on tools). I can’t afford to make a bench knowing I’m going to re-make it in a couple weeks when it proves absolutely inadequate.
2. My shop’s gonna be outside under an open carport – including most of the “big” power tools and wood storage.
3. After this initial financial outlay and “shop” setup, I don’t expect to be able to make any significant changes. I’m going to be restricted to the carport and these tools ”for the duration”.... Finances and family situation details aren’t appropriate for a public forum. Rreaders will just have to accept some things about my situation/my process as “well, that’s all the info we get on that topic, I guess”.
4. Sure, I could work off the sawhorses I have for a while… That’s definitely not my preference and it doesn’t solve the “tool protection from the environment” and out-of-sight storage issues I have to be somewhat concerned with.
5. After my initial 2 small projects (crosscut sled and drill press table), I’ve got to “make a home” for the “big power tools” – they just don’t stack well in the small storage room. Not only that, I don’t like picking them up and moving them – bad back from an old service-related injury (plus I’m lazy). Lastly, I don’t want to have to “set things up” each time I want to work. So, a “semi-permanent” home for them is a necessity.

Finally, LJ has inspired me to believe that my situation has a solution – I just have to find it.

There are significant variables and significant learning curves involved for someone coming in “like a virgin”. But, though I may currently be skill-ignorant, I’m not unintelligent. I can be a slow starter due to a tendency to over-analyze, but I’m persistent. What this initial post shows me (at least) as re-read it is the distance I have already come in the last 3 weeks since I first decided to dip my toe into woodworking waters. Hell, I didn’t know there were different types of hand and power saws much less different types of mobile workbenches.

My next blog entry will probably continue to document my thinking process – and possibly include a couple of preliminary drawings of the big, mobile, multi-tool/multi-function workbench and 1 small, 2-tool flip-top mobile cabinet I’m currently thinking will be “the shop”. There’s a possibility that I’ll have 2 small, mobile cabinets – or maybe just one and use the sawhorses as a seriously temporary augmentation. Either way…thinking, thinking, thinking.

Pictures or it didn’t happen? Sorry, but pictures ain’t available yet.

They’re coming, not sure exactly when… but this is in Blogs, not in the finished Projects section.

-- John, SE Louisiana

View trevor7428's profile

trevor7428

232 posts in 713 days


#8 posted 09-01-2017 06:15 AM

Look at my workshop from my account in lumberjocks. I have 2 work benches both make by cheap 2×4’s and a cabinet style outfeed table with storage made all out of 3/4” plywood with oak trim. It is a torsion box too btw.

But I agree you will make something, then what to rebuild another. Not necessarily in 2 weeks, maybe a couple months or a year. For me at least, I may want to rebuild because after a project is complete. Somewhere down the line, you always think you could have done something different to make it better. But what you made will deff do.

I have a major issue with buying tools thinking I will need them. Just like situations your having now and never end up using them. Sometimes I feel like a tool collector lol. Its hard for me at least to only buy tools that you need, but if your on a budget. Just buy the basics. (Ill list below) don’t worry about buying all these different types of sanders or expensive vises.

I would recommend making a bench from 2×4’s. Worked for me at least. Material is cheap and if time comes to rebuild. You can reuse the wood if you wanted too. Just might have some extra screw holes.

Yes a planer is nice, expensive, but nice. I would recommend only buying one if you can find a used one for cheap on Craigslist. I went years before I first bought my first planer. So this is not a must have tool for just getting started.

I would say start with only buying tools you need to make your bench. Once completed and decided on your next project. Then buy what you need for that.

I have alot of tools. Only few are needed for main needs.

Also, what I did when first getting into woodworking. Is buy cheap tools first. People say buy the best tool you can afford. I don’t agree with that for people just starting out. All my tools where first bought at harbor freight. Yes they can be a pain in the but getting everything adjusted properly. Once time comes to upgrade I’ve always been able to sell on Craigslist.

Anyways tools to build your bench.

Table saw (since you have it already)

Sliding compound miter saw (a hand saw will do the job too, but in my option miter saw is a must especially if $90 w/ H.F. coupon)

Kreg pocket hole jig. (Not the expensive jig, I preference the $40 at home depot that you need a clamp to secure to work piece. Don’t worry about people saying pocket holes look ugly. Your just starting out. They make projects builds much faster and just put the pocket holes on back side. No one will ever no. They are plenty strong. Don’t worry about mortise and tenon jointery. That will come a couple projects later down the road.)

Hand drill/ drill bits

Clamps (I would recommend…....you guessed it, harbor freight. They are cheap and get the job done. I have a bunch of all sizes. But if you are using screws, you may not need any clamps. It just depends on what kind of bench you build. If you laminate the top from 2×4s then you defd will.)

If you already have a air compressor. The nail guns at H.F. can’t be beat.

I’m sure I may be forgetting something. But that should get you started with your bench build.

If you do use 2×4’s. I always go through the whole pile to find the best boards. (It seems like 90% of them are crap) 2 people will deff help with this process, but every time I do it. I am on my own.

I don’t work for harbor freight and own very little of there tools now, but for just getting started buy cheap or used cheap. I am sure alot of people won’t agree with me. Just don’t listen to them. You can upgrade a few years later if need be. After your comfortable using the tool and your skill level has out grown the cheap tool.

Just my 2 cents

-- Thank You Trevor OBrion

View jciccare's profile

jciccare

29 posts in 1019 days


#9 posted 09-01-2017 06:19 AM

4 thoughts, in no particular order:

1) For me the pleasure of amateur woodworking and DIY is the state of interaction with the tools, material, and the physical world (the shop, and where the object I’m making will be used and appreciated). I’m an accomplished sketcher/visualizer, and would probably be good at Sketchup if I took the time (I’m fluent at 2D CAD). However, actually being in the shop—whatever its state of completion or cleanliness—and working on something is wholly different from planning and visualizing. It is the sheer delight of being embodied, in flow, and using physical tools to explore and learn, regardless of my expertise level.

2) I can plan and plan, but being there and doing there shows me what needs to be where, and how to improve both the project and the shop. Several times I’ve gone through Mark I and Mark II to arrive at a wholly satisfying Mark III.

3) Kaizen, as explained by Robert Maurer in his book One Small Step Can Change Your Life, involves taking an initial step—intentionally small enough to not alert the perfectionist brain’s fear-of-failure response. The brain says, “That was fun”, and seeks more. The fear/critic stays asleep, and flow is established.

4) Someone actually wrote a succinct description of why woodworking brings such happiness. I’ve reread it many times:

http://woodworkingtips.com/etips/etip25.html

Enjoy (now go measure and cut something :)

-- Accomplish the great task by a series of small acts. (Tao Te Ching / Lao Tzu)

View trevor7428's profile

trevor7428

232 posts in 713 days


#10 posted 09-01-2017 06:32 AM

I just not watched you video from your link. I would not worry about making anything like this for now. Yes it looks cool, but I’m sure this guy didn’t make this as his very first bench let alone his very first project. Just make a bench where the tool is permanently mounted to the top of bench with bolts that are easily removable.

I forget to mention. When i was saying dont worry about all these different types of sanders or expensive vises. All you need is a random orbit sander or even a sheet sander. (Just one or the other) Sheet sanders are nice because the sand paper is way cheaper. You just buy the 12×8” sheets and cut into 4s. Random orbit sand paper is more expensive.

For vises my first vise was the $20 at Lowes. It has same concept as a normal work bench vise, only 6in capacity. Which is plenty. These vises van be used with dog holes if need be.

Btw, I no I said buy cheap. Just don’t buy cheap sand paper. Its trash and not worth it. Go to home depot or Lowes for sand paper needs.

Another buy the way a drill press and band saw is not needed right away. That will come down the line onces you have graduated from buying cheap harbor freight tools

-- Thank You Trevor OBrion

View Rick's profile

Rick

10077 posts in 2132 days


#11 posted 09-01-2017 06:47 AM

If you are focused on building a bench there are a number of excellent designs. Since you have no experience, don’t try to innovate or design your own, you’ll screw it up. Workbenches have evolved over centuries to several popular forms. Keep in mind that some bench/vise combinations are meant to work together for particular styles of woodworking. You don’t have a style so nothing will be a match for you right now, you’ll have to adapt to the bench rather than adapt the bench to you. So I would recommend something like these:
No bull workbench

$175 workbench

Here is a simpler version by Fine Woodworking.

There are also simple English style carpenters benches.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View Frustrator's profile

Frustrator

79 posts in 801 days


#12 posted 09-01-2017 07:19 AM

I’ve been planing my optimal/perfect workbench for 5years..ended up building a workbench from 2×4 three weeks ago. When needing a tool i lift it up in the bench..

I think the best way is just to building some kind of workbench, then modify that one as breda arise. And after a few years building a new bench with the you have found you need.

The reason i ended upp building a 2×4bench is that after 5years of planing still havnt found the perfect one, and i would hate to build a optimal bench and then fund out that utsikt really suboptimal for my needs

View rhybeka's profile (online now)

rhybeka

3300 posts in 2873 days


#13 posted 09-01-2017 01:05 PM

I’ve been in the newbie category for way longer than I’d like to admit, but I’m slowly climbing to novice/intermediate. I’ve built three different benches in the past five years and what I’ve learned is your needs will change as you discover what kind of woodworking you like to do – especially if you are a hybrid woodworker. I love speed, but I also love the feel of a handplane taking a shaving. I’ve worked my process long enough to know I’m going to invest in good tools for taking rough lumber down to mostly dimensioned, and be able to take my time handplaning because I don’t want the noise/dust/etc associated with a planer. That might change if I can find a cheap enough planer, but for now my stanley #7c,5,4,3 will work just fine. The above are all correct. Build something sturdy, the right height and with some storage for now. In your case I would include cabinets on the bottom as a must for security/lockability since you will be outside. I’d try to find a way to make it mobile yet immobile so it couldn’t be loaded into a truck/van in the dead of night. From there you can figure out what kind of hold downs/vices you will use/need. It could be as simple as drilling bench dog holes in the benchtop, or using clamps at various intervals. At some point you need to just get started. I would grab some plywood, a circular saw, the kreg jig, some glue and screws, the measurements you feel will work for the bottom cabinet and get started! Good luck :)

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

View TungOil's profile

TungOil

603 posts in 247 days


#14 posted 09-01-2017 02:38 PM

don’t over think your workbench. Here are my thoughts on this topic, coming from someone with 40+ years of WW experience.

1) Look at the last blog post I made. In it you will see a picture of my temporary spray booth. In that booth there is a pair of saw horses with a piece of plywood on top. That was my “bench” for about the first 20 years or so. Obviously I still have it and use it. Same piece of plywood actually. easy to set up, easy to store out of the way when not needed. Served my purposes for primarily power tool oriented WWing. I built a lot commissioned work off that ‘bench’ just fine….

2) 15 years ago I built a more permanent bench as a replacement. I think it probably shows up in my workshop photos in my profile. It is made from cheap 2x material following plans from FWW mag. works fine. nothing fancy, and I have added a vise to the front.

What ever you make you will probably need to change it/fine tune it in a few years to match YOUR style of WWing. Just make something cheap/easy to get started. I love looking at all the really beautiful hand tool oriented benches as well, but for my use they are simply overkill.

-- 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 Woodbutchery's profile

Woodbutchery

341 posts in 3337 days


#15 posted 09-02-2017 01:36 PM

Just a few suggestions.

Not knowing your setup it’s hard to make many suggestions, but I would start off with suggesting that you make your “big tools” on moveable carts and store those in the small storage shed. If you’re concerned about thievery and environment, then store them in the storage shed and wheel them out as needed when you’re working on a project. It may be inconvenient, but safer both from a security standpoint and a weather factor.

Try not to get too far ahead of the game. You are starting off, so working from sawhorses, etc., is an acceptable compromise as you begin your journey. You have a lot of tools from the perspective of power tools, the trick is to become more familiar with their use via practice. Given the limits you have so far, you may need to consider your “shop” as a modular process that changes as your project needs require, and not have one or two main pieces that stay in place all the time. And time is what it will take to build on skills through practice.

My first major project was to build a cabinet for my table saw. What I put together functions, but I am waiting to have the financial resources to rebuild the sucker, because, in essence, I did it all wrong. Still, it works. So I encourage you to reconsider your workshop, show patience in the face of Harvey-the-Disruptor, and when you start busting up your pallets, practice woodworking.

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

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