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Workshop #1: A New Beginning

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Blog entry by Tomcat1066 posted 02-04-2008 06:59 PM 872 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Workshop series Part 2: Yet Another possibility here »

By now, my 6’x6’ shop is pretty well bemoaned and documented. Frankly, it sucks. The size of a shop can limit what kind of work you do. Sure, in my small shop I could build toys, boxes, and probably some small furniture pieces. However, I dream about bigger things. I want to be able to crank out highboys and dining tables. I don’t want limits, and unfortunately, a 6’x6’ shop has those.

Money is a bit of an issue. With the cost of tools, wood to build projects, and the fact that I really hate construction projects, a stand alone shop probably isn’t in my future. However, I can’t help but believe that there’s no other options. So here I am, with a rough plan in my head to share. Now, I’m open to other ideas, since I’m just now really toying with this idea.

First, this is an outdoor workshop. I live in southwest Georgia, where it’s warm most of the year. Even when it’s cold, it’s usually only for a couple of weeks. This leaves the vast majority of the year availble to work in the “shop”. Second, size wouldn’t be nearly as limited. After all, the back yard should be plenty big enough for even the largest book case I conceive myself building.

Now, there are limits to this. Besides the temperature, there’s humidity. South Georgia can be very humid. 90% is very normal around here, even when there’s not a cloud in the sky. I can see this playing havoc in regards to wood movement. In truth, this one might be the deal breaker. The only thing I can think of is to use the storage room that is currently slated to serve as my workshop for wood storage, and put work pieces back into the room when I’m finished working. That’ll be a pain in the butt, and introduce those same limits I’m trying to avoid.

Since I’m planing on there being some type of shelter, rain wouldn’t be to much of a problem. Windy rain, on the other hand, could be a pain in the butt. Whatever shelter would have to be capable of having sides to shelter from the weather, but otherwise be open to the world. I don’t want to work in a stifling tent, you know?

Theft is a real concern for me. Any plan would require a way to keep my tools as my tools. A locking tool cabinet or a tool chest that can be transported into a secure area would work. I’d just have to decide which direction I’d like to go.

There’s a lot to think about on this plan, so nothing will be set in stone for a little while. Still, it’s better to get this worked out now, so I know where this is going, you know?

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!



13 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3289 days


#1 posted 02-04-2008 07:25 PM

Just thinking about it is part of the planing phase. I have found that we tend to impose limitations on ourselves. I used to work with another woodworker that had a table saw, jointer and workbench and his shop space was about 60 sq. feet. (He only needed to turn in a circle to reach each tool). I have also seen other shops that consist of nothing more that a carport. Its a little hard on the tools with respect to rust but it can be done.

The humidity is largely something you can’t control but you can deal with it by making allowances in your joinery. But you are right I would consider something to secure your tools. If not then they will tend to disappear. I have two sons that “borrow” mine from time to time and, I am sure probably still have some of them. I minimized this to a great deal by buying tools for Christmas presents ( a win-win situation for everyone).

Keep on thinking and planning. Doing is the next step.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Shopsmithtom's profile

Shopsmithtom

788 posts in 3662 days


#2 posted 02-04-2008 07:37 PM

OK, I hate to sound like a commercial, or, at the very least, a broken record, but a 6’x6’ area is enough room for a table saw, lathe, 12” disc sander, drill press, horizintal boring machine, bandsaw, 6” belt sander, shaper, and a bunch of other stuff if you get creative.
I’m talking about (Shopsmithtom, here…what else would I say,) a shopsmith. Yes, I know there some limitations in the eyes of some woodworkers, but your space is the big limitation, here. The tool limitations (and I have said this before…that they are more a mindset than actual physical limitations) are a small price to pay for the versatility in such a small space.
Speaking about prices to pay, I wouldn’t buy one new. There are a ton of great used ones to be had in the $300-$600 range (even less…I found a nice one for $150, once) which, if you consider the number of tools you get, is a bargain. They seldom break, too.
If you do decide to go down this path, let me know. I can let you know which are the best production dates to look for, and which few you might want to avoid. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3263 days


#3 posted 02-04-2008 08:04 PM

I thought about a ShopSmith, and they do look seriously cool. I remember watching a demo for a ShopSmith back in the early ‘80’s with my Dad. He wanted one so bad he could taste it. However, I’m leaning toward hand tools mostly. My concerns with shop space isn’t so much the tools as the workpieces I could handle in there.

Well, that and my wife wants to put the freezer in there instead of it being a workshop. ;)

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Shopsmithtom's profile

Shopsmithtom

788 posts in 3662 days


#4 posted 02-04-2008 08:23 PM

If you slipped a shopsmith in there before she got the freezer, you’d eliminate the conflict for space. I’m thinking that it would get cold enough in your house that you wouldn’t need a freezer. -SST
By the way, if you’re thinking more of hand tools, think fold-away and think vertical, to increase usable area. Actually, if you had a small chest freezer, you could build something fold-away over it and maybe have both uses, also, you’d be close to the popsicles while you work.

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3263 days


#5 posted 02-04-2008 08:39 PM

Unfortunately, it’s an upright freezer (just my luck, ain’t it?). Granted, it’s not a done deal that it will go in that room…it’s more of a case where she would prefer it in there, but only if I have something else for shop space.

The only problem with fold away is that the primary item I know I’d need would be a workbench. Hand tool workbenches need to be very sturdy, something fold away just doesn’t seem to do. However, I have been thinking about a small assembly station next to the hot water heater, and making that fold away might be just the trick. Good suggestion!

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View lazyfiremaninTN's profile

lazyfiremaninTN

528 posts in 3420 days


#6 posted 02-04-2008 09:49 PM

I had an idea for you.

How about 4 post with a tin roof, and then use 2 4×8 sheets of plywood on hinges as walls. When you want you can prop them up and give you more work area as needed. For security you can use bolts and hasp with padlock. Simple yet effective.

-- Adrian ..... The 11th Commandment...."Thou Shalt Not Buy A Wobble Dado"

View jcees's profile

jcees

1015 posts in 3266 days


#7 posted 02-04-2008 11:01 PM

Hmmmm, nothing like a challenge to stir the juices. I think you’re barking up the right pine my friend by considering only hand work and the tools that go with that effort. I started with little more than a notion that I might like woodworking. It was in my father’s blood and his father before but for what ever reason my dad did little more than expose me to his own woodworking abilities. Abilities that were spare and refined. Spare in their lack of adornment but refined in execution. His joinery was always flawless. I believe that this was due to his unwillingness to spend his hard earned pay for power tools. That’s why I inherited more hand tools than power tools. He grew up on a depression era farm in south Georgia, the son of a successful sharecropper and once itinerant master joiner. A title that used to mean something in the world of work but is now relegated to certain volunteers you meet at living museums.

Anyway, working wood is really done only by hand. Whenever the tool you pick up requires electricity you are then machining wood and no longer working it. Machines reduce the time it takes to produce a project. But the lack of them in no way is guarantor of your not being able to make things.

Whenever I can I defer to hand work for a given process. And let’s face it, we’re processing wood into something else either by spinning blades and bits or handsaws and planes. Sometimes they’re useful, sometimes aesthetic and always we hope to join the two. Remember, the first woodworkers had nothing of what we have at our disposal. So fear not and carry on with what’cha got. Learn to sharpen fast and often and don’t forget the music. Tunes are always welcome in my shop and using hand tools guarantees I’ll be able to hear them.

always,
J.C.

-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3263 days


#8 posted 02-04-2008 11:16 PM

Fireman,

That’s a possibility. I need to check building codes though and see what they say.

J.C.

Thanks for the encouragement. All to often, people will default the route that involves spending money unnecessarily, rather than encourage one to gather the skill needed for a given task. Having trouble cutting dovetails? Buy a jig and a router.

Me, I’d prefer to know that, no matter what, I can build. It doesn’t matter if the power is out, or there’s a trade embargo, or an energy crisis, or the neighbors are having to sleep…I want to be able to build regardless. Hand tools offer me a route to do just that. I can’t help but believe I’d be stupid not to take them up on that.

Not only that, but there’s something extremely cool about an old tool that could have been my great grandfather’s ;)

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Recycler's profile

Recycler

40 posts in 3232 days


#9 posted 02-05-2008 02:08 AM

I think the constraints make us more inventive. A sharp blade, a piece of wood, and somewhere to sit is all you REALLY need. ;)

View Eric's profile

Eric

875 posts in 3251 days


#10 posted 02-05-2008 04:36 AM

Another idea might be to have two workshops. Keep some of the space in the 6×6 room but have that outside area as well. I find myself doing a lot of planing out in our driveway (right on the concrete) simply because I don’t have a way to do it in the shop yet. I’ve half thought of putting some sort of cheap easy table out there for tasks too big for my shop.

Also, if you decided to have a wall-less shelter, you could put storage up high, right under the roof, for your lumber and projects-in-process. Should minimize the windy rain issue.

-- Eric at https://adventuresinwoodworking.wordpress.com/

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3263 days


#11 posted 02-05-2008 12:10 PM

Unfortunately, there’s not much of an overhang outside. 12” tops.

I have considered an outdoor workbench for large jobs, similar to you planing outside. I just have to do some thinking on that one a bit.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Mario's profile

Mario

902 posts in 3519 days


#12 posted 02-05-2008 02:53 PM

Just thinking outside of the box.

I have seen shops inside of old buses, Semi tractor trailers, Campers, Large tents with hard floors, even in spare bedrooms. what about a shed, you can build them pretty cheap and even get them at auction.

-- Hope Never fails

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3263 days


#13 posted 02-05-2008 03:38 PM

Mario,

I’ve thought about a shed, but I hate construction/remodeling projects, and all the sheds I typically see need assembly by someone. Since cash is tight, I can’t afford to pay someone else to do it, which would mean me. So, unless I can come up with a lot more money than I think I can, a shed just won’t happen.

However, if I do come up with that, a good size shed is my first choice. I dream of something large enough to have a workbench, a dedicated sharpening station, an assembly station, and maybe even a bandsaw someday. Ah…Nirvana on Earth ;)

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

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