A Wonderful Shop Tool..From Walmart!

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Blog entry by handsawgeek posted 01-26-2015 02:29 PM 1357 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Like most other home hobbyist woodworkers, I generally have to squeeze my shop time in around all the other life activities: the full time job, family time, church activities, household chores, yard work, and, in my case, music practice.

Available daily time to make sawdust and shavings ranges anywhere from twenty minutes to 1 hour per any given session. Some days, it doesn’t even happen at all.

I usually make it a point to spend around 15 minutes in the shop early each morning while the coffee is brewing and Mrs. handsawgeek hasn’t emerged from bed yet.

Since shop time is so limited and precious, I need to make the most out of each available opportunity. Even if the allotted time is not enough to complete a major operation on a project, I try to at least get SOMETHING done, even if it only amounts to tidying up, putting away a few tools and sweeping up some shavings.

For the most part, I usually have a plan for what will be accomplished in each session. Here’s a typical example:
“Let’s see – 45 minutes today. That should be enough to crosscut these four boards and lay out the locations for drilling the holes.”

To help me with this, I purchased a very handy tool found in the housewares department at Walmart for around three bucks:

A one hour kitchen timer.

This is one of those old-school spring-wound affairs that rings an obnoxious bell when time is up.
Now, whenever I start a work session in the shop, I set the device for my allotted time, pop a couple of Altoids, grab the work piece and tools, and get the planned tasks done.

When the timer goes off, I exclaim “Jeez, Already???” finish up what I’m doing and (reluctantly) close shop for that session.

This small, cheap plastic object clicking away in the corner of my workspace actually serves as an excellent training method for woodworking time management, organization, and efficiency.

It has taught me to plan out each step and operation of my projects, and to progress at a steady rate.

It deters me from becoming so absorbed in my work that I overstep my designated time limit.

It also inspires discipline in resisting the temptation to just ‘hang out’ in the shop without really getting anything done.

And it startles the Be-Jeebers out of me every time the dag-gone bell goes off!

That’s why it has been relegated to a window sill at the far end of the basement…..

-- Ed

8 comments so far

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1170 posts in 1134 days

#1 posted 01-26-2015 03:43 PM

Like your way to make a (short) time in the shop every day. Nice practice.

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View Bogeyguy's profile


548 posts in 1489 days

#2 posted 01-27-2015 02:12 AM


-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View handsawgeek's profile


591 posts in 816 days

#3 posted 01-27-2015 02:38 PM

Hi, Art,
Yes, seriously. Very seriously. The whole concept of using a timer may appear to some as being a bit weird, but I have found that since I started using it, I have become WAY more effective with shop time. I am anticipating finishing up my lathe stand this weekend – a project that I’ve been putzing around with for over six months now. Far too long! Now, establishing a set work time and zeroing in on a given operation at each session has kept the project moving at a very steady pace. I’m always very satisfied at the end of each shop session, because I know I have accomplished substantial progress toward project completion. In another week, I’ll be able to fire up the lathe and begin enjoying turning again….

Actually, I’ve used a timer for quite sometime in my daily music practice regimen. Since it helps me stay focused, I could concentrate on warm-up exercises, scales, and individual song development without it becoming just another time-wasting ‘noodle around’ session. Practice sessions are approached with a specific goal in mind. A goal to be realized within a given time frame. I limit my music practice to 1/2 hour per day, so it’s imperative that the time be used to the fullest.
In my recent mode of re-thinking through my woodworking processes and goals, it was only natural to surmise that I could use the same method in the wood shop, as well. Again, it’s the concept of ‘getting something done’ vs. time-wasting noodle around sessions.
Using a timer may not be for everyone. I realize there are lots of folks out there who are blessed with substantially more free time for woodworkiing than I have. I’m only using a tool to help me make up for it in efficiency, with the time I have available. It works for me.
Thanks for reading my blog!

-- Ed

View CFrye's profile (online now)


8574 posts in 1260 days

#4 posted 01-29-2015 06:25 PM

I can see how this could be very useful. Thanks for sharing, Ed.

-- God bless, Candy

View MT_Stringer's profile


2820 posts in 2652 days

#5 posted 01-29-2015 06:50 PM

It will be handy to use when you are gluing up panels. Set it for 45 minutes, and go about getting the next one ready. You probably already know how fast time can fly. Next thing you know, it is time to take off the clamps and glue up another one.

I use the time on my phone.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View handsawgeek's profile


591 posts in 816 days

#6 posted 01-29-2015 07:35 PM

I’ve tried using the timer on my smart phone as well. Only problem is that it keeps ringing until I finally get irritated, drop what I’m doing and turn it off. At least with the kitchen timer its one and done..

-- Ed

View ChuckV's profile


2872 posts in 2948 days

#7 posted 01-29-2015 08:01 PM

Be careful that your Be-Jeebers aren’t startled out of you in the middle of an operation on some machine like a table saw or jointer.

-- “And the products of wealth push you along on the bow wave of their spiritless undying selves.” ― I. Anderson

View handsawgeek's profile


591 posts in 816 days

#8 posted 01-29-2015 09:16 PM

Hi, ChuckV

No worries, Mate….

Don’t own either. Strictly hand tools here, though I guess I could slip up with a chisel or saw to dire effect if sufficiently startled.
Putting the timer far way at the other end of the basement from where I work has helped a lot. I hear it but it doesn’t startle.

-- Ed

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