Some say that necessity is the mother of invention. I tend to agree. Need is a great motivator. Needing something has a way of pushing us to think outside the box and perhaps be a little more innovative than we would normally be. Especially if we have limited resources.
Many of you know that I live in a fairly small place. I don’t have a real shop, per se, but rather do most of my own work in my kitchen and living area. My bedroom doubles as a storage room for most of my beautiful exotic wood, with all of it neatly stacked inside or on top of my storage cabinets. When I think about it, the wood stored in my bedroom takes up more square inches of real estate than my clothing. I suppose that shows where my priorities lie.
Many people view spring as a beautiful season. We often hear songs of trees blossoming and love blooming in the spring and everything is sunny and green. Call me an old poop, but I tend to look at spring as a muddy mess. It is certainly my least favorite season of the year. Even here in the country everything is wet and grimy and dirty. There are remnants of winter in the form of dirty piles of snow scattered here and there, but for the most part, there is wet mud everywhere. I realize that it is part of the cycle, but I honestly can’t wait for it to pass.
Why should I care, you may wonder?
With living in a small place such as I do, a great deal of my messy woodworking is done on the front deck. Although I have been known to route in the bathroom from time to time, it is usually only occasionally when it is too wet to do so on the front porch. I try to work around doing things like that as much as I possibly can.
But with only about two weeks left until I leave for the woodworking show and having to cut out over 400 1/8” birch plywood ornaments to bring with, time is of the essence and I can’t really afford to wait until things are nice outside. Cutting the ornaments with the saw really isn’t an issue. The tiny blade brings up very little dust and even though there will be quite a quantity of them, there is no way that they will all be cut in one fell swoop so the mess is minimal and easy to clean between sessions.
What I am talking about is the preparation of the wood for cutting that was the issue. I recently picked up five pieces of 1/8” Baltic birch plywood from Bernie’s for just this purpose. I use this type of wood frequently for painting projects, such as ornaments and the skating pond and although I realize that I won’t be using it all for this particular set of ornaments, I will be using a great deal of it. The wood come fairly smooth, but in order to make a good base for any type of painting, it needs to be finish sanded prior to painting it. There in lies my issue.
Sanding is messy no matter what. Typically, when doing a project such as this, I would spend an hour or so on the porch and sand out there. As I look out my window, however, not only is it windy, but also wet and somewhat muddy. It isn’t really a great environment for sanding.
With the recent purchase of my Rigid oscillating belt sander, I came to the realization that when attached to my new shop vac (which I call “the monster”) I can actually sand inside the house with virtually no dust. Now I know that many of you are shaking your heads in disbelief, but it really is true. It sucks away just about every bit of dust the sander throws out. I was highly impressed when I saw this in action, although my cats were not quite as much so. (They are becoming quite stoic though, and Richard even has been seen bravely walking by the monster when it is on and coming within about a foot of it. I think he just does it so he can look tough though!)
In any case, after cutting the necessary plywood pieces (approximately 45) down to size, they needed a quick sanding on both sides with my Makita 1/3 sheet orbital sander. Now the sander has a little dust bag on it, but the filtration on the bag is not what I would call “really effective” so until now I have only considered using it outside. But with the recent acquisition of “the monster” we got the feeling that anything is possible. We pulled off the dust bag from the Makita sander and used the adapter and hooked the little hand held sander up to the monster.
In testing the results, we are very pleased to report that it did a wonderful job of collecting the dust from the sander. There was nothing airborne that we could see and no thin film of grit apparent anywhere. This was great news and we proceeded to sand all the wood necessary for the ornaments. When we were finished, we barely needed to vacuum the floor near where we were working. There was no dust on the tables or counters or anywhere. I was very happy that we were able to do this without a problem.
Now I know it isn’t the most optimal situation, but it isn’t the worst either. This was an unusual situation for me to have that much stuff to sand at a time and it certainly won’t be the norm. It just feels good that it can be done inside without much of a disruption or cause that much mess.
I often get letters or private messages that question that I am even scroll sawing in such a place. Many people don’t want to believe that it is possible to do so and still have a clean environment. Many times non-woodworkers and friends don’t believe it until they come over and they can see that it is clean here and there isn’t dust all over the place like most shops have. I think that the key to keeping things nice and livable is taking the time after each session to clean up whatever mess you make. It takes only a few minutes and it really makes it possible to use the space that I have for woodworking.
One day I will have a ‘real shop’ to work in and build things in. But until then, I will keep trying to find ways to make what I have work for me. It helps a great deal that I only build smaller projects. That means less dust and mess all around. But keeping up with things is really key in making things work.
Today will consist of continuing to cut the ornaments for the class, as well as finish up on the second pattern. I got all the photographs prepared for the second pattern and only have to assemble the packet into a usable format to be done.
It is time to really begin making a physical list today of what needs to be brought. We have been making mental lists, but as the time gets closer it is time to really start writing things down. We are coming to the home stretch and don’t want to forget anything.
I hope everyone has a good day today. Enjoy your Sunday!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"