A look into the wood shop

The is a bittersweet post for me to be making. This was going to be a post I was going to make something like 2 months ago, but I kept pushing it off to the side. I had been so busy between work and the wood shop that I hadn’t bothered to drag out the camera. I had really wanted to talk about my rather small garage wood shop, I feel it is important to talk about. There has been a rise in maker spaces and hacker spaces, yet the amount of available work spaces for people who want to own the tools is small. I have been looking at that pool for more than a few months to find that I couldn’t afford anything yet, or the rules behind it were too difficult. I am still in the market, looking for my next shop space. I want to talk about this one, even as I am losing it I guess.

I had also had a post that I had been working on discussing the shop space and the state that I took it over under. It would touch on more than a few things I am not keen on wanting to go into publicly. I have had a falling out with my business partner, and I have my problems with him for various reasons…. It would be tough to discuss the wood shop post and not tread on insulting him. I would prefer personally to be better than that. I am struggling to be. So I have deleted about 3 different versions of that particular post…

Consider that a foreword, I hope this still reads well.

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Small Spaces for Small Starts.

My wood shop is fairly tiny. I am using a one car garage for my shop space, well kinda half of a garage really. I am sharing the garage with my business partner. It was a good amount of work to liberate from the horde of boxes that had consumed the garage and continues to be a battle to remove the clutter. Even as it stands, I have about 30 to 40 square feet taken by just boxes of stuff. And that space feels much smaller considering the additional spaces reserved for a spare set of tires, several large containers, a mound of really old paints, as well a wood bench that is neither square nor level. The shelves up on the wall were seemingly built by somebody who has never heard of a level.

Regardless of those faults, the shop space hasn’t been too bad. I am a big believer in thinking vertically throughout the space. I prefer to also have most areas be set in a minimalist way. I like clean open areas. They help me think, as well as gives me the ability to let a project take up the room it requires. This isn’t always perfect, but it works well enough. I have my tools and slowly begun to build out areas to hold general work areas for certain tasks. My one real set of shelves holds the CNC machine and has enough space along the floor for me to slide everything else into place. All of my tools with the exception of the drill press and the CNC machine will fit underneath the shelving unit.

As far as the physical tools in the shop, I keep things fairly basic. Infact, I really need to drop a few hundred bucks and finish picking up a bunch of the tools I need, but I have been putting off. I will break things down by the task the tool actually accomplishes. I think that is the best way to approach it.

Sawing

The tablesaw. This is the most important electric tool in the wood shop from what I have been able to tell. The blade is a stupid, simple concept. Put a bunch of little chisels to carve into the wood on a circular disk. Spin the disk at high speed, then feed wood into it. This thing is the cornerstone of the wood shop especially because with some wood and screws, you can make every jig you need. Whether you need perfect crosscuts, or you want to do complex miter cuts, this thing can do it if you build the right jig. I even use mine for resawing wood down to side, it is incredibly messy…. But so worth it.

I am using the Dewalt #DW745. It is a 15 amp, 10 inch tablesaw. It is highly portable, yet highly adaptable. I actually bought the saw just due to how accurate of the fence on it was. It was easy and fast to adjust. It just worked right out of the box. I did pick up a full kerf blade for it, but I own a total of 4 blades for it. The full kerf (1/8″) 24 tooth blade for cutting the grooves on the vaults as well as 3 thin kerf blades at 24, 32, and 60 tooth. Each blade is fairly particular, but I could spend a solid hour explaining why I own those. I will spare everyone that fate. Instead, I will saw the saw was cheap at about $300 (not including 3 of the blades.) It was cheap, heavy enough to stay put, and has a hell of a solid fence for cutting along. As long as I am pay attention, I can get extremely accurate cuts.

It does have it’s draw backs, but they are pretty few and far between. It hates plywood. Or maybe I hate plywood and hate the way this thing cuts plywood. It also bemoans cutting purpleheart and does complain cutting through paduak too. The fence should be checked fairly often, just to make sure the measure is set to the saw blade thickness itself. The short top on it eases with portability, but it lacks mounting points for extending the work surface area. There are no mounting points for outfeed tables too, which kinda sucks. It does function fairly well with the crosscut jig I have made, and I will do a full article on it too. The crosscut jig has fallen off of the table on a few occasions just due to the small worktop and it being a single rail jig… Again will talk about it and why later.

Still it is solid. I would have to recommend it.

Drilling

I have a fairly basic set up. I have a drill press, the Wen 4208. It is small but it does the job. I also have a Ryobi D43K, mainly because I am cheap bastard and don’t mind the cord on it. I would rather save money and pick that up then stress the extra cost of a cordless drill.

Routers.

Okay, most of the money in my shop is tied up in routers and routing. When I say routing I am not talking about the thing that gives people wireless. I am talking about the ability to remove wood using bits that spin around an axis meant to cut grooves, lines, or other shapes. It is hard to explain, but there are things a router can do that would take hours to do by hand, or just can’t be done.

I have 2 different types. I have the CNC machine which is a large platform with motors that guide the router itself over the platform. This allows for it to cut down into the piece, then is guided through the piece via a computer. This whole process is long and complicated. It requires digital files, checks, counters, clamps. It is long technical and involved, but it is also an extremely precise machine with the intention of being used in that manner. I am using the X-Carve by Inventables. Mine is the smaller 500 mm machine and is amazing. I love that machine. I wish I had more time to use it and hadn’t been so foolishly tied up the past 4 months that I have had it.

The other machine is far more barbaric. It still uses the same bits, but it isn’t computer guided. It is literally a spinning bit with a platform that you rest the wood on then feed along a fence into the blade. It is not terribly technical in any sense, yet it does a really good job. It takes only about 20 seconds to set up the table top router to do a job, and typically once set, I can do every cut I need at just the one setting. It is just a matter of feeding everything through the tablesaw then bringing it over. I love my router, it needs some upgrades to accuracy, but I didn’t have the money to get one of the really accurate tables. And with that, I am using a Kreg router table, the PRS2100.  I have a Bosch 1617EVS for the actual router. It is a great set up together. I just need to remember to remove the locking wrench from it when I go to change bits. I have left it in about 3 times and turned on the machine….

Sanding and Shaping

For this, I have a couple of cheap sanders. I have a really cheap electric “precision sander,” the tool is quite awful but it does save time if I don’t feel like breaking out the hand plane (I really need to sharpen it.) I also have a random orbit sander. It does a great job at making quick work of stubborn pieces and if I ever get time I will convert it into a makeshift drum sander. I just need to build an outfeed table and probably need a bigger one. Still, those work quite well.

The electric Planer is the last big tool I own. It really is a great way to take care of all my wood. It is used to shave the wood down to the thickness you need. For me, I do a lot of resawing now on my tablesaw. The tablesaw gives good results that actually is consistent. That said, I need to be able to take them down to an even thickness. That is where the planer comes in. I cut my wood down to the right thickness, then feed it through the machine. Several dozen passes later, I have consistent boards at the right thickness. This also works wonders on my cutting boards whenever I make those. In general the Wen 6550 does a good job. I did have an issue with it suddenly being live… I think a wire came loose and the ground wasn’t set so suddenly it wanted to run electricity through me. It wasn’t too big of a deal and it has survived some abuse.

That is my shop.

I will be leaving it soon enough. I may be out of there by the end of this week or the end of next week depending. I am not really looking forward to it, so I am going to be spending quite a bit of time engaged in it over the next 2 weeks if I can. Like I said in the beginning, this is bittersweet. It is really far from where I live, but it… It was my first shop and I had had quite a few plans that didn’t anticipate moving out so soon. Regardless, thank you all for reading. I hope you all have a nice night.

eddie-martin

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