My Personal Top Eight Shop Tips (learned the hard way)

Posted by Steve on Tue, 12/23/2008 - 11:47pm

We've all heard Norm's boilerplate at the beginning of every episode of New Yankee Workshop: "read.. know.. safety glasses", etc. They're common sense "givens". I won't belabor them by repeating them here.

But every shop owner has acquired his own set of lessons from "life experience" and I thought I'd share some of mine. Some are safety tips but some are productivity ideas.

Got a shop? You need this stuff!

Posted by Steve on Sun, 02/24/2008 - 10:52pm

Last weekend, my boss and I made the trek to the annual NJ Woodworking Show. Jeb has a pretty nice woodworking shop but his passion is car and motorcycle restoration. He's done several old bikes -- Velocettes and Moto Guzzis -- but his current project is a 1955 Land Rover. The Rover looked like it had been parked at the bottom of a river for the last fifty years but after two years he's nearing paint and finish, which means he needed supplies, which means we both needed to hit the show.

I've been looking for a decent steel tool deck cleaner for a couple of years. Nothing I've tried worked much better than WD40, #00 steel wool and carnuba wax. Jeb told me that he'd had good results with Boeshield and, sure enough, we found it at the show. It's expensive but it was worth a try.

New Stained Glass Projects

Posted by Steve on Tue, 12/11/2007 - 10:09pm

I have several stained glass tasks in the queue here. Some, like the upper cabinet doors in the living room media cabinet, have been on hold since 2003. Others, like the funky stairway skylight, I've wanted to replace since the day I first saw the place.

While stained glass construction is fairly mechanical and basically just woodworking joinery using glass and lead came, the design, templating and piecing out can be very time consuming. Most of the glass I've done here is fairly simple and angular to match the existing stained glass. But I wanted something a bit more ornamental for these new projects.

The delay is mostly because I suck at drawing. I can muddle my way through Photoshop if I have to and I've even built a few nice web page banners using "creative appropriation" of assets conceived by others. Change a few lines, overlay a mask or two, morph a few elements and, poof, it's mine. Derivative art.

Stripping a Door

Posted by Steve on Sat, 10/20/2007 - 11:41pm

The prologue of this story is an old door that needed to be stripped. I brought in my amateur stripper, Doc Karen, to serve as my photo model for this two part pictorial. Even anesthesiologists have to moonlight to make ends meet these days. I was gratified that she took our tutorial seriously enough to wear her surgical scrubs (mismatched as they were).

More and more sawdust

Posted by Steve on Sat, 06/09/2007 - 9:28pm

With a challenging software project winding up, the top floor reno winding down and my tools reunited with their friends in the basement, it was time to turn my attention to the crime scene that used to be my shop. This cleaning has to last several months because it will probably be that long before I'll be using the tools again.

I don't mind working in a messy environment but I can't start a new project unless everything is neat and tidy, with every tool in its proper place, the table saw waxed, stationary tools aligned, blades sharpened, etc. This is my operating room, after all, and you don't open up a new patient with the last one's blood still on the walls.

Today was the marathon cleanup of the past nine months of mayhem. It actually began last night because I needed to catch this morning's garbage pickup. Did I mention how much the Sanitation guys love me? They even autographed one of my garbage cans a few years ago, scrawling "Balls!" on it with black magic marker.

Face Frame 101

Posted by Steve on Thu, 12/07/2006 - 4:02pm

There's a subculture in the carpentry world that one could call "wood nerds". They passionately argue with each other over arcane topics like fish glue and lumber humidity, armed with canons of really impressive woodworking knowledge. I learn a lot from them but after a while it's like listening to trekkie geeks debate the relative pulchritudes of Lt. Uhuru versus Seven of Nine.

The Basement

The basement was, well, a basement. Besides the obvious, the concrete floor had worn away to dirt in several places, there was evidence of severe termite infestation and the main beam had a serious looking crack. After adding a lally column for temporary support, the basement was so filled with obstructions that it would have been almost impossible to make it a functional living space (or in my case, a functional shop).

Shop Stuff

Shop Stuff

This isn't my house. I mentioned on the home page how tasty the original woodwork was in these houses and how the previous owners of mine inexplicably ditched it all. This is the dining room in my neighbors' house. It's hard to believe that a hundred years ago this was how formula homes were built. You wouldn't find woodwork like this in a modern house costing seven figures.

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