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Setting Up Shop II, or How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Posted by on January 21, 2008

I’m not what you would call a “neat freak.” However, I do try to keep things generally organized and find it near impossible to work in a cluttered shop. Not only do I find it technically difficult to work in an unorganized mess – I find it hopelessly depressing as well. Consequently, when the shop is cluttered I will typically avoid doing any woodworking until the mess is resolved.Keeping the shop organized is especially difficult when the thing you’re working on is the shop itself. For the past couple months our garage and the new shop space has been a jumble of scraps of lumber and sheet goods, plastic bins of random hand tools, power tools, hardware, etc. somewhat haphazardly-arrange throughout. Need a hammer? Time to go routing through the bins. Double-stick tape? I just know it’s here somewhere. Not fun. Coupled with the scarcity of available “shop time” and basically nothing has been done since Thanksgiving.

To turn this untenable situation around I took a week-long vacation from my real job beginning January 7th. As luck would have it, this happened to coincide with a major “January thaw” with temperatures soaring into the 50’s and 60’s early in the week. After spending a day cleaning out the garage and setting up a temporary table to somewhat organize my tools/supplies, I set out to complete the job. First priority was the cabinetry. I had completed the carcasses and counter tops in November but hadn’t even planned the drawers. Drawers. After spending way too much time agonizing over their arrangement (do I make 3 or 4 drawers in this bay? One very deep or 2 shallower?) I settled on a design and slapped together some boxes out of 3/4″ ply and pocket screws. Not very “fine” I know, but I’d prefer to just get the shop done and get down to business on pieces bound for the house! Ply banded with 3/16″ maple bullnose serve as drawer fronts. After that I installed the ceiling-mounted speakers, running the wire through the 2″ PVC I ran before the walls were finished. I also ran RG-6 and Cat 5e cable to the 4 boxes placed around the shop, patching the works together, neatly, in the crawl space before hooking up a home run back to my communications panel in the main basement.

While I frequently use Google SketchUp to design my projects, I find that working things out on a whiteboard can be extremely helpful in the shop. I frequently use a whiteboard for my cut-list — writing large enough to be visible across the room. The one from the old shop is roughly 18″ x 36″. For the new shop, I wanted something a bit bigger, but “real” dry erase boards can be rather pricey. A quick google search turned up this page For $10 plus some scrap pine I was able to build my own custom board for the shop. I installed a 4’x4′ sheet in the middle of the back wall and still have 1/2 sheet left for future uses. Lastly, I installed the TV on a wall-mount (for NYW and Woodworks, natch!) and moved the metal paint cabinet into place beside the slop sink.

As usual the process was covered by a couple web cams and I’ve edited together a brief time lapse…I only wish I could have completed the actual work in only 5 minutes.

Note: The angle of the cameras, properties of the lighting and advanced image compression may make it appear to the untrained observer that my hair is a bit thinner at the top. I assure you this is merely an optical illusion.

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