Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bringing the lessons home.

One of the topics that's been in the back of my head for a while is how to be more efficient in the shop, and part of that is figuring out how to be more space-efficient. I don't plan to be in the huge shop forever, and I'm in the middle of brainstorming some space-efficient ways to do most of the same work I do now, in a smaller space. (This isn't really such a feat: 3500 sq ft is a LOT of space.) One part of the grand plan is to build most of the fixtures in a movable way, so that setting up shop next time around won't take so long.

Investing some time in the home shop is another part of the grand plan. In short, I want to take the lessons I've learned from working in a 3500 sq ft space, and see just how much I can do with 35 sq ft. Long-term, (in a year or three) I'll move the rest of the big shop into a smaller space. But the point of the home shop is that even if the work I do by day isn't always exciting, I want to be able to do stimulating work at home. After writing the Space and Mind entries, I tore apart my work area at the shop (again) and it's been flowing a LOT more smoothly since then. The home shop is next.

My work space at home has been languishing. I set it up while Ariel was in the middle of nursing school, which proved to be a bad idea. Ripping drawer parts by hand while she's trying to study for a test? Yeah, not a great plan. But she's been out for a year now. In the meantime, the space has been collecting crap: Bike parts, unfinished projects, and a box of stuff that has yet to go to Goodwill. And the placement of the bench by the front door made it a de facto crap catcher.

Yeah. Not pretty. Since those photos, I've cleared it out, and I'm the process of making it into a more productive area.

One part of building up the home shop is to start making a few hand tool jigs that I got to see first hand when I was at school. We had a chair maker visit the school from France, and he showed us some of the jigs they used there to make certain tasks easier. The first of these will be a clamp that's used to help saw tenon shoulders. We were always taught at school that the easiest way to cut clean, square shoulders was to use the table saw. So when the Frenchman came by to show off his stuff, I was very impressed. And I think it's going to prove to be a good project for use at home.

Step one will be to break this big hunk of 12/4 hard maple into 3"x3" billet stock...

Monday, June 4, 2012

We now return you to your regularly scheduled...


I've been plenty busy in the shop this month. Not too busy to write, but busy.

I spent the past month and some watching the virtual world go by. Safety week came and went. Chris Schwartz is building campaign furniture, which I've been interested in for years. (Just not interested enough to buy the $500 coffee table book.) And a stink was raised over FWW daring to suggest that bloggers were scum who should require a stamp of approval.

I agree with FWW. Information overload on the web continues, and anyone with a web cam or an iPhone can document their path to novice-dom with ease, and upload it instantly. And so much of it is redundant. I've read entries defending the online woodworking community, and some of them make valid points about crowd-sourcing and so on, and that's nice. But so much of it is exhaustive coverage of old ground that it kills me. I agree that there should be a registry of recommended bloggers or podcasters, because the Internet is only a useful tool if you have a way to discriminate, and weed out the useless or pointless crap.

I think it's ironic that FWW would be the ones to try to sound the call for Quality Control of some sort, given that their own publication isn't what it used to be, and that it's becoming redundant, too.

Meanwhile, I still wasn't writing. At some point in April I hit a wall, and it felt like the only reason I was writing was to maintain a presence in a community that I didn't feel connected to anymore. And I'd be damned if I was going to add more virtual drool to the puddle.

I like to read about techniques and projects that are above and beyond what I know, which is why I like the OLD FWW issues. I like this sort of content, because I believe that you have to get out of your comfort zone to get better. Practicing the same novice skill set ad nauseum will only make you a really well-practiced novice. And I have no interest in that.

I'll be writing again soon, but I'm going to start making a point to seek out more interesting objects and techniques to talk about, predicated on the notion that you have a bench, and a box full of basic tools and skills to work with. I'm sure that means I'll be writing less often than twice per week, but hopefully the results will justify the extra time.