The Workshop

Posted by on Nov 17, 2008 in Blog | Comments Off

The workshop is where you really notice the whole ‘eccentric’ thing…. First of all, the shop is in the kitchen. While this may seem odd, it’s actually pretty convenient having such close proximity to the stove for melting lead and cooking up finishes, and really, there’s no where else to put it. The Real Estate Industry uses the term ‘live/work’ for this kinda arrangement. I use a different term. Sawdust control was a bit of a challenge, but by bodging together a motley assortment of rugsucker impeller assemblies, empty 10 gallon water jugs and salvaged furnace ducting I managed to come up with a dust collection system that keeps the food in the kitchen about 99% wood product free. Scares the hell out of the cats though.

Tools, tools, tools, DAMMIT I love tools…I mean, I *really* appreciate them. About 10 years ago I had to build a 4 poster bed (among other things) using only a Swiss army knife and a rock. It still gives me the willies. Bizarrely, I still sleep in the damned thing every night. (Yes, it’s an interesting story. No, I’m not going to tell you.) Of course, I don’t have enough of them. Tools, that is. Should you *ever* happen upon a man (or woman, for that matter… not surprisingly, Kaia Howe has about 10 times more hand tools than I do, although my power tool collection is still leading by a nose) who says “I have enough tools”, run away fast: They are dangerously delusional. Having said that, I have a good relationship with the tools I *do* have.

The 1954 Rockwell Beaver table saw was retired with full honours last spring, and replaced with a snazzy new jobbie of Asian origin that has a sliding miter table built in instead of the traditional slot-and-insert thingie most similar toolage has. This innovation has apparently caused quite the hullabaloo in the traditional woodworking community, with many Grampa Simpson types loudly predicting the end of the world as we know it.

Get over it… it’s a saw.

I bought one near the bottom of the manufacturers’ line, just to see what all the fuss was about. It’s OK, actually. The build quality of the saw is horrendous in general, but it’s accurate, and the sliding table is really quite versatile. Out of the box it’s more useful than a reg’lar table saw, but nothing you can’t jig together in half an hour on a standard machine.

I have a Larson frame makers mitering saw that does wot it sez on the tin without a lot of geegaws, gimcracks and doodads, and ‘just yer basic’ scroll saw, band saw and drill press, which I’ve relentlessly tarted up with home built jigs and guides. Oh, and a small but mighty 5″ disk/ 1″ belt bench top sander that shames its larger brethren in terms of sheer flexibility.

I’m a ‘hacksaw and needlefiles’ fella when it comes to metalworking, which is not to imply that I’m not wildly jealous of my friend Nick Carter, who lives and works in a land filled with magical CNC mini mills. My major concessions to metalworking power tools are a generic bench grinder that spends most of its time in ‘buffin’ up brass with a cloth wheel ‘ mode, and the obligatory Dremel rotary tool, the utility of which is hugely enhanced by the addition of

  • a) a bunged-together-from-a-sewing-machine-pedal speed controller and
  • b) an Acra Mill Plus, from the Seinfeldianly branded ‘Vanda-Lay Industries’

In true Maker fashion, I’ve managed to find a reason to modify most of my tools (hand tools included) one way or another, with varying degrees of success. I’m pretty sure that workshop ‘purists’ would feel the need to lynch me for heresy, once they stopped laughing hysterically. Bring it on, toolnerds.