This is initially going to sound crazy but here goes.
Grade school kids
"huge vacuum cleaner" (their term for "dust collector").
Now the words - kids, cleaning, dusting - and the phrase
"tidying" up don't normally go together - when they're
at home. But in a SHOP...
Maybe it's ALL THAT POWER - dust collector's muted roar,
the sound of a large volume of air being sucked into
a four inch hose, the way things magically disappear
as the end of the hose approaches them or the sound of
small pieces of all sorts of things rattling their way
through the pipes on their way to who knows where.
All of my "stationary" tools are on wheels and normally
reside against a wall. They get pulled out when used
and push back when done - leaving wood residue behind
them. Out of sight, out of mind. But, after a kid, or
a team of kids have sucked everything that they can
reach into that four inch hose, they start looking
UNDER and BEHIND things.
In BIG VACUUM CLEANER mode, kids become prospectors
searching for the Mother Load. Discovering all the
sawdust that collects under a cabinet saw is a cause
for squeeling rejoicing. That will prompt a search
through my "sticks and dowel" storage tubes for an
arm extender to get to the otherwise inaccessible
sawdust. And like gold miners, they'll stick with
"the gold vein" until it's all gone.
When they discover more "treasures" behind the tools
on wheels they'll hound you until you move them out
of the way so they can continue their prospecting.
After finding and taking care of everything the dust
collector can handle, they find brooms and start
sweeping small to medium cut offs into two or three
piles - to be gone through for later "glue stuff
together, use your imagination, sculpture/projects"
The rejects go in a scrap box for kindling and "the
good stuff" goes into each one's large zip lock
When "the room full of heavy stuff that generates
sawdust" has been picked clean they move on to the
"quiet gluing and bug spitting room" (bug spit to
them is shellac to the rest of us - but bug spit
sounds cooler). Here they can't use the HUGE
VACUUM CLEANER - they know curlies will clog it
up (earlier learning experience) - so it's brooms
and brushes. The interesting curlies get saved
for a future creative project and the rest get
stuffed in a "fireplace fire starter stuff" bag.
All those little pieces that dovetails and tenons
create are each examined carefully for some
wonderful use, the rejects going in a kindling
As a bonus for me, they also find every nut, bolt,
screw and anything else I'd dropped and couldn't
find. Those go in the "stuff that was found and
will be sorted out and put away later" can. One
of these discoveries will prompt a "what's this
and what's it for" question and one of my "too
much information" lectures. I've learned to pay
attention, so when their eyes start to glaze over
I let them get back to The Hunt.
In less than an hour the cleaning tornado moves
on, other games to play. I'm left with a nice
clean shop (it's still cluttered but relatively
clean) bags of kids project parts, a bag
of fire lighting curlies and a box of kindling.
I'm also exhausted and inspired.
Exhausted because I've had to mediate at least a
dozen "he got to vacuum for 10 minutes and I only
got to vacuum for a minute", "I found that first
and she took it", "why can't I use the push broom
this time?", "she says this is from a pin socket
and I say it's from a tail socket" disputes.
Exhausted because I've had to watch them like
a hawk to keep them from bumping their heads
while crawling under power equiptment searching
for treasure, trying to move a wheeled cart
supporting a disk and spindle sander away from
the wall to get to who knows what behind it ...
The inspiration comes from listening to all
the wonderful ideas they have for a piece of
scrap they found and saved.
Inspired because they got me to look for useful
stuff in what would otherwise be "just scrap".
For those who'e had their teeth on edge, worrying
about kids in the shop:
The sharp handtools are in wall hanging tool
cabinets behind a SCMS station and are out of
reach of kids and, with the doors closed - out
site, out of mind.
All power tools are unplugged, and those that can
be "locked down" are locked down BEFORE the human
tornadoes get started.
I've got one of those powerful magnates on a stick
things and use it when emptying the cyclone garbage
can - finding the iron bearing parts that shouldn't
have been vacuumed up in the first place.
To date there's been only one injury. While
crawling around under the sliding table of my
combination machine (a Robland X31 for the curious)
looking for more sawdust to vacuum up, and despite
my repeated "watch your head" warnings, one girl
tried to get up while under the sliding table and
dinged her eyebrow.
That prompted a "que tip and peroxide - neopsorene
- big gauze eyepatch with four big pieces of tape to
hold it in place - just for dramatic effect - medical
emergency production with an audience enjoying every
act of the three act drama, The star of this production,
with her "eye make up" was in all her glory, basking in
the attention of her fans - "Does it really hurt
bad?" - "You gonna have to get stitches?" - "Think
you'll lose your eye?"
Of course the tape and the gauze came off before she
went home and her "gaping wound" lost some of it's
shock value - a shiny neosporened eyebrow just isn't
all that noteworthy.
Maybe, in addition to eye protection, ear muffs rubber
gloves and safety glasses, I should add a helmet or
Nothing to buy, no slick jig or fixture, no new use
for an existing tool- a single, free in terms of
dollars, shop improvement. Clean shop and another
one of those priceless experiences.