The Biggest Tool You'll Ever Own

I was reading the most recent thread about messy shops. This is the latest in a revered series of messy shop threads. Prolly the nastiest one was started by O'Deen, when he had the balls to post a picture of the MOAMS.
The shop is a tool. If you think of it as merely space in which to store tools and do wooddorking, yer missing the boat.
It is a tool that you must either make or modify to suit your purposes.
I'm fortunate in having my current shop because I was able to build it to suit my purposes but I have worked in plenty of places where I had to utilize the space that was given to me and make it work as best as possible.
Tricking out a shop space and figuring out how to keep everything available is kind of like living aboard a small boat. If you aren't faithful in putting things away, pretty soon you won't be able to do anything that you came there to do. Everything will become a struggle.
The shop is a tool.
I had a buddy who made beautiful chairs. His shop looked like a shit storm and he spent half his time looking for tools. Yet, he was a fanatic about keeping his tools tuned up. His edges were always sharp and his equipment was immaculately maintained. But he would lose his sharp tools in the mess on the bench (another tool - not a horizontal surface to pile crap on) and he would pile more tools on the equipment when the bench piles were tottering.
I tried to tell him that the shop was a tool and that, if he thought of it like he thought about his other tools, he could prolly get half again as many chairs built in the same time. He would usually just look around at his mess and say, "I can't find anything. Let's go get a beer."
We pretty much know that what a saw is supposed to do and we pretty much know what a plane is supposed to do. What's a shop supposed to do?
I guess, at the most basic level, it's a place to work that's out of the weather. We need to keep our work and our tools and equipment safe from nature's desire to turn them into junk.
At a more interesting level, a shop is a tool that helps us to do our work more efficiently.
If you begin thinking on an operational level, you'll need a place to take in and store material, a place to do the basic sizing of the material, a place to do joinery, a place to do assembly, a place to sand and finish. These might all have to be the same physical space, depending on your circumstances.
When I worked in a one car garage, I got into the habit of having all of my "stationary tools" on rollers. Even though I now work in a twelve hundred square foot shop, those tools are still on rollers so that I can reconfigure the used floor space to suit the operation that is being performed. The jointer, molder, bandsaw, shaper and boring machine are kept in what I call "The Bullpen". The bullpen has wire shelving screwed to the ceiling and that is where I hang doors and panels during the finishing process. The tools come out of the bullpen to do their work and then are moved to accommodate the finishing process.
The chisels, planes, wrenches, etc. are stored in a roll around Kennedy tool box and various wall hanging cabinets that are close to the workbench (also on rollers) where they are likely to get used.
There are other wall hanging cabinets in the shop dedicated to router and shaper stuff, sanding, pocket joinery and biscuit joinery, drills, saws, etc.
There is a ten by ten area that is the spray booth and storage area for finishing supplies.
There is a big roll around clamp storage rack that holds all of my clamps.
There is another roll around that holds sheet goods.
I know, it kinda sounds like the Taj Mahal. When I was working in the one car garage I used boxes to keep things together and one of my most useful tools was a dolly to move the boxes around with (sometimes things had to get moved out of the shop, especially when assembling and finishing - but, because they were in boxes, according to purpose, I was always able to find what I needed and, because I always worked from design through finishing in an orderly manner, the space only had to be reconfigured a limited number of times in order to get the project done.)
The shop is a tool.
And it is entitled to the same thoughtful maintenance as our other tools. Just like your Momma tried to teach you, "A place for everything and everything in its place."
You wouldn't let yer plane sit around with a nick in it and you wouldn't let yer tablesaw turn into a rust bucket.
Well, don't let the maintenance go on the biggest tool that you'll ever own.
Clean the damned thing up and keep it that way.
Yer Momma would be proud.
Regards, Tom Thomas J. Watson - Cabinetmaker Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania http://users.snip.net/~tjwatson Remove CLUETOKEN to reply to email. www.tjwcabinetmaker.com
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Right on Tom! I couldn't agree more. Thanks for the perspective.
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Brian
www.wood-workers.com/users/lavoie
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Mon, Jul 14, 2003, 5:18pm snipped-for-privacy@CLUETOKEN.snip.net (Tom Watson) says: <snip> figuring out how to keep everything available <snip> We need to keep our work and our tools and equipment safe from nature's desire to turn them into junk. <snip>
You sound like either a man with no kids, or who won't let them in his shop.
JOAT Let's just take it for granted you don't know what the Hell you're talking about.
Life just ain't life without good music. - JOAT Web Page Update 13 Jul 2003. Some tunes I like. http://community-2.webtv.net/Jakofalltrades/JOATorJackOfAll/page4.html
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On Mon, 14 Jul 2003 18:13:04 -0400 (EDT), snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (Jack-of-all-trades - JOAT) wrote:

The six year old boy has his own workbench and storage area in the shop and, because the tools are on roll arounds and usually tucked away when not being used, the six year old and the eleven year old can make use of the swing that hangs in the assembly area (although that's up in the rafters when I have something the size of a library out there.)
Regards, Tom Thomas J. Watson - Cabinetmaker Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania http://users.snip.net/~tjwatson Remove CLUETOKEN to reply to email.
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Well put Tom. The shop is in fact a tool. Actually, the most important tool. I clean my shop each night and put the tools in exactly the same place. This way I always know where everything is and can access whatever I need in seconds. I can not stand spending time looking for a tool. The ten minutes I spend each night cleaning is a fraction of the time I would lose during the week looking for tools in a messed up shop. When I enter my shop each morning I want to be inspired, not turned off by a mess. I enjoy the site of my shop each and every morning I enter it. It's what I look forward to when I am driving to work. Thanks for reminding me of what the shop is.
If you or anyone would like to visit my shop you can access it from the below link
http://www.plamann.com/sys-tmpl/scrapbook /
Take care and enjoy your shop tomorrow Tom.
Tom Plamann www.plamann.com
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Well said Tom.
Although I'll leave relevant tools out for the next days work, I try to spend 15 minutes at the end of the day sharpening tools - ones that I haven't use that day. I've been doing this for the last couple of months and find that all my edges are really ready to go. It's also a good opportunity to fight off rust on those infrequently used tools
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in that case, camphor is your friend... it with a natural rust inhibitor... i use it religiously...

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"Even though I now work in a twelve hundred square foot shop..."
Another great post Tom, although I'm now wiping drool off of my keyboard. ---BeerBoy
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Tom Watson wrote:

Alright you smug bastard, it worked.
One corner has always just been a collection point for odd cutoffs and sawdust, plus random bits of junk.
One of the largest sources of general clutter was my assortment of random bits of various types of wood and metal. I had four boxes of small pine boards and a 3' high stack of 3'x6"x1/2" 11-ply hardwood plywood (birch?) bits that were eating up all my shelf space under the cabinet.
So I pulled all the crap out of the wasted corner, vacuumed up all the sawdust, plastic dust, metal fragments (the horizontal bandsaw is over there, and due to its requirement to be a certain distance from the back wall in order to be useful, it makes that corner hard to do anything with), cobwebs and carpenter ant shit, then put a big TV box in the corner. I assembled all my various bits of scrap and tossed all the wood into the box. All the metal (angle iron, bar stock, various bits of pipe and fittings) went into a big drawer under my work bench.
Then I moved to the tool cabinet, which was a mess. I had two empty toolboxes and a couple of little tote tray things full of junk, plus a stack of shingles, some odd windchime chimes, a digital timer, a soldering iron, some sanding belts and sundry other things under there. A can of Bondo had opened and dumped part of its contents on some of the junk in one of the tote things.
That one went in the trash, junk and all, except for the 100' dog chain I'm keeping for some reason. Everything else got pulled out, gone though, and sorted into piles. Since I had freed up shelf space by moving the boxes of wood, I put most of my jigs onto the shelf, along with various other things I can't quite remember. On the floor, I arranged the empty toolboxes to take up less space, and put my socket set and a couple of other logical things on top of the pile of shingles.
I left the treadmill belt sander where it was, against the back wall, but I put a roll of vinyl flooring and various metal rods and assorted rocket launching accoutrements behind it to better use the space. (I have a real belt sander now, but I'm keeping the thing because I will surely find a use for the motor and rollers some day.)
I moved to the cheapo shelf thing that holds my bench grinder. Pulled all my drill press jigs and sundry bits out, vacuumed, dusted, and organized. All the various wrenches for various tools went into the tray from one of the toolboxes. All my windchime making jigs, drill press vises, fences, and other attachments went onto one of the shelves. My Forstner bits and my good wire drills went on top, since I almost never use the bench grinder, and that keeps them close to the drill press.
Next I vacuumed all the shavings off the drill press and its base, waxed up the column, quill, chuck, and table. Then I moved on to the workbench, tossing wood scraps into the wood scrap box, metal scraps into the metal scrap box, leaving my tape measure, marking pencils, and the components of the project I'm working on on the main area of the workbench, with my bar and angle iron stock neatly arranged toward the back.
I went through my little drawers and consolidated them, then I dumped several boxes of nails and screws into drawers, arranged my soldering stuff on top of the thing, and drilled some holes in one of the studs to make places to stick my center punch and a couple of oddball drill bits. I made a home for my de-barking (walking sticks) butcher knife, a container full of pop rivets, my safety glasses, ear protectors, and bow saw. Then I put my various ball pein and claw hammers back on the pegboard, put my tin snips, high tension hack saw and a couple of crescent wrenches back up. There are still some empty pegs because my box end wrench set has gone missing, and I no longer remember what was supposed to go on some of the others.
Then I moved on to the laundry basket full of crap under the end of my work bench. Worked through it, got all the shed stuff out to the new shed, including the basket. I found shitloads of damage in that corner, so I vacuumed up all the carpenter ant/termite shit, spider webs, spiders, earwigs, and various dirt and dust, then I sprayed termite killer all over that wall of the shed. (The people who built the thing did a bad job, and it's going to rot and/or get eaten eventually. Nothing I can do but buy time. Wood sitting on the ground is termite bait.)
Next I worked through the floor. Scraps to the appropriate scrap box, tools in a pile. Some tools went to the cabinets, some to the pegboard above the workbench, and my large collection of assorted random screwdrivers, knives, pliers, and various other things from broken sets all went into one of the tote things, under the workbench. All the miscellaneous bits of salvaged hardware, left over hardware, and just generally potentially useful random bits of crap went into the random bits of crap dishpan under the workbench. My circular saw, two jigsaws, portable sander, and portable drill went onto the shelf under the workbench. My heavy truck S-cam metal shaping doodad went under the bench, and my small sledge hammer went onto the floor beside one of the bench legs.
Then I vacuumed the workbench, scraped all the crud off my anvils (railroad track and a small chunk of I-beam), scrubbed all the flux and solder and lead crud from around my bench vise, and waxed the vise and anvils with steel wool. I put the pop riveter, tenon marking doodad, rubber mallet and sundry other things on the pegboard, then I went around everything with a carpenter's pencil and drew outlines and wrote names on the wall.
Next I pulled out my router table and table saw, vacuumed under them, sprayed termite killer, vacuumed out the corner, put my pipe clamps in order, put my shop vac accessories in the corner, put the shop vac in the corner, and vacuumed the rest of the floor. I decided to dump a lot of random finishing nails, screws, and assorted other bits of useful but difficult to pick up crap, and vacuumed until the floor was mostly clear of debris.
Then I made places to hang my crucible (for pouring lead into Pinewood Derby cars, mostly) my Coleman lantern, my roll of fishing line and rigged up a way to hang my box fan.
Then I swept everything, and made a final pass, discovering that I still had a flower pot and a set of mostly broken drill bits on the drill press table. I found homes for all that stuff, then I put my bicycle back into the shop, move the shop vac hose to the belt sander dust port, turned off the lights, locked up the door and popped open a beer.
It took me ten hours to clean all that shit up. I hope you're happy! ;)
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Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
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My shop is a garage.
The biggest tool I own is a 1993 GMC Sierra 1500 ClubCab LongBox. We call it the "Lumber Limo".

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Hey, Tom,
Do you have a website with pictures of your shop? I would love to get a real view of how you organize everything. I think it would be instructive to see in pictures what you've said in words here.
Mike
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There are a LOT of inquisitive idiots.
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