TIPS and Lessons Learned

I have hopes that others will share their personal tips and lessons learned....
1. Shop Air conditioning. (Home)... I have a odd shop arrangement. The garage started as a very wide single-car garage, with pass-through doors at both ends, and then another single car garage was added on back. (Tandem garage) It is actually a bit larger than most standard double car garages. It is reasonable well insulated. Two years ago, I installed a small, 8000 BTU, window air conditioner. In the summer months, I turn on the air conditioner the first thing in the morning, and then turn it off at night. This allows the unit to condition the air, in the cooler morning hours. (Remember, all those big cast iron tools hold a lot of heat.) When afternoon temperatures rise into the 90's that single unit will moderate the inside temperatures by 12 to 15 degrees. If the afternoon temperatures exceed 100, the shop will become uncomfortably warm.
Shop dust has not been a problem, other than the foam filter in front, does have to be cleaned regularly. The air moving, over the cooling fins, keeps them reasonably clean. Occasionally, blowing out the fins with a air compressor is recommended.
The air conditioner was purchased from a local gent that repairs them for a hobby. He charged me 15 dollars for the unit. So far, it has performed very well. If it dies, I'll take it back to the same guy, and trade it for another one.
2. When designing a new shop area, as far as I'm concerned, THE initial consideration is to think about wood storage. Woodworkers, almost invariable end up with pieces of wood, too good to throw away, and even in hobbyshops, these quickly become a problem. Solve this problem first. Consider tool position second.
3. Shop cleaning. I have a Powermatic dust collector, and I use it. I've discovered that dryer vent hose and fittings work just as well as some of the dedicated (and expensive) dust collector piping.
4. Shop cleaning. I do not like walking around in sawdust. I end up tracking it in the house, and causing marital disharmony. It's very difficult to get a really good finish in a dusty work area. Over 20 years ago, at an auction, I purchased a cheap electric leaf blower. Now, I open a garage door and simply blow out the entire area. Providing the small tools, (nails, screws, etc, are contained), it is a very quick process.
Cravat: Be careful. Blowing dropped screws and nails into your driveway is not productive.
Cravat: If you live in a sub-division, pay attention to which the wind is blowing. Covering a neighbors car with blown wood dust is not conducive to good relations, or in my case, required me to accompy my neighbor to the local car wash and pay for washing his truck.
5a. Tool care. I have found that there is a great unit for keeping non-electrical tools in pristine condition, and that's the dishwasher. When doing home maintenance on lawn mowers, or the truck, I haul all my hand tools into the kitchen and run them through a cycle in the dishwasher. With the drying cycle turned on, the grease is removed, AND the tools are blown dry, so rusting is not a problem. A quick swipe with a slightly oiled rag, afterwards is recommended.
The dishwasher will not remove existing rust. Some tools, specifically old/antique planes, are really prone to rusting, even with the drying cycle. Immediate attention, with some paste wax is recommended.
CAUTION: I've never had any problem with japanning, but I have had old paint removed, and the process will remove any patina, especially on the wooden parts, like the handle and the knob.
Using a dishwasher on non-chromed tools probably should be approached with extreme caution. and NEVER used on a collectable tool.
5b. Occasionally, it is possible, when washing alot of greasy tools, that there will be a slight aroma of petroleum left in the dishwasher.. Empty the dishwasher and do another cycle.
5c. I've found that the dishwasher will do a creditable job with buildup on circular saw blades.
5d. NEVER attempt this process, when SWMBO is home.
6. I've found that good cabinet saw, properly tuned, with very good saw blade, (60-80 tooth) will usually produce a glue ready edge. Most of the time, I don't even bother with the jointer. For me, it's a gigantic pain in the butt to achieve perfect alignment with joint knives, even with some modern gadgets. I've noted that some of the high end jointers now have corrugated bases on their knives. When the knives are machined sharpened, they are all sharpened with the different knives exactly the same distance from the grinding wheels. Then, when the knives are installed, the corrugations on the base of the knives, fit precisely in matching grooves in the cutter head. Perfection can be achieved in a matter of minutes.
I will probably never buy a new jointer, but if I did, it will have this arrangement.
7. Out of habit, with the large tools, I usually purchased a mobile base right along with the tool. Experience has shown me, that in my case, the mobile bases are pretty close to waste of money. After running power outlets, and dust collection piping, leveling (etc) I'm NOT going to be moving those tools very often.
8. I highly recommend taking the time to level all the tools and workbenches. I use the disguarded plastic slats from a two-inch widow blind for shims. They are rugged, non-compressible and can be easily cut to any desired length.
9a. Check your levels. I use a simple method. I place he level on a wall, and then, center the bubble as close as possilible. I draw a line. Then I flip the level end for end and repeat the process. If the second line is not exactly over the first line, then the level is not true.
9b. A square, (framing or otherwise), that isn't perfect, is pretty close to worthless. The internet provides methods of truing a framing square. But, I know of no method of truing a worn a tri-square. (Any suggestions)
10. On a good level, the bubble will exactly touch the inner set of lines when perfectly level. On most levels, you will note that there is usually two sets of lines, the second set, slightly outside the first set. I am reliably informed that if the bubble touches either one of the outside lines, then the level is at exactly the right slope for draining water. Useful for plumbing and flatwork applications. (I actually made it quite a few years without knowing what that second set of lines was all about.)
11. ALL my metal tool boxes, and over the years, I've acquired several, have a piece of outdoor carpeting applied with contact cement, to the bottom of the tool box. It stops the tool box from rusting, and stop the box from scraping hardwood floors, when a clumsy oaf (like me) inadvertently kicks the box.
12. For years, I would glue a strip of carpeting to the tops of my saw horses. It worked well, but eventually, the carpet would be spotted with glue and paint drips, dirt and this usually meant throwing away the sawhorse. Now, I take the time to create a disposable top, usually of 1/2" plywood. I do not finish the wood top. I've found that I do want a bit of friction between the top and the piece of wood I've sawing or sanding.

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Do you dump your used motor oil down the drain also?

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I'm sure he's not talking about globs of grease and such. Plus I bet that you wash more oil and grease from your hands in one washing then you would get off an entire set of tools. I know I have. Personally, I would not wash my tools in the dishwasher, I normally just use a rag and clean them up that way. However if for some reason they were to get grit on them Well then I would just throw them into the parts washer.

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Amused wrote:


This only becomes apparent when you start buying more wood than you need for the project at hand. THEN it can become a real problem. While sheet goods are best stored flat, that doesn't make it very accessible. So figure on storing vertical
Here's my ply storage in its context
If you work with solid wood, a miter saw with tables near the door, with shelves for wood above and behind it lets you do initial "junk" removal right away - split ends, non square ends, torn up parts, knotty areas etc.
If I had it to do over again, I'd put the board storage shelves behind my SCMS. put my wall hanging tool cabinets on the opposite wall - and turn my workbench around. Too late now - but
Here's my wood stash in context - right rear corner and right wall

Get the dust collector as close to the big chips and dust generators - drum sander, joiner, planer and table saw.

Works for saw dust - not so good with what comes out of a joiner or planer, or the stuff handtools generate around the bench chips and chunks and little cut offs - and the little trapezoids handcutting dovetails produce.
A few floor sweeps off the dust collector works well, especially if you have a compressor.

While chromed wrenches and sockets might be ok - I'd never put a chisel or plane or handsaw in a dishwasher, aside from what it'd do to the wood handles. Anything with a cutting edge should not have hardwater build up on it from "cleaning". And I don't think getting cast iron hot is a good idea - if you want flat backs/bottoms and flat sides square to the bottom , , ,

Haven't seen that one but it sounds like the best of both worlds - set up only once AND the ability to shift knives left or right after one encounter with an "edge dinger".

If by "level" you mean all the contact points of the big stationary tools being in contact with the floor - yes. If you mean having their tables parallel to the surface of the earth - yes for the workbench - tools have a harder time escaping off the bench top that way.

YES! Better to KNOW than to ASSUME.

Sharp tools and metal enclosures shouldn't go together. Wood is much easier on them - look nicer - and don't rust .

When sawing on saw horses - sheet goods cutting down to managable sizes jive old pine works - and is easier on the blade's teeth.
TASK LIGHTING! Put a gooseneck or the like task lite on or near any thing that requires seeing critical things - miter saw, mortiser, drill press, router cabinet etc.
One often overlooked - get some of the tool UP where you can see what you're about to do - miter saw, drill press table.
Add a bigger table to your drill press and include some T-track to hold a fence and/or hold downs. Having a piece of wood start spinning on the end of a big forstner bit is not fun. DAMHIT (see forstner bit with 15 degree angle in the shank)
Running water, cold only ok but hot and cold preferable, a sink and a drain line, preferably a sewer line.
Metal cabinet for flammables, like shellac, lacquer thinner, alcohol and all the oil finishes that accumulate over time. Mine are in a double walled "flammable storage" unit with spring loaded doors that close automatically. This thing has 5 inches between the bottom of the metal cabinet and the bottom of the doors - don't want flaming liquids leaking out of this puppy.
And while on the subject of fire - FIRE EXTINGUISHERS - halon preferable - less post fire rust removal. Put three or four in each major shop space - one near the door in case you have to leave BEFORE the fire is out.
That should do it for my first cut at the topic
charlie b

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