Whether you are swinging a hatchet or turning a ratchet, its only human to think of the improvements the tool in hand could have. The hatchet could be sharper, or have a better fitting handle. Is fiberglass better? Or is hickory better if the aim improved? The ratchet could free itself of the socket better, or maybe have better ergonomics for one handed operation .
When I think of a project to build in the shop, I not only think of what tools could make the project a better build, but also what placement of my current tool selection would make the build more efficient.
I then think of material. I go through my stacks of barn wood and find the perfect piece. It only has thirty nails, some broken in half, some so curled that they will never come out. The piece is too perfect to not use it. I pull some nails, cut around the others. My tablesaw and planer find the remaining nails.
After getting some of the material worked up, I get online and look at a new router that will make the simple bench that much easier to put together. I then think if I get that new router, then logically, I’d use it to replace the one in my router table. I don’t like the way my router table is set up, I’d like a new dust collection box on it, a dedicated outlet for the router, and hardline the dust collector to it. While I’m messing with the dust collector, I better just go ahead and build a shed for it outside and punch a hole through the cinder block wall so the dust and noise can be contained out of the shop. Why not make the shed big enough to house the compressor too? They are both going to need 220v outlets, on seperate breakers. I’d need to insulate it and then have a way to make up an air return so my woodstove wouldn’t think about combusting the shop air. While I’m a it, I sure would like to relocate my lathe, and set up another tablesaw dedicated to dados.
I get started sweeping up around the router table. I notice a mess in the far end of the shop. I tend to that mess. I start a fire in the woodstove to burn the scraps I dug out of the mess. The fire feels nice. I better get some graph paper and sit down by the fire and draw out the dust collection box for the router table. While drawing it, I think if I have the piping necessary for it. I get up and look. Another mess is spotted. I clean the mess by moving it from one side of the shop to the other. Now there is a gaping hole where the mess was. I fill it with items.
Now, lets build a bench…wait we don’t have the router. I guess we’ll just sweep the shop instead.
The funny part about the story above is its literally the battle I have every time I think about going to the shop.
A few days ago I set out to make X of these. “X” ended up being 50 and “these” turned out to be keepsake boxes. I wanted to have an inventory of something that just about everyone could afford and appreciate. I wanted it to more or less be a vehicle to advertise my shop. I wanted something that used up some of the highly figured cut-offs I’ve kept in the scrap cart for entirely way too long. I wanted to build something I could easily reproduce, getting faster and faster each time I would do so.
I admit, I did spend the first two hours of the build cleaning the shop, and then another half hour building jigs to use for the project. My thinking that if I build 50 of anything, it leads to the same repetitive tasks, and its transitioning from one task to the next where I was most likely going to make a mistake in a messy shop. As for the jigs, well, if I had to measure and mark over six hundred pieces to make these 50 pieces, well I’d lose the tiny bit of brain matter that I have left.
The keepsake box is simple. Mitered corners, slot to receive the base, dovetail splines, and a lid rabbeted to fit the interior walls of the box. The smaller the object, the more chances it will have of being scrutinized. With that thought in my mind, and with the desire to build 50 boxes as fast as possible, I opted for making a simple sled for the tablesaw. This sled incorporated a few different stop blocks, so it could cut all of the pieces (minus the dovetail splines). I pulled out my three foot long dovetail spline jig that I built when I was in my early twenties (I don’t believe I was compensating for anything with the length of the jig!).
I honestly don’t know what happened, but the focus, the speed, the efficiency that the clean shop added….it was a wonderful experience. A simple extremely repetitious project (two things that normally drive me batty) sailed smoothly through assembly. My router performed flawlessly. I just had the shopvac hose mounted through the fence and it picked up 90% of the dust. My bandsaw after a bit of tweaking was cutting just as true as my tablesaw. The only problem was the level of sandpaper. My go-to sander blew its pad out the other day and I was running low on my most used grit of paper. This led to another milestone.
I absolutely cannot stand to buy something and not have it in my dirty hands, but I needed the sanding pad and sandpaper in a bad way, so I got on amazon and had it here the following day for cheaper than what it would have cost me to go to Roanoke and get it. It took all the strength I had to do such a thing. Amazon and I have what you would call a Hate-Hate relationship. They hate me because I boycott them. I hate them because every time someone buys a piece of furniture form me and has me ship it across the continental U.S. or beyond, they feel that a price of $100 is too much for the custom cardboard box with inner plywood shell, the bubble-wrap, the two rolls of packaging tape, insurance, shipping costs, and the time I have in packaging it. Thanks for that, Amazon Prime!
Amazon, you win for now. I’m throwing a little love your way. But my victory is far greater. I have a clean(er) shop, clean vision, and can’t wait to package and mail 50 boxes. Amazon, could I borrow some labor?
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. I feel that Valentine’s Day encompasses the partner you desire, your family, and your coworkers/boss. I’m not saying you should hire out Cupid to shoot arrows at all of those targets, but I am saying that you take them all into consideration. Chocolates are nice, and so are cards. Cards get disposed of and chocolates..well, they get disposed of too after awhile. Something that could be of use would be a much better idea for a gift. Why not a keepsake box? You best get two of them, that way you won’t feel like too much of an ass when you end up keeping one of the boxes you originally purchased for a gift. …..
Here is a link to purchase: