Sunday, March 29, 2009

My New Shop, Episode 2: It's Still Purple...

But it's framed in!

Mike and Jimmy showed up right on time Saturday morning to get my workshop framed up and work on the electrical bits. I'd spent several hours on Friday night (just before I took pictures for the last blog entry), cleaning the area up in preparation for their arrival. Mike had a shopping list and a cost estimate, so I grabbed the money I'd set aside for materials and we headed to the closest Orange Box store (just five short minutes away, if that).

Jimmy and I started on lumber while Mike went to pick out electrical supplies. We were amazed at the quality of 8' long 2x4's we could pick from! It didn't take us 5 minutes to come up with the 30 boards we needed. Picking out the five 16' boards took a little more time, but not as much as it took us to find the one straight 12' pressure treated board we needed! By the time we found Mike, he was pretty much done, as well. Ten minutes later, we were in the checkout lane. I was pleasantly surprised when the total amount came in at just under $325 (plus I was able to return $27 worth of unused materials this afternoon).

After we got it home and unloaded, I was only able to help out for an hour or so before I had to take off for a few hours. I had to go to a shop tour of Quinn Saw Blades, something put together by the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild. I'm the newsletter editor, so I wanted to be there to better write an article for the next issue. I didn't get back from the tour until almost 1:00 PM, at which time most of the framing was done and Mike was already started on electrical. They had to frame in a steel beam and some duct work and plumbing, so I'll lose a little ceiling height in a few areas, but that can't be helped. It is the cost of building a shop in a basement.

Much of the existing wiring was a hodge podge of sorts, so we took it all out and pretty much started over from scratch. It is now wired to use five shop lights in the main part of the room and three more on the left-hand side over by the windows where the bench will be (I only have two lights up right now; I'll hang the rest after the drywall is up). I went a little "green" at this point, re-using three cam lights behind the steel beam in the back of the room that were pulled out of a room upstairs earlier this year.

I wanted to save as much space as possible while keeping my costs down, so I didn't frame out the concrete walls; I'll just paint those white with semi-gloss paint. The outlets on these walls are high enough that I can put a bank of cabinets along the back wall and have these sit a foot or so above the counter top. The wall on the right is drywalled and we had access to the other side (via the tearing down of the really cheap peg board), so that's why you just see outlets and no PVC conduit there.

That's where we stand right now. I called my little brother the other day and he said he would be happy to come up and help me hang drywall. Before he does that, I need to insulate the ceiling and walls. That's something I can do on my own, of course. Hopefully I'll be able to get it taken care of this week or next.

Unfortunately, the same weekend I decided to make my temporary shop a hectic mess, I got a box commission! And a rush job, at that! So I might have to hang one or two more temporary lights, drag my small bench into the shop space, and make do for a few weeks to try and get this order done.

I was tempted to not accept the order, partly because of the lack of a shop and partly because the time frame is so short (the wedding is on May 2nd, which also happens to be my birthday), but I'm always up for a challenge.

Yeah, I know. My shop is still purple. I'll just have to deal with it for a few weeks, mostly by not looking up from my work if I can help it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My New Shop, Episode 1: It's Purple!

Ok, let's get this out of the way. Yes, I have a purple room in my house. Horrible, innit? In its previous life, it was apparently used as an exercise room. I don't know about you, but it makes me want to high jog in place, singing, "I want to live forever."

Can you see past the purple (it's really more of a lilac, I believe...), though? Can you see the potential? A bank of cabinets against the back wall, pegboard storage above, a nice bench in the middle of the room and a few select power tools along the sides (bandsaw, drill press, scroll saw, and my latest acquisition, an old Delta/Homecraft disc sander). Tomorrow morning, I'll have a small crew of two over, helping me with Part One of turning this purple room into my new workshop!

"Exciting" is not a descriptive-enough word.

The short wall, over by the utility sink, is going to come out. The new wall will be about a foot closer to the sink and will meet up with an extension of the existing wall between the two support poles on the right. It might look tempting to just continue the short wall all the way over, but the steel beam above causes problems if we do that. I can't put a standard-sized door in a wall under the beam, you see. So we'll bring it out a foot and make the door open into the rest of the basement.

We'll just frame it up for a door for now, because I don't yet have it. I have three door requirements causing me issues at the moment. Call it green or call me cheap, but the first is that I fully plan on getting the door I'm going to use off of Craig's List or some place like the Habitat For Humanity store just a few miles from my house. The second challenge is that I need the door to be mostly glass. Because I need a mostly-glass door, it should be an exterior insulated-and-thermal-pane door. The third is that I want the widest door I can get, so it has to be a 36"-er. That makes finding a door from Craig's List or HFH a little more difficult...

Why does it need to be mostly glass, you ask? To be honest, it's for my cat, Petite Chaton Noir (Teeters, for short), as much as it is for me. Teeters is my shop cat, my work partner, my apprentice, and my mentor. Any time I'm doing a project around the house, whether it is hanging curtain rods or hanging a banister, assembling a wall cabinet or working on a box in my make-shift shop, she is there, watching me intensely with her big green eyes and fully-dilated pupils.

Anyone who has ever had a black cat knows just how difficult it can be to photograph one. I think this is a pretty good image of her. Honestly, it's a challenge just trying to catch her sitting still for 20 seconds. She's a bit of a racer...

I'm not yet decided on whether or not I'll be letting her in the work shop with me; she tends to pick up dust easily with her bottle brush tail. But she would be absolutely devastated if she couldn't at least watch me while I was working. So, for her, I will close off my room with a glass door.

Hopefully, tomorrow afternoon will find us with the framing and electrical done. That is pretty much it for the hired help. After that, it will be up to me and my brothers to insulate, hang drywall, tape and mud, paint, and put down the floor. A great friend of mine (the same one who put in the wood floor Teeters is lounging on) owns a carpet and tile store, so he's going to supply me with click-install cork flooring. Once I have everything else done, I'll finish off with that. It should make for an easy-to-stand-on floor that is also tool edge friendly for my more clumsy moments.

I can't really start moving things back in at that point, though. I don't yet have the cabinets for the back wall, so again, I'll be hunting Craig's List or the local papers or the HFH store to find what I need. There is a small section of ceiling behind the beam along the back wall. I recently took out four recessed lights from my living room (replacing them with airtight insulation-rated recessed lights); I'll be adding those back in behind the beam to supply lighting for the cabinet workspace. The rest of the room will be lit with a re-arrangement of the large amount of florescent lights found throughout the basement. I will try to achieve a natural lighting effect with a combination of cool and daylight bulbs.

I have other ideas for storing lumber and things I don't use all the time, like clamps and jigs, but I'll go over that some other time.

For now, I'm going to get some rest. I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow!

In case you're wondering... I have the paint picked out already, and it is "sailcloth white". Goodbye purple walls.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Dark And Stormy Night...

It was a dark and stormy night on Friday, the 13th of February. You would think that I, a 35 year old guy, wouldn’t be anxious on such a night, but I was. It didn’t have anything to do with the weather or the date, though. I was on my way to meet up with Matt, our guild’s secretary, and Jeff Jewitt.

I always get nervous meeting “famous” woodworkers. I was antsy for weeks before my David Marks class and almost skipped dinner with Frank Klausz the night before his weekend conference! But every time I’ve meet one of these “prophets of the grain”, I’ve walked away with a new friend and the realization that they are just ordinary people like you and me. Well… Frank still intimidates me, but if you’ve ever met him in person then you know why.

I thought about all of that as I made my way to Erio’s Pizza and Restaurant, a great local Italian place not far from the airport, where Matt said they were going to eat. I’d called him earlier in the evening to see if they wanted anyone else from the guild to join them and he said they’d love to have me.

I didn’t know I would get to meet Jeff until earlier that night. Heck, I wasn’t supposed to be going to his seminar that next weekend! But through a series of fortunate events, I found myself looking at a Valentine’s Day weekend at home alone while my wife visited her family in Ohio. So I did what any warm-blooded woodworker would do – I signed up for a woodworking seminar! At first, I was hesitant about signing up for a finishing seminar – it sounded a bit boring. But then I realized a good finish is just as important to a project as joinery or design and that I could definitely learn some useful information.

I walked through the front door of Erio’s and glanced around the room for just a second or two before I spotted them; they were an easy pair to find, being the only non-family table in the restaurant. I grabbed the chair across from Jeff and introduced myself.

I have to be honest with you here. As much as I say I’m intimidated meeting well-known woodworkers, I’m actually a very gregarious person. I am quick to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and it was no different with Jeff.

It didn’t take me more than a few minutes to figure out we were separated by fewer than the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. His wife is from a small town just a few minutes drive from my wife’s home town of Akron, OH. His mother-in-law worked in an Akron branch library for many years and my mother-in-law has managed all of the Akron branch libraries for several years and worked in the Akron library system for more than 30! We were both pretty certain they knew each other.

I tried to keep the topic of conversation away from woodworking, knowing that is all he would be talking about for the next two days. He said he tries to live a healthy lifestyle and several years earlier became one of those cycling nuts who gets all geared up with the special outfit and shoes and makes automobiles enter the opposing lane on country roads on Saturday mornings. He also said he wasn’t a vegetarian (and then promptly ordered the vegetarian pizza).

The food was good and the conversation was great. After an hour and a half, though, Jeff wanted to get settled into his hotel room and rest up for the next day. I headed back to my house for the same reason, a lot less anxious and much more excited about the next two days.

(Thank goodness he did get some rest, because he really had to work hard! Check out the power sanding demonstration!)