ShopTalk Sunday: Small Workstation or Big Playstation?

Once you know that there is essentially no difference between what the social conventions call “WORK” and what some of us call “PLAY”, then term “workstation” becomes interchangeable with “playstation.” 

[Sony lawyers notwithstanding, but our use is in the generic sense, not the product anchored wordmark (2 cap letters), and there is plenty of prior art.  (I have to give legal the weekends off…)  Like we can use imagineer with no fear.  Prior art for imagineering derived from an aluminum company in 1946. But as a tool slut with an imagination, you should know this stuff.  Forgive me, but with a patently unconstitutional Bidenista “trute squad” masquerading as meaningful, one can never be too careful!’ It’s just another reason we believe in getting hammered prior to being nailed…]

What turns an otherwise boring used double-wide in the woods into a transporting and growth-friendly creativity mecca is nothing more than following some simple rules of Life. Among which:

  1. You can do ANYTHING in Life, but not EVERYTHING.
  2. Whatever you do, it’s done best with the right TOOLS.
  3. And the tools work best logically grouped at a workstation.
  4. It’s there the workflow is optimized.
  5. And money is saved, depending on your tooling addiction.

An Example Workstation 

A few Sundays back, I put up a picture, in passing, of the most embarrassing corner of my shop.  It’s the area from the wood storage area (corners are good for that because you can lean everything (and everything) up against a wall) over to the shop double doors.

Double doors?  Of course!

All serious shops need double doors.  I will never forget when Pappy decided to build his own fishing boat.  8.5 -foot Pram design, built with attention to detail in the home’s basement shop up in Seattle.  Bronze fastened.  It was a “car-topper” before that was vogue (and plastic or Kevlar for today’s whimps who can’t shoulder 90 pounds on an off a car).

Thing is, though, the finished pram almost didn’t get out of the basement.  He’d forgotten to measure the door correctly (didn’t account for the freeboard of the boat) which meant hinges had to come off the green shop door.  Accompanied by some gen-u-ine firehouse “don’t talk like that.”  (I still don’t know what a bald-or-bastard calf is, for example.)

From that point on, if any real work was to be done, the room containing it would have a wide sliding door or double doors.  My “doubles” were a $35 garage sale find and dickering 10-years ago.  Projects need to age a couple of years sometimes.  It’s like art that way.

Back to this week’s adventure: there was this ugly corner in Ure’s messy shop:  A catch-all desk and piles of piles…

the first step was to reorganize things and fix up the crummy desk with a fresh coat of hard cabinet paint.  That (and moving the piles around) made an immediate improvement.

Desk cleared, some of the tools and supplies for the workstation/playstation were laid out. Storage is one skill I have never figured out.

Here, for example, is the air brushing gear.  There are pourable acrylics and three or four air brushes, some hoses, adapters, more paint, cleaning pot, solvents…you see the pile. Oh, yes, the compressor, too.  With shop air overhead as a backup.

Shortly after this snap, a similarly sized pile for the styrofoam carving project tools rose (planned, not started yet) which means that’s a great way to recycle Amazon packing materials).  And all the Dremel tool add-ons and accessories.  Last item  was ONE of the gun cleaning kits and a couple of quarts of Hoppes (which was on sale for under $14 a quart).

Empty space is the rarest item in a busy shop.

Since this bench will be used for gun cleaning, too…another story:

Come to find out, son G2 is a fan of an alternative, CR-something gun cleaner.  And some of his friends (the real-deal operators club merc types) are all about barrel snakes and such.  Me? Bore sight boredom if you ask. If a couple of passes with a brass brush, Hoppe’s #9 a few patches after that, and some Royal Purple MaxFilm doesn’t work, well that’s why God made boot guns, grenades, and running shoes, right?

Any who…Next step in this adventure was to build and load up the shelves.  Which began like this (after first making some shelving):

Best thing for tools at the work position is one of those magnetic strips – long one here -24-inches worth.

Now (more or less done) there are scissors, small pliers, picks and doodads all along it.  Overhead a big LED work light is offset just left so reflections off shiny things (like a P85 Ruger in the gun vise) won’t create glare when being coated. (Less glare off the G17s – plastic.  Which doesn’t need much bluing touch-up, lol.).

Eventually, it began to look like this:

On the left is a 16-inch scroll saw which is fine for really tiny work like PCBs and thin Baltic birch (or styro).  And there is (which all ham radio types will envy depending on how severe the disease is) is a coil winding machine!

Zoom in on the left side for my other eBay “tool slut specials”?

On the left is a (semi-rare) Dremel 4-inch table saw.  And on the right is the Dremel mini wood lathe.

Point here is that the workflow can be (roughly) left to right with the left being where a “left return” on a desk would is.  (Easier for a righty to answer the phone (with the right hand) when the machines are left; you follow, I hope?)

Spins on the Small Project Bench

The main uses of this bench (at least as planned and built so far) are to do small craft projects.  Make picture frames.  Do styro carving, gun cleaning, model building, air brushing, and who knows what else?  Sitting still work, not standing stuff.

No Ship?

I got a wild hair because part of this build that tickled the “build a model” itch.  I think every young male goes through the process:  Build a model car, model airplane, model ship, and it all roughs-out – if you let it – a kind of “sneak preview” of what directions their life might go.  Then we outgrow our dreams.  When we retire there’s a chance to rediscover them.

Anyway, a famous 1970’s Portland ship model builder (Carl Hanson) was a friend of the family when growing up (I may have mentioned this).  When we visited he and his wife in Portland (long before the commies took over) he was turning out a couple of detail perfect square riggers per year.

They were each about 30-inches, or so, in length (not counting the bowsprit).  And he was prone to “salty talk” about the calibre of model kit designers. Inch high figures and the “old man” (the Master) was smoking a pipe. These were days when Master meant “boss” of a ship.  Before modern political linguistic expropriation.

This line is in the wrong place!  It goes on the starboard side, not port!” I remember Carl saying as I watch for a while.  Asked how he knew such trivia; there were hundreds of lines going everywhere on one of the old steel lumber-hauling square riggers.  Looking like spider webbing at age 10.

People lose sight of the fact these ships still plied the Portland and Seattle runs to Asia right up through the 1920s.  Early 1030’s the last of ’em went out.  Low cost and gee, small carbon footprint if it wasn’t for the clear-cutting all the way up the coast.

You can still see pictures of tall-masted ships at Seattle’s Museum of History And Industry, if they have them up.  *(One of Pappy’s retirement pastimes was being a docent at MOHAI – he knew the city inside and out as a Depression onset grad of Queen Anne high school there would.)

Anyway – to make a long story longer – this no doubt influenced me to live on a sailboat which I did for over 10-years and it now explains why two things happened this week.

First, it occurred to me that even though “on the hard” now, I still have traces of salt water in my veins and I got to thinking building a complex ship model might cure me of that.

Secondly, it explains why I bought a book this week:  Frank Mastini’s “Ship Modeling Simplified: Tips and Techniques for Model Construction from Kits.”

Third thing?  Halyards for up and down, lines and sheets are more on the level.

Anyway, point of this section is to say a small projects bench can run off anywhere your heart leads.  Take Nostracodeus programmer Grady.  He likes to build stringed instruments. Very good at it, too.  If he were to purpose-build a luthier’s workbench it would lead in that stringy direction. Mar-free clamps and so forth.

Others – who like guns and shooting, for example, – like G2 -could spin over to a reloading bench (with a second or third side order of whatever).  A Ducks Unlimited supporter might carve decoys.  Or maybe a hunter would build antler chandeliers…see how this rolls?

Or,, maybe I will just sit with a white board marker….

Shop Projects = Anti-Aging

With all the focus in my life presently on Workstations and Workflows, it occurs to me to recall how some of the work of my friend Cesare Marchetti (who was instrumental in my thinking about Aggregate indexes evolving) comes to play in aging studies.

Specifically, he did a lot of work on what because known as S-Curve analysis.  He is also the father of Marchetti’s constant.  Which (being a physics buff, which we all are, right?) proposed that in any historical age, the amount of time spent going to and from work has been about 20-50 minutes one way for the past 100-plus years.  (More in the discussion of Marchetti’s constant – Wikipedia).  London commute in the 1890s or L.A. tomorrow morning on the 405, 20-40 minute commutes are common. Each way. Even with an early start.

Anyway, when we were corresponding (and I was still doing papers for the odd conference on this or that) Marchetti had this stochastic growth thingamajig called the S-curve. Which said what?

If you had a lot of neat breakthrough stuff going on when you were young (before 25, or so) then you have a good chance of doing another S-curve of personal growth in your 60s and 70s. You can get a sense of how this works by reading “Determination of the Uncertainties in S-Curve Logistic Fits” by Debecker and Modis. Or not, it is Sunday, after all.

The oversimplified idea is that the reason learning a new language (age 60 and above) is easier, is that humans naturally seem to have this second logistic curve kicking in as we get to the end of this ride.  With a single logistic curve, you miss second childhood and where’s the fun in that?

May be that’s why things fit so neatly in Ure’s view of the world as a “training ground” for Universe as Co-Creators in Training.  We go through one S-curve in figuring out this life. Then, if lucky, we launch on another logistic growth curve and go off on another creative realization curve.  It’s all quite grand how it works….

So much for brain food.

Problem Solved!

Been trying to think of where to put all the boxes of 3D printing filament I keep on hand for this project, or that.  There are usually 10-20 such boxes.  And they take up space.

This week came up with the “right answer” – a back of the toilet organizer shelf!

Got a 3-tier shelf (like this one which will be here in time for possible installation this weekend).  Sure, it was $70 bucks with shipping and some “Don’t fall over brackets, y’hear?

Wide enough to get the Ender-3 or CR-10 under (and still have room to install an LED downlight) it looks to be deep enough if I secure it to the back of the “3D printer farm” table with the aforementioned brackets.

Looking Ahead

There is more fun stuff going on around here than I can shake a stick at.  Both Garden Room and the way-high raised bed are doing fine with fresh veggies coming out including radishes now and some Romaine.  Squash will be along any minute – the wee ones are about 2-inches long now.  Memorial Day here we come!

What Next? You tell me…

I would like some feedback on future ShopTalk articles.  Got a ton of ideas and  you get to pick ’em,  Let me know if any of these projects sound like good fun:

  • Restoration: Ure’s $50 radial arm saw rescue.
  • Off-Road Welding:  How to make a retail welding cart useful.
  • Hose Repairs: Sometimes mowers happen.
  • Advanced power yard maintenance.
  • Higher performance Off Center Fed Antennas.
  • OR:  Make something up and send it in!

Off to DO.  But first?

One for the Road!

I don’t know where I saw these first, but there is a great little product – nice and cheap and (look surprised here)…comes out of Asia.  Called String Gloves.  They are cheap – think they pencil out to 85 cents a pair…like these.

Anywise, the point is these gloves are great for mowing the yard and washing up the mower after in hot weather.   Plus they are vastly cooler than leather work gloves at this time of year. Not tightly woven – exact opposite, in fact.

Here’s a fresh pair after one go-round mowing a couple of acres around trhe house:

string gloves

Keeps the sun (and a lot of the dirt) off your hands.  Being white, they don’t absorb as much heat as darker colored gloves in the summer.  The weave is really loose and it wicks away sweat like mad.

the red clean green machine
Nothing makes mowing better than a clean, comfortable rider with a season of gas on hand.

Might look a little silly, perhaps, wearing “white gloves” while zooming around on the mower, but they also double as wash-mitts when done.  Which is when the tractor gets a bath following a race around the yard.

You’ve been out in the woods too long when the tractors get washed more often than the car…

Alrighty…off to work on things and such.  Got to get some tuning done on one of the HF antennas.  About time for the Special Event ham radio station to be on the air up at Indianapolis if memory serves. I think I missed the first window this year…

(And if memory doesn’t, Google does… 2022 W9IMS Special Event Station Details! | The SWLing Post.)  OK, down the electric bill then…

Write when you get rich,

ShopTalk Sunday: Ladder Rescue – Super Booth – Manpack HF

Oh, boy. This morning’s report will be a “two cupper” – and maybe three cups – if you study the ideas, problems and pictures of today a little bit. There is so much going on around here it’s, well, amazing.  This writing less and doing more is turning out to be most agreeable.

We’ll get to our first work – the Ladder Rescue Project – in a sec. What happens with time (and goal) management, though, is really interesting.

Doing More – By Doing MORE

If you remember, I vowed to take a little “extra time in the shop” and cut down my writing a bit.  Less chair time.

So, a near book-length outline of an improved (and practical) system of Pomodoro-based time-management is in the works now – with respect to Francesco Cirillo (The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work) and Cal Newport  who wrote Deep Work. I’m hitting productivity levels of a “man possessed” i30-years younger.

The magic (at least for me) has been using a modified Pomodoro approach (Cirillo) while honoring Newport’s Big Things take real.

I’ll get into that (when other things are less pressing) over on the website.  I will say that ever since I found more joy in work – by wrapping it up in a spreadsheet to randomly organize everything in a complicated life – which Peoplenomics subscribers can download in spreadsheet form from here – I have been maniacally focused on getting more done in less time.  And having more fun!

Going Deeper…

This gets around to a fundament thought-into-action concept called iWAMP.  That’s short for the continuous question: “Is What’s Around Me Perfect?”  Because to find out what’s really important to do at moment, all we need to do is look around and spot areas of “imperfection.”  World’s an imperfect place.  Unlimited opportunity for improvement, right?

Since we can each do anything, but life is too short to do everything, we need “Search Criteria” for personal management.  My favorites are Important, Impactful, and Interesting projects to improve-living.

  • Important because ideally, our projects and works should result in a meaningful change in how the Universe expresses itself in our presence.
  • Impactful because these “works and projects” should not be “organizing the angels on the head of a pin” (minutia, meaningless).  Rather they should make things better both personally and for others in our vicinity. Big acts seem to net Bigger Results.  (There may be time lags, however.)
  • Interesting because, as I wrote in my book Packing to Die, a LARGE part of living this Life is about the “game film playback around the time of dying. Which is in the literature (medically) analyzed as the Life Review Process (or Experience).

Never, ever forget that our Lives are like a huge video -and our brains have a miraculous GoPro logging system. A late friend of mine used to end his radio DH show with “You can’t turn your back on your Face.”  

To live a great life there are three critical alignments:

  • As above, so below – Incoming:  We start life with the choice to work with Creator/Universe or fight it.  (Hint: Go with the flow!)
  • During: We need to align our lives, while living, with what we consciously know as our highest purpose.  Fun – do what you love.
  • Exit, Stage Up: And WHILE doing front-end alignment and while “driving through life” alignment, we also need to remain cognizant that we are constantly “rolling game film” with our onboard “dash-cams.”  Playback (with commentary of Others) when you kick it to the LRE.

Life cannot, therefore, be genuinely and deeply experienced sitting still. Doing Big Shit is key.  Little stuff can wait.  Really.

Which is why, when we’re not slicing off small (but semi-regular -;)) day trades, we are really focused on turning our home into a creative Mecca.

Maybe next weekend we can talk about one of the core concepts here:  Workstations for Success!  We have “workstations” for every major task-group in Life around here.  Or, they’re in development…

Whee!  Long get-started discussion, but useful in the longer haul.  Trust me on this.

Ladder Rescue

20-years ago, or thereabouts, we moved to the Outback of East Texas.  For the massive remodel, I bought a wooden ladder.  Stndard 6-footer. And we have just abused the hell out of it.

This week, the paint bucket fold-down fell apart.  It was time to rescue the ladder to ensure it remained useful.


You can see the problem, clear-enough:  Ladder was old and “beat to shit.”  But now came the 2-cups of coffee “thinker” on this one:  What is – to channel Frederick Winslow Taylor -the One Best Way to get the repairs made?  Let’s review some choices:

  • Replace and Upgrade:  Yes, the ladder is 20-years old. Could I update and get a better platform?  Yes.  Only takes money and time.
  • Repair:  This offers a who list of approach choices:
    • Glue:  Use modern adhesives.  Clamp and use in an hour or less.
    • Screw:  Pretend the world has ended and there’s no more epoxy.  What is the lower-tech solution?
    • Re-Do:  Take the assembly all the way apart and put it back into amazing like-new condition.  Recut all broken parts.

Re-Do looked interesting.  But, on closer inspection, the original paint shelf was applied using long-ass staples which we don’t stock in our shop:

Screwing the project together?  The wood was beginning to split, so at least two pieces of wood would be needed.  Thing is, they are riveted to the ladder as pivot points and now we would be back into a mechanical engineering process.  Color me skeptical of rivets.

The right answer led me to the Glue department where we are reasonably stocked.

But please note that Loctite has a couple of “flavors” of 3-thousand pound epoxy.

The Big Project tubes don’t come with two “mixing nozzles.”  (See arrow above).  Make SURE to get the kind for small projects with the mixing nozzle and cap so you can get two small projects if you don’t do a lot of epoxy glue-ups.

In gluing, there is a theory that using Saranwrap can be a useful thing:

It’s all a lie.  While you can try it (as I did), better off using nitrile gloves and just dealing with the fact that gluing is messy no matter what.

When you’ve got glue all over everything, clamp it up:

Come back an hour or two later, paint the repair (and remember not to leave the old wood ladder outside, as much.

Last step:  Old wooden ladders use long “threaded rods” to hold the steps in place.  If your ladder is the least bit wobbly (side to side) odds are tightening up the threaded rods will fix you right up.

Manpack HF Radio

Having had the joy of talking from Texas up to Wisconsin on 3 watts of SSB on the 20-meter ham band, son G2 and I decided to take this portable QRP (low-power) hamming to the next level.

This week, we assembled all the parts needed for a serious HF manpack radio:

About the only thing not shown?  An aluminum framed backpack.  You can find something useful for under $40 online.

The one odd-ball part is a 10-inch UHF (SO-239 female each end) bulkhead fitting.  This 10″ section is pipe-clamped to one side of the backpack.

I also did some antenna modeling and found there’s an inexpensive 2-3 dB of antenna gain possible by just putting on a “radial ring.”  This will be at the top of the bulkhead connector, and will allow 4 to 6,  3-foot sections of aluminum welding rod to be bent onto screws as base ground radials.

Not a fan of having RF right by my head (care for the void, right?).  But can’t be worse than country cooking with 5G, right?

More pictures and notes in a following edition.

Super Booth Project

Going with this “workstations: approach to the shop (and house), I mentioned several weeks back that I was going to clean an area of the shop and put in a “small tools with chair” section.  Big tools are used standing up and small tools can be safely used while seated.

This “small maker’s area” will be optimized for multi-function use:

  • Small square and angle sawing:  Place for our old Dremel Table Saw.
  • Freeform sawing:  Places for the retro Dremel MotoSaw and the larger Skil 16″ scroll saw.
  • Small wood lathe:  There’s a tiny 8X12 Wen mini-lathe that needs a home here.  Wen is discontinuing it, but it’s very good on smaller projects. Pens, models, and such.
  • Metal lathe?  I’m still debating if the small Taig metal lathe should live in this area or stay over in the metal workstation area.  May not move it.
  • Air Brushing Booth (finally, to the point, huh?)  Now we’re into the meat of it…

You see, this week, I decided that a three-sided U shape would likely result since we also need some work/assembly space.  And I came very close to “pulling the trigger” on this (nice) air brushing booth.  Then I saw the $20 shopping charge and moved back into thinking mode. Money matters.

Thing is, it occurred to me we could do this booth thing as a Community Project.  Because what I REALLY want is a dual-purpose booth.  Something that could be used for BOTH airbrush painting AND also has a dust booth for the small CNC machine.

See the problem developing?  Either I need to get a real efficient design going OR I need to have this split into two workstations.  Airbrush supplies alone look like this laid out on the small projects sit-down bench:

By the time I add in all the other small tools (Dremel drill press, router, tool stand and flex shaft, the table saw) and then toss in the small lathe and the scroll saw, this whole “single workstation for small stuff” begins to bump up against dimensioning limits of physical Reality.

For the Booth project, I ordered four booth filters and a 4-inch inline fan for less than $50 and I can make the rest from scrap and build up the filter box and print it on the Creality CR-10.  I might even post the .STL file so others can borrow the idea…

Ranch Tour

Everything in the Garden Room is going nuts.  Wde have more than a dozen yellow squash flowers popping:

Elaine’s happy with the radishes that are nearing edible size:

And out front?  We may be in a national drought, but East Texas lawns still have that “let’s play golf on this” look to ’em:  View from the dirt garden:

One Last Thing: Oil Painting

I decided this week to try and do an oil paint.  Elaine’s already got a “paint station” out on the screen porch…and now there are two easels and sets of paint and….

Why paint?  Well, the process intrigues me.  More to the point, though, I am working on trying to “bring back some view of Dream Realms” and this seemed like a simple way to do it.  Installing a USB port into my brain stem didn’t seem like a “home small shop weekend project.”  Know what I’m saying?

Not really worth showing yet, but it begins to rough-in something like this for the first painting I have in mind:

Might be fun to put a picture of progress on this up, now and then, to see how it “condenses to the physical plane” as I paint in coming weeks.

OK< nothing to do around here, no sir…

Write when you get rich,

P.S.  Click the comments label here to send in your ideas on this multipurpose booth project…