Health/Environment:  As the year draws to a close, a survey of what we’ve gotten done over the course of the year makes for an interesting cup of tea.

On the plus side, we haven’t missed a column, health is good, Peoplenomics has been spectacularly good at being on the “right side” of the market.  And we got a non-fiction book done.  Along the way, the ranch has never looked better, and we’re more than adequately prepped for what could be snow here Monday and again about this time next week.

Still, there are always projects and a discussion and one of the ways to make these all go easier is to organize your shop so your spouse can understand it. Spouses LOVE an organized shop and have been known to roll their eyes and look around their kitchens when males discover a workplace can be organized.  Fortunately, they often reward such “good behavior” or so we’ve told.

(*Continues below)


Don’t have a shop?

If you live in a 300 square foot chicken coop, you don’t need a shop.  But, as you mature and want to take “life into your own hands” there is nothing like a shop to do it in.

When comes to prepping, I’m a huge believer that personal skills evolved as a hobby will be most useful if you ever get into a prepping—> recovery environment.

Just as an example, and especially if you’re in the snowier parts of the country, it is NEVER too late to get a pint of hot-set PVC glue, a can of fresh purple primer, odd lengths of PVC, several of each size fitting imaginable.

Over at Lowes, you can pick up pretty good-sized storage boxes; the sort made for the back of small trucks.  When you make up a quick dolly out of some 2-by-4’s and spare casters, these are fairly easy to kick under the workbench.  Importantly, they give the illusion of being organized.

To be sure, they’re not.  Still, we have three such boxes:  One is full of electrical parts.  If you need a junction box, switch, timer, or anything else “sparky” this is the first place to look.

Besides the plumbing and electrical boxes, there’s one devoted too the very best of small wood project odds and ends.  A lot of people hold to the “one board foot rule” but, as a practical matter, it’s the smaller pieces that are most useful.

Say you’re propping up a ladder and you need a 6-by-6 pad of 1/2-inch wood (*ply would be best for this ap, less apt to split):  Under the 1-board foot rule, there’d be nothing at hand.  So, I figured a nice box of “the small stuff” would be useful.

Organizing hardware is another horrible task.  In generally, there is an area for each of the hardware items, but nothing is a hard & fast rule when laying out your shop.

We have one set of shelves devoted to the miscellaneous stuff:  need some galvanized table leg brackets?  A few hinges?  Maybe a nice long lag bolt…or even some of the larger washers.  Here’s where you go.

I’ve noticed that as hardware gets smaller, it gets even ornerier about getting properly classified.  So there is a roll-around wire rack with shoe box-sized containers with labels.  Things like caulking, a small collection of pulleys, weather-stripping, and even a small 1,000 block and tackle…tiny rig that I’ve never used but once.  It’s an example of how tool sluts like to spend first and fix later.

Fasteners have their own area:  A wooden box-like affair that holds a world-class collection of screws.  As much as possible, we have standardized on Philips head because they are much less prone to having their heads slip out and damaging the work.  Frankly, people who are stuck in “slotted screw land” don’t know much about screwing…so to speak.

We have four roll-around for the decent collection of hand tools.  This started off as one of those $100 Sears Project Centers and first thing you know, we had four.

The top drawer of each as a special purpose:  One of ours is devoted to orphaned sockets.  By the time you sneak up on 69, you’ll find that odd sockets – long separated from their sets – have wound up in your tools.  Also in that top drawer are orphaned Hex wrenches.  Sometimes I think these things migrate in from the woods.  Mentally label this your “twisty things” depository.

The next roll-around top drawer is “squeezy things” which are the hand tools that you grip to get work down.  Pliers, adjustable pliers, gas pliers, slip-joint pliers, Channel-Locks, diagonal cutters (we don’t call ’em “dikes” anymore to avoid pissing of the Dutch and a certain gender group).

Another top drawer is a catch-all for things that aren’t pure twisty or squeezy:  An example would be an eclectic selection of belt wrenches.  Plumbers have ’em and so do diesel mechanics where a variant of the tool constitutes an oil filter wrench.  Sink wrenches ought to be in here, too…again they went out for drinks with the saws last night…

The fourth top draw is for jewelry-making and lapidary goods.  In this drawer you’d find a ring-sizing set, a ring mandrel, assorted small chisels for breaking fine stones, and very small vices.  Eventually, things like jeweler’s dop will live in here, too.  If you don’t know what cabbing of stones is, you won’t need the dop or the dopping sticks.  And if do away with those, you can do with a small diamond saw…

The big drawers have “specials” loosely by category.

One of the drawers in a roll-around is called “saws.” This is where the hack saw, blades, saber saw, blades, miter saw, coping saw, blades, and drywall saw all hang out.

Under that is “saws and bigger” which is where a circ saw (and blades) lives next to a wandering belt sander that hasn’t found a community, yet.

I’ve suggested moving in with the palm sanders over in the woodworking/air tools cabinet, or move into something comfortable in Blow Molded Boxes Land.  BMBL is under the center bench and everything birthed in a BMB lives there.  Router, Zip saw, planer, router, router bits case, And on…

Back to the roll-arounds, there’s a welding drawer that’s one of my favorites:  Tips for 0.30 and 0.35 MIG welding, assorted Fluxcore and plain, long-arm gloves, hand shield, welding pliers (they didn’t fit in “squeezy’s”) and such.

The Air Tools drawer is one of my favorites.  A small die-grinder, air-powered file, air-powered metal saw, lots of adapters, tire gauge, and on goes that one.  A fun drawer.  Air ratchet and impact set is in here, too.  Just gobs of fun…

These are just where a few things are here, but it’s to point out that there can never be too many drawers (you’ll fill them all up)_ and you can never have too much bench space (it fills up, too).

Bottom line:  Other than a trip to Lowes for hot set and PVC pipe and cutters and joints and… there’s no better salve for a relationship than a spotlessly clean shop.

Write when you get rich,

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