Several items on the Sunday morning coffee list. You pour while I muse.

IQ Versus MQ

The couple up the “mountain” from us became parents a couple of months back – as we were reminded when a post card of their ‘work product’ arrived this week.  Cute kid.

While Elaine and I talked about the boy’s future in uncertain times ahead at cocktails last night, it occurred to me that he enjoyed something of a “lucky birth.”  You see, Life’s  not all about IQ (intelligence quotient).  There’s another kind of quotient that is  at least as important.

MQ –  mechanical quotient.  Thinking versus doing.

This child – is already lucky.  Mom works for the local school district, meaning there is no doubt she’ll make sure the child excels in school.  IQ? No worries there:  Educators tend to have “brighter than average” children for the simple fact that in their households, reading (*knowledge acquisition) is a top priority.

Equally important, though, for an uncertain future is the huge amount of MQ –  mechanical quotient – the young ‘un will receive.  Dad’s been a journeyman mechanic at the high-end German automaker (M) up in the metroplex.  Now he’s making a solid living as a master wrench for a local company.  Toss in skills like hunting (bow) and fishing plus the million-and-one skills around a working farm (yes, even tree farms have welding projects) and you can bank on a high “MQ” young adult to be along shortly.

People don’t think much about the balance between IQ and MQ.  But it’s become apparent to me at a personal level.  When at peak personal productivity, I find getting out into the shop is not only rewarding but sometimes almost  necessary to keep up the  pace.  Some people “doodle.”  I head for saws and welders, and 3D toys…

Elaine picks up sketching pencils and pad, or tosses free weights. Mechanical outlet, right?  My friend Gaye heads for colored pencils.  People are bounded by their IQ and MQ.

ATR – Shop Notes

Done with Tool Stands

(ATR: Around the Ranch)

Neighbor is getting some free tool stands today:  One small, one medium (unassembled, NIB), and a larger one.

This fell out of my “dream shop redesign” – still something of a train wreck, but there’s light.  I’m making benches everywhere.

The smallest of the tool stands illustrates their space-inefficiency.

It’s top is 8″ wide and 9″ deep – depending on how you arrange it.  72-square inches of tool mounting space.

Now it happens that this stand looks a bit like the Eiffel Tower.  Despite the small tool space – which was fine for the grinder that was on it – the bottom is 20 1/2″ square.  That works out to 420.25 square inches of floorspace as the legs spread out down to the shop floor.  Along the way, there’s one metal tray of a shelf.

The ratio of “tool space” to “floor space” is 5.83 to 1.  That is, I get about a 20% usability and frankly, that sucks.

There’s a little value in the open shelf, but in a mixed media shop – where you’ve got the occasional clouds of sawdust all over, open shelving is terrible.  Even with a “blow tip” on  the air hoses (overhead, along with the central vac and power) it’s still more “detail work” to clean up well.  I love project time and have no use whatsoever for cleanup time.

Because stands have bracing?  Can’t put anything under tool stands.  The well-designed (I hope!) large L-shaped bench that is replacing two tool stands, will have plenty of clearance under it for two electric welders and the plasma rig while the two-by-four top (which will be glue-lammed) will hold metal working tools:  Two grinders, a buffer, circ saw sharpener, chainsaw sharpener and maybe the sheet metal bending brake.

Using tool stands-only would eat twice the floor space, cost significantly more, and require a lot more cleaning time.  On a wood bench, some one-by’s and luan sheet will make you cabinet covers for very little coin.  And they can provide some stiffening – resistance to horizontal displacement – as well.

Tool Waxing?

Been studying the problem of tool rust a good bit.  This is the second summer that we’ve run the swamp cooler in the shop a significant amount of time.  

Tools in drawers have been virtually unaffected.  However, the working surfaces of the cast iron table top machines, are another story.

There’s been plenty to watch:  Hardest hit has been a 1/2″ small shaper (Harbor Freight, 10-years old).  It’s not in the direct path of the cool (moist) air, so it’s something of a rust mystery.  May have something to do with the quality of Chinese steel 10-12 years back, however.

The tabletops I’m most focused on are the Rikon 10″ bandsaw and that still new-in-box when I bought it 1978  Toolkraft shaper.

Tried several approaches so far:  WD-40 makes a rust-inhibiting protectant that does OK on the metal lathe.  But, it didn’t seem to work as well on the wide open flat spaces of table tops.  Not sure why.  Another approach was Bo-Shield T-6.  This is an anticorrosion product developed either at (or by) Boeing.  Forget the whole story, but it is dandy on non-ferrous.  Not quite as good on steels.

The product I’m trying now is a high carnauba paste wax.  Don’t know how it will work in the long-haul, but it already is showing some value on the band saw table.  Being wax, the workpieces don’t require as much “Armstrong” and that results in smoother work. Smoothly sliding work –  I can use all the help I can get.

The idea of “monthly machine waxing” has been around as long as metal table tops.  But it may become part of the routine here.  The wax I picked is called  Griot’s and it’s little change from a $20-bill at (sic) Amzoon.

Overhead Shop Accoutrements

Since the shop roof is open, the plan over these “improved work areas” is to add 4-foot LED shop lights.  Easy enough to put in “drop downs.”  Nothing more than a two-by-four, with a short brace at 45-degrees for stability.  Run some #12 and an outlet.  I figure to daisy chain a half dozen overhead outlets and drop power down.

People have odd tastes when it comes to wiring “balance” in a shop.

A fellow who likes wiring will put in a wire run for each tool and proudly proclaim “No power problems or blown breakers, no matter how many machines are running…”

Admittedly, there’s a  certain logic to it:  When you’re talking tools that eat a fair bit of power (like a table saw, planer, or shaper hogging out a deep cut) you could overload and pop breakers.  Here?  There’s no foreseeable reason to be running a second high-draw power tool  at the same time.  Round hole rounder, anyone?

The one exception is the big central vac system.  Which is on the same circuit as the swamp cooler, so it’s loaded pretty well, maybe 10-Amps, or so.  I noticed on a really hot day last week while using the jointer on the same circuit that the breaker popped.  Darkness as a machine spins down…not an ideal OSHA deal…

Whether there’s a payback to putting in an additional outlet?  The jointer will runs fine as is, so long as I don’t push the feed rate too much.  Faster feed rates load the machine and increase current…  By slowing down a bit, no wiring change needed.

The Groundsman  Report

Gotta say, I’m tickled with the lawn results this year.  I’d been running on the #4 setting on the riding mower (out of 6 possibilities).  It worked well until we got into the really hot (*and somewhat dry) July-August window.

I let it go a couple of weeks – and that seemed to keep it greened up better – may have something to do with holding more dew in the mornings – and just did a mowing Saturday at the #5 setting.

Looks great.  Fairway kind of look and a good deal greener than many homes in town.  There’s a time to cut a lawn short, but green in summer can be improved by leaving the scalping instincts parked.  We’ll go back down to #4 and even #3 in a few areas.  Low cut before the onslaught of leaves to blow.  Makes for faster work there.

New Material Alert?

Ever hear of RichLite before?  I hadn’t, either – and I considered myself a fair “home handy bastard” until I stumbled overs the RichLite discussion in the Family Handyman travel trailer rebuild in the recent issue.

Turns out, it’s a wood particle and resin mix that’s been around for 70-years.  And frequently used as the tabletop material in science labs (and in school labs, too).

I know – how could I possibly have missed it?  Well, maybe I just haven’t done enough kitchens to go looking?  Or, maybe I just like the challenge of traditional p-lams (Formica and WilsonArt?).

Go take a look at the RichLite website and sniff around a bit.  Environmentally friendly, too.  A 1/4″ thick and contact-cemented covering for workbench tops of either two-by or 3/4″ ply could fit the dream shop.

What’s the point of working our asses off if we can’t  buy dream pieces at least once in a while?

Write when you get rich,