With the holiday weekend ahead – and a break in summer weather across the South from hurricane Ida, due to come ashore within the day – time to line up projects and tools for the big important projects this Fall.
With this in mind, a quick overview of the first of our Four Shop Operations to build anything.
Sometimes, the order will slide around (slightly) for the last two. I’ve built furniture where the finishing was applied and then the piece final assembly followed. But, for big projects typical of rural life, measure, cut, join, and slap a coat of something on it tends to be the workflow.
Managing Shop Time
The very first thing I measure around the shop is my time.
May seem idiotic (a lot of what I do does…), but I’ve put an entire Time Management Course together for you in two sentences. Ready?
- Make a list and then do it.
- Live Cal Newport’s book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
Sure, you can add the critical eye training course (“Is What’s Around Me Perfect?” [iWAMP]. No need for that, however, until everything on your list for the day is done.
Think I’m kidding about scheduling “my spontaneity?” Here’s my Sunday:
This list – kept in the Tasks part of Microsoft Outlook.
The items in red will be done first because they are carryovers from Friday.
Because there is a long weekend coming up, a fair bit of time was devoted, during planning time, to lining up materials for Labor Day.
Unless there is something time sensitive (like writing this column) the red items (pushed back from previous day) happen and then the white ones.
Deep Work – Newport’s book – is incredibly powerful. Because you begin to instinctively look (like a good project manager) for all the “speed bumps” that can keep your projects from being realized – especially the big ones.
Imagine the poor home handy-bastard who decides to build a deck next weekend over the three dayer: Around here, Elaine would have come up with the design, the Chief Estimator would have ordered materials, Amazon would have the 3″ deck screws in cue, and the long-range weather would be monitored.
Which is how you avoid spending the first Project Day waiting in checkout lines at Home Despots, only to get material home, just in time for three days of non-stop downpours.
Point is, to wrap this part up: Measurement begins with measuring yourself (efforts and schedule) and then you move on to materials in hand and “Go!” on a project.
Basic Measurement Tools
Senility being what it is, I don’t remember if I’ve ever made the idle boast that “I can build a house with less than a dozen tools.”
Two tools would be a soft 300-foot tape and the second would be a 25-foot Fat Max.
The other two “essentials” are the digital calipers. We have several of these. Big one shown is an 8-incher. But you can find the equally useful 6-inchers on Amazon on sale for around $20 if you watch their “deals.”
The folding rule is useful because you can draw lines against it. A real time saver.
The main application of the 300-footer is in laying out foundations and setting posts. If you measure a foundation, it’s easily made square by making sure the distance between opposite corners is the same. If they’re not, then your whole construction project will be “off-kilter” and nothing is worse than seeing something an inch out of square and trying to make tight joints. It just doesn’t happen.
The real test of the steel tape measure is how long a span will it self-support. It you can’t measure 8-10 feet horizontally without the tape collapsing, do yourself a favor and get a useful tape.
Measurement and Time
There are a lot of other measurement tools that are “nice” to have. One example is a full-sized carpenter’s framing square. Equipped with screw-blocks, you can set up easy stair cut marking, too.
A level – 36″ or 48″ (better) is great, too. Along with a few short 4 to 8 inchers for the quickie measurements.
Tool count for a house? Long tape, steel tape, small and large levels ought to do it. Four tools so far.
The second operation is cutting. While it would be nice to have the “ideal assortment” of saws…
- Chop (miter) saw
- 5″ battery powered and 7-1/4″ 110VAC circ saws
- Jig Saw
- Table Saw
- 10-point hand crosscut saw
- 8-point hand rip saw
You could get by with just a jig saw, though. Didn’t say that would be particularly efficient – and the lines might waver a fair bit till you get dialed in on one. But there’s a wide assortment of blades if you get a good one. The laser guide built in is a must.
This part of building a house generally only needs a pair of tools: A good hammer and an impact driver (with extra large batteries and a back-up).
Since I really love screwing (ahem.,..) the impact driver is my all-time favorite tool for framing. Used with the steel right-angle brackets, it’s hard to go wrong. Easily recycled, too!
Still, for setting walls and such, a pocketful of 16-penny nails (*16d is how they’re marked) hammers have their place.
The other consideration is the roofing. People like us like the rigidity of metal roofing (best done with an impact driver). But the hammer wins if you’re laying three-tab or shakes.
Of course, the 3-1/2-inch framing nail gun (and a few thousand stainless nails) is part of our disaster reconstruction kit.
What I don’t have is a roofing nail gun, but whether we get one depends on whether G2 does the new roof, or we hire it out. Mind you, it isn’t that at 72 I can’t slap down three-tab. Of course, I can. But, there are a couple of spots where I’d like to have new underlayment (OSB prices are still insanely high). Single-handing 4X8 sheets up a roof is not an adventure I’d be in a hurry to sign up for.
Inventory to this point? Cloth and steel tapes, two levels, jig saw, impact driver and hammer.
The paint brush.
When I was young (and this really ought to be a chapter in my next book (already serialized on the Peoplenomics site) “The 100-Year Toaster: Obsolescence -Our Global Addiction”
Pappy was a fanatic about keeping his paint brushes cleaned. Mainly, they were hog bristle. After each project, he would clean them outside in kerosene or paint thinner. A few swings in the air after 4 or 5 dousings and working the bristles.
Then it was into the basement laundry’s big cast concrete sink for a 10-15-minute workout with a bottle of dish soap. Pappy explained about how the kerosene emulsified the remains of the (oil based) paint and then the straight dish soap would clean the emulsion out.
“But you have to be very careful to really work on the heel of the brush. Because that’s what wrecks a brush over time. You get a build-up in the heel, the bristles lose their flex, and the brush won’t pick up material as well, and since their shorter, the flowing of paint leaves more brush strokes…”
Those were the days, right? Smells of oil-based paint, kerosene, dish soap, and a lecture on how it all works. (Poof! Nowadays we’re checking gender in school where parents park kids, lol…)
Enter monetizations via obsolescence. Today, you can buy 3″ short-bristled “chip brushes” on Amazon for just over 50-cents each: Pro Grade – Chip Paint Brushes – 96 Ea 3 Inch Chip Paint Brush. What is that? 55-cents a brush?
That’s just ONE example of how life has changed in the last 60-odd years. From diligently cleaning tools for future use to the modern world where disposable (people, things, tools, whole countries…) seems to be the order of the day.
Don’t know whether I’ve mentioned this, but I’ve got a few saw sharpeners now. A circular saw machine that will touch up anything from a 5-1/2 inch to a 12-inch blade. Though the twelves are carbide tipped, so the sharpener won’t see them…
Take a gander at some of the old-time saw sharpeners found on eBay. Do a search for “Foley Belsaw.”
Foley made a lot of kitchen gadgets and the combined company had some dandy courses – like how to repair small engines and how to do locksmithing.
Kind of interesting to sit back with a second cup this morning and contemplate: If G2 does come down here (still somewhat up in the air as he’s Covid-warrioring, but he likes the look of the local college’s paramedic program…) what are the tools he would need to build a house?
Then thinking back on the days of taking care of even modest paint brushes which seems so anachronistic from the perspective of the Disposable Society’s triumph.
All things go in cycles, though. History is abundantly clear on that.
From the mists of history comes another thought: Since we have a tree farm here, would a modest 16-foot WoodMizer be an interesting starting point for an inexpensive home? Cut the wood for a home and then sell-off the mill…hmm…
A handful of tools, free trees and a wood mill…could a seriously motivated person make a high-quality 1,600 SF home for $40-thousand in factory-made parts?
That one goes on the “things to think about list” – but in the age of lazy video game players, seems at first glance like sweat equity may still deliver some dandy payoffs.
Who works anymore, anyway? (Outlook reminder just dinged me…)
Write when you get rich,