ShopTalk Sunday: Summer Shop Tips, Renovations

(This is the post that “blew up” UrbanSurvival last weekend.  We can’t be sure, but this was the last thing I posted; rewritten from memory…)

Summer Shop Tips

The weather here has been into the 90s now for a couple of weeks.  With it, the amount of time spent in the shop, not to mention the projects, have changed up a bit to meet this annual “climate change” issue.

For newbies to these STS columns, when markets are closed, we don’t sit around and twiddle our thumbs.  We have a really trippy/eclectic home (a kind of personal spin on Disney) and anything goes around here.

That’s because one of the joys of not owing a bank is you can take a chainsaw to a wall and let your creative juices flow.

Especially out here in the wilds of East Texas where there’s no county building department, no plans checkers.  Yet homes here are generally safe and the people much less burdened with government.

You Can Make Anything!

A second point is that although there are tons of nuances to learn, most of “Making” comes down to a handful of very simple steps:

  • Get a Vision (*in your head is fine, we never draw plans!) of what you want the outcome to be.
  • Get Materials.  In the case of Lumber, we stare at the commodity prices over here – and add 90-120 days – timing our projects for min-mun, max-fun.  90-120 days from now, we figure lumber will be cheaper. Much.

So far, in this process map, we haven’t really had to do anything.  Just get some wild-ass hare-brained idea, call the local lumber yard, and (“Presto!“) my friend Eduardo shows up and dumps a 20-foot flat bed of material.

Since projects don’t do themselves, here’s the blood and guts of making in four simple words:

  • MEASURE:  Takes measuring devices in your kit.  I love my 25-foot Fat Max tape.  But there are other measuring tools: Metal yard sticks, a 4-foot drywall square, 300-foot fiberglass tape on a reel for measuring BIG ham radio antennas…digital calipers to 8 inches, but you get the idea.  If you are able to measure and mark…you are a natural-born Maker.
  • CUT:  OK, gets more complicated – depending on what you want to cut.  Wood saws?  Plastic saws?  Tile saws?  Axe? And metal?  OMG:  Plasma cutter, metal cutting band saw, 4 1/2 inch grinder, hack saw…Dremel…see how the basic problem is simple but the tool kit expands exponentially?
  • JOIN:  When you have two (or more) pieces to join, it’s like going through the spice rack when cooking:  What’s the right tool?  Wood has screws and glues (many types of each) and metal can be bolted or welded…see how this is maybe daunting but fundamentally simple.  Which accounts for why even Ure can do it…
  • FINISH:  Depends who’s doing it:  Elaine likes detail work.  Her idea of finishing is her impossibly small artist paintbrushes.  For certain crafty things, a hot glue gun for mounting.  Me?  Well, I get over into the spray paint department in the shop, close my eyes and…Surprise!

These four main steps change-up depending on the time of year.  Finishing now doesn’t wait for the frost to turn off and get paint projects above 50-55 degrees, for example.

Summer Shop Maintenance

Swear to God, I spend almost as much time maintaining my shop as actually running projects through it.  Reason?  You were paying attention to the tool kit (growing exponentially, right?) as we were doing the Make  process review?

Let’s go through the summer checklist of things to make working in the shop better:

Shop: General

This one isn’t too bad:  Comes down to light and air.  OK, tool storage, too.

If you haven’t invested the $150-bucks in good shop lighting with as many overhead LED shop lights as you need to be ready for project surgery, remember they put off less heat.  And this time of the year, that’s a good thing.

Although I used an evaporative (swamp) cooler for three or four years in our shop, they do tend to rust tool tables (on saws and shapers and planers) faster than regular A/C.  Grow mold on new wood, too.  So, after a lot of experimenting, we recommend A/C for the summer.

Tool drawers:  This is where you MUST keep your tools.  Or, keep those silly looking because most are space-waster blow-molded tool boxes.  Anything to slow down air exchange.

My idea of a perfect shop is 65-degrees and 20 percent humidity.  My reality at 6AM today was 73-degrees and 81%.  With the Swamp cooler that would be 75 and 93%.  Investing in 34 cans of high expansion caulking foam is worth it.

Summer Wood Shop Notes

Oil (or wax) the top of your table saw, jointer, planner, back-up table saw, shaper, back-up shaper, and drill press every few weeks.

Every so often, a new tool will come along that solves a lot of labor issues so we gravitate the checkbook toward them.  Like the new “burnishers” that appeared last year on eBay.  Basically a grinder with a right-angle whizzy that spins a 4 inch diameter 4 inch wide abrasive drum.  Perfect for keeping table tops cleaned up and free of rust.

My table saw is a (nightmare of non-standard dimensions) from Sears years ago – think it was made by Ryobi for them.  Whatever you do, if you are buying a table saw ONLY put money into one with the standard width guide tracks for the miter gauge.  You’ll be sorry if you don’t.  Neat saw sleds and featherboards have to be totally reworked to even approach being useful.

Table saws are like wives:  Get the right one, or you’ll regret it till the day you die.  If you can’t explain in a few words the difference between a contractor saw, hybrid, and cabinet saw avoid marriage buying one, yet.

Metal Shop:

The maintenance issues here also relate to water.

Never found an ideal rust preventer.  Spent a small fortune on things like Boeshield (OK) and several spins on WD-40 and such.  But nothing seems to beat a thin coating of oil and then plastic bags to seal out air.

Over at Amazon I picked up some BIG plastic bags (Wowfit 100 CT 18×24 inches 1 Mil Clear Plastic Flat Open Poly Bags for under $16) and they have a million uses!

Another summer metalworking problem is things catching fire too easily.  When I’m doing plasma cutting or welding in the summer, I keep a charged hose ready…although most small fires around the outdoor welding table can be stomped out with your feet.  The judgment call is how big does the blaze get before getting to the hose or lighting off your footwear.  Or pantleg.

Hmm…finish running this bead or put out the fire…”  Somewhat distracting.

3D and CNC

I was flat amazed by how off-level my 3D printers had become on the journey from 50-degrees to 78-degrees.  So you’ll spend more time on tool alignment and heated bed heights and tool pathing because yes, aluminum does change with heat.

Out in the 3D department, I don’t use a filament baker much in the winter, but in the summer when the machines have idle time, you’ll want a filament dryer.  Try $50 bucks for a Upgraded Dry Box for 3D Filament Storages, Dehydrator of Filament Dryer Box, SUNLU 3D Filament Enclosure Compatible with 1.75mm, 2.85mm, 3.00mm 3D Filament from the Zon.

While you’re there?  5 MM thick plastic bags to keep open rolls of filament in.  (Sure, toss in a small kitchen scale – just the thing for estimating how much filament you have left on a roll…)

OMG!  Gotta Mention!

CURA is now version 4.9 and works dandy!  Click over to Ultimaker Cura: Powerful, easy-to-use 3D printing software for the free download.  Don’t overwrite your settings on upgrade from earlier, in the set-up process.

For those who haven’t been over to my Ultra-Make – – site (I don’t post often there), 3D printing IS the wave of the future.  So you need to grok the home Maker 3D process steps (which are different from wood and metal):

  • Envision:  Figure out exactly what you want to build.
  • Draw something that can be printed.  Set up an account at Tinkercad | From mind to design in minutes. Free for non-commercial use.
  • Download the STL. file.
  • “SLICE” it in Cura (or whatever is better – good luck finding anything!).
  • Save to Media.
  • Insert Media in prepared 3D printer.  Watch first layer like a hawk.  Go drink beer while your print comes out.

3D prints can take 36-hours and up (printing a large object like a waste basket.  If your shop is humid, consider running right from the filament dryer right up to your extruder…

Renovation Ideas!

My friend Chris Tyreman – who is now mayor of his small town in Canada – has done well financially buying and rehabbing homes for either flipping or renting.

He’s got a dandy video that will get your creative juices running and on a shoestring:

It’s not hard to make a home that “Transports” you.

And if something doesn’t work out, easy to do it over -another way.

Well, that’s about two cups worth – off to the shop.

Happy Father’s Day!

One shot of tequila for dinner, a pot roast and a good book for down time.  How does it get any better?

Write when you get rich,

36 thoughts on “ShopTalk Sunday: Summer Shop Tips, Renovations”

  1. I use to get teased for how I took care of my tools because I cleaned and polished them when I got them. Wiped them down and then applied a coat or two of Nu Finish car wax to all the surfaces. It comes in a paste and a spray. It’s a UV and water protectant. Long lasting too.

    After the tool’s first use, I dusted it off (cuz dust holds moisture from humidity) and checked for scratches and reapplied the wax there … and then put the tool in storage until next time. And of course, oiling where it’s recommended. – I like that shiny new look, even if the tool is 20 years old.

    Years ago I saw Glass Wax on a shelf. Read the reasoning on the label, then read the directions … and though, heck I got car wax. So I tried the Nu Finish on our windows after cleaning them. Man, they were clear as a bell and sparkly. I liked it !! What’s really cool is, the next window cleaning was easier. Just a damp cloth (water) to wipe them off and then dry them with a paper towel. Easy day. No streaks and back to being clear and sparkly again.

    And while I’m here, if the black plastic molding on your vehicle is fading to white, wipe a VERY LITTLE peanut butter on it. (If your not allergic) … rubbing it in little circles works best. Brings back original appearance and last quite a while.

    One more thing, look into using White Vinegar in the laundry. Actually cleans our clothes very well. Keeps the washer from smelling musty and it cleans the drains … laundry detergent is notorious for building up in drains and summoning plumbers. Not to mention, vinegar is a lot less expensive than laundry detergent. – Then a few drops of Lavender Oil on a dryer ball in the dryer, makes the clothes smell pretty. Wife insists on it. Lol !!

    So with that, I’m gonna put on some tunes and get busy.

    Have a Great Day !!
    Peace !!

  2. “depending on what you want to cut. Wood saws? Plastic saws? Tile saws? Axe? And metal?”


    The big event this week… The tippy tap hammer for hanging pictures and what not….
    we always keep a small tack hammer just for those minor projects… the hammer head came off and the hammers handle was at the point to replace the handle.. the little boss had a project that needed to be done… ( right away in her way of thinking) so she goes to the little mini me five year old and askes him if she can use his hammer.. below was his first set.. LOL and he says yes.. then she starts to barter with him on if she could have his hammer.. so they make a trade.. and she comes in and says.. papa.. I traded with little loob and you have to take him to the hardware store and buy him a new hammer.. I am getting his..
    OMG.. I need a chaperone at a hardware store or lumber yard.. so off for a road trip we go to the loob’s favorite store.. ACE.. down the hammer isle we go the first one he heads to is the six pounder.. LOL he sees all the different hammers they have and askes what each is used for.. LOL LOL the local merchant started to laugh and said.. he reminds me of you LOL LOL.. I said yes.. he has a better set of tools than his father already and even carries a tape measure in his pocket like I do LOL LOL LOL LOL..
    I did get him a new 4 ounce tack hammer and one for his brother.. and a few clamps later.. ( you never have enough clamps me a couple and he got four little clamps ) it is the local joke at the store when I walk in the main merchant says.. so what are you making today LOL LOL LOL I had to really work hard to keep him from buying a sledge.. last year I had gotten him a new tool box and after this trip.. he said papa.. I need a bigger tool box.. so I have to shop around.. LOL Ya know it is time to build a bird house and bird feeder…

  3. “Investing in 34 cans of high expansion caulking foam is worth it.”
    the kit below is well worth it.. home depot and lowes can get it.. the kit I got a while back for a project had the mask in it to.. I have the mask with the air..
    saddly.. after covid.. they no longer supply the mask and pump in the kit.. the one I have can hook up to a filter set that attaches to your air compressor.. I have a couple like the one below to.. and eight of the half mask for using spray can’s of paint..
    the one below is like the one I have.. for roaming around the garage and a fifty foot hose.. thing is awesome.. great for painting.. I sit the air compressor out side of the garage and go to town..
    I have a scuba tank setup as well with a little five pound tank I have never used it.. the scuba tank compressor is great we use that for rescue air.. definitely cheaper than filling them at the air supply place..
    As a tool slut I think of the things that we need and if it is cheaper for me to do it and buy the tools.. then I do it..

  4. George
    A week or so ago someone on this site wrote about the necessity of keeping Aerokroil penetrating oil on hand.
    I can now see why.
    Yesterday I was trying to remove a rear brake hub from a Ford F-250 to replace the bearings. That was a no go by hand! I rented a hub pulled and also stopped by a hardware store to get some penetrating oil. That’s where I found the Aerokroil. When I got home I sprayed the oil onto a bearing race that was stuck on the spindle then went and had lunch. After lunch I used the hub puller to remove the hub.
    The interesting thing is that it took almost no effort to remove the hub. I probably could have pulled it off by hand. The oil had unstuck the bearing race from the spindle.
    Many thanks for the heads up about that oil. There is a small downside to this oil. It’s expensive! A 10 ounce can was $18. Since there was no other way to get that hub off easily it was worth every penny of that price!
    Thanks again!

    • Git’cher Kroil now:

      “SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Gryphon Investors (“Gryphon”), a leading middle-market private equity firm, announced today that it has acquired Kano Laboratories (“Kano” or the “Company”), a market leading producer of iconic, branded penetrating oils and lubricants sold into industrial maintenance, repair, and operations (“MRO”) and consumer markets. Working alongside a team of highly relevant executive advisors, Gryphon intends to build a leading platform in the branded specialty chemicals sector. This represents the first deal closed by Gryphon’s Heritage Fund team, a new small-cap fund offering launched by Gryphon earlier this year. Financial terms for the transaction were not disclosed.”

      Kano Labs’ has been a principal USMIL chemical supplier since WW-II. Allied wrenches had Kroil in their toolboxes, right next to the WD-40 and NeverSeez.

      Gryphon is SanFran-based, but has no more “heart” or “patriotic conscience” than any other VC or PE firm. They acquire, optimize, then often flip their target companies. I do not trust such, to not jack with an 80yo chemical formula that’s “best in-class” whilst they’re “optimizing” other facets of Kano’s production & distribution model.

      Therefore, I suggest people who might need a kick-ass penetrating oil to get it now, in whatever quantity might serve them best, while quality is still assured…

      • Just for the record, Kroil is great, but it does have limitations. After working with it for a month, I was unable to move a stuck old Chrysler 318 engine. I never did get that engine to move and just replaced it.

        I have another newer one(360) and will do the same thing. Even miracle workers don’t always succeed.

        According to many sources on the net, a 50/50 mix of acetone and transmission fluid is among the best of penetrating oils. Of course, you will probably destroy most oil cans using it if there are any rubber parts. It will also remove many paints. I’ve generally just gone with normal penetrants and heat if possible.

      • The ATF/acetone IS a better penetrant than Kroil in some cases. It lacks Kroil’s “creepability” and is pretty much a “mix and use” mixture because of its volatility.

        For a stuck engine, I’d first dump SeaFoam in the cylinders and let set for a month. You get the rust from the block or liners, the oxidation from the pistons, then you get a very aggressive corrosion at places where pistons touch either rings or cylinder walls. Any frozen engine can be unstuck. Some stuck pistons might require “freeze mist” and a mallet, and to be drifted out the bottom of the bore. I can’t imagine any unstuck, hard-frozen engine being worth a lick without a rebuild, though.

        Good luck with the 360…

  5. I can’t remember if I posted this link to you before, sometimers
    46 lubes tested for friction reduction and tested for corrosion protection
    sold me on Hornaday One Shot Cleaner, (not to be confused with One Shot case lube for reloading brass)

    here is the test link

    frog lube looks great also, but I chose the One Shot since I mostly use it on my PCP guns for trigger and hammer/spring lube. Some nice charts and photos in the link of the tests, ya gotta scroll down to them

  6. A couple of weeks back, I believe it was Hank in Hawaii that suggested that an $80 50 ohm IS-NEMP-C0 surge protector should work sufficiently well on a TV antenna feed if a 75 ohm EMP model was not available. I had to bring the TV antenna down to replace the circuit board up top after a thunderstorm EMP smoked it, so while I was working on it, I replaced the older, slower 75 ohm surge protector with the newer 50 ohm model. I ran the channel search before and after, and got 77 channels (not stations) both times. My most difficult-to-get major network station was good before and after. It looks like a good field-expedient substitution. Thanks Hank.

  7. “Climate Change” determines the workload here also at the tropical volcano ranch. And the climate changes here daily. We get 150 inches of rain a year. If it’s a rainy day… no outside work. Indoor cleaning & ham radio projects.
    If it’s a sunny day… don the sweatclothes and get outside for yard maintenance, mowing, weed & vine removal, and a super sweaty workout in the humidity. Get ‘er done before the rain comes… again!

  8. Here they go again the terrorists . Treason short dollar buy gold . Stockmarket sheetcoin anything facists . The poor founding fathers god bless them . You are lost pathetic. BUT . To fast creeps . Your going to hell for crime against humanity and the United States of America ??

  9. and again !!!! real big go tonite !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! yehhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa . stradle em up baby . gunna rip your terrorist facist guts out

  10. Since it’s Shoptalk Sunday, has anyone worked with FRP? Is there an easy way to cut it with what’s commonly available? Will it stick properly if glued with construction adhesive rather than the “official” FRP cement? I only need to install about 1/2 sheet and the smallest FRP cement container is one gallon. It will be installed in a bathroom. Thanks all!

      • Fiberglass reinforced plastic. Came over from the Brits. Most of us call it fiberglass – and you can get it in everything from panels to glass cloth and the resins (I like West System a lot).

      • I was specifically thinking of the thin(1/16″?) panels in 4’x8′ sheets available from the box stores. It’s waterproof and can finish parts of a wet room like a bathroom without attracting mold or dealing with tiles and grout. This particular bathroom has a few eccentricities making it difficult to finish neatly.

    • Mike, I have not, but I’d assume any wet-rated adhesive would work fine, with the caveat that the adhesive should be thick enough to be troweled, but thin enough that the FRP panel will press flat fairly easily (RTV silicone?) The trick may be to test a coarse hack-saw blade as the trowel. (If you can’t use it, the adhesive is too thick…)

  11. Thanks for the replies! I’m thinking of using a tube or two of urethane construction adhesive(Locktite Power Grab), since it’s about the consistency of silicone, yet is designed as an adhesive. I’ve used it before on other materials and urethane is very sticky. I’d use a grooved trowel on it for a uniform layer and perhaps roll it with a bit of PVC pipe – or press with whatever’s convenient. I’ll have to wait until after this weekend due to other prep work and family commitments.

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