(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:
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.
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 – PrintableFuture.org – Ultra-Make.com 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…
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,