ShopTalk Sunday: Time Logs – Order of Battle

Project pictures toward the end.  Let’s talk theory first.

Being a management sciences-trained geek-at-heart, I thought it would be useful to do a “ride-along” on a typical Sunday in the shop (and ranch) project.  Give you the feel for the “Maker Mindset.”  This is the “as it happened” time log.

07:00: Days Start with Planning

There are always competing priorities.  So each day starts with “picking off a few” and resolving to make them happen.  While not getting involved in the sideshows and distractions.

As was typical, I was up at 4:30 AM.  Cup of tea.  Review the overnight website issues.  See what the news is.  Then start to “block things out.”

The first part is Blue Sky.  Sunday morning is a good time to review what you have, where you’re going, and what you might need (or want) to get there (easier).

If you are a complex person, it takes a bit of time.  A complex person is one whose off-time pursuits involve many things.  Hence, I have competing interests in gardening, ham radio, flying, home improvement/construction skills, and of course, 3D printing.   “Be it resolved, I will do some of each, today.”

07:10:  Project Picks

The “perfect day” project list would include:

  • Transplanting squash and tomatoes from greenhouse to garden.
  • Reworking the Beverage antenna array.
  • Do a 9-foot square rain and sun lean-to on the north end of the shop.
  • Finish a 3D project that printed overnight (toothbrush holder) and start printing another large parts box.
  • For dinner, leftover ham goes into ham and scalloped potatoes?  Consult with Elaine.

0:715:  Order of Battle

Few projects are “ready to roll” right out of the box.  So we need to step back and review what’s in the way of getting projects done.  Here’s the obstacle list and you’ll see how the order of battle falls out:

First project (transplanting) requires:

  • Rake the mulch closer to level before “ground-mounting” the squash.  (time: 10 minutes)
  • Mix up a gallon of vitamin B1 transplant 0-2-0 fertilizer.  (Time: 10-minutes)
  • Physical transplanting into ferti-pots (testing how those work out).  Load new ground pots with potting soil, moving 10-12 plants as a “get started”.  (Time: 20-minutes).
  • Tools:  Label for vitamin jug.  Large landscape rake (at the shop).  Gloves.

Should be a “short war” with nature.  Figure I should be back in action mode in the office by 8:00 AM.  Let’s see how that goes, shall we?  (Time out: 7:20 AM…)

07:52: Progress Check

Yee-haw!  Ahead of schedule. (I pad first projects of the day a bit to get the day going with some “easy wins.”)

14 plants were transplanted into planting pots.  Cool outside.  Decided to let the plants rest on the greenhouse bench before screwing into ground.  Make sure they all made it through into the ferti-pots.

Taking an hour break for breakfast with Elaine.

While in the garden, the final piece of the 3D toothbrush holder printed.  It will take one “to do” off this list by 8:00 AM.

While at breakfast, the ever-present shirt pocket notebook will list the order of battle for the lean to project.

08:55:  The Lean-to Project

This will eat up most of the morning, by the look of it.  Here’s some of what occurred to me as “workstones” at breakfast.

Although the actual process of anything is easy, the details are a bitch. The Lean-To being a mainly wood project, it’s measure, cut, join, finish, right?

But there’s a lot of “front-end” work to something like this:  Materials and tools are the big ones.  Plus, since I only go out to the north side of the shop to do “dirty” and “messy” work, the construction area could stand with a side order of site prep, too.

  • Site prep (cleaning).  Time: 20 minutes.
  • Materials:  Need to move the wood (2 by 4s).  Roofing panels. (time 20- minutes; need to go through some wood, clean chop saw and prep.  Also bracing wood needs to be brought out (1×4’s to hold 4x4s vertical)
  • Ladders:  2 of them to round-up, 6 ft. and 12. (Time 10:minutes into positions.)
  • Foundation block placement.  Although moving the blocks is all of 6-minutes of work, the line-up may push this one long due to accurate placement requirements. (Time: 30-minutes)  Recycled blocks from old deck project 10-years back…
  • Vertical 4×4’s:  Which should be 10 min each, so (time: 20 minutes).
  • House Beams:  Stacked 2X4s into the north wall.  (Time 20-minutes)
  • Trussing:  2X4s from Verts to house and wall across. (6-min each so time: 30-min.
  • Perlin’s:  2x4s between 2x4s:  3-mine each so time: 20 minutes.
  • Roof Panels:  10-minutes each ought to do it.  time: 50 minutes.
  • Clean up and tools back.  (time: 10 minutes).

Total time estimate: About 4-hours with one break for water.  Since I am clocking into this at 9:15, we log actuals as we go.  Estimating is critical to high productivity in anything.  So taught Frederick Winslow Taylor.


Here’s what really happened:  (Times are in minutes.)

See how the “actual” was about twice the “estimated?”  Works this way on just about everything in Life.

Construction Notes for Newbies

Out here, “Building things” is done “off the top of your head.”  You get a sense of what you’re after, bust it down into some of the bite-sized steps, and then – like an artist you get after things.

Don’t get me wrong:  I have managed close to half a million square feet of class A office-space build out with studios in my (no label seems to really fit) career.  So, I am well acquainted with architects, interior designers, and wet stamps and planning departments.

Thing is, while they all “add value” they also kill the fun.

Building to the Site (BTTS)

BTTS construction is different.  You start with an idea (“I want some covered space on the north end of the shop so I can do metal work (welding) when it’s cloudy and rain threatening.  Or, dust a final coat of spray paint on a project without a passing shower ruining things.’).

You try to envision zero-cost work-arounds.  Like the painting on a cloudy day.  Why not do the painting in the shop?  Well, when it’s closed up, chance of fire or explosion from the power center, electrical switching and such.  Or, if not that, then while paint is drying you can’t use some of the saws because of the sawdust…screws up paint.

BTTS also means you have total freedom to “eye” something.

For example, I didn’t have any 2-by-8’s handy.  A makeshift stacking of a couple of 2-by-4’s won’t give the same strength (more like a 2-by-6) but it will get the job done and no trip to town (or bank robberies along the way, what the price of lumber being what it is…).

Same thing with determining “level.”

Using (as this project does) concrete footers of the cheap, portable sort, the vertical corner posts have to be set, one leveled to the other and so on.

But, when you’re done, the project is nicely done.

Hints, Kinks, Photos

#1  Collect Stuff

Some of the finer points of project prepping:

This is where the project really gets started.  Thee old welding table is still in place.  But see how the “fastener cart” (red) has been rolled out?  We’ve talked about the major “carts” in a shop.  The ones I use are a fastener cart and a tool cart.  If your shop is a fold-down hunk of plywood in the garage, so sorry.  But, no cart needed.

But on “big property/Big Shop” where you have projects all over hell and gone, there is nothing so nice come cleanup time, as a cart.  Most of the orphan fasteners get sorted right back into their box on the site.

Having the ladders and lumber all collected and moved to the job site first allows the construction/art to get a flow to it.  Nothing sucks more than getting started and then having to spend a half hour looking for some tool you didn’t think to get out ahead of time.  (OK, taxes suck more, but you get the idea…)

#2  Move Material Like Ure Lazy

Somewhere, eons back, the local Tractor Supply had an opening special of a $29 Chinese-made hand truck.  If you don’t have one (and y0u don’t live in an apartment, which would be silly) get one right away.

We you get to be an old man, you’ll use it to move things like the almost 100 pound propane tank up and down stairs and over to the truck.  I’ve moved (large) solar panels with it, lumber, heavy boxes like when UPS drops off some long-lost classic linear amplifier (HT-33A) for another “museum station” (SX-101/HT-32).

#3 One-Man (or Woman)_ Post-Setting

Circle left shows where one of the footings went.  In the half-circle right, you can see how some scrap lumber (one of the few uses for pallet wood that makes sense) is used to hold Ure posts in place.

#4:  Tie-in to Structure

Once the corner posts are set, tie each into the structure.  Things stop falling over and you can “get your work on.”

#5: Fill in with Rafters

Adjust the spacing as you go, having a rough idea ahead of time.

#6:  Top with Perlin’s, Roofing, and Admire

Perlin’s are set at 90-degrees to the rafters and provide  the nailing (or in this case, screwing) surface for  the roof tin.

With the roof on, the weather is now outside.  A worktable moves in next to the welding and paint lash-up…and Ure in bidness.


This is not a particularly hard project.  More time and moving ladders around.  But it is a deeply satisfying thing to do.

Because it adds to the space “out of the weather.”

Migration Plan for Your Construction Works

The same concept comes to mind for the main house.  You want to think of any construction project as only “one step in a migration path.”

Take the recording studio.  The “construction migration path” evolved over time.

  • First thing to appear (for 6-months, or so) was a set of stairs outside a door I punched in the wall of the mobile home.
  • Second  came a small deck (which lasted one year, or so).
  • Then the deck was expanded to 10X20. Couple of years that way.
  • This was then partially roofed to allow us to have “drinks in the rain” while looking up to the garden. (Another 2-years worth).
  • Finally, I went nuts and turned the partially covered deck into a “room” which turned into the recording studio.

Which looks like this today.

I know…”George, why do the rafters hang out so much on the right side of that steps became deck, became covered deck, became room, became recording studio?”

Ah…this is where the studio-garden room will be enclosed and I wanted to have the change in roofing take place “downhill” from the studio wall.

When I get to it.

And here, you find revealed, the problem I have with building departments.  Want to explain “Migration path and when I damn well feel like it” home improvements and try to get a stamp from a Building Inspector?

Ain’t frigging likely.

Which is why the Free State of Texas is here for construction artists of all types in the rural areas where you can still live (and build) as you please.  But, only until the Nanny State gets here….

Write when you build something,

15 thoughts on “ShopTalk Sunday: Time Logs – Order of Battle”

  1. George

    “Estimating is critical to high productivity in anything.”

    When you finally get to the Pearly Gates will St. Peter want your time sheets?

    That question requires deeper thinking than just an emotional reaction. The point being does all that structured living lead to Enjoyment of Life?

  2. “each day starts with “picking off a few”

    I have a LIST…. the list is a small notebook….
    the list has everything in there that needs to be accomplished.. and then the Honey do must be done today at the top..
    any emergency project goes to the top of the list always.. as I finish them I check them off.. at the end of the day.. the list is transcribed to the next page..
    So.. when the wife says.. honey did you remember this or that.. I can easily say yes no or the reason it wasn’t accomplished is because yada yada yada came up..
    building projects come at one board at a time.. put a board a day in between have to do’s and pretty soon its done.. there is always a progress happening..

  3. “you’ll use it to move things like the almost 100 pound propane tank up and down stairs and over to the truck.”

    AMEN… and a Wagon…
    I bought it to take the grand kids for a ride.. end up it has almost all the wifes flower gardening stuff in it.. and we have another just for rocks and dirt etc.. to move around.. My problem is.. the kids.. I bought a nice wheel barrow..
    and it vanished into the depths of the kids garage.. the one they had was broken.. so I bought another one.. for them and that to is back in the depths of their garage.. as for the propane.. I had ten tanks.. they to vanish.. I am buying another one.. a 420 cubic foot tank.. the idea was I would have propane for the furnace and generator.. and stove etc.. but with the kids wandering off with them and not returning them I have to buy one big enough that they can’t move LOL LOL that is the issue of living close to your child.. they just assume dad will take care of it.. then pipe around for hookups .. now the question buy the tank.. rent the tank..

    • Loob, I had my welder extend the bottom end of the handle on my/your wagon. It moved the bend in the handle up to the top of the wagon lip. It helps the handle stay up when parked and it keeps the wagon from hitting my heels when I pull it around my yard

    • I think we can all relate to your story, LOOB. How many of us have multiple sets of cheap tools replacing cheap tools replacing good tools? :)

      Buy. Why pay rent for a memory?

      • Case in point: I needed a 10-foot stepladder for a temporary antenna support while erecting a pole. Looked into renting a tall ladder from the big orange box store, and discovered that for three days rent, I could buy the ladder! I’m now the proud owner of a tall stepladder.

  4. “See how the “actual” was about twice the “estimated?” Works this way on just about everything in Life.”

    Murphy’s Law: Nothing is as easy as it looks. Everything takes longer than you thought. (And, If anything can go wrong, it will!)

  5. “Mix up a gallon of vitamin B1 transplant 0-2-0 fertilizer. ”

    Vitamins B for plants? I have never heard of this. Interesting. I’m gonna have to look this up.

    “Brawndo, it has electrolytes. Its what plants crave. ”

    “Lean-too'”. Lol I grew up in “lean twos”. When I was a kid we had a trailer home that the whole house was built around in lean to’s. The entire house was built around it. All 1800 square feet. Pretty funny. Alaska life.

    Having issues recording a podcast on the phone. I actually had to try messager on FB and WhatsApp. To see if I could record it that way. Nope, try to do it via Skype later this week.

    Welcome to Black Friday.

  6. Wags rule: when allocating time to any project, first make your initial estimate. Next multiply by 2, then convert to the next unit up.

    Ie: a project that should require 2 hours will actually take 4 days.

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