The following covers two areas: getting my shop ready for the next project, and optimizing the small shop.
We each have our procedures; one of mine is that after every project, I reset the shop. The reset includes re-touching each tool that I’ve used, and performing whatever cleaning, oiling, sharpening, and re-aligning is appropriate. Also, within my relatively small shop, where everything is on wheels, other than my Table Saw and Jointer/Planer, getting the equipment back to where it belongs.
- Re-sharpening chisels and planes;
- Re-positioning mobile equipment;
- Blowing-down the Shop with a leaf-blower;
- Re-checking square on all equipment;
- Checking all jigs & fixtures used during the build;
- Oiling threads – I have an old-old practice of applying 3-1 oil whenever I expose a thread; this includes my router table collet; changing-out a Table Saw blade; or open-up a hand-plane.
- Scraping-down the bench and clamps– of accumulated glue and finish.
- Replenishing Supplies – a checklist of sanding paper, painter’s tape (that I use for glue-ups), finishes (Sealcoat and Deft Acrylic, primarily); safety supplies (bandaids, and more bandaids; and dust masks, for example); and other consumables.
- Cleaning-out my shop-vac (fronted by a mini-cyclone); and checking the main dust collection bin.
- De-gunking Table Saw & Bandsaw blades;
- Cleaning-out the dust from table saw, router table, bandsaw cabinets;
- Checking router bits for sharpness and accumulated grim.
Optimizing the Small Shop
I have a long-standing practice of re-evaluating what is in my shop.
It seems that each of my builds include arcs or tapers, which results in a lot of cutoff or waste pieces – these accumulate quickly and are inherently difficult to stack or store efficiently. Typically, I square-up large pieces (and store these on overhead racks or hangers), and, placing the remaining trim pieces in outdoor (closeable) bins – these become the holiday firewood, if not used in shop between now and then. Typically, I use cut-offs for jigs and dowel-pins; or inlay, if possible.
Selling-off under-used tools & equipment.
Space-wise, I can’t afford to pack-rat my shop-space. I’m not sentimental when it comes to tools. My sunset rules going to Craigslist are:
Hand-tools: 1 year;
Hand power tools: 2 years;
Equipment (such as a router table; a drum sander, …) 3 years.
I err on the side of getting rid of scraps and unused jigs and finishes, getting rid of clutter, purging things that I once thought was a great idea or useful. If you have the space to store all of this stuff… you are fortunately, I guess… I don’t have that luxury. This purging approach would be expensive if I was cavalier in purchasing them, to begin with.
Tool & Equipment Purchases
I believe that quality is expensive, once; and prefer to have a small, select group of tools that will stand the use and abuse within the shop; tools that hold the tolerances, meet the power demands, and may be used in-conjunction with something else (the 1+1=3 concept). I’m not professing that expensive tools are necessarily the best value. For me, Bosch is typically a good alternative to Festool; yet, I’m willing to pay for a Festool Domino, as most of my work is mortise & tenon; and, willing to pay for a Fein angle grinder, rather than a less industrial grade, less ergonomic alternative (having burned through a few other brands); and, I invested in a stationary Oscillating Spindle sander after consuming three DIY models.
Whenever I think I need something, I wait to buy; and fret-over what it is that’s driving my thoughts.
For stationary equipment, I started with a counter-intuitive approach. Recently, I up-graded to a sliding table saw, and a large jointer/planer combination. For a small shop, these would seem to consume precious real estate. In reality, the incremental footprints are not that alarming: the slider isn’t that much more than a cabinet saw (you just have to move the sliding table a few dozen times), and it doubles as a precise cut-off/miter-saw (so you don’t need that tool, or the 10’+ cut-off table). The jointer/planer combo has simply raised the bar, relative to my standalone 6” jointer and portable planer. I process extensive hardwoods. The larger jointer and planer (individually and collectively) power-through these exotics.
I’m not advocating any piece of equipment; nor the Festools or Felders of the woodworking world. I am advocating that individually, we should tune our shops, keep them simple, safe, and productive; and see our tools and equipment as an executable extension of our accumulated craftmanship.
I am really ashamed to reveal all my bad habits when it comes to my shop and tools. To start with I am lucky to have a space that is 30’ by 44’. I have a duplication of most all my power hand tools which means I do no maintenance until they all need it. Probably the worst thing I do is while I am building something I use it and drop it where I finish with it. That in itself is very unsafe but I can’t stop. For example you can’t imagine what this place looked like after I finished with the king size bed which took me over a month to complete. As for brands, 80% is Dewalt, rest a mixture of Laguna, Porter Cable, etc. One example is the table saw. I don’t clean it until the crank is just about seized up. The shop is the only part of my life that is this way. Everything else is maintained to the hilt. How many of you wax your lawn mower? I’m sure there are psychological reasons but I love woodworking, am very happy, so I guess that all that matters.
Enjoying it IS all that matters. I’m sure there are some of us who lead extremely ordered lives, and then enjoy the clutter and confusion (if there is confusion…) of their personal space.
My initial intent was to simply state my Post-Project process – resetting the shop; as I was typing, the post morphed into my approach to tools & equipment within a 400 sq’ space. The only clear horizontal space I have is my workbench – it ain’t much, but it’s mine.
You Take Care.
Your discipline is something from which we could probably all benefit. My habits are kind of between yours and Jack’s. My biggest hang-up (as I see it) is that I have too many cheap tools. I should have purchased better quality tools at the outset, but didn’t know enough about what I was doing to be able to determine which would be best for me. I feel like I’ve made them work for me all this time, why change now?!
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin