Greetings from Wood Shop Mike HQ. Here is where messes are made, music is played, and fun is had by all.
My shop is located in my garage. Oh, how I long for a dedicated building on the back of our property, but as far as I’m concerned, this is an upgrade from the 10’ x 10’ garage space I snagged from my parents while in high school. My wife graciously deals with all the dust and smells as long as an unaltered space large enough for her car lives on.
As you can see, the main work area is on the right hand side of the garage. I have four of my tools on mobile bases. They live in a space that was seemingly made for them. Our garage has an awesome indention for the “people door” as I call it. This space is about 4’ deep and is a great home for my “portable” tools.
So let’s talk about the growth of my shop. Since I started woodworking in high school, I obviously had acquired lumber for projects. When I was finally permitted access to the shop in college, I took my coveted lumber to school. You know how it is. There might be the certain detail of your prize winning guitar (that actually happened) or casework that beckons for the uber special piece you left behind… What could be worse? So, as you can imagine, I didn’t leave all that precious lumber at college. Oh no, it followed me to my first apartment, then it followed my wife and I to our first apartment (thank goodness for a storage room at that place). Once we bought a house, it moved with me once again. So, the first task on my list of shop progress was to build a lumber storage system for the garage. Then, I needed some tools!
The first tool purchase I made once we settled into the house was a Rikon 14” bandsaw. I had seen one of these saws up close at the AWFS fair in Las Vegas a few years prior. Now, I’m a huge fan of old machinery (have you seen the Tannewitz?!?) and I would love to have started out my collection with an old, heavy, bullet-proof bandsaw, but there were a few problems. For starters, you normally need to give ‘em a bit of TLC. Then you have to have the correct power supply for it. And oh yeah, let’s not forget the city block of real estate to put the darn thing. Seeing that I hadn’t run my 220v circuits yet, didn’t really want to start off with restoring a tool, and didn’t have any luck locating such a tool, I opted to purchase the Rikon I had lusted over a few years prior. Man, it was a great decision. Here are the main aspects that swayed my decision:
- 13” resaw capacity in a machine with a small footprint
- A dual voltage 1½ hp motor. This puppy is generally all the power I need. The motor did seem to bog down on occasion while hooked up to 120v, but once I switched it over to 220v, it now gets up to speed instantly and hasn’t slowed down once.
- It was new! I’m all for old tools, but I didn’t want to deal with all the little gremlins that can appear while working with old machinery.
I’d like to give one parting thought about this saw. It was on sale. Woodcraft normally sells these for close to $900.00. However, if you can wait, these go on sale multiple times a year. I’ve applied the theory to many purchases in my life that “If it can wait, wait.” The retail market has taught us that there will be sales eventually.
So, with my bandsaw and tools I had from my high school years, I set off to make a storage system for my lumber. If you’re interested in learning about the lumber rack, send me an email or leave a comment below. I might just write up a post about specifically building my lumber storage system.
The second order of business when I was setting up shop was to buy a chop saw and build some work benches. I was able to find a used Chicago Electric 12” compound sliding miter saw for 25 big ones off Craigstlist. Now this was not a DeWalt (no matter how much I wish it were), but let’s be realistic here. I needed it for making work benches and not much else. I don’t make custom furniture for multiple clients at once. With my focus being guitar building and wood turning, I don’t need a chop saw that was attacked by a bedazzler with all the bells and whistles. Also, at $25, how can I say no to a tool that is “safe” and working properly?
The first bench to be built was the main workbench. The top is from an old solid core door I found and the frame is made from 2×6’s and 2×4’s. The lower shelf is also a solid core door. These things are serious. If you don’t want to afford a solid maple bench top, I’d highly recommend these. I found mine beside the dumpster of a cabinet shop. I glued and screwed the bench together, which created a very solid work surface.
I then moved on to build the miter saw bench. As you can see, this work area has a recessed section in the work surface for the miter saw to sit in. I measured many times to verify that the three work surfaces would be collinear. This bench is essentially made up of two base cabinets and more solid core doors. On the right hand side of the saw is a large shelf with legs to support the far end of the bench. I know this setup limits the maximum length board I can easily process, but it was the best option for the shop space I have. I used a Shopsmith to build the base cabinets for the miter saw work station.
A few months after buying the bandsaw, I found an ad for a dust collector on Craigslist for $100. This collector had a cyclone separator with it! For those of you who don’t know what a cyclone separator is, it’s the big green thing on the wall in the corner. What this does is drops all the large chips from your planner or jointer into a barrel and then allows the fine dust particles to move on to the filters in your dust collection system. The dust collector is a Reliant 2hp unit and has a 12” or 14” impeller. Some people knock this brand, but I’ve been pleasantly happy with the unit. Recently, I’ve finished up the overhead ducting with 6” galvanized steel HVAC grade duct. I sealed and taped every joint and am able to get ample suction from each branch.
The next items on my acquisition list were a Walker Turner table saw 1180 (1941), a Justin drill press (1970’s), and a Craftsman 9” wood lathe (1950’s). These tools were given to me by my wife’s uncle! He goes to auctions frequently and had acquired these tools over the years from multiple trades and sales. He said “It was a shame to have to wait until you can afford a Unisaw to begin woodworking again.” I’d have to say I agree and share his sentiment.
Here’s the catch: I now needed to attain 3 phase power. I had been given my choice of an old Delta table saw with a tilting table and/or the Walker Turner. The WT was newer and had a tilting blade, but was missing its original gear head motor. Don’t worry folks, I got it worked out so that the saw was belt driven! The new motor that had been fitted is a 3 hp 3 phase motor. 3 hp on a 10” table saw, now that’s first class! However, how do I come by the power for it? Well, you can actually build a device called a rotary phase converter. The short explanation is that this device runs off of common household 220v and generates “high leg 3 phase power.”
Did I wait to build my RPC (rotary phase converter) before moving on to finding more tools? Well, in a word, no. At this point in time I had reached the limits of what a Shopsmith could do for me. I knew I wanted a big lathe some day and my brain started spinning. People have built big lathes before, right? Maybe I should give it a try. I let a few people convince me that I could do it and then spent a year making it happen. Moral of the story: Tell you wife how much she means to you and don’t “listen to people.”
Unfortunately, my lack of common sense doesn’t end there. I also made a deal to trade the Shopsmith for my Tannewitz prior to starting construction of my lathe. Don’t be fooled; I already had the big pieces of raw steel in my garage beckoning me to turn it into a lathe. Once the Tannewitz was home, I started the restoration immediately. I had to partially disassemble it to bring it home, so I either reassemble the saw and let it sit for who knows how long, or I knock out the project. Once I started with the table saw, I was tempted by my lathe lust. A machinist and friend said that he’d give me a hand, and that I could use his shop to build my lathe. “A lathe is a simple tool, it’ll be easy” he said. I assure you, while a lathe may be a simple tool, building one of this size with commonly sized machining equipment is far from simple.
Shortly after buying our house, my wife had asked if I could build a dining table for us. I’d need a planer for sure to make that happen, so the hunt began while I was acquiring materials for the lathe. The hunt was on… Again
Craigslist to the rescue once again! I located an individual that was selling a Grizzly 20” planner for $800. I had been looking for a while at this point and realized that I wasn’t going to see another opportunity like this come along in a while. Also, purchasing a 12” planner you can buy at Home Depot or Lowe’s is going to run you about $500. So I bit the bullet, drove 2 hours to pick it up, and brought her home. I’ll say that the machine runs great. Not only that, but it’s half the price of the current 20” grizzly planner. What’s even better is that the castings and mechanisms in the current model planner are exactly the same as my model. The only upgrade they have made is a 5hp motor instead of the 3hp motor that came standard on my mid 90’s unit. I’d say this one is a solid win for outfitting the shop.
The last two big ticket items in the shop are my dual drum sander and the 60 gal air compressor. Each of these units were purchased new, but at a discount. First I’ll tell you about the sander. I’d be eyeing a steel city drum sander for some time and knew that in a perfect world, I’d buy a wide belt sander. Hold the phone, do you have 5 grand to drop on a sander? I don’t. So, carrying on. Why the Steel City sander instead of a Delta 18-36, the Woodtek drum sander, or some other option? First off, I don’t like the idea of a thickness sander being supported on only one side of the drum. I’ve heard good enough things about this design, but I’m not buying. Second, the Steel City has a much more stable base than the Woodtek. As an aside, while looking over the Woodtek unit in person, I was worried that it was going to fall over on me! Knowing that the unit would ultimately live on a mobile base, this was not an option. Finally, the Steel City sander has a 12” thickness capacity! So, maybe you’re not actually sanding something that is 12” thick, but what if you need to sand a precise angle on the leg of a piece of furniture? This capacity affords you the ability to build a jig that holds your piece in some position so that you can remove material uniformly and repeatedly.
Now, onto the air compressor. I had purchased my first air compressor off Craigslit and was very happy with it. It was an oil-less design and had the ability to run an HVLP gun. However, it developed a leak. I fixed the leak and another one developed. I then learned that a traditional air compressor that used oil was much quieter… oops. It would also be nice to have a larger tank capacity so that I’m not so frequently startled while spray finish. I was innocently walking through Home Depot one day when I noticed a large air compressor that was about $170 off its original price. I inquired and learned that the belt cover had cracked during shipment. I spoke with one of the employees that works at the pro desk. That part was important folks. If you want to haggle, talk to someone who can do something about it. I was able to get the compressor for about $200 off the original tag all because of a cosmetic flaw. By the way, I can replace that plastic cover if I want for about $15. Awesome!
Well, I think that about wraps it up. The clamp rack and lathe tool cart you see in the photos will be discussed in two separate posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour and back story on the development of my shop. I’d love you see how you’ve set up your work space. Please drop a line in the comments section bellow or send an email if you have anything to share or questions to ask.