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    Jexter's Avatar Minecraft Addicts Operator
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    Jul 2011
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    Jexter's Shop Experiment


    Hey guys,

    As most of you know, I've been pretty busy with moving and have spent the last few weeks getting settled into my new place. I recently traded hot and humid Southeast Tennessee for the milder, cooler mountains of Northeast Tennessee. My fiancee is doing her graduate schooling here, so I've been busy setting up shop about 2-3 hours from where I used to live. I saw DCL's desk project thread recently (which oddly enough is similar to a few projects I've been working on), so I figured I'd drop a forum post on what I've been working on lately.

    I've had a fascination with woodworking for a few years now, but never really had the outlet to start practicing it until now. I was adamant about my next home having a garage or a place to start building a shop, and fortunately that plan worked out. After the gal and I came to terms that the garage would be for a workshop and not for cars (lol), I started working on some of the basic "furnishings". The other cool thing about the place I'm living now is there's a reputable woodworking school a little less than an hour from me, so I'll be taking some courses there over the next few months. The plan is to have a basic shop built by then so I can start applying that school knowledge in the comfort of my own home.

    First things first! A few days after I moved in, I realized there were two furnishings I lacked to organize my movies and my computer desk. My old DVD / blu-ray cabinet fell apart (that's what happens when you buy one from Wal-Mart), and my previous computer desk setup wasn't going to work. First thing I did was put together a quick desk hutch so I could cram all my computer displays and TV into a small area. Not even bothering with any fancy joinery / mortise-tenon/ dovetails at this point, as the hutch is built for a specific desk and I'll likely replace it in a couple of years.





    Went with 4 coats of a polyurethane / satin combination finish to get the color close to my desk tint. Typically I'm a fan of more natural-colored wood, but my desk happened to be dark so that's what I went with. Turned out decently enough for just low-grade white pine.



    Really that desk is made for a single display, and isn't the ideal width for two side-by-side. But you work with the space you have and make it as functional as possible.

    After the hutch was done, I put together a movie shelf that could later serve as a bookshelf if I need it to. My new townhome has a gas fireplace in the corner, and after I decided that I wouldn't be putting my living room TV above it, I decided to use the space for the movie shelf.



    Didn't particularly care for the stain outcome, as it had a far deeper orange hue than I anticipated. I contemplated going over it with more of a walnut finish to match the fireplace, but decided I'll worry about that another time. I just wanted to get those movies put away, lol.

    After about a week of getting the bulk of our moving boxes unpacked, I moved on to start converting the garage to my shop man-cave. First thing on that agenda was to get rid of the misc items I had stored there and upgrade the poor lighting.

    (Before / After)

    I put up 4 LED shop lights and they made a huge difference. Before it was nearly impossible to get adequate light without the garage door being open during daylight hours.

    The next project evolved during the get-rid-of-stuff-I-don't-need phase, when I was getting ready to dismanstle a full-size box spring for my old bed mattress and throw it away. After I ripped off all the fabric, I got a good look at the construction of the frame and realized it was a basic torsion-box design. It was also made out of medium-density fiberboard, and I've learned from enough woodworking podcasts and articles that good workbenches are often made out of MDF in a torsion-box fashion. MDF tends to not sag or expand like regular wood does with age, so it's a rather nice option for making a dead-flat assembly table.

    So, why destroy the box frame? No way, let's upgrade it!



    It took me nearly a day to get the surface completely dead-flat, and involved plenty of re-adjusting of the supports, shimming, and some planing. This was made even trickier by the fact that concrete garage floors are not totally flat and they'll play games with you. The original frame could already support decent weight, but I went ahead and reinforced it with some 3/4 x 4" lumber and then replaced the 1/8" MDF surface. I walked a few laps on it afterwards and added some additional weight just to make sure it was very sturdy.

    I wanted to make this thing bomb-proof and double as a tornado shelter (not really), so I made the legs out of 4x4 lumber and built a lip around all 4 sides. The lip added a lot of strength to the table since it was secured to all the legs with lag bolts, and also would provide a good surface for the use of clamps.

    It also put the weight of this thing around 250-300 pounds.



    After the lip and legs were secured, it was time to add a 3/4" MDF top, and a layer of 1/8" Masonite as the final working surface.



    I intentionally slightly oversized the MDF and Masonite over the lip of the table so I could flush-trim the edges afterwards (this was my first time using my brand-new Dewalt 2 1/4 HP plunge router). The trimming worked perfectly and made all the edges look completely uniform.



    This was followed up with 2 coats of danish oil on the hardboard / Masonite and lip to seal up and protect the surfaces. I like the use of Masonite as a work surface, as it is very durable and easy to replace a few years down the road if the need arises.



    And that is how you turn a mattress box spring into a roughly 5x7 workbench! lol

    My follow-up projects included building a workstation for my new Dewalt 12" 780 Miter Saw (can you tell I like Dewalt products yet?). Hopkins makes these very useful kits called 2x4 Basics Anysize Workbench legs that can be used to assemble custom bench frames, which were used to construct the base frame. The miter table turned out to be a tricky project, as I wanted the surfaces of the table on the sides of the saw to be perfectly even with the saw cutting surface. I ended up having to do plenty of shimming to make that work, and also built a sled for the saw. The sled raises the saw to the same height as the flanking table surfaces, and also allows the saw to be easily moved forward and backward if needed (useful for mitered cuts).



    With any shop, dust becomes a problem sooner or later so I decided to go ahead and prepare for that. I don't think my space is large enough to justify a fixed-tube vacuum system that attaches to all major power tools, so I'll probably settle for a smaller shop vac with a cyclone attachment at some point. In the meantime, I built frames for 3 box fans I happened to have and hung them at the back wall. This seems to do a good job getting dust out of the shop when my garage door is open, and also keeps the place nice and cool.



    And this is a second workstation I put together. I'll keep most of my smaller power tools on the shelves here eventually. Since the photo was taken, I've since added Masonite pegboard to the back of this bench so tools can easily be stored along the wall, and there is also a light hanging underneath the shelf:



    In the more recent days, I've been getting my hands on more tools, many of which I'll be needing for some of the upcoming woodworking classes.

    The Z-Saw is a pretty epic, razor-thin hand saw great for dowel work, hand-cut dovetailing etc. I felt like a Samurai as soon as I opened the box:




    Here are a few of the new chisels and planes, which will get tons of use at school. Mostly Lie-Nielsen, Veritas and Swiss Made stuff. Some of the prices on these quality tools made me want to cry, but it's impossible to find a bad thing said about these particular brands. I'd rather buy something that will last the long haul then have to replace it a few years down the road:



    Can't forget about the router bits! I decided to buy a set of Freud bits which are tough on the wallet, but have an excellent reputation for durability and performance. I've been experimenting a lot with these the last week or so:



    Started using said router bits on a rough box I built to start throwing all my wood scraps in. Did a nice job on a 3/4" dado:



    And then tried out the panel pilot bit at box handles:



    After that, I used a V-groove bit with a router straight-edge to experiment with making notched corners. Then I drew a rough olive branch inside of the corners and traced it out freehand with the router using a shallow V-groove. Dabbed it with a bit of colonial stain afterwards just to see what it'd look like with some darker contrast.



    The freehand stuff was pretty fun, so I gave it another go on tracing out some letters I drew on the box face, and then cut out the over / underlines using a round-cut straight edge.



    That brings me to my current project that I have yet to complete. I've thrown together a lumber rack so I can start organizing my wood stash better. The rack is about 10 inches from the wall, and that leaves space behind the rack for larger pieces such as 8x4 plywood, MDF etc. I built the lower vertical chutes today and will use those for smaller wood pieces that aren't really long enough to fit on the wall rack. The next plan is to use the space directly above the scrap box to build some additional, smaller chutes for additional organizing.



    Hopefully I can begin replacing much of this construction pine with some legit white oak / cherry / walnut over the next weeks and begin experimenting with more serious projects. I'm also discovering just how vital having a tablesaw is to a woodshop; I've been using a traditional radial saw with a fence to do all my long cuts, and this takes 10 times longer for every cut than a traditional contractor / cabinet saw platform would. My miter saw will cut up to 16" but after that I'm stuck on the radial, lol. Guess I'm going to have to toss a coin and decide if my next tool investment will be a vac / cyclone system or a tablesaw!

    So that's been where most of my time has gone lately. I'll post pics and updates as I get more things done in the future.
    Last edited by Jexter; 04-05-2016 at 04:20 AM.

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