Wood Shop and the Move

1.13.2015 – Tuesday

Seven months have elapsed since my last writings here, and Winter has arrived. With the cabin existing happily and no major projects under way, I wanted to provide some sort of update to show that things are going well. The batteries are in good health. The Ol’ man has been checking on them and watering every 4 months or so. There has been no slow-down in use and my folks are spending many days and nights off the grid. Both kiddos have enjoyed, to a surprising extent, riding in the back seat of the Honda Pioneer (in child seats of coarse). We have also taken a few days and nights to do some camping on the big lake. Our oldest enjoys sunsets and provided his silhouette for this photograph.

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My absence can, for the most part, be explained by the purchase of a house. The house resides a little over an hour’s drive from the cabin. It’s likely little surprise to learn that our house is on a dead end road without any other houses in sight. We love the contrast of living in the woods while having a reasonable size city (Marquette, population ~21,000) just a short drive away. I could go on at length about the house – there was a lot of thought that went into the purchase, and it’s still fresh in my mind – but I rather fill this post with a collection of projects I’ve been working on. The projects I’m not discussing are all the little things that go into making a house a home. I’ve done too many small projects to count (gigabit ethernet in every room, replaced light fixtures, LED conversion of whole house, dimmer switches, new kitchen faucet, replacing ice makers, installing a utility sink in the laundry room, and a few dozen other small handyman things that I’d categorize as scheduled maintenance… which somehow eluded the previous occupants for several year – there was some catching up to do and I’d rather not go in to any detail regarding the dismal state of the rain gutters on the East side of the house).

OK… a quick word on the house. It is a cozy 2-story house with plenty of room (2700 sq. ft) and has in floor heating on every floor (the workshop and apartment above the workshop included). Our heat and hot water is provided by an outdoor wood furnace in the colder months and propane in the warmer months. With the LED conversion and only heat pumps to run, our electric bill is surprisingly low. We have 13 acres on a dead end road, and it’s just over a half mile to our mailbox (I was notified by the postal worker that they won’t deliver packages if it’s over half a mile). We can’t see any of our neighbors from the house or yard. The topography of our property and surrounding forest (as well as the neighbors’ willingness to share cost and buy up vacant land if it becomes available to prevent future development) makes it a safe bet that it will stay this way. The land is very well timbered, and has this woodworker excited about future prospects of selective cutting and management. That’s all for now. On to some projects!

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Four-Wheeler Cart

The first project worth a mention actually was a collaboration. I needed a wheeler and a cart for the new house and land. A wheel barrow wasn’t going to cut it, neither was your run-of-the-mill store bought cart for lawn mowers or small highway worthy utility trailers. Having had use of four different wheeler carts (five if you count the ingenious modification of a Prime Mover M15B Concrete Buggy for use behind a wheeler) I know the value of “the right tool for the job.” With an outdoor wood burner and a drop site for firewood (via logging truck) over 200 feet away, my heavily forested property needed a wheeler and cart. No way around it. Even a small tractor would be inadequate due to the rather challenging topography of the land. I’ve never tipped one, but my new property would be a good place to try. Luckily, one of my high school friends and neighbor growing up is handy with a welder, knowledgeable for where to get metal, and happens to have designed and assembled a few carts prior to my request. I received the cart welded up with tires and rims. I then prepared and painted the cart before adding the wood. One look at the underside and you’ll see it is well reinforced and should have no problem overcoming the occasional rock or stump impact.

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Cart features:

  • All steel construction, 16 gauge 1.25 in. square tube & 0.25 in. steel plate
  • Floor in 18 gauge steel plate (one piece)
  • Hitch is salvaged and overbuilt from .25 in. thick 2 in square tube
  • Hubs actually sleeve inside the axle and are pinned with bolts – replaceable in minutes
  • Hitch is welded to cart
  • 3/8″ in flat stock braces added to hitch and axles
  • Entire chassis wiped down and sanded prior to paint application
  • Black hammer-finish Rustoleum spray paint used (one coat + touch up)
  • Wood is pressure treated 6″ pine decking
  • 5/16 in. galvanized bolts, washers and lock nuts used for wood installation
  • 24 in. tall sides
  • box is 4 ft wide, 5 ft long
  • 7/8″ plywood was salvaged and cut to fit floor of cart to take abuse of hauling wood
  • Easily carries face cord of hard maple (at least 1200 lbs)
  • Tires have added tubes for durability
  • $1050 for all materials and labor (welding)
  • Lifetime warranty on all welding!

The cart was completed mid-August. Since then it has lost about 20 pounds and the boards have shrunk a quarter of an inch, leaving gaps in the sides and tailgate. The decking was wet and heavy from pressure treating when I picked it up. I could have stacked it an let it air dry over 2 months but I needed to put the cart in service and shrinkage really wasn’t a concern.

The Workshop

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The days of basement wood working and poor air quality have passed. Tall ceilings, in floor heat, bright shop lights, central dust collection through metal ductwork, and real lumber racks are the new standard. Heck of an upgrade. I spent about a month putting the shop together before even turning a tool on. The garage was pretty bare-bones upon arrival. The seller left two tired-out workbenches for me and a lot of burned out light bulbs (who does that?). Here’s a quick list of the upgrades added to make a garage a shop:

  • Shop lights installed. Each fixture uses four 33 watt T8 daylight bulbs (2500 lumen). Two fixtures in finishing room, 8 in the main shop area, and 1 over the non-woodworking workbench. Three light sockets were upgraded to a socket + grounded outlet to accept the plug from the fluorescent fixtures. One switch turns on the finishing room, one switch does the non-woodworking bench, and one does the 8-fixture main shop area. A total of 110,000 lumens and 1452 watts of lighting was added. The quality of light is superb. I stashed a number of 13 watt 6500K CFLs (about 6) to keep swapping out in the three remaining standard fixtures that get use in the garage.
  • A 4 strap and 3 strap lumber rack that was prebuilt prior to the move was installed and loaded up with lumber. They are power lagged to studs with seven SPAX  1/4” lag bolts 6″ in length. The racks are incredibly robust, being built from Douglas fir 4×4’s and 1.25″ angle iron.
  • The non-woodworking bench was refurbished and reinforced with 5/16” carriage bolts and received a new Bessey bench vise.
  • The other workbench was a mess. I replaced one leg and added 18 or more carriage bolts for reinforcement.The top was two sheets of 1/2” exterior plywood screwed together with an abrasive paint coating. I removed about 30 staples that were stuck in every which way before fitting homasote to the top and screwing it down. I flush trimmed the top with a router so that all three layers have the same edge.
  • The dust collector was wall mounted and the ductwork was hung using the shop-made plywood hangers I prebuilt in the previous basement wood shop.
  • An overhead electrical cord spool was removed from the ceiling, bolted to a new ash board, and then power lagged back to the ceiling. A new heavy duty female end was then added, replacing the old corroded original plug.
  • Multiple clamp racks were made for Quick-Grip clamps, pipe clamps and F-clamps.
  • Half inch baltic birch plywood was hung over the non-woodworking bench and tool hooks were made out of wood screws and some clear rubber tubing found in Lowe’s plumbing department.
  • A garage door opener was also added to allow for quick entry and exits with cars or four wheelers (I run a dehumidifier year round and also heat the garage to 63° F in the winter.
  • And while not pictured, I have a box fan mounted on the ceiling with a furnace filter. This acts as an air filter for the shop and is directly wired into the main shop light switch so it is always on when I’m in the shop.

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The modern beam and base workbench I constructed prior to the move is also finally set up. The base is mortise and tenon 4×4 Douglas fir with a 3/4″ epoxy treated plywood top. The beams are made from a plywood ladder frame with a hemasote side and a melamine side. Each beam can be F-clamped to the base for extra stability. The bench has proven remarkable versatile and incredibly solid.

Home Remodeling

I enjoy a good shower from time to time. With our house we got a great shower… with a bad window. You read right, there was a window in our tiled shower. One day I noticed some black mold on the sill. I poked it with my finger and the sill abruptly ate my finger up to the second knuckle. Two weeks later the window was torn out and the first home-renovation was under way. Not much to this project. I gutted all the rotten wood, let it dry out, then rebuilt it and started installing glass block. I simply followed the instructions on the Pittsburg Corning glass block installation manual and purchased all the items I was told to in the instructions. Except for ordering two fewer blocks than needed and grouting at the top of a 24 foot ladder at night in 15 mph winds, it went relatively smoothly.

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A benefit of the glass block is more light! The absence of a window frame and screen results in about 30% more light. After removing the window, the width of the opening was already sized for the glass block. For a perfect fit, a small piece of Black walnut was installed at the top of the opening.

The outdoor wood burner also got some attention. Aside from scheduled maintenance and my insistence on replacing some worn out fire-rope, I figured adding a roof was a good bet. There is some debate as to whether I built a lean-to, pergola, or pavilion. Either way it keeps me dry. I made a trip to Menards, spent $300, and in two evenings after I was done with work ended up with this:

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The posts are buried 48″ below grade and all told there are only 42 fasteners (SPAX lag-bolts) in the whole structure (not counting the sheet metal screws). The ugly orange cord strung up is the temporary cable for our internet, it is supposed to be buried summer 2015. The building to the right is the workshop.

Wood Shop in Action!

I had some very high expectations of the shop. I was a little nervous to test it out and feared that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations or that it was simply too nice for a mere hobby woodworker. When the snow fell I headed to the shop and got to work. My fears have abated and now I have some projects to share. It’s a fine workshop.

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Seven beer caddies were designed and built as Christmas gifts. I kept two. Woods used were Butternut (background) and Black Cherry (foreground). The Cherry caddy also received a stainless steel bottle opener.

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The project that received the most attention so far has been the Black Walnut TV stand. I experimented with sapwood, shaker doors, and through tenons and it paid off big. This cabinet also comes pre-installed with magnetic child safety latches. The story behind the cabinet’s design was born out of necessity. William, our very energetic 2 year old, didn’t like the way a cartoon character was being treated by his peers so he launched a high velocity sippy cup at them. That was the end of our 42″ Panasonic plasma TV and an expensive “teachable moment”. This stand is nearly three feet high, raising it out of the sippy cup danger zone.

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A simple birds eye maple & black walnut bathroom knick-knack shelf.

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This is me. Focussing very hard.

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The board that I’m using to set my scribe is a neat bit of bent lamination. The strips go all the way through the board (unlike inlay which is just a shallow strip).

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This is another wood working project that my two year old helped me come up with. I have a number of Lego models that have up to 2200 or so pieces in them and all sorts of moving parts (air cylinders, model engines, gears, electric motors, etc…). This is super amazing to a two year old. I wanted to place out of reach and out of danger. Actually, all the projects except for the beer caddy, have been inspired by children. Thanks kiddos. If you are wondering about the bathroom shelf, that is where the toilet paper has to be stored.

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Speaking of kiddos, this step stool (18″ high) was designed for the bathroom sink. The heavy White Oak the stool is constructed from, as well as rubber grippers on the feet, intentionally make the stool difficult for tiny hands to tip over or push/carry around the house.

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This tea candle holder was designed with my wife’s assistance (sort of). There may have been some minor heat damage to a certain window sill in a certain bathroom… After scraping and repainting, I set out to increase the candle safety of my household. Throwing away the offending candles seemed like the simplest, but least popular, solution. So I sought the wisdom of the wood shop and consulted my figured wood scrap pile. After about 2.5 hours I had a black walnut tea candle holder.

That is about it for this update. Hopefully I’ll get back to some more cabin related posts in 2015. There are a few projects on the drawing board that the wood shop will be called upon to construct. Hopefully I’ll get them – if I do you can count of photos and commentary.

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3 thoughts on “Wood Shop and the Move

  1. Russ George

    Great update! Looks like you have been a very busy guy! Very jealous of that new workshop, looks great! 🙂

    Reply
  2. Debra Wiltzius

    Blog well written!! Would replace word in candle part (sounds better ) fire with heat damage. For peace in house >

    Reply

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