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If you've been a reader of mini-lathe.com for any time, you may be wondering: "Where's the new stuff?"
If you go back and read my personal home page, you will see that my original plan for mini-lathe.com was to tell you about my home machine shop. Somewhere along the way I got detoured into writing about the mini-lathe and mini-mill. The rest, as they say, is history.
Well, some months back, my wife and I decided to renovate our home, workshop included, and since then, the shop has been filled with materials for the new construction. Here's a photo of the shop a few weeks back. If you look carefully, you can see the Grizzly 7x12 and mini-mill off to the left.
Bottom line is that I literally can't turn around in there. I could have, if I was still as thin as in that picture on my home page, but as my income has grown, my waistline has also. The good news, though, is that when it's all done (December?) I will have a really nice new shop.
We've been in our house for about 18 years. We raised four kids here, and they have all moved on now and three of them have kids of their own. We were thinking about moving to an "upscale" neighborhood, and even put a down payment on a lot, but then decided to renovate the house we've been living in.
All my life, I have dreamed of having a nice shop, but it was always out of reach. So I've worked out of unfinished basements, spare rooms in apartments and unheated garages for many years. Now, finally, at age 55, it looks like I'll have that "dream shop" that we all hope someday to have. Now I worry about whether I'll live long enough to enjoy it!
Until now, mini-lathe.com has been operating out of our garage. It's a small one-car garage that has never held a car for as long as we have lived here. It has not been too bad as a shop, except that everything is behind something else, and all of my tool benches are on wheels so that I can move them around to get to what's behind them. Well, then there's the fact that it's only about 34 degrees in there during the winter. And that cold concrete floor makes my legs ache.
The new shop is an addition to the back of the garage. An added benefit is that I will now be able to park a car in the garage. Here's a few photos of the new shop under construction:
Here's the poured concrete foundation. Looks like it will support a 24x80!
Here it is a few weeks later, framed in:
And a shot of the interior...
So, I'll keep you posted. Once the construction is done, I'll get everything moved in there and can start working on some new project articles. Been thinking about maybe gettin' a bigger lathe... and mill... and...
As I had hoped, the interior construction of the new shop was pretty much completed by mid-December. However, while I am now moved in to the new shop, I had to temporarily store a lot of stuff from the garage in the shop while the garage gets refinished - so the shop is still pretty crowded.
I purchased a few wire-rack shelves with casters from Lowes to store stuff and still be able to roll it around until I decide where things will go. Even so, I have been able to use the lathe, mill, and other power tools, so this is a big improvement over the last several months when I was totally dead in the water.
Here are some photos of the shop right after the interior was finished but before I moved all the machinery in. I'll post some updated photos in a few days showing the current status of the shop, but the following photos make it easier to see the layout.
The shop is 15'x15'. It seemed big when I was planning it, but I'm already wishing I had made it about 5' longer (or 8')! My wife says that it would be plenty big if I'd get rid of some of the junk I've been saving for 40 years. She may be right. But I use that stuff!
The outside is still just wrapped in Tyvek. The shop is just one small part of a much bigger home renovation project, so our contractor has been working according to priorities we set. Next on the list is an outside storage shed for the mower and garden tools that used to be stored in the garage. This will free up more space when it's done.
The door opens out to the back patio on the south side of the shop. The built-in cabinets are nice, but I have already decided that drawers would be more practical here, since I am using them to store a lot of small electronic components and tools. I'm looking for some kind of drawer inserts that will sit on the shelves. I also decided to remove the two lower cabinet doors to the left of the sink to provide more convenient access to the contents. Basically, the countertop will be used for electronics and small parts work, so I continually need to get at the stuff down below. It's nice to have a sink in the shop. My wife used to get a little perturbed when I would clean off parts and my greasy hands in the kitchen sink.
This door opens into the garage. It used to open from the garage into back yard. These are the roll-around wire-rack shelves. Ultimately I hope to have just two of these in the shop. As in my old shop, everything will be on wheels. The floor is made from tiles that are some type of compressed wood product. They are very smooth so the casters roll easily - also easy to sweep or vacuum. The floor is also much warmer and less stressful on my legs and feet than the concrete floor of the garage that was my old shop.
Lots of overhead lighting - another set of four like these also is on the other side. The incandescents and fluorescents are on separate switches.
The wall to the left is the north side of the shop. A small heat exchanger heats and cools the shop. There is a small outside unit on the other side of the wall. It is operated by a remote control. It kept it nice and warm when the temperature dropped to 12 the other day. Lots of outlets - each panel has four outlets. It's nice to have a little sunlight and a view outside, too.
The window is on the east side of the shop. It really brightens up the place and makes it a lot more pleasant to work in during the late fall and winter when I spend most of spare time in the shop. I feel a little bad that the shop looks so nice 'cause I know it won't be long before the lathe slings oil around onto the nice walls. I may add a big splash guard to the back of my lathe bench to help prevent that.
The exterior is nearly finished - just needs a little more siding, some lights and gutters. Then plant some grass.
Well, I was able able to move into the new shop in January. Unfortunately, the next project was to build an outside storage shed and to refinish the garage. While these projects were underway, much of the stuff that had formerly been stored in the garage had to be temporarily stored in the new shop. So there was not much room to work, and not much shop work got done.
Shelves of excess junk still take up a lot of room. Eventually there will just be two shelves.
Now the garage is done and the storage shed is available for storage. All that remains to be done is the exterior siding on the shop and the storage shed, and that is underway at the moment.
My spare time has been limited during January and February. We had a few snowstorms, so snow removal became a consumer of what otherwise might have been shop time. It also took time to move all the "outdoor" stuff into the new shed. Wiring the shed also took some time, since that was not included in the construction contract.
The most important tools including the lathe, mill, bandsaw, drill press and grinder are all operational now, and the electronics bench, while crowded with stuff, is usable.
The fun part is that I got a new C6 lathe and X3 mill from Sieg. These arrived in January, but I have not been able to set them up yet. At the moment, they sit in the garage on furniture dolleys until I can build some benches and move them into the shop.
The exterior is nearly complete - siding and gutters are now done - all that's left is the exterior lights and planting some grass. It's been a long process, but the final result looks good.
Made some progress on the interior over the weekend. Finally, it's beginning to feel like home. For the first time in nearly a year, I can get to my tools and do some work. One nice thing about having everything on wheels is that you can try out different arrangements with relative ease. It's also handy when you need extra room to work on a long workpiece that extends through the lathe spindle or from the vise - or just need to sweep the swarf.
Some of those old, primitive, unpainted 2x3 and 2x4 stands are scheduled for upgrade in the next few months. But they have served their purpose until now.
I finally got down to just 2 rolling wire racks. As you can see, they also serve as coat racks at the moment. I cleared everything off of two of the four racks onto the floor, then moved two of them into the basement. This forced me to fit everything that I really needed in the shop onto the two remaining shelves. Anything that looked like outdoor stuff that would not freeze went out to the new outdoor shed. Some stuff went to the "bulk storage" shelves in the garage; the rest went to the basement.
Even the electronics bench is cleaned up a little. Still too much stuff on the countertop. Some of it needs to be mounted on the wall or elsewhere. I got the small-parts bins mounted, too.
At this point, I'm working on some of the finer points and applying a few things I learned, both good and bad, from prior shop experiences. A small breakthrough was figuring out a way to make shelves work sort of like drawers. Generally, I like drawers better than shelves - they are further along the evolutionary curve. Effective drawers, though, have to be the right length and depth, and must provide unobstructed access to the whole length of the drawer. They have to be deep enough to hold the things you store there, but not so deep that space is wasted or things have to be stacked on top of each other. The best ones, of course, use ball-bearing double slides. They glide out easily to the full length of the drawer. Trouble is, they're expensive, and for the DIY-er, time-consuming to install.
Check the photo above, and you will see that I removed the cabinet doors to provide easier access to the contents. In this case, the contents are stored in Rubber Maid drawer inserts. I've used these for many years (I'm not sure they still make 'em, but someone does). They're convenient for small stuff, and versatile because they come in various sizes and link together with an overlapping lip that joins each tray to its immediate neighbors. As they are laid out above, though, the trays are not linked, since I needed to be able to pull each one out individually - like a drawer. Pull it out too far and in the blink of an eye you dump the contents on the floor. Not good.
Like the Grinch, I puzzled over this until my puzzler was sore. Well, OK, maybe not that hard, but after a while I had a promising idea. I know I tried this, or at least thought about it, somewhere in the hazy past of my shop experience, but it emerged as a good compromise in the current situation. Here's what I did:
The glue to use for this application is Liquid Nails. It is easy to apply and dries fairly quickly to a strong grip. I formed a short tip from masking tape around the plastic tip on the tube. This makes a finer bead and, after the glues dries in the tape tip, you can just peel it off to get down to fresh glue at the end of the plastic tip. Otherwise, the glue dries in the plastic tip and getting fresh glue out can be a sticky problem.
The net result is a sliding panel that supports a chain of the drawer inserts. Years ago, I made a set of drawers from pine and used paraffin wax to lubricate the sliding surfaces. Now, some 30 years later, those drawers still slide as slick as the day I made 'em. It's a little harder to find canning wax now, but my wife found some in the local grocery.
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