Pneumatic Tool Storage

Pneumatic tools are the unsung heroes of my shop.  My brad nailer never shares in the glory of a completed furniture project, but it touches every jig and shop project that I (sometimes literally) throw together.  The problem I’ve always had, though, is that using it is a pain in the neck.  I had to lug around the compressor because I was tethered to a short spiral air hose.  All the accessories, connectors, and thingamajigs were scattered around my shop, never readily available when I needed them.  So, to make life a little sweeter, I carved out some space for my pneumatic tools on the open stud wall in my shop, right in-between my hardware storage shelves and my clamp cart. 

There’s nothing fancy or innovative here; the picture pretty much speaks for itself.  Some scrap plywood was all I needed to create some storage shelves between the studs and to hang my stapler, brad nailer, and hoses. The main benefit that I get from this setup is that the compressor stays in one place, and I can use the 50’ retractable hose to reach anywhere in the shop.  That’s a total game changer.  The blue trays hold my brads, staples, and various connectors and attachments.  My nail guns are held by double-pronged robe hooks.  I have no idea why I had four of these in stock, but by some happy accident, they fit the tools perfectly.  Serendipity, FTW.

Did you know that I posted this picture on Instagram a while back?  I’m a newbie on Instagram, but going forward, I plan to use it for pictures and comments that don’t really merit a full blog post.  You can follow me here!


Shop Improvements

It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a facade of order—and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order.
— Douglas Hofstadter

I’ve been thinking a lot about shops lately.  I’ve often heard that the shop itself is our most important tool.  If that’s the case, then shouldn’t we put as much (or more) effort into maintaining and improving our shops as we do our other tools?  If a chisel gets dull, I don’t just pick up a bigger mallet to whack it with.  Well, ok, sometimes I do, but most of the time I head over to my sharpening station to touch it up.  That small amount of maintenance makes the chisel perform better and improves the quality of my work.  My shop, as a tool, shouldn’t be treated any differently.

When I started down this path a month ago, I didn’t intend to launch myself into a full blown shop improvement vision quest. I had a problem to solve:  my lighting was poor due to some of the cheap ballasts burning out in my fluorescent lights.  So, I bought some higher quality ballasts and rewired the offending light fixtures.  When I was done, the improvement was remarkable.  It’s amazing what you can get used to when it comes on gradually (also known as the “frog in the boiling water” syndrome).  This one repair to my shop illuminated (see what I did there?) a whole host of other problems that I’ve been tolerating for way too long.  So, prepare yourselves, my friends, for the upcoming parade of posts about shop repairs and improvements.  I’m on a roll right now, so I’ve got to strike while the iron is hot, as they say.  Once I get distracted by a new furniture build, I’m sure I’ll drop whatever shop improvement I’m working on and then who knows when I’ll get back to it.

Shop, Project

Dedicated Sharpening Station - Part 5 (Final)

I’ve been using my new sharpening station for about a month now.  It’s an enormous improvement over my previous process.  I hesitate to call the sharpening station “done,” however, because I suspect that it will evolve quite a bit over time.

The left-hand side of the station holds my grinder and sharpening stones.  I have two waterstones:  a 1000/4000 combination stone and an 8000 polishing stone.  I keep both soaking in water in their own dedicated plastic containers so they can be ready for use at a moments notice.  My flattening stone lives right next to the waterstones.  The two blue trays in the front are where I do my honing.  They do a good job at containing the bulk of the mess, and they have grippy rubber feet which keeps them from sliding around on the laminate surface.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a sink in my basement, so I just keep a one gallon jug of water nearby.

The center section is dedicated to storage.  The deep tool tray holds my honing jigs, oil, a spray bottle, and a few rags.  The shallow tray is for smaller items such as my angle gauges, a ruler, etc.  I also drilled a hole in the shallow tray to hold my burnisher.  I’d still like to get a few dedicated screwdrivers for disassembling my hand planes.  I’m shopping around for those; I left some space to drill a few additional holes in the shallow tray to hold them.

The right-hand side of the station is reserved for metal working.  Anything that could produce metal shavings or dust is done here; I don’t want small pieces of metal sprinkled on my primary workbench where they could damage my tools or a workpiece.  I mounted a machinist’s vise to the table, which has already proven it’s worth several times.

Some of you probably think that dedicating this much real estate to sharpening is a luxury or even a waste of space.  I disagree.  Having a convenient and efficient sharpening system improved my woodworking.  In fact, I can’t think of any other use for this cabinet that could rival the positive impact of a sharpening station.  If you don’t already have a dedicated sharpening station, I highly recommend carving out some space.

Project, Shop

Dedicated Sharpening Station - Part 4

The tool tray on my sharpening station is actually broken into two parts:  a shallow tray and a deep tray.  I plan to drill a few holes in the shallow tray to hold my burnisher and some screwdrivers dedicated to disassembling my hand planes.  There will also be some open space to hold small odds-and-ends.  The deep tray will hold all my sharpening jigs, oil, and a spray bottle for my waterstones.

Tool tray components prior to assembly

While both the laminated top and wood top segments are fixed in place, the two tool trays are free-floating, and can be easily removed.  They both hang between the two top segments, which are mounted at the same height.  The deep tool tray is constructed using simple rabbet joints, and the bottom of the tray is held captive in a 1/4" wide groove to allow for wood movement.  I reinforced the rabbet joints with some 1" brads.  The shallow tray has a small ledge at the back to keep items from falling off and landing behind the cabinet.

I debated whether I should put a finish on the tool trays and the wood top.  In the end, I compromised by applying a single coat of Tried and True Traditional Wood Finish.  This product is a polymerized linseen oil and beeswax mixture; it's my go-to finish for shop surfaces.  I like that this finish is non-toxic and non-flammable, which works well for me since my shop is in a poorly ventilated basement which contains a hot water heater with an open pilot light.  It doesn't offer as much protection to the wood surface as a varnish finish, but it's easily renewable, and makes cleaning up glue drips a snap.  Tried and True is the only product I will use on my workbench top.

Wood top and tool trays after one coat of Tried and True

If you want to give Tried and True Traditional Wood Finish a try, you have to understand what you're getting yourself into.  The product has an unusual consistency... it's essentially a paste.  You must apply it in extremely thin coats and use a lot of elbow grease to rub it in.  Also, don't expect to apply a second coat a few hours after the first.  Tried and True takes a long time to dry, which is the downside of a non-toxic non-flammable formula.  The single coat I applied to the tool trays and wood top took almost four days to dry, but I also applied it during a rainy and humid week.  If you're in a hot dry climate, it will dry faster.

In the end, I decided one coat was enough protection for these pieces.  This decision was part pragmatism and part laziness; time will tell how the trays hold up.  In the next (and final) post in this series, I'll show the final setup of my dedicated sharpening station and how I use it.  Stay tuned!

Shop, Project

Dedicated Sharpening Station - Part 3

I’ve built several laminated wood tops for my workshop over the years, and every time I complete one I think the same thing: I’m never doing that again.  They’re not difficult to build, just tedious.  The cycles of milling, gluing, and flattening seem to drag on and on and I’m always glad when I finish.  A solid wood top makes a phenomenal work surface, though, so I keep making them.

I wrapped up the construction of the wood top for my sharpening bench recently, and it turned out surprisingly well considering it’s made from random 2x4 and 2x6 scraps.  The finished top is 27” wide, 25” long, and 2.25” thick.  It will be mounted onto the right-hand side of my base cabinet.

After completing the final glue-up, I cut the top to size on the table saw and flattened both sides with my jointer plane.  I smoothed the top side with my #4.  I didn’t bother smoothing the bottom side since no one will ever see it anyway.  I used a router to chamfer all of the edges.  My original plan was to leave the wood unfinished, but I’m wavering a bit.  This top is going to take a beating, so I might apply a couple of coats of Tried and True Original Wood Finish, which is a mixture of polymerized linseed oil and beeswax.  I think it strikes a perfect balance between protection and repairability for a work surface; I used the same finish on my workbench and it’s held up well.

The final step on this project is the tool tray that will mount in the five inch gap between the laminate top on the left and the wood top on the right.  My next post in this series will focus on it’s construction.