Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thinking Through A Cabinet Design

 Sometimes I think I need to have my own private 'think tank.' It takes many days of cogitation to come up with a plan, and then it is usually altered in a quirky 'light bulb' moment of inspiration that changes everything.
 I revamped my entire garage/shop in order to make room for a large, free standing hand tool cabinet, now in the planning stage.  My internal debate on construction materials is ongoing, but the design is now pretty much decided.  I had looked at hundreds of examples, being very impressed by Andy Rae's tour de force cabinet in The Toolbox Book by Jim Tolpin  (Taunton Press.)  But my heart kept going back to a wonderful piece of furniture made by Megan Fitzpatrick for Popular Woodworking's February issue in 2009:

(Sketch Up model by Bruce Beatty,  PW website)

 This is a Shaker-style, step-back cupboard over seven feet tall, and forty-four inches wide. The upper unit is 12" deep, and the lower cupboard is 16" deep; plenty of room for a wide assortment of tools, if I just reconfigure the inside shelving. It sounds so simple, doesn't it?  I've almost decided on cherry ply for the panels and cherry boards for the casework, but that's not a final decision. American Cherry is extremely expensive here in Eastern WA.  I could also go with walnut.  I'm undecided on this option, because I tend to use free space by hanging things on outside surfaces of my storage units, and defacing a fine piece of furniture like this would seem like a sacrilege. If it was nice plywood, I'd not feel so bad about it.

 In deciding the interior structure, I had to list what I intend to store, and how to allow for extra room for new purchases.  I'm short on good hand saws, so some kind of saw till will be included. I own lots of useful marking and measuring tools, so the doors must display storage, whether that be deep, box-like doors or frame and panel with fitted hooks and holders, I don't yet know. And I have a large  bow saw to hang, with another smaller scrolling bow saw, and a long panel gauge. And a big 'Commander mallet.' 

 A main consideration is having the upper doors high enough off the floor to swing clear of my workbench, which is currently 35" high. If and when I build a nicer one, it will have to be at least 36" high, as I am six feet tall and everything in my shop feels sized for midgets some days. The Shaker Cupboard has a base cabinet at 34", so raising it a little won't alter the proportions too much to look bad.  It is crucial the upper doors swing free of the bench, so I've no choice there. The 44" width puts it squarely over the end of the bench, and I'm going to have to be careful to place the cabinet so the lower doors can swing open to at least 90ยบ without hitting the bench or the newly-added garage storage shelf I've found so useful.  Space constraints.

 I set to work designing the interior of the base cabinet, changing the feet to some form of club foot for strength, and adding cubbies for smaller hand-held power tools like a trim router, an angled screw driver used for sanding pads, and a random orbit sander. The saber saw proved bigger than I'd thought, with the blade sticking out ready to use, so I had to make one space larger than the others. Then I added in a shelf.  Organizing the upper cabinet is going to be an exercise in tool layout, putting cardboard down on a table and actually tracing around tools to see how packed I can get everything in. That's an exercise for later, but as I thought about it, considering an angled, lift-up shelf for planes, etc., it occurred to me I was packing the upper space and leaving no room in this cabinet for one thing I really wanted: a nice presentation box for my growing collection of wood samples.  This photo is an old one; I am now up to fifty 3x6" sample pieces of different species of wood:

 With that realization, the interior space is radically changed. This was my 'light bulb' moment.
When I make the box, it will sit front and center upon opening the top doors. So. That means a bank of small drawers on each side of it, filling out the 40" interior space, with tools arranged above them.
Somehow, I keep cutting into the upper storage space for these large hand tools, but I'll just have to do the best I can. There are priorities, after all, and an artsy burl box of wood samples is just too good an idea to pass up.

 So here is my initial design for the overall cabinet, drawn out on my 'Bucket Boss' graph paper, which is old as the hills, I think. Feel free to let me know what you think of it, and to make any suggestions before I truly get started.  The base cabinet, of course, is first.  Wood selection has me stymied right now, but I just have to make a decision and go with it,  I think. The upper unit will probably take me all winter, as it is much more complicated than the base.  The height will be changed by adding crown molding as Megan did on the Shaker cupboard, but that depends on whether elves come in and lower the height of my garage rafters when it's all done. We'll see.

 All comments are very welcome!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Simple Storage Shelf

 I am amazed at how much a simple shelf unit can hold. My new one is basic open shelving, attached to the garage rafters. It is only 34" long and 14" deep, but those four shelves are holding all sorts of odds and ends I had scattered around the shop, and sit nicely in the space the Radial Arm Saw used to occupy.  The two long boxes of veneers are safely tucked away on top, and I now have a place for almost everything, and everything easily accessible in its place. 

 Here is the 'other' side of the garage during the makeover, piled with scrap bins and at least one box full of garbage to go out the door.  There will probably be two.  Or three.

Even the top of the table saw was piled with 'extras' needing a home.

And here is the new storage unit with much of that now housed where I can get to it easily, with room to spare.
  The unit is open for a 36" stretch below the last blue shelf, where I will move a kitchen-garbage-style container to hold long wood cutoffs, and a low barrel-type for shorts I don't want to throw away.  There is more sorting to do, but my bench top is finally clear, the TS is open for use, and I can finally get to making some catch-up products I needed to do.

  The design for the hand tool cabinet will begin earnestly, now, on paper.  Wood selection is still a consideration, with prices to be checked.  I can't wait to get started!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rearranging Machinery

 At last, I got the back bench torn out and the space cleaned up, and have moved three machines into it.  I was a bit worried about access to that upper back wall, but there's plenty of room to reach around the machines and get to my sanding supplies shelf and any tools I need.  This arrangement is going to give me quite a bit more space, even after I build a simple storage unit for the overflow, and then the hand tool cabinet. Putting the router table cabinet on casters was something I should have done a long time ago! It's perfect.

 There is quite a bit more minor organizing to do, but now I can sit at night and play with designing the main part of this endeavor, the 7' tall, 40" wide floor standing hand tool cabinet.  That will be the Fun part!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cleaning the Shop

 This is where I began in my new shop renovation. The intention is to eliminate the old garage bench along the back wall and move machinery in that space (see previous post.)  First I cleared the cluttered bench top, then sorted through all the stored wood salvage shoved underneath for twenty years.  I have one huge box of garbage to discard (can't believe I even saved pieces of cheap wafer board and chipboard back then) and two more tall garbage bins to sort through later...lots of hardwood pieces I knew I'd need someday for jigs and such.  Now there is way too much. 

 I'm keeping four feet of the bench on the right, because it is space for my hollow chisel mortiser and some plastic drawer bins for hardware.  Today I put up brackets elsewhere in the garage to hold odds and ends boards and some 2x4 material I'll save.  There were surprises in cleaning this out.  Between two long cardboard boxes of veneer, lo and behold I came across a thick veneer sheet of maple burl a new acquaintance had given me about 15 years ago.  There isn't enough for my new hand tool cabinet door fronts, but I'll find something to use it on!  And there was my beech coffin plane, too, pictured up on the workbench.

 I also got the new casters on the bottom of the router table cabinet. Now when I'm ready, I can just put all the machinery in place and fill in back wall floor space with whatever fits for storage.
The pegboard will stay until I get the hand tool cabinet built, when much of that will be fitted to the doors and shelves inside the new cabinet. I'll have to see what remains, but I'm hoping I can fabricate a wall storage system for clamps behind the machinery.  I have clamps hung all over the place, and it is definitely not convenient. 

 Tomorrow I'll be setting up a new table for the belt/disk sander so that I can move the huge machinist's vise onto its space across the room, clearing all things from that old bench top, and then I'll get into de-constructing it. I don't yet know what I'll do with the scrap from the torn apart work bench.  So after that, more lumber storage to set up.  Then, some retail product to make, and it will be on to designing the new hand tool cabinet.  I'm all ready fiddling with it on paper, and quite excited!  I'm even making room in the center of it, for a nice box for my wood samples collection.

 More later, when I have the bench gone and the machinery in place.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Big Plans in the offing

I've not recently had any blog-worthy projects to cover here, but now I've decided on another Shop Overhaul that may be of interest to others.  As I've added machinery in the past, the shop had to be rearranged for simple fitting in, but this idea is a new one. Or rather, a one-year-old one. I decided I want a large hand tool cabinet instead of the existing open shelving, something as big as Andy Rae's beautiful cabinet on the cover of the Toolbox Book. I may, however, have to be more practical in the materials selected, and do without the inlays and stringing decoration. We'll see. Here is what I have now:

 Two recent acquisitions helped push this decision: I bought my first antique 'collector' tool off the web,  a lovely rosewood panel marking gauge, 20 inches long. I fell in love with this thing.

And a massive slugger of a 'Commander' mallet, sent to me on a trade with another woodworker. It is a wonderful piece made of mulberry and walnut, and both these tools are too large for my little open cabinet shelves.

 So, first step: I combed through books and magazines looking for what would work for the space I had to fit in my shop, and what I could alter to pack in as many hand tools as I could for efficiency. There are hundreds of designs of floor-standing tool cabinets available.  However, I kept coming back to a strikingly simple piece of furniture, a Shaker style step-back cabinet that Megan Fitzpatrick had made for Popular Woodworking, February 2009, as an entertainment center.  It's a 16-1/2" deep base cabinet, with a four-inch step back to a 12" deep top cabinet, the whole being 88" tall.  I need a tall cabinet, and it struck my fancy as perfect for my space.

 Here is a photo of one-half of my garage/workshop as it stands now.  It is pretty crowded.  I need the hand tool cabinet behind the small bench on the left, where the radial arm saw is taking up too much space. I use it for a lot of cross-cutting, and it has to go somewhere else.

 The RAS protrudes 40" from the back, mainly because a hooded garbage can conveniently catches all the dust and cut offs behind it.  At the back of the room, behind the floor fan, is 24" worth of wood and scrap storage under an old garage workbench covered with clutter. Pegboard hangs on the back wall above it.  To move things around and fit in a large floor cabinet, I plan to eliminate the back wall bench and move into its place the RAS, a floor standing drill press not in this photo, and a router table cabinet I'll have to put on casters so it remains functional.  Parking it at the back wall would prevent passing longer wood pieces across its table surface unless I can roll it forward, so that is easily fixable with casters.

 The wood stored under that back garage bench is mostly scrap, but a couple of bins of hardwood, a selection of dowels and a few boxes of weighted veneer selections, are all worth saving, so moving them means building another wood storage unit also. It will go where the router table now stands, around the corner from the RAS pictured.  There are table saw jigs under there to be saved, too.

Oh, man. How one thing leads to another! And all this started with a beautiful, innocent rosewood panel gauge.  I don't know how long this will take, especially with Christmas retail stock and gifts to consider, and a commission or two coming up.  Rearranging everything in the shop and keeping it open to function as necessary is going to be a challenge. It may take me all winter, but once I get started, all the problem-solving will keep me going with gusto.  It has been years since I've dug into that space under the bench at the back of the garage. There is no telling what surprises await. I may even find that old beech coffin smoother I put away because it had no wedge. I haven't been able to find it for some time now, but I know it's there somewhere, and needs to be fixed.

 I wish I could just sit down and design the tool cabinet, but first things first.  I think I'll get the leaf blower, and then put on a dust mask.  It's raining today. That's perfect!

©Barb Siddiqui