Friday, July 25, 2008

The Green Shop - Planning (Part One)

When we decided to sell our old 1910 Craftsman house, the deal was that Sylvia got a pool and I got to have a "real" shop. Even though I had grown up with a pool and spent more time doing pool care than actually swimming, my workshop was a small two car garage with 7 foot ceilings and I was game for whatever I had to do to get into a space where I could move wood around instead of tools.
As far as building went, I had helped my best friend over the years whenever he needed an extra body on a construction job. So, I knew my way around a construction site, but I was not experienced or fast enough to ever lead a crew.

When it came time to design a shop, I had an engineer draw up plans for me and just got the project started. Now that I'm in the energy consulting field and learning from the very best, I would have done things much differently.

Whether the shop you want is attached to a house or stands alone, there are some very critical decisions that need to be worked out at the design phase. What type of structure do you want to build? Do you want to work on a concrete slab or wood floor? Do you have an option to position the structure for solar gain? What, if any, plumbing would you like in the shop? Do you plan on heating and air conditioning the environment? These questions along with many other questions dealing with code, electrical requirements and load (weight) requirements need to be answered before the plans to the shop are even started.

So let's start with one of the questions. Concrete slab or wood floor? If you can orient the structure for good winter solar gain, a concrete slab will be a big heating benefit. For me, I wanted to have a crawl space, so I could avoid electrical cords and dust collection pipes being a tripping hazard or just in the way of moving lumber or sheet goods around the shop. Plus, I don't care much for standing for long periods on hard surfaces. It is at this stage in the design you'll need to decide where you want plumbing and what type of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) you'd like to use.

On my next building post, I'll discuss the envelope, scheduled plumbing, and HVAC options. Also, as I stated before, I'm not writing a book and therefore am not going to get into all the details. If you have a specific inquiry, please comment or email me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My First Dovetail

There are a lot of firsts in life. Your first step, first kiss, first time making love. To be honest, I'd like to forget all my firsts, because I pretty much sucked. But, you deserve full disclosure on my woodworking abilities, or, more accurately, inabilities. So, here is my first dovetail joint. I know, pretty sad. But, believe me, not as sad as some of my other firsts. Thankfully, if you are willing to practice, you will generally get better. I give you my second attempt at the dovetail joint. While it is no where near what I could be proud of, it is better than my first attempt. I hope those of you who are just starting out, will be inspired to know you are not the only person in the world that sucks at this. Everyone had to start somewhere and like all my other firsts, everything that followed has gotten better. I usually walk pretty well now, at least when I'm sober.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Green Shop

As many of you know, I've just finished building my shop. It had been three years, in April, since I started the process. Now, I've always been somewhat of a "green" nut, but about two years ago I started getting education for the field of energy efficiency. As far as a job goes, I've hit the lottery. I get to help people become energy efficient, or at least educate people on cost effective efficiency measures they can implement in the residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors.

What does this have to do with my shop? Well, as I said, I started getting educated about two years ago. The shop building started
three years ago. I missed the opportunity to make better decisions at the beginning of my shop build. As I make the "Shop Building Posts", hopefully, those that are contemplating building a shop will learn from my mistakes and from what has been successful in the building of my shop. I'll try to make the posts in the order of the building decisions you'll have to make. Also, because I'm posting and not writing a book, I won't be going into great detail. If you are building or having problems with the bills or comfort of your existing shop, and would like some advice, feel free to contact me by email or leave your questions in the comments field.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Rare Opportunity

I wanted to let all of you who are interested in design know, there is a rare opportunity to view an interview with Wendell Castle. Neil Lamens of Furnitology can barely contain himself as he has the opportunity to have a private chat with one of the great designers of this century. Check it out!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Serving Bisket - Top and Bottom

I'm behind on my little project due to being "forced to spend a day by the pool, BBQing and drinking beers with a few friends?" Well, at least it was fun and I got to eat my two favorite foods, Pork and Bacon. YUM!!! Throw a piece of ham on that and I'd be in heaven! I BBQ'd pork tenderloins, wrapped in bacon and rubbed with roasted and ground fennel seed, salt and pepper. I don't know if I've covered the fact that Sylvia has decided that nothing needs to die for her subsistence. While I agree with her feelings on the subject, I told her I'd like to get through the summer before I go completely vegetarian. At least she can still eat eggs. The new diet hasn't completely killed me because Sylvia is an awesome cook who could probably make brussel sprouts taste OK.

Anyway, I managed to get a little shop time in tonight and got the top panel that I'd re-glued, re-sanded. I cut both the top and bottom to final dimension and tomorrow will hopefully have time to get in and figure out the dimensions for the legs and start getting them rough cut.
Also, on a tangent, be nice to others. Yesterday, someone attacked a friend's blog with some really just plain, nasty comments. It was clear the guy had some weird agenda, probably because my friend has worked hard and made a very, very successful blog (
Anyway, like I said, be nice. Life is WAAAY too short to spend any of it being someone that you wouldn't even like.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Bit of History

The following is put forth to give a little insight to who I am and what sparked my desire to build a shop and try to take on woodworking. I love to make something out of nothing. I have no idea whether I'll be any good. I only know I really want to be. Sylvia and I bought the following house when we first started"shacking up". It took us over eight years to complete. Along the way, we bought five acres in the country. One night Sylvia had a dream, basically telling her we needed to move. Since her Mom's side of the family have all been somewhat precognitive, we pulled the old house together, sold it, and have been developing our place in the country ever since. So, after more than 13 years, my shop is almost complete and I get to start living my dream.The following is from an email I wrote to Kari (The Village Carpenter) because Sylvia and I had seen a picture of Nancy's garden and were blown away at how much it looked like Sylvia's original garden.

If you don't already know who Kari is, you owe it to yourself to check her out. Not only is she a woman in a typically male field,she's damn good and has lovely nails.


OK! First, Notice the lovely wall colors! There were also nasty acoustic tiles on the ceiling. We are in the dining room looking into the living room. That "thing" in the corner was the only downstairs heat. There was also a "window banger" in the living room for A/C. We later installed a central HVAC, which if you'd like a bizarre story, I'd be willing to share.

This, quite a few years later is the front of the house (after the backyard fence and automatic sprinklers were installed).
Ooh! Here we have the mudroom. Later you'll see the outside of this addition. Notice they actually built on to the back of the house...It actually is a converted porch, sloped and everything.
Early people of this land had a thing for doors! This is the "during" shot of the kitchen. There are actually four...FOUR! doors in the kitchen. The left door was taken out (it goes to the foyer) and the right door leads to the "root cellar", which was originally where the coal was deposited.

Here is the before of the kitchen. Again, notice the acoustic tile..and what a beautiful floor! And ew, it was nasty, gross, dirty!
The west side of the house shortly after we'd bought it. Notice the window by the tree in the shed addition. Yes, that's plywood. They boarded it up and put a shower stall over it.

That's right get mad at the wall..not at me! I had said..."oh, a little paint and it'll be sweet!" We first tried to preserve the plaster walls and redo the woodwork in place...

OK..really out of no attention to this yet..(Sylvia filling in two of the raised beds I built her) The other garden you'll see came first.

Well..what do ya know! There it is! Look familiar??????

The living room after the remodel. We put a nicer acoustic tile on the ceiling (all the seams were caulked and it ended up looking like a really nice tin stamped design.)I did most of the ceiling and crown molding while Sylvia was home in Germany. She thought the big crown molding would be to gaudy. She changed her mind when she saw it in place.

The dining room..a basic mirror image of the living room. I miss the wood trim and the nine inch mop boards.

This bathroom was GGGGRRRROSS!!! The old couple that lived here (son of the builder and his wife) hadn't been upstairs in about five years. Evidently before he'd moved downstairs, he'd lost his ability to aim...

Again, out of order. The kitchen after. You are looking directly at where the door to the foyer used to be. The floors were not salvagable (spell check says that's not a "real" word") Well...screw spell check. Notice the soffit is directly in line with the edge of the cabinets. Things go like this in our house..Sylvia: "I want the box on top to line up with the bottom." Vic: "But, that's not hows it's done." Sylvia: "Well, can you do it?"Vic (begrudgingly):"I don't know, I'll try." (See that's the reason she keeps me around, I have no idea that I really can't do stuff!!)
Ta Da..go back to the nasty picture of the bathroom. .....Much more nasty urine smell either....BONUS!
Well Kari and Nancy, I hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me. Designs by Vic and Sylvia...mostly's really her house...even in the new one.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Serving Bisket - OOPS! & Changes

Well, I got the top and bottom of the serving stand glued up. That was one step forward. When I ran them through my drum sander, the bottom looked good

the top, mmmmm not so good. I didn't pencil on a triangle to keep my boards organized and I got my heartwood stuck between my sapwood.

Or did I get my sapwood stuck between my heartwood. Either way, I doubt it tastes much like peanut butter and chocolate. So, one step back and re-saw and re-glue the top.

The rest of the night I spent trying to figure out the edge detail. Since I am still limited on the selection of tools to choose from and I really wanted a curve that I can't get with a router (at least that I know
of), I decided the tablesaw was probably my best bet. This first profile just seems too much of an ogee to have the Asian feel I'm going for.

I tried a few different configuration of the angle of the temporary fence and the angle of the blade, but nothing felt good. So, back to the sketch book. I think this design has a better Asian flair and is much more doable with the on the tablesaw.

We'll see.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Serving Bisket - The Rough Milling

I learned several lessons yesterday. First, no matter how hard you try to get the blade tracking correctly on a bandsaw, if it's been neglected for over fifteen years and therefore the tires have gone bad, the blades gonna still fly off. Second, you can't joint a board on a jointer that isn't tuned correctly. Third, and final (at least for yesterday), you should probably wear shoes in the shop. I dropped a piece of lumber on one of my toes and OUCH! Well, after getting Ken's jointer adjusted correctly I was able to get my boards faced jointed and get a square corner. Today I hobbled around barefoot (I did say probably should wear shoes) and cleaned an area to work in and I got the top and bottom of Bisket's serving stand rough milled and glued up.
Even though I'm not to good at this yet, I'm having a great time. I went into the shop this morning when Sylvia went to church, turned on some Elton John, and started cleaning. You can actually see the floors again. As I said, I'm really not ready to start projects. I need to build cabinets to house all my "stuff" and build some actual work stations (notice the door on sawhorses I'm currently using for a workbench). Those saw horses are the base for my "router table", too. I don't remember what I was thinking when I built the cabinet for the drill press. I must've been feeling very tall that day, 'cause it's built for someone that's over six feet. But the old girl takes precedent. I try to always remember "family first, then friends, then everything else." Once I get the final top and bottom of Bisket's stand cut to size I can figure out the dimensions of the "legs". I'll probably need to tune up my drum sander as it hasn't been used in about five years and it's been bumped around a lot.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Serving Bisket - The Design

O.K. Here's the thing, I've never taken the time to learn any of the CAD type programs. In all probability, I never will. I'm much more comfortable opening up my sketch book and grabbing a pencil. It's actually been kinda nice to do a little sketching; I used to all the time when I was younger. The last time I picked up my sketch book was over ten years ago. I never got that good and because I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, I tend to stop doing things I'm not great at doing.
I know that's insane. Well, now you're getting to know me. Back then I would never let anyone see what I'd done ('cause it wasn't perfect), so here are a couple of examples from my "early" work.
Now to the task at hand. Bisket's serving stand. I really like the idea of this first design.

The problem is that I am still very limited in my tool selection. The shop is not finished. I have several tools that still need to come over from my buddy Ken's (extremely small) basement
shop. I know it sounds like I'm whining, and .... I am. But anyway, this would've been cool. My "customer" (my lovely wife, Sylvia) said, "Really? Aren't we going for the whole Zen thing?"
The customer is ALWAYS right, and I really don't care as long as I get to design and build the thing. So, here's the "Zen" design I came up with. I have some red fir left over from building a pergola for "the customer" that will be just perfect for this.

The height needs to be nine inches. I'll figure out the rest of the dimensions after I get some of the rough cutting done. I'm hoping to get a lot done this weekend and will post as I go.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Serving Bisket

Time slips by way too fast. It wasn't that long ago our oldest dog, Bisket, was a pup that bugged, my now deceased, Cocobear non-stop. On Coco's last trip to the beach, I took this photo of my "Girls on the Beach". Coco was almost 16 years old (a long life for a big dog). Well now, Coco's been runnin' in the wheat fields on the other side for about seven years and Bisket has taken her place as the grand dame of the house. I don't think Bisket is gonna make it as long as my Bear. She has a hard time going out for walks, now. Most recently, she started having trouble eating with her bowl on the ground. We even had to switch over to mixing her dry food with Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul. That right, it's as expensive as the name makes it sound, but she's been a good girl and deserves to enjoy everything her life has left.
Which brings me to my first project. Eve
n though the shop is far from ready, Bisket needs something decent to eat off of. I mean,C'MON! This is pathetic!!!
So, ready or not, time to draw up something for the old girl, so she doesn't have to eat off a box of flourescent light bulbs!