Category Archives: Woodshop

The Paint Job

Ev Kreitzer had an attitude. I’m not sure if it was a good attitude or a bad attitude, but he definitely had one, and I liked it. The year was 1969, and I had a job at Dennis Company that suited me very well. It suited me especially well when I was driving trucks, zipping around in forklifts and generally doing a man’s work in the body of a boy who was just becoming a man. Ev was working as the mechanic out back in the shop, until as it happened, Jim Fuller became ill, and could no longer drive the semi on the long-haul runs. The other teamsters around there had no interest in that work. They were country boys, and driving the Freightliner actually involved trips into Portland and Seattle! But Ev had been on that turf before, and when the boss asked him to do the job — or told him he had the job as the case may be — Ev was in the driver’s seat again. Yes, I was envious, but I also knew that the job wasn’t going to go to a 17 year old kid. I asked him if he liked it, and all he really said was “I guess I saw it coming. I guess it’ll be OK” But if you ask me, I think it was a definite yes. I think he liked it.

One of Ev’s attitudes was, “The boss is not always right and the boss doesn’t need to know everything.” It suited him well, and by my observation, it suited the boss pretty well too, because Ev did his job and didn’t rub it in too much when the boss was wrong. This particular attitude came to bear on both sides of the equation one day when Ev and I were tasked with unloading some steel rebar from the flatbed trailer behind the Freightliner. Setting off to the task, I’m pretty sure that two things were true. First, I’m pretty sure that the boss told us to unload it by hand. Second, I’m also pretty sure that Ev said it was a damn shame that the company wouldn’t buy any decent equipment, because it just doesn’t make any sense to pull off all that re-bar by hand.

Ev described the job in slightly different terms than the boss. He explained that we’d hook a chain to the two tons of re-bar and link it up under the bucket of our ancient loader. I’d lift the load, and he’d pull the trailer out from under it. It was not a bad plan, except for the load rating and condition of the old loader. It was quite a contraption. It operated without modern hydraulics. The lift mechanism consisted of a cable and drum affair. When the lift clutch was engaged the cable would wind about the drum and the load would rise. The skill of the operator was much more important on the descent. A gentle nudge of the hand to the left on the control lever would cause the drum brake to slip and the load to descend. With the two tons of steel hanging below the bucket, I gave the lever a gentle nudge and the load began to descend with surprising speed. Then I made a mistake. For some silly reason I thought a slow descent would be preferable. I gave the lever a gentle nudge to the right and the drum brake grabbed with an absolute finality. Gravity took care of the rest and everything was instantly on the ground except for the rear wheel of the loader, which implies of course that the loader was no longer horizontal. It was definitely vertical. While my face was still plastered to the windshield, Ev came around and questioned, “Are you OK?”

I affirmed that I was just fine, though slightly upside-down.

Then the second part of the attitude kicked in, “We’d better get this thing set upright before the boss sees it!”

I had to agree. Ev pulled out a chain, brought over a little forklift, pulled on the tail end of the loader and it came down with a bounce.

In 1970, the aging Freightliner was replaced with a somewhat newer model. Ev was OK with that, but he did think that the boss fell a little short of the mark when he bought a new truck without power steering and with a pretty awful paint job. But Ev was up to the challenge. He bought a power steering unit with his own money and installed it on his own time. It was a successful negotiation, I guess. As to the paint job, Ev did the work, and I’m pretty sure that he got paid for it. Well, all except for the blue stripe. Every Dennis Company truck was white, without a hint of color, except for the red lettering on the side. Ev just decided that the truck was going to have a blue stripe. A small protest from the proletariat, but a protest none the less. I liked the paint job and told him so. It was then that Ev hit me with some country wisdom that I’d never heard before, but will always be with me. With his aw-shucks attitude he said simply, “A good paint job, can cover up a multitude of sins.”

This weekend I cleaned up my 1961 Delta unisaw, and gave it a good paint job. I’m certain that Ev was there in spirit. I think he’d like the paint job.

Before After

Adjustable height workbench / assembly table

In my early years of woodworking and cabinet building, I spent a lot of time assembling things on the floor. I’d never worked in a professional shop, and I didn’t have the room for an assembly table. When I went to work in the ML Bigelow organ shop, our primary assembly table was a dead flat surface of 10′ X 5′. What a difference! With a dead flat surface, assembling cabinets to square is so much easier. With the work off the floor, assembly requires a lot less expressive language.

For my new shop, and especially for piano action regulation I wanted a nice assembly table, but also I wanted it to be adjustable in height. The pictures below show my creation.

The adjustable height will allow me to do action regulation work comfortably in both sitting and standing positions. The table top is 3′ X 5′ and the surface is dead flat within 0.5 mm. The flat table was constructed in as a torsion box, pretty much as described by the “Wood Whisperer” in this article. It features an oak apron which sits 1/4″ proud of the table top. This allows a 1/4″ piece of masonite to lay inside the apron. When the work surface becomes marred, it can easily be replaced. That’s a nice feature!

I created the adjustable height mechanism by adapting an adjustable height cart sold by Harbor Freight. I removed the wheels and handle from the cart and fitted it to the base. The table top is fastened with lag screws and plenty of construction adhesive. There is a small amount of side play in the mechanism, so the table wouldn’t be suitable for much pounding and hammering, but that’s not what I had in mind. At all heights it is very stable vertically. The table has plenty of mass (about 300 pounds), which enhances its stability.

Adjustable height workbench and assembly table

Adjustable height workbench and assembly table
Minimum working height of the table is 24 inches.

Adjustable height workbench and assembly table
Maximum working height of the table is 48 inches.

Wood turning 101

My friend Jim has been busy with his new mini lathe making pens and other turnings. His enthusiasm became infectious. It did remind me that I had a new shop without a lathe! I asked Jim to show me his lathe and help me to turn a pen. I promised I wouldn’t buy a lathe until we got together. Saturday morning we spent some time together, and this was the result.

First Pen

The metal parts are from a kit. The walnut turning is my work. With the cool system tools Jim had, it is pretty straight forward to produce an awesome product.

True to my word I did not buy a lathe until I played with Jim’s Rikon mini-lathe. The Rikon is really nice for small work. It is super accurate and exellently machined. But I had in mind something more “industrial” for the shop, particularly something that would fit in with my old Delta/Rockwell collection of tools. By my good fortune, an excellent old Rockwell 46-450 lathe was available on KSL.com classifieds. The lathe was made in 1974, and has seen very little use. Paid about a dollar a pound!

Rockwell 46-450 Lathe

Rockwell 46-450 Lathe

The woodshop attracts some “new” tools

Last week I went to the Davis School District surplus sale hoping to find some cabinets for the shop. And what did I come home with?

1961 Delta Unisaw

1961 Delta Unisaw

How could I resist? If you are a car buff (I’m not!) its a Corvette — the standard of fine US manufacturing and engineering. If you are a woodworker, its the Delta Unisaw — the standard of fine US manufacturing and engineering. It needs new bearings, cleanup and a paint job, and then I’ll have a beautiful working classic in the shop.

The motor is the original manufactured by Doerr Electric. It is a 3-phase, 2 HP motor. Since I don’t have 3-phase in the shop, I didn’t really know where to start with the motor. Did it just have bad bearings as disclosed at the sale, or was it burned out? By posting on sawmillcreek.org, I got a very generous offer from Shane Whitlock. He said, “Nice grab … I took a look at that one too and seriously considered it but decided to pass. I just got rid of one of my Uni’s so I don’t need to be picking up another. Definitely have the motor checked out, or I am not too far from ya, bring it over and we can tear into it.”

Sunday I drove up to Perry to meet Shane. Whoa! What a deal. Shane has a superior collection of restored vintage woodworking tools in his shop, and is constantly restoring woodworking equipment. I sure fell into a wealth of knowledge. We powered up the motor with 3-phase power he has available in his shop, and determined that the motor is fine, but bearings should be replaced. I’m planning to keep the motor and buy or build a 3-phase rotary converter for the shop. After success with this, who knows, another 3-phase machine could be in my future.

While I was touring Shane’s shop, he pointed out the 13″ Rockwell planer (1982) that he had restored, and offered it for sale. I hesitated, but said, “no … I have two planers”. The next day, I went back and bought that planer! It is more accurate (and much prettier) than the two planers I have, and the price was just too good!

13 inch Rockwell Planer (1982)

1982 13″ Rockwell Planer
As pictured it has a 120 V motor. As purchased, it has the original 230 V Rockwell motor.

Woodshop progress: Lighting and Dust Collection Cyclone

I keep plugging away. After hanging ceiling drywall and fifteen light fixtures, I’m pretty good at getting up and down a scaffold. So why don’t I feel like a kid? (because its been 40 years since I was sixteen?)

The lighting is beautiful to my eyes – pretty much drafting room quality. Its fifteen dual-tube 8′ fixtures (T-12), for the 28X30 space. About 1900 watts total. I have it wired on two 15A circuits. I haven’t yet "split the ballasts", but will do that. When that is done, I’ll have the ballast in each fixture light just one tube in of its own and one of a neighboring fixture. That way I can have uniform lighting at 50% and 100%, depending on the need at the time.

The fluorescent fixtures are not state of the art. Current lighting is predominantly efficient T-8 (1 inch) fixtures which are very nice and quiet! While I would like to go premium, the cost savings of my used T-12’s (1-1/2 inch) paid for the ClearVue cyclone. I found 20 used fixtures with tubes for $400 and grabbed the deal.

Here’s today’s photos:

Woodshop progress: insulation and drywall

My shop is too big! OK. That’s the last time you’ll hear that. Though the work continues it seems slow! There’s just a lot to do. I had the week off from work. It has been nice. Most of the insulation is done on the lower level. For now, I’ve just sealed off the attic room. I love insulation! Though temperatures have been in the 20’s and 30’s a very small fire in the woodstove keeps the place nice and comfy. Sheetrock is installed on 90% of the shop ceiling. The storage ceiling is yet to be done. Most of the ceiling was a two-person effort, with the help of Terri or Erin. (That’s the way to do it!) But I did about 5 panels on my own. The drywall lift I rented made the job pretty easy. I don’t know how else I could have managed to install drywall on an 11-foot ceiling. Cool stuff. I hope the engineer had an equity position. The Telpro panel lift is a great tool!

Drywall lift

Shop Ceiling

Woodshop progress: Passed electrical inspection this morning!

A milestone! I finished the rough-in electrical last night and had the inspection this morning. Yes … was a bit nervous … I’m not an electrician. I have some experience over the years … but still I get concerned about nuances of code, when the inspector is on his way. I shouldn’t have worried. I knew that it would go well when we walked up to the door and the inspector said, “That’s a beautiful door!” I gushed … “gee thanks I made it of cherry and walnut”. He barely glanced at the wiring, and passed it all off.

None too soon! It’s cold, and I had to get the electrical inspected before I could start insulating. I haven’t dared to put a thermometer out there, but with full ventilation and no insulation, I don’t think the woodstove raises the temperature more that about 15 to 20 degrees.

Here’s the details on the electrical: The sub panel is fed from an 80 amp breaker at the main panel/meter box on the house. The panel is a 200 amp panel. Formerly, it had 2 100 amp mains. I down graded the 100 amp mains to 2 60 amp mains for the house, then added the 80 amp main for the shop. As you can see below, I built lots of diversity into the shop circuits, especially since it is a one-man shop.

Circuit details for the shop:
30A 220: Planer
30A 220: Dust collection
20A 110: Perimeter outlets A
20A 110: Perimeter outlets B
20A 110: Table saw
20A 110: Jointer
20A 110: Attic outlets
20A 110: Storage outlets
15A 110: Shop Lighting A
15A 110: Shop Lighting B
15A 110: Storage/Attic Lighting
15A 110: Swamp Cooler
15A 110: Garage Door opener

Lighting for the main shop will be 15 8′ 2-lamp T12 fixtures that I picked up used at a good price.
Electrical panel

Electrical panel

Door and panel

Woodstove for the woodshop

I got out to the shop early this morning to work on wiring. But it was about 37 degrees, and hmmm, my priorities shifted. I got to work on installing the woodstove. I first had to do some work on the manufactured chimney. I’d placed it temporarily for the roofer, but hadn’t installed the ceiling flange. The chimney needed to drop down 6″ into the flange, and unfortunately the roofer — absent my direction sealed the chimney into the roof flashing. I had to undo that, and to seat the chimney pipe in the ceiling flange.

Then it was off to Lowes for another section of chimney, cinder blocks, stove pipe etc. So now the bill for chimney, etc is about $400, but I got the stove for $50. Hah!

By 3 pm, I had the inaugural fire going, and tomorrow morning the temperature will be right for wiring. I don’t know about you, but without a woodstove … well it didn’t feel like a woodshop. Now it does!

Woodstove for the woodshop


Woodstove for the woodshop

The shop is closed in!

Well, the door is hung, and winter can come. I just need to do the weather stripping, and we really are ready.
Woodshop door
Next up is the gas line for the radiant floor heat. I’m digging the trench for the gas line right now. Should have the gas supply done in a couple of weeks. Then we can do the 4-way inspection and start installing insulation. After the door was up — even without insulation — I noticed the building was warmer than the garage. The south windows are providing good solar gain.
Shop door and gas trench in progress

A door for the new shop

I figured that the new shop should have a fine door that speaks to what goes on inside. Sometime around 1992, I acquired some walnut from an old woodworker in Pleasant Grove, UT. The walnut had grown in his yard, and he’d had it sawn into 12-quarter planks. Well it’s 2008, and that walnut was still waiting for a project so it has found its new purpose. It’s been a rewarding project. I haven’t applied woodworking skills at this level of fussiness for quite some time.

I like to make a connection to the wood I am working. That connection is always special when the wood has both a story from the inside and from the outside. Wood, of course, is a contankerous medium. It always has a story to tell from the inside, and sometimes it expresses itself at the worst possible moment … almost always when you ask it to do something it didn’t want to do! But on the other hand the wood may also have a story from the outside. And that’s the case here. I wish I could remember Stan’s last name, but after 16 years, it does escape me. He was a member of my barbershop chorus, and about 80 at the time. He’d reached the point that he realized his stash of walnut was probably not going to be used by him. He was pleased to pass it on to me (and accept whatever cash was involved at the time). But more than the cash, he was happy to see that precious walnut go to a fellow who would appreciate it. Some of it went into bench top for an organ bench at the ML Bigelow organ shop where I was working as a craftsman at the time. Stan — the musician — was excited to hear about that. I have a feeling he’d also be mighty happy to see his walnut in this woodshop door.

Here’s the door after the first coat of finish: