Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #1822: My Shop (A Tour!)

I had a crazy/busy weekend (again!)   I had hoped to have some time to paint, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me yet. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a productive couple of days. It was quite the opposite. 

Many of you who have followed me regularly here on the blog may have noticed that I am not posting as much. It isn’t because I am not working as much or doing as much creating, but it is more because the ‘production’ side of my business has really grown. After working from my kitchen in my small, 1-bedroom apartment for seven years, having a full room as a shop has really allowed me to expand that part of the business and work much more comfortably than before. While we were able to make due with things before, and actually keep everything neat and tidy, the growing number of orders from my dear painters really was a huge factor in us finding a larger place. The home we are in now is much more suited to our home business and not only are we much more comfortable here, but also more efficient. The key to making the most of my day is “organization”. It makes it possible to produce a large quantity of work quickly and efficiently, and most importantly – safely.

I never bought into that phrase that I often hear among the woodworks: “A clean shop is not productive.”  While I realize that many people have no choice but to be in a small, cramped space that is shared with others, I also know from my own experience that no matter how small a work area is, there is no reason it can’t be kept organized and clean. After all – I did work in my kitchen. That room opened up into my living room and that was pretty much our living space. Even though we scroll sawed there at least one or two days per week, it was never filled with dust or dirty. The key was to clean up not only after we were finished, but periodically throughout the time we were working. It kept the dust at bay and made things much easier when we were done and often tired. Not to mention we knew that everything was in its place so no time was no time wasted hunting for things. This principle was something that became a habit for me and I feel it is a good one to share. 

You know that feeling you have when just finishing setting up a work area?  I get that feeling every time I enter my shop. No matter how busy I am, I always try to put everything back into its place and I never walk out of my shop without doing a good cleaning. Becuase I keep this up throughout my work sessions, it is not something that takes much time and is really very easy. Once I got into this habit, I don’t think I would ever want to have it any other way. 

Here is a photo of the cutting I did on Saturday and Sunday:

Not only did these pieces have to be cut. but many of them routed as well and all of them are sanded smooth and ready to paint. The only things that were able to be stack-cut were the bunnies and the one ornament near the back. All the others are ¼" MDF which had to be cut in a single layer, then a second cut needed to be made on a bevel. The large clocks required two bevel cuts each. The bevel cuts were then routed and everything sanded. You would think my shop would be a dirty mess by the time I was finished, wouldn’t you? 

But here is a picture of how it looked when I was done:

I promise you that this is not out of the ordinary. This is how it always looks in between sessions. Everything has its place and everything is put back there. The white cabinet on the left holds my blades and small things like scissors and pencils in the top drawer, and then some postal supplies (bubble wrap) in the cabinet underneath. The large table holds our two saws and the drill press. Under the table are some large boxes for templates for my larger items like my carousel and my large clocks. I also store some extra pieces in there and there is the shop vac. I keep the top box empty and put it on the floor as I cut to toss in the waste pieces. when the box is full, I have a large trash bag on the other side of the closet to put the wood in so Keith can burn it in the stove in the basement. The cabinets on the right that the ornaments sit on are filled with sandpaper, my glue gun, glue and my sprays for finishing. I also keep some of my DecoArt paint in the (the larger jars) and a box of good quality paper towels. 

This next picture is a wider shot. You cen see the plastic boxes on the left. They hold 'extra’ pieces that I sell. When I cut, I try to add in a few extras of each thing. That way I don’t have to cut each time there is an order. I don’t keep a lot of stock, but having some is good. Lately, It seems that I empty those boxes out pretty quickly!  

Next to that is my tool box. It is also very neat and organized. It holds all my screw drivers, router bits, Forstner and drill bits, hand drills and there is a drawer for pattern templates. I also keep the patterns that I am using in the little shelf stack on the far right of the picture. I file these back when I am done with each session. You can see with little clutter, it is very easy to run the vacuum and clean everything after each session of work. The padded floor keeps the floor neat, and also is very easy to vacuum. It also helps reduce the noise in the room. I have vinyl shades that also vacuum nicely and no curtains or pictures to gather dust. 

This is the opposite side of the room. The wood on the left is my Baltic birch plywood, and some additional MDF. I just purchased a load of MDF and went through a pile of this size in about a month. There is a small closet that has no door, and I use that to store the hardwood and the cut plywood for easy scrolling. I usually cut the plywood into 10" x 10" pieces. I have a load arriving this week, and am almost out. I save the larger sheets for backing on larger pieces, but don’t use that as often so pre-cutting the sheets into 10×10 pieces saves time. Then I can just glue the corners of the squares with a glue gun and I am ready for stack cutting ornaments. Fast and easy! :)  The door is to a small washroom and the cabinet on the right is filled with my painting books. 

This is about 40 sheet of MDF that I just got. There were 10 more on the left pile, and when I run out of this, I know it is time to get more so I don’t run out completely. 

The closet holds boxes of  "organized" hardwood and my plywood. I also keep a couple of empty boxes there – mostly for holding scraps or shipping odd size items. I buy my boxes from Uline typically, but there are times when I need an odd size that I don’t stock. You can see that everything we have is accessible and we are able to see what we need at a glance. 

Here is the smaller stack on the left of the closet. I keep various sizes of MDF and plywood that I don’t use as often there, as well as the overflow of ¼" MDF. Those are my dowels in the corner.  The two mats I actually use for sanding on. I like to sit on the floor when I use my 1/3 sheet Makita sander. I really am most comfortable doing that. The sander is hooked up to the 6.5 hp Rigid shop vac so there is really NO dust at all. I actually sand when I am done cleaning the shop. Then I just do one more quick vac before I close the door. I use the small waste basket for my paper waste. I use sticker sheets a lot to apply patterns and keep that under my feet as I saw to peel off the stickers. That keeps the waste separate and it is easy to manage. 

Richard (my kitty) sits on the towel next to my Excalibur saw on the left. I don’t let him stay long though if I am cutting MDF, as he doesn’t wear a dust mask. I have been faithfully wearing the dust mask that I showed a couple of weeks ago and I feel much better because of it.  I also have a small router table that is on the floor under the first window on the right. I will show that next time. I like to sit on the floor and route as well, as I am comfortable there and I feel the dust stays localized more being low and it is easier to clean up after. I sit in front of where the vacuum is in this picture and pull the vacuum out, so most of the mess goes into the back corner there under the table. It takes 2 minutes to clean when I am done. I just do a quick swipe with the vacuum and vacuum the table and I am done. 

I hope these photos inspire you to keep your own shops nice. On both Saturday and Sunday, I didn’t get up there until about noon. I was done by 6 on Saturday and about 8pm on Sunday, and I feel I accomplished a huge amount of work. So I don’t really buy into the “A clean shop is not a working shop” theory. I love my shop and it is a JOY to open the door and go in there to work.  

I also want to mention that I also wear glasses when I work as well as sound canceling headphones. The headphones are wireless and I listen to music from my computer as well as YouTube playlists. It makes time up there pleasant and fun. If you want me to review the headphones I have, I will be happy to do that. Just ask in the comments. It really makes a nice difference when spending lots of time working. 

So you see, I am not slacking when I am not writing. I suppose that to most of you, one pile of cut ornaments and wood looks much like the other. While I show things occasionally, if every time I cut a batch I blogged about it, you would all be quickly bored with my posts. I usually spent about 1-2 days a week cutting, and I try to get most of the orders done at once so I have time to do other things like paint, draw, and create. 

I also wanted to mention that Keith has a new pattern up on the site. 

This SLDK707 Police plaque pattern set was done as a custom order for someone. He thought that everyone would enjoy it so he made it available as a pattern. I believe he is thinking of doing one for firefighters, too. We hope you like it. You can follow the link to purchase it on the site. 

For today, I plan on packing and shipping all of these ornaments and wood pieces to my customers. That will take several hours to do. I then hope to get going on some new designs and hopefully painting. I haven’t done that in a couple of weeks and I really need to implement some of the many ideas I have. 

I hope you enjoyed this insight into my woodworking world. I really and truly love my place here and I think I have the best job in the world. Thank you to all my customers for allowing me to do what I love! 

Happy Tuesday to you all! 

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