Shop Furniture

Flip Tool Stand

I know my shop is pretty big compared to most hobby shops, but somehow I always seem to feel cramped. That’s probably at least partially to do with not having places for some of my tools. My workbench planer, for example, sat on the ground and always seemed to be in the way — and at the same time, never convenient for use. My oscillating sander was taking up valuable space on a shop table. My miter saw, which sat on this metal sawhorse, seemed to take up more space than it made use of. The net effect left me feeling annoyed with a shop I otherwise loved being in.

So when I came upon some shop furniture plans from Fix This, Build That, I was interested. More than interested — I was excited to see if they’d help me make better use of my space and my tools.

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Mudroom, Chapter 1

Tools of the trade

As much as I enjoy working on projects in the shop, there’s one thing I enjoy much more: working on projects in the shop wth friends. So I was delighted when one of my long-time friends texted me to see if I’d help him build a set of built-in cabinetry for his mudroom.

“Absolutely,” I wrote back. “It’s not something I’ve done much of, but I’m sure we can figure it out,” I added. If he was game, I was game. And to my joy, he was game.

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Taking Shelter

Fully loaded

One of the ways we got lucky with this house was all the stuff that was left behind — a smoker, many planks of hardwood lumber, lawn and garden equipment, and at least eight (maybe more?) cords of seasoned firewood.

The firewood was lovingly stacked in six long rows — four on an upper field and two near our back patio. The wood is heavy oak and birch and has been drying for several years under the protection of heavy tarps.

But, as appreciative as I was for this bounty of firewood, I didn’t love where it was stacked — especially the wood by the back patio. It was a bit of an eyesore and sat right in the middle of what would otherwise have been an open area. I decided that what we needed was a true woodshed where the firewood could be properly stacked and protected. I wanted it to remain easy to access, but also not in the middle of the back yard. Project time.

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Benched

Walnut Bench

It’s both rewarding — and a little daunting — when people ask me to build them something. I’m quite honored and touched that they would ask and that they entrust me to deliver something that they’d want and would meet their standards. But it’s also a little daunting because now there are expectations I have to meet.

It’s also fun, because often what is being requested is not something I would have thought or planned to make. Such was the case when a friend asked me to make her a long bench for her indoor plants. She has more than 100, she said, and needs a place for them in the winter where they can sit under a wide array of windows.

“Send me the dimensions,” I told her, “and examples of what you like.”

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Addition by Division

Cutlery Divided and Conquered

Looking at this past year of woodworking projects (and some more coming up), I think they can be divided into three categories:

  • Outdoor furniture, which focuses more on build quality than on the finish work.
  • Indoor pieces, which demands a high-quality fit and finish.
  • Quick solutions that aren’t meant to meet high standards, but get the job done.

Adirondack chairs and planters, for example, certainly fall into the first category. Cutting boards and trays, shelves, boxes, and a walnut bench (coming soon) clearly fall into the second. And the third category includes projects like the dog feeder stand, Jenga blocks, garden boxes, and this week’s project: the cutlery dividers. Oooh, ahhh.

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Chicken Run

Chicken Close-Up

I guess we became “chicken” people when my wife brought nine chicks home from Tractor Supply in late April. Or maybe it was when I “rescued” a baby quail (I nicknamed it Danny Quail) my dog found in the yard and I then paired with four more chicks so it could be raised in a family.

Could it have been when I spent hours and hours figuring out the best coop to build (or buy)?

It definitely wasn’t when we gave away five of our chickens when they revealed themselves to be roosters and thus had to be separated from each other. But it might have been when we brought a new rooster into the flock and named him Elvis Cluckstello.

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Power Hungry

The Beast

When I was a kid, power outages weren’t uncommon. Heavy snow or a summer thunderstorm could easily cause trees to come crashing down on power lines. And when that happened, everything went not just dark, but quiet. We’d find our flashlights and light our candles and enjoy the tranquility the lack of electricity created. I was always pleasantly surprised to rediscover how quiet the world was when we turned everything off.

In more recent years, power outages still happened in Arlington with alarming frequency. And when they did, it wasn’t peace and tranquility I noticed, but the roar of the many neighborhood generators. Diesel engines destroyed whatever peace there could have been. And I understood — you don’t want food to go bad in the refrigerator or freezer and summer heat can become unbearable or even deadly without air conditioning. Nevertheless, I missed the quiet stillness a power outage enabled. 

So when we moved out to the country, I had mixed feelings about the whole-house generator that was already in place. It turns out, the generator — like so much with this place — is more complicated than it first appears.

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Duct, Duct, Goose

Centralized Dust Collector and Ductwork

As I’ve been working on more and more projects in my shop, I’ve become increasingly annoyed by the mess — not to mention the health hazards — caused by sawdust. It’s not like I’ve been letting machines just spew out dust willy nilly; I’ve been following the well-worn path of cheapniks everywhere by connecting a shop vacuum to my machines. But, shop vacuums really aren’t made for this purpose and it’s annoying (not to mention a tripping hazard) to move the vacuum to each machine as I work around the shop.

I guess you could say I had approached another one of those lines between adolescence and adulthood, like drinking amber liquids from cut-crystal glasses; hiring professional movers instead of begging friends for help; making beds after sleeping in them; preparing entire meals instead of opening a can of smoked oysters and a box of crackers. It was time, in other words, to be a man and install a central dust collection machine and permanent ductwork in my shop.

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En Garde(n)

Among the many reasons we moved out to the country — space, quiet, nature, workshop — perhaps the top consideration was plenty of space for a garden. Or, better yet, multiple gardens.

We got that, for sure, including lots of existing garden beds that were already well established. So over the summer we’ve been working to expand what was in place and create new space for veggies, flowers and more.

I’ve already written about our wildflower projects. Those meadows are well underway and beginning to pop with color. And I’ve also written about the greenhouse we put up last fall. But those are just the beginnings of our efforts.

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