Category Archives: Cleaning

Wood you like to be more organised?

Do you feel like you could be buried in a timber avalanche every time you try and get something out of your wood pile?

Do you feel like the piles of wood in the dark corners of your workshop are growing when you’re not around, slowly building up their numbers until there’s an offcut army ready to attack?

If so, never fear because there’s an easy way to get on top of your woodpile before it gets on top of you. This is post #2 in my “Is your workshop a mess?” series.

This is what my wood pile looked like before I started. In reality it’s about three piles – one in this corner that consists of sheet goods and long boards (and apparently old saws!)

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This bucket for thin but long stock

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and finally this one underneath my grinder stand that contains all the short stock

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Forgive me the terrible pun in the title and let’s get going. If you read the first article in this series you already know the drill

1) Prepare an area to sort things onto. Sawhorses work well and since we have a stack of sheet material we need to sort let’s use those as the tables.

2) Find a couple of empty boxes and a bin. One is for small pieces you want to keep, one for scrap that isn’t worth keeping but can be used in the BBQ/Fireplace and the bin for anything that can’t be saved or burnt like treated or painted wood.

2) Grab every bit of timber you can see and put it onto the sorting area grouping the same type of timber where possible, and sizes/thickness when it’s not

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3) Discard anything that is obviously too small or damaged to be used. Put anything that is safe to burn into the burn box and the rest into the bin. I don’t have a fireplace but one of my neighbour’s parents do so they are more than happy to take a box of kindling off my hands a couple of times a year.

4) Put anything that is small and too good to throw out into the third box. We’ll go through this again at the end to make sure we’re not hanging onto anything that really doesn’t need to be kept.

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5) Allocate whatever remains to projects if possible. I’ve written about this step previously here and highly recommend doing it as it really focuses you on what is worth keeping and what isn’t.

6) Move the material you are keeping back into wherever it fits best. If you have a dedicated rack or area that’s great, for me they went back to where they started but a lot neater now and with about 30% of the material I’ll never be able to use removed.

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While I’ve covered some of this ground in a previous post I thought it was worth going over it again and on a larger scale as that post only really dealt with step #5.

Next time – the taming of the screw!

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Is your workshop a mess?

Mine was a total disaster until I learnt these tricks for keeping it tidy. I had rusty tools piled everywhere, stacks of timber falling over every time I tried to get to the piece I wanted and barely any room to get my car parked at night.

Now my neighbours walk past and comment on how organised it is, my wife is much happier about it and I can actually get work done without struggling to find tools or clear bench space.

This is post #1 in my ‘Is your workshop a mess?” series.

#1 – You don’t need 70 chisels

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I knew I had a chisel problem as there was always a few lying on every available surface but it wasn’t until I laid them all out like this that I saw the extent of the problem. I was absolutely astonished to find out I had 70 chisels.

After working out what I actually used most of the time I realised I’d be keeping two of them – a 1″ Irwin and a 1/8 Titan. I wasn’t ready to go to that extreme so I narrowed it down to the ones you see below, plus the small carving set which has it’s own rack.

I kept a set of Irwin blue chip’s as my bash around bench chisels, my father’s set of Toledo’s as they have sentimental value besides being great to use, a couple of actual paring chisels, a smaller and more useful range of the Titan’s for when I do occasionally make mortises, some carving gouges and a butt chisel for when I need something shorter.

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It’s far easier to store and maintain this many compared to what I had before, plus I had a more cash for timber after selling the rest of them off.

This is the method I used and it can be applied to all types of tools

1) Prepare an area to work on

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2) Lay out all the tools of the same type in this area so you can see what you have

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3) Group like items together and keep only the best of anything that is duplicated

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4) Go through whatever is left and get rid of anything that is rarely used.

5) Store what you are keeping in a way that they are protected and accessible for when you need to use them.

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6) Put them back as soon as you have used them, don’t just set them down and think ‘I’ll put them away later’

If you have time, sharpen them all before putting them into their new home so they are ready the next time you need them.

Next time we’ll tackle something that I think we all struggle with – the ever expanding woodpile. Stay tuned!

Restoring a pair of cabinetmakers screwdrivers

Back in my ‘It’s a tool so I must have it’ phase a few years back I bought these two cabinetmakers screwdrivers. I must have needed them badly because they’ve been sitting in the bottom of a box ever since.

I still haven’t decided if I want to keep them or not but decided to restore them and see how they turned out first. Here’s what they looked like to begin with

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First step was to take the rust off. I’d long ago learnt that nothing beats steel wool. I’ve done citric acid, rust remover, awire wheel in my grinder and sandpaper and steel wool works just as well as any of them and it leaves a finish closer to the original one.

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This is how they looked once done.

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After cleaning, you can see the makers mark clearly on the larger of the two

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On the smaller one, the ferrule isn’t seated properly and there’s old paint in the gap, I’d guess these had been used to open and possibly stir paint sometime in their life.

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I used a small scraper to clean out the paint then gently tapped the ferrule into place. It already had dents in it but I was careful not to add more

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I gave the handles a cleaning with 1200 grit sandpaper being careful not to remove too much of the original finish, otherwise the old steel and the fresh handle would look strange

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I gave them a coat of shellac mixed with a walnut stain. It looks thick and not great to start with, but I wanted a thick coat to get into all old scratches

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Fine steel wool cleaned up the shellac and a few coats of beeswax later they were done. I still need to grind the tips square to get them working properly again but they came up pretty well. I still don’t know if I’ll keep them but at least I can see what they look like now.

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How to clean up the wood pile

I’d imagine it’s the same for most if not all woodworkers. You buy wood, are given wood or the wood you already had somehow breeds and you end up with piles of it in every corner of the workshop. You cut it up and use it and all that seems to do is create more of it until it eventually takes over every surface and stops you working.

I’ve been trying to get my wood pile under control these past few weeks, and have been doing pretty well. Here’s a few bits of advice I’ve come up with as I worked through it.

1) Stop bringing in new wood immediately. The only way to start to get it under control is to stop the problem getting any worse

2) Discard anything that is beyond your power to use – anything too thick to cut or hard to work with the tools you have access to. If it’s good, try and sell it online but if it’s still there in a week or two get rid of it anyway. There’s often web sites where you can list it for free if all else fails, or if it’s good quality contact your local wood group and see if they want it.

3) Allocate wood to a specific project and cut parts. This helps you work out what you are going to use everything for and makes storage a lot easier. For example, I had a lot of short thin stock, so I cut out 30 spoon blanks out of scrap.

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Then I went through and cut a pile of parts for ‘easy’ projects – Breadboards, Guitar picks, Drawer parts, Tool racks & Bowls. Masking tape and a permanent marker make it easy to label things and helps remind you what you’d planned for each piece of wood you’re keeping. It also impressed any visitors who happen to see it as they think you’re far more organised than you really are!

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4) Sort small scraps

Start by putting everything out onto a flat surface. It will look like a huge mess but this way you can see everything you have

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Sort it into types of wood. if you dont know or only have small amounts, into size will do

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If you’ve found anything that can be bundled do so and put into the project area. Anything you can’t immediately allocate to a project should be bundled with the other piees of the same species or size. This keeps them from falling over on the shelf and lets you label them neatly for later use.

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This is what this corner looked like when finished. Any semi finished projects are on the top shelf, parts labelled with species and planned use on the rest. It means that I can walk in, pick up parts for a project and make progress on them without wasting time thinking about what to do while in the workshop. It also helps when you only have a few minutes of time spare – I’ve finished 4 spoons just potting for 10 minutes at a time because once cut out I can just pick up a carving knife and shape a blank. If I’d had to get out the jigsaw and cut each blank every time I wouldn’t have even started on one of them.

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The shelving unit holds the majority of what remains of my wood stock, there’s still a little bit of big stuff in the other corner to be dealt with – sheet goods and longer stock that I haven’t cut down yet, but it’s stacked neatly and the longer stock is in a bucket to keep it neat. It’s had the same process applied – labelled with the intended use and species, and so I know exactly what is available when needed.

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I hope these tips give you some inspiration for dealing with your own wood pile.

What a Mess! (Part 1)

I’ve finally caught up on most of household and garden chores that went by the wayside while planning our wedding, leaving me some time the past few weekends to finally get back into the workshop.

The whole thing was in a pretty neglected state so I’ve had to do some cleanup work to get it usable again. The bench was covered in bits and pieces from unfinished projects and things I’d taken out of my car boot and dumped there, the drill press stand was a catch-all for any tools I’d been using in my infrequent pre-wedding workshop visits and hadn’t had the time or patience to put away, and a thick layer of dust that had blown in from the open garage door covered everything. Every other corner of the workshop was just as bad if not worse.

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I decided to start small, and tackle one thing at a time. I started by taking everything off of the workbench, throwing away any discarded packaging and putting loose tools where they belonged. Then I gave it a good sweep. I took the same approach to the drill press table and before long it was looking much better. I gave it a final cleanup with a small air-mattress pump I use for cleaning the garage and you can see the results below. The only things on it now is my mitre saw, sawbenches, a few breadboards and a stool for a friend that I’m building.

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Next up was the woodpile in the other back corner. It had all fallen over and tangled in the sawhorse legs, and looked more like one of the three little pigs cottages after tha wolf got to them than a self-respecting workshop’s sheet goods pile.

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Again I pulled everything out, worked out what needed to be kept and got rid of anything that didn’t, and put the rest back neatly. I’m gradually working my way through it as well so after time there shouldn’t be any spare on had and I can just buy what I need for each project as I go along. The air pump did another good job on this corner while everything was pulled out as well.

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The day was getting late so I finished off by given the rest of the workshop a clean with the air compressor and then a good sweep, but that couple of hours work was enough to make it start to look good again. My workshop is a single car garage that does actually house a car most of the time, so I’ve got to keep it tidy or it’s totally unmanageable.  An elderly friend once told me “A place for everything and everything in its place” and it makes perfect sense in a workshop. If everything has a proper home and you make sure it goes back there as soon as you’ve finished using it, you don’t end up writing blog posts like the one you’ve just read.

The rest of the story is yet to come, as the next two corners will need more than a quick tidy…

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What do you do with your sawdust?

I don’t create that much sawddust, because I generally prefer to work with handtools and they are a lot less prone to creating clouds of the stuff than power tools are. Today though I’ve had both the router and the dropsaw going, so ended up with the pile below, and that’s only about a third of it.

If I have a clean floor and there’s nothing but sawdust there I sweep it up and mix it into the garden soil. You have to be careful with this though as it will suck out nitrogen as it breaks down, taking it away from the plants. I also remember pulling a potplant out of my grandfathers garden after he passed away only to find that the sawdust he’d used as mulch had solidified around the stem of the plant, basically waterproofing the pot which wasn’t a great help to its occupant.

You can also store some of it for filling screw and nail holes in wood, mixed with some glue it can often hide them well, especially if you use the sawdust from the same board you are filling.

I’ve also used some to soak up oil from the car then thrown it out, and I’ve known people who use it mixed in with cat litter to absorb the smell a bit. I’m sure there’s a ton of uses I haven’t thought of, and would be interested to hear from anyone reading about what they use it for, or if it just ends up in the bin.

A new shop bin

There’s a bit of advice passed on from one woodworker to another regarding workshop bins – have a metal not a plastic one. The reason for this is so that if something in there catches fire, it will have a better chance of burning out without melting the bin and spreading. It’s not a perfect solution but it can’t hurt.

I’d been meaning to dig this out of my parents garage for a while and put it to use replacing my plastic shop bin. It’s an old army surplus ammo container. I bought it years ago to convert into a cool looking drum, but it never quite happened. Now at least it’s being put to good use.

Army surplus stores can be a great source of heavy duty containers quite cheaply. My dad’s had his tools stored in a couple of bullet boxes for as long as I can remember. Some camping stores carry army surplus stock so it’s worth checking them out.

Keeping the workshop clean

Remember when you were a kid and your mother would tell you to clean your room?. You probably didn’t care then but as you got older you realised the importance of this advice for health, safety and keeping your stuff safe reasons.

I like to think the workshop should follow the same rules. Sadly I’m not yet organised enough to practice what I preach fully, but I’m getting there.

One of the most important things I do every time I leave the workshop is to sweep it clean. This keeps dust from being tracked into the house and also makes sure I don’t leave a nail or screw where my car tyres will pick it up.

I’d always wanted one of those big scoop things that council workers seem to make from chemical drums, and so when I saw this one I grabbed it. It makes life a lot easier. About $20 from the local big hardware store from memory.