The following covers two areas: getting my shop ready for the next project, and optimizing the small shop.
We each have our procedures; one of mine is that after every project, I reset the shop. The reset includes re-touching each tool that I’ve used, and performing whatever cleaning, oiling, sharpening, and re-aligning is appropriate. Also, within my relatively small shop, where everything is on wheels, other than my Table Saw and Jointer/Planer, getting the equipment back to where it belongs.
- Re-sharpening chisels and planes;
- Re-positioning mobile equipment;
- Blowing-down the Shop with a leaf-blower;
- Re-checking square on all equipment;
- Checking all jigs & fixtures used during the build;
- Oiling threads – I have an old-old practice of applying 3-1 oil whenever I expose a thread; this includes my router table collet; changing-out a Table Saw blade; or open-up a hand-plane.
- Scraping-down the bench and clamps– of accumulated glue and finish.
- Replenishing Supplies – a checklist of sanding paper, painter’s tape (that I use for glue-ups), finishes (Sealcoat and Deft Acrylic, primarily); safety supplies (bandaids, and more bandaids; and dust masks, for example); and other consumables.
- Cleaning-out my shop-vac (fronted by a mini-cyclone); and checking the main dust collection bin.
- De-gunking Table Saw & Bandsaw blades;
- Cleaning-out the dust from table saw, router table, bandsaw cabinets;
- Checking router bits for sharpness and accumulated grim.
Optimizing the Small Shop
I have a long-standing practice of re-evaluating what is in my shop.
It seems that each of my builds include arcs or tapers, which results in a lot of cutoff or waste pieces – these accumulate quickly and are inherently difficult to stack or store efficiently. Typically, I square-up large pieces (and store these on overhead racks or hangers), and, placing the remaining trim pieces in outdoor (closeable) bins – these become the holiday firewood, if not used in shop between now and then. Typically, I use cut-offs for jigs and dowel-pins; or inlay, if possible.
Selling-off under-used tools & equipment.
Space-wise, I can’t afford to pack-rat my shop-space. I’m not sentimental when it comes to tools. My sunset rules going to Craigslist are:
Hand-tools: 1 year;
Hand power tools: 2 years;
Equipment (such as a router table; a drum sander, …) 3 years.
I err on the side of getting rid of scraps and unused jigs and finishes, getting rid of clutter, purging things that I once thought was a great idea or useful. If you have the space to store all of this stuff… you are fortunately, I guess… I don’t have that luxury. This purging approach would be expensive if I was cavalier in purchasing them, to begin with.
Tool & Equipment Purchases
I believe that quality is expensive, once; and prefer to have a small, select group of tools that will stand the use and abuse within the shop; tools that hold the tolerances, meet the power demands, and may be used in-conjunction with something else (the 1+1=3 concept). I’m not professing that expensive tools are necessarily the best value. For me, Bosch is typically a good alternative to Festool; yet, I’m willing to pay for a Festool Domino, as most of my work is mortise & tenon; and, willing to pay for a Fein angle grinder, rather than a less industrial grade, less ergonomic alternative (having burned through a few other brands); and, I invested in a stationary Oscillating Spindle sander after consuming three DIY models.
Whenever I think I need something, I wait to buy; and fret-over what it is that’s driving my thoughts.
For stationary equipment, I started with a counter-intuitive approach. Recently, I up-graded to a sliding table saw, and a large jointer/planer combination. For a small shop, these would seem to consume precious real estate. In reality, the incremental footprints are not that alarming: the slider isn’t that much more than a cabinet saw (you just have to move the sliding table a few dozen times), and it doubles as a precise cut-off/miter-saw (so you don’t need that tool, or the 10’+ cut-off table). The jointer/planer combo has simply raised the bar, relative to my standalone 6” jointer and portable planer. I process extensive hardwoods. The larger jointer and planer (individually and collectively) power-through these exotics.
I’m not advocating any piece of equipment; nor the Festools or Felders of the woodworking world. I am advocating that individually, we should tune our shops, keep them simple, safe, and productive; and see our tools and equipment as an executable extension of our accumulated craftmanship.