From Concept to Reality: Starting my Modular Shop

modular 8My Pinterest boards are filled with ideas, projects, and cool things that I want to make someday.  The same is true of my to-do lists.  I feared my idea for a modular shop cabinet would be added to the ever growing list of projects I haven’t gotten to yet.

Well I’m happy to report that I was able to build two cabinets over the weekend. I modified my Sketch-up design a little bit, but anytime you take a design to execution you make changes.

Mod Cabinet 2I made a simple jig the route all the dados for the self guides.  I spaced the dados five inches apart (from top edge to bottom edge). I assembled everything with my Kreg Jig (If you don’t own one buy one).  I decided not to use glue for these since they were my ‘prototypes’ and I can disassemble and remodel them if I ever need to.

Mod Cabinet 5

Since 1/2″ plywood is slightly narrower than 1/2″, a 1/2″ straight bit worked great to make a snug drawer slide.  I made one 2 3/4″ deep drawer for the very top.  This is a catch all for commonly used and misplaced tools.

The plan now is to build drawer specifically designed for tools and tasks.  I remodeled my pocket hole tool box to fit in the cabinet.  Next will be a box specifically for my random orbital sander and accessories.  I have the freedom to layout the boxes as I need with dividers and such and since everything will fit the same size cabinet I can rearrange until it’s perfect.

I plan on building a rolling cabinet specifically for all of my automotive tools. I have a nice Craftsman Socket set with it’s own case that I sized the cabinet around and can put all of my specialty tools with it and make working on the cars less miserable.

So far I’m happy with the execution of this idea and am confident of it’s long term viability.

Mod Cabinet 6

What do you think and what solutions do you have to share for shop organization?


The Kindness of Old Woodworkers

I’ve decided to teach myself how to route wood signs.  One reason is for Christmas gifts this year, and hopefully start making custom signs for customers.

I’ve been following a “how-to” video series on Youtube on how to route wood signs free-hand.  Basically you have hardboard letters that you layout how you want, you spray-paint over them, and then you route out the outline.  Here is my first attempt.

Routed Wood Sign

Not perfect, but acceptable.  The Texas was easier to cut than the letters.

The letters I used here are 3 inch letters.  I’ve been cutting letters to glue onto signs so I had a good supply.  After much debate I decided I would rather carve them with a router as I doubt hardboard will hold up to the elements (no matter how much spar urethane I put on it).

Bandsaws can only cut so small, then a scroll saw is required.  In order to get the lay-out letters I needed it would be either a lot of cash or a lot of time, neither of which I have extra of.  Even with a 1/8 inch blade I would have trouble cutting 1.5 inch and smaller letters.

Thankfully there is an elderly man in my church that shares a passion for woodworking.  He does amazing work with a scroll saw and makes and sells beautiful wind chimes.  I recruited him to cut my letters, in return I’m going to make a few signs for his Christmas gift list.

While I was over at his house he gave me a sign making kit that he had.  This one: Milescraft 1212 Sign Pro Router Signmaking Jig

Milescraft Sign ProHe said he tried using it a few times but didn’t really like it.  He still had it in the original box.

So far I’ve made a couple of signs with the Sign Pro.  Part of me sees why he wasn’t crazy about it.  I’ll primarily use the layout letters to make my signs freehand.  It’s much more flexible in styling.  However, if I’m going to make a lot of the same sign I’ll set this jig up. Here are my first signs using this jig.  I used Cedar fencing for the wood.

The top three signs have a coat of Spray Spar Urethane.

The top three signs have a coat of Spray Spar Urethane.  I used cedar fence pickets from the lumber yard.

Once you get the jig set up its easy to change out the letters.  Not having a plunge router makes it easy to nick a letter.  I’m planning on adding a plunge router shortly after Christmas.

I’m thankful for generous old woodworkers.  Everyone in the woodworking community is good at some things and bad at others, or enjoys some things and would rather have a root-canal than do certain tasks.  I love that we can trade work and help each other out.  I hope to return the favor of both the free tool and a few hundred letters.  I also plan to “pay it forward.”

Here’s a sign I made freehand using the 1 1/2″ and 1″ layout letters. This is for my brother-in-law’s desk at his job.

2014-11-14 16.42.10

I used a 60-degree v-groove bit in my router.  I only have a fixed base router right now but it’s not hard to carve letters with it.

Merry Christmas,

My New Workbench

It’s probably more like a workstation than a bench.  Actually it is the “Paulk Total Station”  designed by Ron Paulk.  He is a carpenter and home builder that has come up with very interesting organization systems, and work benches that are light weight and strong.

His total station incorporates a portable table saw, a miter-saw, and a router table into a portable 3ftx6ft table with extension arms for the miter saw.  I bought the plans and have been working on it the last several weeks.  I think it is a worthwhile investment and will work well in my small shop.

After I bought my miter saw, I spent a few days setting it up outside and then started looking for miter-saw station ideas.  My hope is this design will best utilize the space I have available.

Since Paulk has a 15 part youtube series on building this workstation and other benches, and he sells the plans on his website I’m not showing a step-by-step build. Paulk put a lot of time designing the plans in Sketch-up and gives you a detailed material list.

PTS pre ChristmasI haven’t yet installed the supports for my table saw or the extension wings.  But for where I’m leaving it (for now) I’m pretty much done.  After the “Christmas Crunch” of getting projects, gifts, and orders completed; I’ll finish it up completely.

The horses with material support are nice but I may end up using my new modular system to support the work top.  I’m going to sleep on this a little longer.

I’m loving it.  Primarily for the improved router table.  Before I had my router on a small table and used the table stand that came with it.  I incorporated my router table plate into the work bench.  It has made a world of difference in how I use my router.

I had to modify Paulk’s plans a little to fit my Craftsman 10″ Sliding Compound  Miter Saw.  Also instead of buying a router plate I used the table that came with my Ryobi 8.5 Amp 1-1/2 Peak Horsepower Router.

I used 2x4s to support my router plate. I used straight bit to cut the relief for the depth.  I got it perfect.

I used 2x4s to support my router plate. I used straight bit to cut the relief for the depth. I got it perfect.


router Station

The storage space directly under the table top is a nice feature for getting tools out of my way.  I’m going install a heavy duty power strip to run all the tools I leave at the station.  And so I can just plug it in if I go to a job site.


miter saw base

This base got me close to level, but I still had to use some 1/16th washers to get it perfect

miter saw stationThe Paulk Total Station takes up a lot of space in my shop but none of it is what I would call wasted.  And that is why it’s a welcome addition.

I’ll further modify the PTS to fit my specific needs  as time goes by.


Twenty Gifts for Woodworkers Under $20

It’s almost Christmas!  This no doubt means that you’re looking for inexpensive gifts to get for the woodworker/carpenter/handyman in your life.  I’ve put together a list of 20 gift ideas under $20.

  1. Stanley 6-In-1 Screwdriver($9.99)|  I have many 6-in-1 screwdrivers.  This one is by far the best and my favorite.  In fact this very screwdriver is probably my most used tool.  Don’t worry about if he already has one, sometimes it’s nice to have multiples of useful tools to stick in the car, the junk draw, at work, etc.
  2. 7 in. Pocket Combination Square ($7.64)| This is one of those tools that you don’t think you need.  That is until you get one and start using it.  My little combination square lives in my tool bag right next to my Screwdriver.
  3. Wood-Cased Pencils, #2 HB, Yellow, Box of 96 ($15.01) |  How do I know a big box of pencils is a good gift for a woodworker?  Because I specifically asked for a box full of pencils last Christmas.  I prefer standard pencils some prefer Carpenter Pencils.
  4. X-Acto Model KS Table- or Wall-Mount Pencil Sharpener ($10.74) | Every shop needs a dedicated pencil sharpener.  I honestly prefer the mechanical type especially since it can be mounted anywhere.
  5. Craftsman 100-PC Accessory Kit ($13.49) | Drill bits get lost, Driver bits wear out.  These kits are a must for anybody who owns a power drill.
  6. Craftsman Utility Gloves ($9.99) | A good pair of gloves are always a good gift.  I like this style because they fit nice and tight with good dexterity.
  7. Stanley 12-Inch Soft Sided Tool Bag ($9.97) | I have many of these bags in multiple brands.  I prefer to build out these bags to serve a specific job.  I have one for my gun cleaning supplies.  One is dedicated it my chisels and carving tools.  Another is for my sander.  No matter who you’re buying for this will not be a wasted gift.
  8. Mirka Gold 5-Inch 8-Hole Dustless Hook-and-Loop Sanding Disks, 10 Each of 5 Grits ($19.72) | Sand paper is never exciting.  Unless you’re me.  If I unwrapped a big box of quality sandpaper for my random orbital sander Christmas morning I’d be very happy.   This Mirka brand is some of the best paper I’ve found for my RO sander, and it is a great value.
  9. Craftsman 24in Bar Clamps ($18.96) | A woodworker can never have enough clamps.  A woodworker hates buying clamps.  Follow the link buy a clamp, any clamp, you will be thanked.
  10. Kreg MKJKIT Mini Kreg Jig Kit ($12.78)| As for me, I love my Kreg Jig.  I have the Kreg K4MS Jig Master System ($139), but if you have a new DIYer or know they don’t have a pocket hole system the Kreg Mini is a great start.
  11. Empire Level 419-48 Heavy Duty Adjustable Drywall T-Square ($20.97) |  This one does break $20 but it’s too useful not to make the list.  I use this guy for so many different things other than drywall. In fact, rarely for drywall.
  12. Cordless Rechargeable Work Light with 35 LED Lights (19.99) | I don’t own this one, but I’d like to.  Sometimes you just need more light.  This guy is cordless, which is great for working on vehicles.  It also comes with a car charger so you can leave it in your vehicle.
  13. Craftsman Evolv 5-PC Pliers Set ($14.96) | There is always a use for a good set of pliers in any shop or tool box.
  14. Craftsman  Folding Lockback Utility Knife ($14.99) |  Almost everybody has a utility knife, but a premium knife is a nice upgrade.  Not only is it safer, but it’s a joy to use over the cheap ones.
  15. Wood Magazine: Arts and Crafts Furniture ($13.22) |  Some of your woodworking friend and relatives have all the tools they need.  So why not buy them a book that has project plans and ideas for inspiration.  I like furniture, but Amazon has about every book on woodworking made.
  16. Bessey BPC-34 3/4-Inch H Style Pipe Clamp ($13.97) | Pipe clamps use metal pipe from the hardware store.  They can be made to almost any size.  If your woodworker likes making furniture having an extra 10ft pipe clamp is always nice.
  17. Rockler Glue Applicator Set (19.99) |  Glue is used on about 90% of my projects.  Having easier ways to apply it is always a good gift.
  18. Craftsman  8 pc. Standard 12 pt. Combination Wrench Set (9.99) | Tools need adjustment and calibration.  An adjustable wrench can’t get into the small spaces, and they can damage the nut.
  19. Craftsman  11pc Inch Hex Key Set with Caddy ($13.49).  Same as above.  Needed to adjust tools.
  20. Coleman Cable 04657 6-Outlet Metal Power Strip, Heavy Duty Design, with 15-Feet ($19.53) | Yep, it’s a power strip, but a heavy duty power strip.  Trust me.  I want one, or 18.

This concludes my list.  These are tools that I either have and found extremely useful, or that I want someone to get me for Christmas.  I’ve tried to stick with quality product with good reviews.  I hope this helps with your Christmas list.

Merry Christmas!  And remember the real reason for Christmas; God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior.