Rediscovering Woodworking #1: Making old tools usable with no space!!

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Blog entry by Tim Royal posted 10-20-2014 01:29 PM 2309 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Rediscovering Woodworking series Part 2: Adding a multi-purpose Machine to our limited space »

I live in the urban San Francisco Bay Area in the smaller city of San Leandro between Oakland and Hayward in the East Bay. That means I have some advantages and some disadvantages when it comes to woodworking. The main advantage is the availability of free wood (hardwood pallets are everywhere and broken furniture on craigslist and curbsides) and good prices on old used tools. The main disadvantage for me is the cost of housing. Because of that I rent a two bedroom duplex with very little usable storage. Fortunately my friend Dan and I are in adjacent halves of the duplex and we share an adjoining single car garage AND we are both woodworkers. The downside is that most of the garage is taken up by storage and by our washers and dryers… (a decent storage locker is $200 a month plus here). This means that we have to work outside… doable in N. Calif). We are hybrid woodworkers without the real time, (or patience, since everything has to be put away after use) it takes to produce quality work by hand, nor the money to buy new and quality tools. Soooo… having taken a look at what he and I have and don’t have here is a list of the things that we feel we need in order to do our woodworking.

  1. Power
  2. Table saw
  3. Powered Miter Saw
  4. Routers and a router Table
  5. Drill Press
  6. A lathe (nice but not necessary)
  7. Power sanders
  8. Hand held power tools (most we have)
  9. Workbench
  10. Tool storage- Hand and Power
  11. A small compressor and gun
  12. Some kind of rudimentary dust collection

Initially the list seemed impossible, but we are beginning to see the light of day and have actually begun to produce some sawdust with some rudimentary initial projects. I think we have already come up with some creative solutions and wanted to share them for other urban woodworkers and possibly some rural ones as well.

What I initially decided was that we needed stationary power tools that were:

  1. Not so stationary (mobile bases)
  2. Served as many functions as possible
  3. Incorporated storage in the space they used.

My first find was our table saw. It is a 1954 Craftsman 10” 113 contractors saw with cast iron extensions and a motor from a newer saw. I found the saw body on the curb (free) with no motor or stand or extensions and found another newer 1970’s 113 (that I hated) that had the cast iron wings and a good motor, a base and a fence (which I also hated) for $65. I was able to use this and the Craftsman chop saw I already have to do some basic stuff, but I was constantly measuring both ends of the fence to get any accuracy and so I rode Craigslist and yard sales hard to find a solution to improve accuracy and portability. I had some casters available so an idea came to me for a temporary mobility fix (the saw is heavy!) that would solve some our space problems. I came up with a brand new Rigid base for $25 at a yard sale and… unbelievably… a Vega fence for $50. After assembly of the disparate parts, welding on the casters and cross braces and adjusting the fence, I am now quite happy with this saw’s performance. Dan uses it too and so he doesn’t mind that it straddles the center of the garage when put away. It is named the Frankensaw… total cost $140 and quite a bit of sweat equity!

My first project on the completed saw was some quick and dirty pallet wood window boxes for my wife which you can see in the background (they now have pansies in them). I can’t say I am excited about them, (though solid oak window boxes can’t help but look interesting), but I’m on the journey!

You may notice that I did not paint the base after welding… here is why a general picture of the new saw’s destination is in order… multi-function:

An LJ member (been combing and saving these so long I cant remember which!) combined with this:

This will meet storage, router table and workbench needs… not ideal in all respects, but that limited space thing? Yep!

-- -Tim Royal -"Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." -Thomas Merton

2 comments so far

View BerBer5985's profile


445 posts in 3228 days

#1 posted 10-21-2014 06:29 PM

As a thought, depending on the materials you’re working with (solid wood or plywood) you could set up a very nice hand tool workshop in a very limited space. Buy your wood already dimensioned from the lumber yard with little prep involved. Check out Jim Tolpin and Paul Sellers, Logan Cabinet Shoppe. They all work out of very small spaces. Most of what I do anymore is all hand tools with little power tools involved. Get a decent band saw for long rips and curved work and some good hand tools and start the learning process. You could set up a decent hand tool workshop in less than 200 sq ft and make quality pieces in that space.

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

View Tim Royal 's profile

Tim Royal

320 posts in 2294 days

#2 posted 10-21-2014 07:44 PM

I agree totally that I could set up the hand tool shop in this space and would actually do that if it was all my space, but I have historically been more of a hybrid worker and Dan is totally a power tool guy and I think that we have found a formula to make that work by sharing space and tools (Dan is also a fellow church member and good friend). Not a situation that would work for everyone, but still may give someone some ideas. This also gives us both the chance to produce our work a bit quicker and use re-purposed and reclaimed material. I especially think some extreme short space folks will like what we did with Dan’s Old ShopSmith 10er which I will detail in my next blog. The other interesting thing is that in our area “flea market” handtool finds are extremely expensive (the “vintage” fad) and this with the wood makes hand tool woodworking more expensive than power tool woodworking, though I still intend to expand my hand tool collection.

-- -Tim Royal -"Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." -Thomas Merton

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