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· In Loving Memory
10,409 Posts
Setting Up Shop II, or How I Spent My Winter Vacation

(This is the first post here, but a continuation of a series started at my personal blog at

I'm not what you would call a "neat freak." However, I do try to keep things generally organized and find it near impossible to work in a cluttered shop. Not only do I find it technically difficult to work in an unorganized mess - I find it hopelessly depressing as well. Consequently, when the shop is cluttered I will typically avoid doing any woodworking until the mess is resolved.Keeping the shop organized is especially difficult when the thing you're working on is the shop itself. For the past couple months our garage and the new shop space has been a jumble of scraps of lumber and sheet goods, plastic bins of random hand tools, power tools, hardware, etc. somewhat haphazardly-arrange throughout. Need a hammer? Time to go routing through the bins. Double-stick tape? I just know it's here somewhere. Not fun. Coupled with the scarcity of available "shop time" and basically nothing has been done since Thanksgiving.

To turn this untenable situation around I took a week-long vacation from my real job beginning January 7th. As luck would have it, this happened to coincide with a major "January thaw" with temperatures soaring into the 50's and 60's early in the week. After spending a day cleaning out the garage and setting up a temporary table to somewhat organize my tools/supplies, I set out to complete the job. First priority was the cabinetry. I had completed the carcasses and counter tops in November but hadn't even planned the drawers. Drawers. After spending way too much time agonizing over their arrangement (do I make 3 or 4 drawers in this bay? One very deep or 2 shallower?) I settled on a design and slapped together some boxes out of 3/4" ply and pocket screws. Not very "fine" I know, but I'd prefer to just get the shop done and get down to business on pieces bound for the house! Ply banded with 3/16" maple bullnose serve as drawer fronts. After that I installed the ceiling-mounted speakers, running the wire through the 2" PVC I ran before the walls were finished. I also ran RG-6 and Cat 5e cable to the 4 boxes placed around the shop, patching the works together, neatly, in the crawl space before hooking up a home run back to my communications panel in the main basement.

While I frequently use Google SketchUp to design my projects, I find that working things out on a whiteboard can be extremely helpful in the shop. I frequently use a whiteboard for my cut-list-writing large enough to be visible across the room. The one from the old shop is roughly 18" x 36". For the new shop, I wanted something a bit bigger, but "real" dry erase boards can be rather pricey. A quick google search turned up this page For $10 plus some scrap pine I was able to build my own custom board for the shop. I installed a 4'x4' sheet in the middle of the back wall and still have 1/2 sheet left for future uses. Lastly, I installed the TV on a wall-mount (for NYW and Woodworks, natch!) and moved the metal paint cabinet into place beside the slop sink.

As usual the process was covered by a couple web cams and I've edited together a brief time lapse…I only wish I could have completed the actual work in only 5 minutes.

Note: The angle of the cameras, properties of the lighting and advanced image compression may make it appear to the untrained observer that my hair is a bit thinner at the top. I assure you this is merely an optical illusion.
Great blog Patrick. you sure are a fast worker.

· In Loving Memory
10,409 Posts
My "Green" Dust Collection System

Not "green" in the environmental sense, mind you…but green in a very literal sense. I've spent literally months planning out most of the details of my new shop, since before they broke ground. One of the features I was most anxious to include that I was unable to have in my shared garage space was an honest-to-goodness central dust collection system. One of the earliest decisions I needed to make: metal or plastic?

Metal of Plastic?

I first read Sandor Nagyszalanczy's oft recommended book "Woodshop Dust Control" where he makes a strong argument against the use of plastic PVC piping for ductwork citing the risk of explosions that could ruin your day/shop/life/etc. After reading this book it was clear to me that metal was the only way to go. That was, until I began researching actually purchasing the stuff. Expensive. What's more, the stuff they sell at the "Big Box" stores is too thin…so the only real way to do this with metal ducting, beyond finding a local supplier (which I was unable to do) is to meticulously plot out the whole thing and place one big order to have shipped to the shop. While I'm no stranger to meticulous planning, I've never setup a dust collection system before and was not 100% sure I could plot this out perfectly without actually attempting to fit some pieces together first. In fact, I was pretty darn certain that I couldn't plan this out to the last screw in advance of ordering the materials. I just knew I'd get half-way done with the install and either change my mind or realize I needed some other type of fitting(s) to finish the job. Without a local supplier, I'd be forced to place an order-likely a small one-and incur additional shipping charges and delays. Time's too much of a premium to lose an entire day because I can't get what I need. This realization sent me searching for alternatives.

It didn't take long for me to find some interesting forum discussions online…but the clincher for me was this extremely well-crafted article. The upshot of reading this article was that I was now certain that I would definitely use the cheaper/easier-to-find S&D PVC piping for my system. Fortunately or Un- I was now also paranoid about what I could appreciate was the most dangerous aspect of my dust collection system-a smoldering fire in a collection bag. (Mental note: daily emptying of the bags is a must. But I digress…)

A bit of searching locally initially indicated that my local "Big Box" stores carried only up to 4" diameter piping. My basic math says that I'd really be better off using a minimum of 5" ducting for the main run. As S&D pipes aren't offered in 5", I opted for the next size up…which, as I mentioned, I was unable to locate locally. That is, until an unrelated and rare trip to Menards where I discovered all the 6" and 4" fittings and pipe I would ever need. Excellent.

Goin' Green

Menards stocks their PVC piping in an outdoor lumber yard. This meant that I placed an order off a sheet with a nice picture of white 6" PVC pipe listed as ASTM 2729 S&D. When I got into the yard, however, the pipe was actually the green stuff..ASTM 3034/SDR35. The Menards product number on the sticker on the pipe and the label on the bin matched my receipt, so I'm not sure if there was a mistake in their inventory or their labeling…or if they for some reason sell the 3034 and 2729 interchangably (seems unlikely), but I didn't see the 2729 anywhere so I figured I'd use the somewhat heavier, green 3034 that I had paid for rather than start the hunt over again. I purchased a few 10' lengths of the 4" thin white stuff from Lowes as well figuring I'd at least have white drops.


I purchased my blast gates and quick disconnect fittings from my local Woodcraft store and started the assembly. What I discovered during the assembly was that the thicker-walled SDR35 was a significantly snugger fit for the pipe fittings. Also, while a special coupling is required to attach the blast gates to 2729, they fit perfectly in the green stuff. So, while the 2729 is a bit cheaper and much lighter, I save money overall with the SDR35 since there are no adapters needed to fit the blast gates to the pipes. Serendipity.

Assembly continues apace. I'm currently roughly 50% complete with the core installation, that is the main 6" line is 80% complete and half the drops are essentially in. I still need to build the hoods for the RAS and CMS and work out the details of the fittings for the router table, which will likely take more time than the assembly time to date. I've still got the two cameras capturing the process and have been sure to move them as needed as there's no one position that can capture even most of the shop. Editing of the time-lapse is ongoing and I will be posting the completed video when the job is done, natch.

(originally posted at
Thats more like a home than a workshop Patrick. All you need in there is a bed, or have you one tucked away in there. I never thought of using pvc, I have the flexible hosing. Great idea, thanks for sharing.

· In Loving Memory
10,409 Posts
The Monster in My Closet


OK, so maybe not exactly a "monster," but the old Woodtek 3HP double-bag dust collector I bought sure does sound like one…and appears to live up to its 2100CFM (free-air) rating.

I've finally finished the main duct work runs and over the weekend I cut the hole from the shop into the external "dust collection closet" and ran the 6" main through. As I had feared, the dust collector argued mightily against being confined in such cramped quarters. The closet is <30" deep and ~60" wide with a standard 36"x80" door. The two-bag collector simply wouldn't make the tight turn through the doorway. Fortunately I'd half suspected this would be the case and was already mentally prepared for the situation…which likely saved my neighbors an earful.


The solution: disassembly.

I removed the upper-half, post-fan section that holds the bags to the blower and then removed the lower half, including the motor from the base. I'd already purchased a length of 6" flexible hose that I'd planned to use to join the collector to the 6" S&D piping…figuring that it would likely be a rather convoluted angle and possibly too tight a fit for a hard plastic 90-degree elbow. By mounting the base directly to the floor of the closet, I also gained an additional couple inches - making it now possible to use rigid fittings. Ultimately the hookup turned out to be "do-able" using rigid piping as well, eliminating the need for the rather pricey 6" flexible hose. Anybody need any 6" hose.


Though I don't have any tools for measuring CFM or static pressure, my quick test sweeping some sawdust piles into the floor sweep at the very furthest end of the longest/narrowest run and hearing the swooooosh as the debris found its way swiftly into the waiting collection bags was enough to convince me that the system should do just fine. I'm hoping to do a test using the planer tonight-if it can keep up with the 13" planer, it should have no trouble with the other tools.

My one real disappointment is with the on/off mechanism. I outfitted the 240v 20A circuit with an X10-controllable outlet and programmed the "D" button (for "Dust collection" of course) to send the appropriate on/off commands. It worked the first couple times I tried it, turning the collector on and off as expected. However, the third time I tried using the second keypad (linked to the first) and this time…nothing. I went back to the first and tried it a few more times. Again, nothing. I recall reading some forum posts (don't recall where) by some unhappy woodworkers/X10 enthusiasts complaining about the poor reliability of X10-specifically in the context of dust collection systems. I was planning on purchasing a "Long Ranger" or similar system and using a combination of manual switches and blast-gate mounted microswitches in the future…apparently this will need to happen a bit sooner than I'd anticipated.

As usual, the entire installation process-well, the indoor portions at least-was covered by my trusty D-Link wireless cameras. Here's the finished video:

UPDATE: Last night I completed the "planer" test as planned. I hooked up my Rigid 13" planer to a port at the end of the run and took some fairly decent passes on a 9" piece of poplar. The dust shroud was empty. I opened a couple other blast gates and repeated the test. Still clear. Looks like this "monster" will do the job!

(originally posted at
Patrick that is one great dust collection system. You sure are a fast worker, that video makes the mind boggle.

· In Loving Memory
10,409 Posts
An Hour Here, a Half-Hour There and a Few Saturday Mornings

Over the past month I found very little contiguous time to make progress on the shop setup. Consequently I never felt like I had made significant enough progress in any given week to warrant a new post. While I'm still quite some distance from the finish line, I finally feel like I can actually say, once again, "I have a shop!"


Dust Collection Controls

I installed a half-dozen doorbell buttons around the shop, under bench tops near power tools, on the wall by the bandsaw and underneath the tablesaw fence next to the power switch. I installed a couple power outlets in the crawl space under the shop for the controller as well as my air compressor which I located in a corner of the crawl. I also programmed the air filter as I discussed in my last post to automatically switch on with the dust collector and off 2 minutes after the collector is switched off. I'm extremely pleased with how this has worked out.


Supplies Organized & Remaining Tools Installed

I finally managed to commit to drawer assignments for my tools and supplies. For the most part the drawers are logically organized, though a few of them are temporary "catch-alls" waiting for the day when I complete the upper cabinets. I enlisted the aid of my brother, sister-in-law and nephew to help wheel the 17" Grizzly bandsaw up a ramp and into the shop. This turned out to be not as difficult as I'd feared it would be. I also unboxed the Ridgid oscillating sander I'd purchased nearly 3 months ago and connected both to the dust collection drops installed previously. All the tools are in!


Clamp Racks

Following some quick research at my favorite site, I assembled and mounted some clamp racks for my rather modest pipe, parallel and bar clamp collection. I still have a number of spring and "C" clamps to hang, but I'm satisfied with the arrangement for now.


A Number of Tasks Remain

No matter how much I manage to accomplish, the list never really seems to get any shorter. Some tasks that remain are setting up dust collection for my router table and building an overarm blade guard for the table saw. The router table will require installing some kind of enclosure around the hanging router…which will take some time to devise. I'm also working on a design for a tall thin "drawer" to fill the 2 spaces in the RAS cabinet. These opening are roughly 36" tall by only 9" wide. I'm thinking that I'll create a sliding angled vertical panels in one to hold router bits and a vertical pull-out panel in the other for miter/RAS/table/circular saw blade storage. Next steps also include major improvements to the "large piece assembly area"-which my wife insists upon calling a "garage." Improvements include an updated lumber rack and sheet goods pen as well as some custom cabinets for "non-wood-related" storage…though I can't imagine what that might be.


The bottom line is that I'm just about ready to get back to spending at least some time working "in" the shop instead of "on" the shop! Hooray!

(Originally Posted at
Patrick, that is one serious looking workshop. i am sure it will be the envy of many Jocks including me. great effort.

· In Loving Memory
10,409 Posts
Shop Air, and Sheet Goods Get A Home

My original design for the shop included multiple compressed air outlets scattered about the shop. At the heart of this system would be a 60gal Ingersol-Rand 2-stage compressor providing at least 15 [email protected] Now months later, I've significantly revised and downgraded my plans. Part of it was financial, but most of it was a realization that all that I really needed was to be able to use my nail guns without the hassle of dragging out the compressor every time and tripping over hose.

Retractable Air Hose

To that end, I revised my plans and settled on a much simpler setup. I would put my existing 17gal Husky in the crawlspace below the shop, and run a hose through the floor next to my main assembly table. To this I would attach a combination regulator/filter/oiler and a retractable hose. This is precisely what I did.


The air filter/oiler unit is a $20 special from Harbor Freight...well, I got it for $20. It was down to $15 last time I checked…sigh. Unfortunately it only occurred to me after I had purchased the filter unit that I don't really want an oiler. While most of the time I'll be using a nail gun, I do occasionally wish to use the air hose to blow off the shavings from a piece in progress and I doubt that misting it with tool oil would be very good for the finish. I've mounted the unit anyway and plan to keep the oiler empty. Perhaps someday I'll move this device to another location on a separate hose and reserve it specifically for tool use. Or maybe not.

The hose reel was $30 for 20ft. It was the cheapest I've seen and while not as "industrial" as some of the more expensive units, I kinda preferred the compact size and appearance of this one. It also included a swivel mount. It works great right now…hopefully the mechanism will prove more reliable than the price would imply. We'll see.

Automatic Drain Valve

Another Harbor Freight special. The plan was to locate the compressor in the crawl space, accessed via a trap door in the floor. Draining it regularly via the drain cock would be somewhat of a hassle. What I needed was an automatic drain. Thankfully I found this site in about 5 minutes of research pointing to a product from Harbor Freight. It was fairly straightforward to install-except that the inner diameter of the hose running from the unloader valve to the pressure switch on my compressor was too small for the included fittings. I ultimately wound up buying a different fitting which suffered from the same issue-but was setup in a such a way that I was able to coax the hose over the inner brass piece by applying a bit of heat. A bit of sanding of the outer tube was also required to get the connector attached to the tee. It was a bit of a chore, but ultimately I managed to get it all to work. And just like the author of the site above, my new drain cock valve was no good…so I also replaced it with a part from HD. The thing about the drain is that it only opens when the compressor starts and shuts off. So I can either leave the compressor on so that it "tops off" periodically (thereby activating the drain) or program the switch it's on (see my other posts re: Insteon) to run it for a few minutes each day and give it a chance to drain any condensation.


Vertical Sheet-goods Pen

Finally, after filling the compressor, I used my new hose and old air nailers to build a 9' tall x 30" wide x 36" deep vertical sheet goods pen just outside the shop door and install some cheap pre-primed moulding around the pen face and shop doors.

This is the start of my next big project: the Garage Remodel.

Pretty neat system Patrick.
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