Sunday, July 10, 2022

Returning to Woodworking

After many years of doing very little woodworking except to occasionally cut something to size, I dusted off the tools and started to make three pieces of furniture for a small shed.   Returning to woodworking re-introduced the three classical problems I always faced:  materials, space and organization.


To build anything requires having materials: wood (plywood and dimensional lumber), fasteners (screws) and finishing.  

I'm able to get lumber (1x, 2x clear douglas fir) at a nearby lumber yard easily and they don't take much space.  I can fit them into my car once I put the back seat down.  The prices on lumber was eye opening.  I've read in the news about the soaring prices of lumber due to the pandemic and supply chain issues to until now I've not had to buy much so there was a bit of sticker shock seeing how much lumber cost now.

Plywood is more difficult to get home and are heavy.  Fortunately, in the years since I last had to buy plywood, a local company will now deliver to residential addresses.  The one downside is that their hours and distance are just enough that its prohibitive to go and check out their inventory first hand.  I ordered a few sheets of 3/4", 1/2" and 1/4" Maple.  I've been conditioned to go straight to 3/4" plywood for most of my projects but with the cost and sometimes the weight, I realized that using 1/2" can be just as effective.  Whereas I previously would've used 3/4" for a dust separator/shop-vac cart, this time I used 1/2" and realized it was actually a better choice. 

I keep a stock of various size screws but did not have enough for this project.  The online store that I like to order from from were out-of-stock or had long delivery times for what I wanted so I ended up buying some from the lumber yard.  I went with GRK fasteners which are more expensive but I heard they are the bee's knees.  The heads use Torx (star) recess which are superior to Philips and can be used both indoors and outdoors.  I have a personal preference for square heads which I find easier to insert into the head and also easier to figure out the right bit size to use (pretty much #2), but they aren't as common to find locally.    I found that I mostly use 1 1/4" and 1 1/2" length #8 screws with the occasional 1". 

The last major material I needed is finishing.  Basic polyurethane varnish is readily available at the local hardware stores, but for woodworking I've mostly used Gel wipe-on stains and top-coat.  They are easy to apply and hard to mess up.  The small woodworking shop that I used to buy from had closed and other local places that would normally sell it are out-of-stock so I went online.

In the end, I found that it is easier now to get materials needed but at this particular time the challenges are high prices and supply chain issues.

Space & Organization

I was quickly reminded of one of the biggest frustration of woodworking: space and organization.  My work space is one side of a 2-car garage and it felt like I spend more time rearrange equipment and setting up then actual woodworking.  One of the most frustrating thing was to doing setting up to do task A, do task A, rearrange for task B, task B and realizing I need to do task A again and having to rearrange everything again! 

I ended up doing some major reorganization of my workspace which took just as much time as building the furniture.  I ended up building some things for the shop as well and by the time I was near the end of the third project my workflow was night-and-day different from when I started.  The garage is still not big enough to have every equipment in a fixed location, but they are starting to be less cumbersome to access.

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