Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Miter Saw Station

While the cat is away, the mice will play! Or to put that another way, while it is still raining outside, the workshop is the only place to be! 

I've got a nice Dewalt miter saw in my shop - the same one I've been using since about 2008, although I've been through a number of blades since then. In September last year, when I reorganized the "big" tools in my workshop and connected up the dust collection system, the miter saw ended up at the front of the main shop:

I've spent a decent amount of time working in the 'shop since then and have determined that this is a good central location where the miter saw is going to stay. So.....after all these years of use, it's finally time to build a proper miter saw station. I'm making use of some lumber I salvaged from the pallet that was used to deliver our new deck boards and, of course, more of the plywood that was "recovered" from the deck.

I can't say I designed this myself because I didn't - I copied this build on youtube. It is a very simple but strong design where each leg is made up of two sections of lumber which are glued and screwed together: 

A pair of legs can then be connected using two shorted sections of timber and several pocket screws: 

Two such assemblies can be bridged with three longer pieces and the top strengthened with several cross-braces. I am deliberating leaving the base of the structure "open" at the front because I plan to build drawers and cabinets to go in these spaces in the future.

Moved the first bench into its approx. position:

Then I made a second identical bench and constructed a platform between the two benches to hold the miter saw. The platform sits about six inches below the top of the benches. 

I used the laser level to get the benches absolutely level, and then anchored them to the cinder block wall with tapcons:

I installed plywood top panels on both benches and at the central platform. I cut the panels slightly oversize and then trimmed the excess off with the handheld router to achieve a perfect fit.

At this point the saw bed sits fractionally below the level of the benches:

I used some large washers to shim the saw bed up to the perfect height:

I had to add an outlet for the saw - it has been running of extension cords for the last few months:

The miter saw is too far away from the dust extraction system, so I will be using the shop vac to harvest dust from the saw. I also added outlets below the central platform to power the shop vac.

The final step is to build the fences. I'm using two strips of 3/4 inch plywood which are fastened together at 90 degrees:

The front plate is made from a third strip of plywood - this makes a very rigid assembly. Before adding the front plate, I cut a 1/4 inch x 3/4 inch groove for the T-track channel (blue) and a very shallow 1/2 inch wide recess for the measuring tape:

Cross-section of the final assembly: 

I used the laser to align the two fences and the saw prior to the final install. The fences were attached to the benches with wood screws and the saw was fastened to the central platform with lag bolts.

I installed the self-adhesive measuring tapes last. I have left-to-right and right-to-left tapes, so I can cut on either side of the blade. The tapes were lined up and trimmed very carefully... 

I also made some "first attempt" stop blocks. I have a couple of thoughts on how I might refine these in the future:

The finished miter saw station - it would have been much easier to build this if I already had it...

Monday, January 15, 2024

Plywood, plywood, plywood!

One of the consequences of the deck project, other than it being a bit of a saga, is the massive pile of waste/scrap/excess plywood that has been generated. I pulled out all the nails and moved everything that was worth salvaging inside the workshop before the rain started, but this created another problem: what do I do with all this plywood?  If it was nice weather, this wouldn't be an issue because I would be working outside on the deck. But, since it is our equivalent of monsoon right now, I need to find something to do with the plywood so I can get my workshop back,

The first application was improving my storage platforms at the front of the workshop. This is how the rear section of the platform looks with all the "junk" removed: 

With the carpet peeled back, you can see the problem:

The platform was actually fine for storage, but it was not ideal for crawling around on if you weigh the best part of 200 lbs. I would probably not have forked out for brand new plywood to fix this issue, but since I have so much on hand, why not? I started with the crappiest bits of plywood since none of it will be seen.

One done:

Lower platform done:

Put the carpet back....

Filled the platforms up with the same old "junk."

On to the next bit....the foundation in our house has been retro-fitted to help it withstand larger earthquakes than it was actually designed for. The first line of defense is augmentation of the original anchor bolts (left in next photo) with modern fasteners (right in next photo). The modern bolts are larger, have been fitted with bearing plates, or "square washers" in layman's terms, and have been deployed into epoxy-filled cavities. This results in a much stronger connection between the timber building and the concrete foundation.

So far, so good. The second line of defense is shear walls: essentially 5/8 inch thick plywood panels which are installed in strategic positions throughout the perimeter, typically at the corners of the structure and where dividing walls meet the perimeter. The strength of the shear walls comes from the intense nailing pattern - every three (3) inches at the perimeter and every six (6) to twelve (12) inches in the field - which is shown in the next two photos. This is a LOT of nails. The two (2) inch diameter holes in the plywood provide ventilation to the wall cavities.

The purpose of the shear walls is to prevent the building from racking (i.e. twisting) in the wake of significant seismic activity. The energy from the earthquake has to go somewhere though, and that "somewhere" has been shown to be the nails in the shear walls: the nailheads will be warm to the touch in the aftermath of a sizable 'quake. 

When I was at Cal I discovered that my boss would rather spend work meetings discussing earthquakes than just about anything else. Especially work crap. All it would take would be something like "Hey John, did you hear that there was a tiny little earthquake in nowhere in particular two months ago..." and he would be off. He never tired of repeating how he jumped out of his office window after the Loma Prieta quake. Occasionally he would also admit that his office was on the ground floor, but that could take a bit of probing. Sometime later, when even he was bored of reliving every detail he would ask if anyone wanted to go to "the pub" for lunch? None of us ever did, what with being responsible and hard working graduate students and postdocs, so that was usually the last we would see of him for the rest of the week. Happy days! 

Where we live there has been a lot of practical research into what happens to residential buildings when big earthquakes occur close by. Some people might call it the "trial and error" approach to building in such an environment. Personally, I just don't get why anyone would want to live in an area prone to earthquakes, let alone buy an expensive house there!

As I mentioned above, the shear walls are placed strategically - some flexibility in the structure is also desirable so it is not recommended to install the panels throughout the perimeter. This concept is best illustrated in the workshop where there is an obvious gap in the plywood between the panel to the left of the window and the panel in the right corner:

I had always planned to cover this "open" area with plywood, so that the interior would look a bit more finished and would also be easier to paint. Obviously I do not want to install any more shear walls, but if I attach the plywood with just a few short screws, rather than the intense nailing pattern described above, the effect on the structure is negligible. As I said, I had "always planned" to cover this area, but in addition to being busy with more important projects, there was also the price of plywood to consider. The location of the waste pipes to the right of the window doesn't make it any more inviting.

But here we are, about to drown in a sea of free* plywood, so let's do it! The waste lines protrude from the wall cavity by just over an inch, so the first step was to fur out the studs at either side and in the middle of this section, while being careful not to poke any screws or nails into the pipes. 

I installed plywood around the window first - this section is flush with the existing material to the left. 

Made a quick cardboard template to fit around the cast iron waste line. This is quicker and much easier than marking out on a heavy sheet of plywood....and then re-marking/re-cutting it however many times.

Transferred to the panel...

I also cut a second opening through which we can access the natural gas line...if we ever need it. I think the previous owner had a kiln or something similar down here.

All done....

If you look carefully at the next photo, you can see that the 33 inch wide section which obscures the waste pipes protrudes about 1.5 inches from the rest of the wall. This means that the plastic drawers you can see in the background in the same photo could not be opened very far. This was not really a problem as there was enough space at the right side to move the drawers away from the wall and restore functionality. This process was underway when the photo below was taken which is why there is already a large gap between the drawers and the wall.

However, while doing this, I was reminded of the reason why the plastic drawers stick out almost a foot from the cabinet above them - you can just about see what I'm on about in the next photo:

Basically, the drawers were installed forward of the concrete foundation, which sticks out beyond the plywood panels quite a bit. I discovered that by reducing each stack of drawers from ten (10) to eight (8) high, that I could install them above the foundation and thus much further back. This required building a platform out of....plywood of course!

I used up some more plywood by building a kick panel which obscures the foundation. 

This is how much shop "depth" I gained from this reconfiguration:

I was thrilled to discover that the eight (8) drawers I had to remove from the original stack were a perfect fit, widthwise, below the grinding station I built last fall. I had to build another plywood supporting shelf. This worked out especially well because most of these drawers contain bits and bobs related to the grinding station.

Finally, the real reason for all these modifications can be revealed - a clamp rack!  It's sad to say, given the things I do have in my workshop, but the lack of suitable clamp storage has been an issue for many years. The shop is so full of shelves and cabinets that I did not have a large enough section of wall space to devote....until now.

The next photo is the "big" picture. At some point in the future, I would like to paint the walls in the workshop. There are a few other projects in the pipeline before that though....

(*not really free as they were part of the house we paid serious wedge for...)

Wednesday, January 10, 2024