I spent most of the last four days in my garage, working on the seasonal shed and the attic access doors. The thinking was that I need to have both of these projects complete and ready to install when our siding project turns the corner onto the wall on which each item sits. The project plans might be changing, but I’ll save that for another post, perhaps when plans are more accurate than the weather forecast. In any case, it was a fun weekend, because I enjoy woodworking.
I should mention that the time in the shop takes away from the time at the keyboard. You may have noticed shorter posts, and delays in responding to comments and visiting your blogs. This pattern is likely to continue for the next several weeks.
This weekend gave me a chance to put some tools and techniques to work to make the one-man nature of my shop safer and more productive. I thought I would share some highlights.
In well over 50 years of participating in workshops and on job sites, I’ve learned that the old adage “safety is no accident” is absolutely true. The two most dangerous times in the shop are when tools are running and/or material is moving. The hardest part about working safely, is accepting that it often means working slower. For example:
Plywood is never easy to move. Full sheets are 4‘ (1.2m) wide and 8′ (2.4m) long. Lifting even ½” thick plywood can be difficult. Moving a sheet from the floor to a workbench is awkward. Unless you’re lucky enough to have 6-8’ of clearance around your table saw, moving a full sheet onto it is dangerous to the point that I won’t even try.
I roll sheets of plywood, on-edge, against a wall for storage. I lay them flat on sawhorses to cut them into manageable sections, and I lift them onto those sawhorses with an electric hoist. A lightweight circular saw, a self-clamping edge-guide and some shop-made guide blocks makes straight cuts easy-peasy.
Once structures like the shed and access doors start to take shape, they become very heavy. Putting them on wheels helps move them around the shop, and putting them on platforms eliminates bending and working in awkward positions – both of which are inherently unsafe.
While I mentioned woodworking, these two projects aren’t exactly fine furniture. They are utility structures that will spend their lives outside, exposed to everything New England can toss at them. They need to be strong, and they need to be waterproof. Toward that later goal, both projects will be wrapped in PVC. Therefore, the underlying structure doesn’t need to be “pretty.” But, since PVC contributes very little strength, that structure needs to be sturdy.
Rather than cut complex joints, I used biscuits and pocket-screws for the doors. The doors will be skinned, first with plywood and then with PVC. The plywood will be secured to the wood frame with staples. I can hear the woodworkers in the audience trying to catch their breath – yes, staples. Staples are amazingly strong, super-fast to work with and rarely cause the wood to split.
Some of these things are explained in the photos (click to start slide show) and demonstrated in the videos. Note: the photos were taken after-the-fact, and videos were taken while items were clamped so that one-hand operation was possible. There are four videos, but the longest is only 20 seconds.
rolling plywood around. I couldn’t video this with a full sheet, but this gives you an idea:
Lifting the plywood up onto the sawhorses:
Drilling the pockets for the pocket screws:
Shooting staples into some scrap, easy work: