New shop storage

For those of you that don’t know, I spend my days working for a communications firm here in Milwaukee. This company has its roots in advertising, and there are still some artifacts of that history around. One of them was a bunch of flat file cabinets which were used to store proofs, works-in-progress, presentation boards, etc. These weren’t getting much use (mostly just used as a base for a work table) and I’d had my eye on them for a while. Well, with our recent changing of offices, I thought I might be able to snag them.

Alas, it was not to be… Somehow, nobody heard me jumping up and down, saying that I wanted them, and so they ended up going to the Goodwill. That was the bad news… the good news was that there was another set of them in storage, and those are the ones that are now living in my shop:

Man, it was blurry in there when I took this picture...
Man, it was blurry in there when I took this picture...


These are actually better than the ones I’d originally wanted, as these are from the ’80s, when office furniture was made to last… It took me three trips to get these things home, and I did some damage to my back, but when I dropped one right on its corner while moving it, the floor came away dented rather than the cabinet. A drop like that would twisted a newer cabinet beyond repair, but this bad boy just shrugged it off. I also snagged an old cutting mat (shown on top of the cabinets above) and a weird old work desk/rack thing:

Seriously, super blurry that day
Seriously, super blurry that day


This is another extremely solid piece that is definitely going to see some use. The work surface is in great condition, so this guy might get brought inside, rather than staying in the garage. Not too bad, for stuff that was headed to the heap.

30 Days of Creativity, Day 3: Annealing pan

Some of you know that I am slowly adding some metalworking capability to my little home workspace (Mike’s lent me his Sherline mill, Frankie dug up an old welding outfit, my dad supplied the bench grinder, etc.). As I save up for the items and services I’ll need to pay for, I’ve started to build out the tools I can. I’m not doing anything as sweet as Frankie’s most recent, but I’m starting on a ring clamp, and I managed to finish up my annealing pan this evening.To be completely honest, I just needed to fill it, as I’d done the construction a few weeks ago. Still, I’m counting it… I “finished” it today!


The pan is a square of MDF, bolted to a swivel bearing, bolted to a metal pan I’ve had for years. That, and a firebrick.

The result is actually pretty good. Eventually, I’ll have to swap out the pea gravel I have in there now for pumice, but it will work for now. I’d assumed that any small stone would work to insulate the pan and to allow stable positioning… nope. Regular gravel does little to keep the pan from heating up. I figured that one out after using my little pencil torch to dry out the gravel, and then touching the sides of the pan. I won’t make that mistake again. Here are a few more shots:

[pe2-gallery] IMG_20110603_235114.jpgIMG_20110603_235211.jpg[/pe2-gallery]

Oh, and I added that clever little zoom effect to the images in the blog (highslide to those who know).

The “shop”

Draft created: 12/17/2010

One of the things I struggle with in my home shop (calling it that is a bit of a stretch, I suppose) is organization. The place always seems to be a mess, and while I can usually lay my hands on the specific tools or parts I need, it takes a lot more digging through boxes and crates than I’d like. The challenges, as I see them, are as follows:

In short, there’s not enough. Our garage is under our house, taking up 1/2 of the basement. My bench and workspace take up about 1/4 of the garage. In this space I need work surfaces, including ones that will allow me to leave work to dry, ferment, grow, or dissolve. I also need storage for tools and materials. “Materials,” in this case refer not only to nice clean 8′ x 4′ sheet goods, and perfectly true 2x4s, but also the cast-off bits of the last hundred projects, broken devices that contain some useful bit inside, and all of the household stuff we accumulate. This last includes 1/2 roll of rope caulking, a pipe snake, 1 gazillion o-rings (non of which actually fit anything), and the burner from a natural gas space heater.
The second issue is that there is a lot of variety among the “stuff.” I’ve tried a number of different way to catalog and organize everything: by project (what about raw materials and things that might be part of multiple projects?), by material type ( works for materials, but not for parts; I wouldn’t put the extra motocycle handlebars in with the steel pipe), by season (this doesn’t even make sense, but i thought about it), by recency (i.e. newest stuff on the top of the pile). In addition to the variety “now,” the relative composition is apt to change at any time (like the day I suddenly found that I had 10 sealed 6v batteries, or the day I used up half of my scrap wood on a project).
The third challenge is access. I could just put it all in nicely labelled boxes and stack them somewhere, but then it becomes a PITA to actually get at them. It also makes it far less likely that I will put things back in an orderly fashion. If I have to open 6 different boxes from 6 different areas, it’ll mean that much more time to put it all back at the end of the day. I know myself well enough to know that those 6 boxes will sit on my bench until the end of forever, despite the stern lecture I gave Dillon about keeping a tidy work space.

I’ve thought it through, and I think I have a solution…

[You’ll just have to wait, as that’s as far as I got with this post.]

Shave brush stand

The problem: How do you store your shaving brush between uses?

Water will gather at the base of the bristles and mold
The brush will deform and the bristles will curl over
both the 1sr and 2nd problems here

The Solution: A brush stand. There are some lovely commercial stands that I’m sure do a great job, and eventually I may buy or make a more beautiful solution, but for now, I work with what I have… Plastic covered steel wire.

Start with a big 'V' of wire and bend a small "ledge" into the point. Give yourself plenty of extra wire.
Finish bending in a depressed section. This part is pretty tricky and takes some trial and error. You want the "back" wide enough to be stable, but not so wide that it's hard to get to the next step
Bend some more, then add a little twist. I tries something more symmetrical, but this was the only way the thing was rigid enough to stay upright. if you want to add clamps or glue, you could probably sort out a different arrangement. This has actually grown on me now, though.
Test fit... adjust.
Test fit... adjust.
There you go... Stuff you probably have around the house and 30 minutes of messing around.

Of course, I’m not the first to attempt this. After (yes, after) making this, I came across this Instructable:

Not bad. I like the inclusion of the razor in the stand, but I prefer one that works with the cup. Wet brushes drip, and I’d rather have mine drip into the mug than onto the counter.

Note: Both the mug and the pliers belonged to my grandfather. The brush is a Tweezerman Deluxe shaving brush. It looks like the same one as in the linked Instructable, and I can say it is a good brush.

New old bench grinder

Over the holidays my father gave me an old bench grinder he had in the basement. The thing was not in great shape, but it’s a tool I certainly needed. My dad is one of those guys that always seems to have an extra [whatever you are looking for]. I’ve got a battery charger that came to me the same way.

Here’s what the bench grinder looked like when I got it:

Bench grinder: Before
Bench grinder: Before

It’s a Wen Model 1030 with a 1/3 horse power motor. You may no know it, but Wen is a real American company. They’ve been making tools since 1951 and are still around (located in Elgin, IL). This specific model, the cost $60 back in 1974 (you could drop an additional $10 to get the model with an included work light). Looks like you can still get into a 6″ grinder with work lights for $70. I think the old ones look better:

Bench grinder: After
Bench grinder: After

I swapped one wheel for a buffer. The one I have, though, is too small, and sits too close to the housing so I’ll be adding in some spacers and a larger wheel when I get a chance. I’m pretty pleased with the result, though. Here’s one more set of before/after:

Bench grinder: Before
Bench grinder: Before
Bench grinder: After
Bench grinder: After

Could be better (work light, painted, etc.), but it’s great for now.


I just went to the Wen site and registered the grinder… we’ll see if I get a response.