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Stupid Shop Improvements

One of the cool things about building our own tools or shop fixtures/cabinets is the ability to customize them to our specific needs. We all know this, but how much do we take advantage of it? I bet not nearly as much as we could. I think this is mostly because we build a tool or tool cabinet or bench then we are done and move on. We don’t often revisit this item farther down the road to see if it is meeting our needs or what could be customized to solve a problem. Maybe this is done, but the improvement just gets added to the long list of things to be done in the amorphous future. Finally at some distant date we get around to this tweak and wondered why we didn’t do it long ago.

Lathe Wedge PinRecently I broke down and added a very simple customization to both my pole lathe and flywheel lathe. Both of them have a moveable tailstock or poppet/puppet that is secured in place with a wedge underneath the bed rails. This is rock solid and locks the tailstock in place with very little effort. It takes little effort to free it as well, but when you whack the wedge with a mallet no matter how lightly you do it, the wedge comes rocketing out of the mortise. If I’m on my game I catch it before it falls on the floor and inevitably slides under something heavy. This doesn’t usually happen so I’m forever digging around in dark and scary spaces blindly hoping I don’t lose a finger to the monsters that live under my bench. So finally tired of this scenario I implemented stupid lathe trick #101 and drilled the narrow end of my wedges with a cross hole and friction fit a small dowel in place. Now when I knock the wedge free, the cross pin stops the wedge from leaving the mortise yet still allows it to loosen where I can move the tailstock. With the cross pin just friction fit I can still remove the dowel when I need to pull the tailstock out completely.

Stupid simple fix, yet something I should have done months ago.

joinery benchSo in that vein:

  • I tore the chisel rack out of the clam shell doors of my tool cabinet because it isn’t an efficient use of space and plane to build a tiered rack that will hold more chisels in the same space.
  • I grabbed my brace and drilled a few more dog holes in my bench tops where I keep wanting a spot for a holdfast.
  • I screwed a ledger strip to the legs of my workbench under one of the ends as a place to hang a few bench hooks.
  • And now I’m looking at the empty space just beneath the top of my Joinery bench that could be used as storage if only I installed a shelf or possibly a lidded container.

I need to think about that last one a bit more…I’ll get to it in the future.

Call this what you will, it is procrastination and one of the lovely benefits of being a hobby woodworker. We have the time to refine and improve our clubhouses…err..workshops so enjoy it. Go find some stupid simple improvements that will make your work more enjoyable.

Your Turn

What simple improvements have you added to your shop that you wished you had done long ago? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

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