Pretty much every brand new tool comes with a warranty card. Registering your product with the company can save you quite a bit of hassle in the future, while also making sure you’re aware of any safety recalls. As important as that is, many folks simply ignore the card since it’s a pain in the butt to fill out and drop in the mail. Although these days, you can often register the product online. So we’re curious, what do you do with your warranty cards?
I consider it part of my job to answer emails from my fellow woodworkers. Guild members or not, everyone receives a response. Occasionally, I get a question that requires a very detailed answer and that answer in and of itself would make for a decent blog post. That happened this morning when a Guild member asked me for advice on shop layout. I brainstormed some basic tips that I think apply to nearly all wood shops (at least the ones that incorporate some power tools). Of course, shop layout is something that evolves over time and really comes down to one’s personal preferences and tool choice. But here are some simple rules of thumb that came to mind; some more obvious than others. If you have some tips to add, please do so in the comments!
1. Think About Your Workflow
Consider the path a piece of wood takes from the moment it enters your shop. This will help guide you through nearly ALL of your shop layout decisions in the future.
2. Group Tools Sensibly
Tools that perform similar functions or are typically used in succession should be located near one another. One of the most obvious groupings is the jointer/planer/table saw triad. During the milling process, these three tools will be used repeatedly so it’s a good idea to limit the distance between them.
3. Store Tools Near the Workbench
I like to keep my tools very close to the workbench, since that’s the place I will most likely use them. This includes both hand and power tools.
4. Put Your Bench Near a Window
Natural light not only makes it easy to see what you’re working on, it makes for a more pleasant working environment. Your workbench is the place you will likely spend most of your time so why not have it located in a spot that gives you a nice view out the window.
5. Store Wood Near the Entrance
Personally, I think it sucks to have to lug massive pieces of rough lumber and 4′ x 8′ plywood sheets all the way across a shop. Much respect to basement dwellers who have little choice in the matter. But for those with garage shops, you should think about storing your sheetgoods and solid stock near an entrance. This way when you come home from the lumber dealer, you can back up your vehicle and quickly load the stock into the shop.
6. Put the Miter Saw Near the Lumber Rack
Many folks rely on the miter saw for cutting down rough stock, so it’s a good idea to limit the distance between these two things. If you’re a Festool MFT owner, it’s a good idea to do the same. My plywood rack is located right next to my MFT.
7. Locate the Assembly Table Centrally
During nearly all stages of a project, the assembly table is used for holding various parts and pieces. It makes sense then to have the assembly space located somewhere near the center of the shop. This way, your project parts are never more than a few steps away.
8. Keep the Clamps Near the Assembly Table
Since most of your assembly will be done on the assembly table, it just makes sense to have your clamps nearby. If you’re short on wall space, try a rolling clamp cart! If you use your workbench for assembly, keep your clamps near the workbench. Check out these two helpful articles for clamp racks: A Simple Utilitarian Clamp Rack and A Parallel Clamp Rack.
9. Locate The Table Saw Centrally
Much like the assembly table, nearly every project in my shop makes extensive use of the table saw. And like it or not, my outfeed table becomes a second storage area for project parts and cut-offs. So I like to have mine located in the middle of the shop for the same reasons as the assembly table. Additionally, it’s nice to have ample space around the tablesaw for those larger workpieces. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, I’m not a fan of storing the table saw against a wall.
10. Finish Near a Window
If you have a dedicated spot for preparing, mixing, and applying finishes, try to locate it near a window. Often times we’re dealing with toxic chemicals and it’s nice to have an open window nearby for ventilation. You’ll have the added bonus of natural light to help with color matching and close inspection of your work.
11. Put the Right Tools Against the Wall
Some tools work better against the wall than others. Bandsaws, router tables, drill presses, mortisers, and stationary sanders are all good candidates for placement against a wall. If you keep these tools next to each other, however, you may need to occasionally pull them away from the wall for full access. That brings us to our next tip.
12. Stay Mobile
No matter how much you plan ahead, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll need to move your tools around, even if only temporarily for a particular operation. So the more mobile bases you incorporate, the better. In my opinion, this is the key element to a successful small shop.
Over the years, I have received MANY critiques of my work, be it furniture, podcasts, DVDs, books, or even the way I speak. With the exception of two or three cases, ALL of them were unsolicited and from strangers. But that’s just life on the internet. If you post anything online, you should expect at least one or two people to offer an opinion on the quality of your work. I’d guess that most folks aren’t looking for criticism but there are some who absolutely thrive on it. And if you ever submit a project for judging, be prepared for there to be a rock in your gut when you see people inspecting your work with a pad and pencil in-hand. By the way, that’s a picture of David Marks and me judging a contest at a local Woodcraft store.
Part of the trouble with criticism is the fact that you have to first determine the validity of the critique and whether or not it applies to your situation. You know what they say opinions are like, right? But some opinions, even the ones that hurt, contain incredibly useful advice.
So the fundamental problem for someone who likes to critique is you never know if the person posting their project really wants your thoughts, unless they ask for it. As the person posting the work, you essentially have to critique the critiques!
No matter how you slice it, it’s a sensitive subject. So I’m curious, how do you feel about having your work critiqued? Can you share a story of a particular critique that was really helpful? Or maybe you had a negative experience you’d like to share.
It’s probably obvious to most of you that I eat, sleep, and drink woodworking. I’m guessing you’re pretty much the same, though you may hold down a day job in a different field. A craft like woodworking can quickly become an obsession as we contemplate new designs, new materials, new tools, and shop improvements.
As much as I enjoying getting lost in piles of wood chips, I also realize how important it is to occasionally step away. To not only take a break, but to take some time to geek out about other things. Now I’m not talking about family time here since that’s something I build into every day of my life. I’m talking about other hobbies. Do you golf? Do you like to barbecue? Do you like to keep tropical fish? Do you play video games? These are all things that can suck you in just as quickly as woodworking can and to tell you the truth, these secondary hobbies make me a better woodworker. If for no other reason, they give me time to re-charge my virtual 18-V batteries. By the time I’m done focusing on my other hobbies, I’m ready to dive back into woodworking head first with a full tank of creative fuel.
Since woodworking is my career, this sort of thing may be a little trickier for someone like me to pull off than it is for you, but I still think it’s a necessary element to anyone’s success. Perhaps woodworking IS that secondary hobby that makes you better at your day job. Just keep in mind that hobbyists can burn out too!
And just in case you’re wondering, I have many hobbies outside of woodworking. One of my favorite pastimes is grilling and barbecuing. Pictured left is my choice in smoking gear: a Primo XL komado style cooker. The things that captured my attention while I took a nice holiday break from woodworking were setting up our home entertainment system for cord-cutting and playing video games. I’ve been documenting my cord-cutting experience on my personal blog in case you care to read about it. Anyway, have a great weekend everyone!
Now more than ever, people are breaking out of the traditional employment mold. Thanks to the internet, a small niche business that would have died on the vine fifteen years ago can now thrive with low overhead and easy access to a worldwide customer base. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns for everyone, but for many, it’s a great way to make a living while re-defining your role as a world citizen.
I exchange emails with woodworkers everyday who are taking the plunge. The story is very often the same. You start making items for your own home as a hobby. Friends and neighbors find out that you’re a woodworker so they begin to inquire about your services. Because you’re a nice person, you charge them for materials only. Word gets around and you begin receiving requests from acquaintances who hear that you not only do good work, but you’re cheap too! This is where the problems begin. Even if you aren’t interested in becoming a full-time woodworker, you will likely start to wonder if you’re valuing your time appropriately. Is it fair to charge someone a reasonable fee when you truly LOVE what you do? Should you fight that sense of GUILT you feel at charging someone money while you fart around in the shop?
If you’re planning on changing careers and doing this woodworking thing for a living, you better answer with a resounding, “YES! It IS fair to charge a reasonable fee!” If you are taking on jobs as a side-business simply to keep your hobby going, your choice might be a little more difficult. Though I’m sure many professional woodworkers would really appreciate you charging appropriately for your work.
At the heart of this issue is the question of value. How valuable is your time? How valuable is the material you use? How valuable is your creativity? How valuable is the final product you produce? Does the customer see the same value in that product or do they value it more or less than you do? These are all interesting questions to ponder when deciding how much to charge for something. But if you are starting this process by undervaluing yourself and what you bring to the equation in terms of skill and creativity, then you’re going to have a significant uphill battle. If you don’t value your own time and skills, how can you possibly expect your customer to?! Undervaluing your work is a great way to become the busiest woodworker that ever went out of business.
I bring this up today because of a video I recently watched from a friend of mine, Bill Doran. Bill is a prop-maker and owner of Punished Props. He makes custom props for use in cosplay, TV, and movies. Much like a woodworker, Bill receives commissions and has to price his work accordingly. He has to come up with the plan, source the materials, and build the item within a reasonable amount of time and he faces all of the same challenges woodworkers face. He recently made the video below explaining why he has to charge a hefty sum for his commissioned work. While he is focused on prop-making, the message applies to woodworkers.
As you can see, independent woodworkers aren’t the only ones struggling with this issue of valuing one’s time. In fact, here are three other articles I highly recommend you read:
This is a huge topic that deserves much more time than we can give it in a single blog post. After all, even after you convince yourself that you’re worth it, you still have to convince your customers. That’s always fun. But I’d love to hear some of your pricing stories, concerns, anecdotes. Do you struggle with pricing? Do you find that most of your clients are willing to pay your asking price? I’d also love to hear from folks who are currently undervaluing their work. Tell us why this works for you.
It’s that time of year again: the time when people make promises to themselves that they’ll never keep! ha! While I like to poke fun, the new year is a great time to think about what you hope to accomplish in the shop over the next twelve months. I tend to set realistic goals for myself in a very unofficial sense. That way I am more likely to achieve those goals and I don’t have to be too concerned if I don’t. Not the most adventurous way to go but it works for me. So how about you? If you made one, tell us about it in the comments.