Workshop Architect

I’ve been having a bit of a brainstorming session today about workshop design and layout (with myself, unfortunately – bit of a one-way conversation), and was lamenting that there isn’t such a person as a workshop design specialist, who can take all the tools and workflows, and come up with an optimum design.

What is bugging me, is even with the significantly improved floorspace, I still seem to be lacking a good workshop area – open space, perhaps (at worst) with a workbench in the middle.

As much as it is great having machines with plenty of space around them, finally being able to access those machines easily, I haven’t gotten the layout right yet.

Unlike some, at least I have access to the collective wisdom of all the readers out there, so let’s brainstorm. Ideas on the table and let’s see if we can’t work this through.

In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts.

1. The mezzanine. When finished, it is going to have a good amount of floorspace, and although limited in a number of areas, how can this space be best utilisted? Limitations include:
– access (obviously), being upstairs, and accessed by ladder
– floor load capacity. Not sure the /m2 load rating – will have to find out.
– head height
However, working around these limitations, is there any function (other than storage of items not needed on a daily basis) that can be located to the mezzanine?

2. Dust extraction. The dust extraction layout will have to be compromised to work around workshop layout, and not the other way around. However, is having the extractor on the mezzanine a good option. I’m having definite second thoughts. I put it up there to a. free up workshop floorspace b. for it to be inside the main shed, as it draws a lot of air, and if outside the main shed, that is a lot of hot (or cold) air that would be drawn into the workshop, and c. as that would make it generally central to the machines it is drawing from. On the other hand, having it in the timber store next door gives better access, better noise separation, better workshop air quality (particularly on the mezzanine).

3. Infeed and outfeed on the jointer and thicknesser. These machines are claiming a lot of the new workshop’s floor space. Both in having area around the machines to walk, but also material workflow area. Is there a better layout? Would there be a benefit in moving one (or both) to the long, narrow timber store? Especially if the dust extractor is going in there. Or is there a better way to manage their floorspace requirements? If it was an option, would replacing the two separate machines with one combo be a better solution? There are some pretty interesting alternate machines out there that could perform both functions in one footprint, and with one infeed and outfeed area.

4. Location of the router table. Would it be better up against a wall (rear edge) as I had it in the previous workshop? Should it swap position with the workbench that is near the lathes?

5. Things I like about the current layout: The lathe area. That back section of the workshop is still looking as I envisaged it. The rest though, really not sure if it is right, and how best to tweak it.

6. Storage. Still a big problem. I have a lot of things still packed in crates, waiting for their new homes to be revealed. Still unsure what a good solution will be.

7. I still really need to move some machines and tools on to new homes, such as the TS10L tablesaw, and the Torque Router Master. The list of machines and tools to move on is also growing. I have a bunch of cheap clamps (quick action, Irwin style, but much cheaper) to go, a scrollsaw, even a radial arm saw. The big ticket items need to go quickly though – need the funds to pay for some of what the workshop has cost, and they take up significant room too.

So that is the current list – any thoughts?

Shed Move Part B

The second part of any move is of course the landing at the new location.  Fortunately, this move isn’t a great distance as far as the crow flies, so trips back and forth are not so much the issue.  There is a 6×6 garage at the new place, and although there will be multiple demands on this space, at least the tools will have somewhere to sit out of the rain!

However, that does not solve the biggest problem: the 3mx3m shed may have been big enough when I first started, but certainly isn’t now! (And a 3×3 wasn’t big enough then, but I still managed to have a Triton workbench, router table and GMC lathe all in the same space, and functional.  Guess I have never had enough floor area to be comfortable!)

Where it gets interesting, is where I want to put a new workshop.  The block is triangular, and in the photo, there is an easement along the top fenceline.

houseSo the existing shed is 3×3 as I mentioned, and the round shape in the middle at the top is the previous owner’s 15′ trampoline.

The challenge would be to come up with a shed design that suits the back corner, presumably backing up to and against the existing shed.  Not the ideal, but then the ideal would have been a 10 acre property with sheds galore.  This is what I have, and need to work out how to make it work.

The existing shed is 32m2, with a 9m2 shed containing overflow, extra timber storage and the air compressor and 2HP dust extractor.  That is the starting point, and obviously more space than I have currently would be rather useful, given how tight the existing shed has become!

I’m also curious to see if any shed manufacturer is interested in the challenge, especially with the shed being such a feature in every project.  Whatever happens, the development of a plan, and the realisation of that design will definitely be of interest to quite a few readers, myself included for obvious reasons!  Could easily get into ManSpace magazine as well, if the deal was good!

So here is where we start – a satellite view of a relatively empty block behind the house, and a small shed.  Let us see where this journey leads.

Green Steam

As I have mentioned, the dust extractor is now in the other shed, and because of the no-volt release switch, I can’t easily switch it on and off from the main shed just by switching the power on and off, either directly or with a remote control powerpoint switch.  There is a remote control unit available for the dust extractor…..for $300.

Thinking about the different ways to remotely start and stop the unit (other than using something as crude as a broom handle through the wall!) and I decided to use a toggle, rotating around a central point, and use solenoid actuator to operate it.

Went to the first electronics shop – a “One stop shop for all your electronic needs” with a name like “All Electronics” but they didn’t have small motors, or solenoids.  Apparently I had to go to another electronics shop!

Jaycar had a couple of actuators – for about $40 each, and although that would have worked, $80 + switches etc was more than I could be bothered spending for a jury-rig.

But they had another solution – central locking solenoids for car doors.  12V, push and pull.  Perfect.  And a massive $14.

Car Central-Locking Actuator

With a bit of a test run using a breadboard, and a 240V – 12V, 2A transformer I repurposed and a 2-way momentary switch, the actuator worked exactly as I would want.

Breadboard Circuit Test

Next step is to convert the linear motion of the actuator into a toggle that can trigger both start and stop buttons of the dust extractor (and replace the basic switch I got to test the setup with a couple of nicer, non latching, illuminated, momentary push switches.  Jaycar didn’t have any suitable, so I guess I’m off to another electronics store!

Trupro 2HP Dust Collector

I’ve referred to my new dust collector (or dust extractor, depending on your terminology) in a number of posts, but noticed I have been rather lax in not discussing the machine itself.

Where it comes to dust collection, bigger is definitely better. Oh, and while we are on the topic of bigger, let’s quickly touch on what we are trying to collect.  In a workshop, sawdust takes all sorts of forms – and even the term sawdust is misleading – the saw is only one of a phenomenal range of machines and tools that can turn wood into a waste product that we want to collect, store and dispose of.

The waste can be fine dust through to heavy wood shavings from a handplane, and everything in between.  Some are easier to collect than others!  Fine dust is nasty for the lungs, and relatively easy to collect, so long as it is actively done as the dust is generated.  It is very light, and is picked up by pretty much any type of extractor.

The heaviest stuff (shavings from turning, or from handplanes), is almost easier to get with a broom……or a shovel.

In between, we have the jointer/planer and planer/thicknessers.  These produce a wide range of results, at the same time, and huge quantities of it so that is what is really desirable to pull away with an extractor.  It can be quite long and thin, and can easily block a pipe when air flow is insufficient.

So onto the dust collector itself.  Sourced from the Woodworking Warehouse, value is $A1175.

Trupro Dust Collector

Trupro Dust Collector

(yes, it is a photo I’ve used a couple of times already, if it looks rather familiar).

The collector has 2 main components – the motor and extraction fan, and the collector itself. The motor, as mentioned is 2HP, but boy does it draw a current on startup!  It tripped out the breaker on a powerboard every attempt to start it, so have had to dedicate a primary power point to the machine (still 10A), and that has solved any startup issues.

The motor drives a rudimentary centrifugal fan.  This is not uncommon in dust extractors, the clearances cannot afford to be too tight, or the parts too fine due to the bulk of the particulate that the fan is expected to cope with.  Also, given that it is sucking from a workshop there are all sorts of other bits and pieces that can also be picked up and fly through the tubes into the fan blades.

The motor is not particularly noisy in its own right (it is an induction motor), the noise is certainly from the air flow.  I’m not sure if the design could be improved to smooth out the airflow to reduce the generated noise.  However, it can’t be a particular criticism of this unit, because it is a very common design. The overall quality of the unit is apparent in the build of the 60kg unit.

Airflow rates: The machine is rated at 1200 cfm (2040 m3/hr).  This is around the median for a 2HP machine.  If you put it in a different vein, the total shed volume is 80 m3, so in theory this machine could empty the shed 25 times in an hour.

In practice, using an airflow meter, I’ve estimated the actual performance of the machine in 3 orientations:

As supplied with the twin 4″ connection points, both open.  Flow rate 28 m/s

As supplied, with one 4″ connection point covered with the supplied cover. Flow rate 45 m/s

With the twin connector points removed revealing the 6″ entrance. Flow rate 33 m/s

These figures are much higher than they should be, so our guess is that my assumption that the measure of flow speed being the average across the range of speeds experienced (between the edge of the pipe and the centre) doesn’t hold true, and it is really picking up the peak speed only.  I’ve removed my conversions, because the ones in the comments make a lot more sense than what I came up with!!

The other side of the DC is the collection aspect.  A basic form of collector uses a dust bag top and bottom.  These need to be air permeable, as the air being pumped in has to have somewhere to go – through the sides of the bags filtering out the entrained dust.

This unit uses a tough plastic dust collection bag on the bottom, and a spun-bound polyester pleated filter on the top.  This is where the air escapes the system.  This pleated filter can filter out particles as small as 1 micron.

You’d (correctly) imagine that a pleated filter would fill with fine dust, and the filters are not particularly cheap.  There is a way to clean them, or at least knock a lot of the dust loose so it falls into the lower bag.  Built into the pleated filter is a 3 paddle cleaner, and by rotating the top handle through 120 degrees results in the paddles beating every pleat, releasing the trapped dust.

Pleated Filter Cleaning Paddles

Pleated Filter Cleaning Paddles

This is a photo up into the top filter.  You can see about 1/2 the pleats, and 2 of the rubber tipped cleaning paddles.

So an effective dust collector / dust extractor and one that you can use in your main shop because of the 1 micron filtering of the air being exhausted.  There is quite a bit of noise generated by the unit, so either you wouldn’t want it running until needed, or some form of noise block wall shielding it from the rest of the shop.

Overall, this is a solid machine that performs.  I have some problem with the intakes getting blocked with large particles, such as planing shavings, and the long fibres formed with the thicknesser, but this can be addressed with either an added 1st stage cyclonic collection, or perhaps by removing the coarse grate the is across each port (to protect the blades). Otherwise, it has plenty of suck, and that is what counts in the end!

Runnin’ Just to Stand Still

Lyrics by U2, reenactment by the entire planet these days it seems.  When did life get so busy?  Must be Christmas time again (and again and again – it’s almost like Groundhog Day).

Doing some rearrangement – trying out some different equipment layouts, primarily based around the new dust extractor.  Ran it for quite a while today (while it was still in the main shed), and although the noise is less than it seemed at midnight the other day, I still decided it would be better in the lower shed (the 3×3 that is next to the main workshop).  After clearing out all the pipework of the cholesterol that was building up (restricting the pipe diameter, and made up of heavy wood shavings, concrete dust, and who knows what else!), and particularly clearing some blockages where the original GMC dust extractor had not coped, and the pipe had blocked fully, I then got to try some different variations to see what worked better.

Firstly, different machines produce different types of dust & shavings (obviously). The jointer/planer and planer/thicknesser produces quite a long chip, that easily matts into a blockage, particularly given the rate that these machines shave the wood down.  Not sure what I will come up for these machines – difficult.  The shavings are also a problem even when they reach the dust extractor – more on that in a sec.

The tablesaw produces a much finer version, and a lot of dust, and given the much lower rate of production seems relatively easy to clear.  The bandsaw is even easier, primarily producing a fine dust.  The sanders are obvious, and easy.  The router table – finer than the tablesaw, coarser than the bandsaw, and although can produce a lot of particulate quickly (depending on how heavy a pass you are doing), a good flowrate will cope.

The real problem child, and who would have predicted this: the drill press.  Specifically when using a large diameter forstner bit.  The shavings are circular, and large (as large as the cutter’s internal diameter), and although they are pretty light and suck up ok, they are a distinct problem at the dust extractor.  Simply, they catch on the chip guards before the impellor, and almost immediately block the entire pipe.  Not dissimilar to one of the problems with the jointer, although that also has an issue with the shear quantity produced.

The solution for the jointer is easy enough – get a spiral head.  Unfortunately, the cost involved is very high, as nice as the finish can be from this type of cutter. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to bring you some first hand experience, but until then we will all have to look at this gold-plated solution with envy.  Otherwise, there is little option but to slow down!

For the forstner bits, the solution may have to be to turn the dust extractor off, and resort to dust pan and brush.

The next thing I looked at was flow rate at each of the machines.  It isn’t overly high, but that was the compromise – I can’t afford a 3HP machine – both the cost of the machine itself, as well as the power supply requirement.  So the 2Hp machine will have to do, and just accept the lower flow rate.  I tried it with my original 1st stage collector (documented here a few months ago), as that would have been ideal for the shavings collection before clogging the infeed to the extractor, but the flow rate dropped off way too much with that inline.  I might work further on that problem – perhaps a form of mini cyclone for the heaviest chips or something.  Pity – would have been good on a number of levels.

I also tried leaving off the pleated filter, so relying purely on the 1st stage chip collector, but there was little perceived difference in flowrate.  I guess this is a good thing – shows the pleated filter does not have too much of a detrimental effect on the dust extractor’s performance.

So that is about as far as I got – the pipes are cleared, the new extractor is sitting where the old one had been, and the infeed is connected directly to it.  Now all I need to do is work out some form of remote starter, so I can start and stop the extractor from the main shed.  It isn’t a matter of simply turning the power on or off, as the switch on the motor does not reengage when power is restored.  I might have to resort to a mechanical solution- a couple of long sticks through the shed wall!

Dust System Continued

Went shopping for more supplies for the ongoing dust system development. Ran into wall after wall unfortunately – to the point that I had to make some changes to the design. Bet woodworkers in the USA don’t have to change their designs just because 2.5″ blast gates don’t ‘exist’.

So here is the compromised design for the router table. It now has a single 4″ blast gate before the offtake to the fence. The length of tube leading to the fence may be a bit long, but I am not going to make that decision until I can actually fire up the system and make some serious dust to test the weaknesses. (I had the wrong lens for the camera tonight, so had to shoot it at an angle).

The other thing I purchased is a collector for the lathe. It is known as the Big Gulp, and I decided that getting the stand for an extra $60 odd wasn’t worth it. The normal intended orientation (I believe) is vertical, but I find the majority of dust I make on the lathe falls pretty much straight down. I’ll have to modify the final positioning, again when I have had a chance to test the system in anger. In this orientation, I think it should be called Deep Throat instead.

It is a pretty large collector – I’ve included my hand in the photo to give an idea of scale. That hole in the centre is 4″!

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