August, 2008

Basement workshop

Until I moved into a house with a basement I had never had enough space to work on anything significant and therefore no reason to acquire anything more than the most basic woodworking tools.

After a couple of house projects (repairing a gate that split and fell off its hinges in a big storm, and installing a new base-board electrical outlet in a difficult spot) that taxed my capabilities, it occured to me that I needed some kind of workshop and for once I actually had somewhere to put it.

Since I was basically starting from scratch, this meant building a workbench and expanding my collection of tools. By a happy coincidence, I was getting married the same year and Katie was gracious enough to let me register at Home Depot - so my workshop has been equipped to a large extent by our wedding guests.

Building a pair of tressles

There was a nasty old saw-horse in the basement that wobbled and would shed rusty nails as you worked on it. Since I only had one, I had to use the porch furniture at times to prop up the other end of my work.

So the first order of business was to make two tressles (copies of a set my father has made) to serve as saw-horses as a prerequisite for starting on the workbench. The front porch seemed to be the best place to work initially, but I had to bring in all the wood and tools every night in case it rained.

I had just purchased a set of Ryobi lithium-ion portable power tools and I had a hand-saw, a pair of clamps and a few other basic tools. I ordered a set of chisels and a mallet. The first job was cutting all the wood to size.

Notice the mitre saw in the background - that was an unexpected early wedding registry gift. Next I screwed two cross-pieces (cleats, is the term I believe) to the underside of the tressle tops to provide a surface for the uprights to screw into.

With the uprights squared up, I screwed in the sides of the tool box below to provide rigidity.

This was followed by another side-piece to brace the top of the structure, although if I was dong this again, I would have designed a lip along the sides of the top to make it easier to clamp workpieces to the tressle.

Doing the same on the other side completed the basic frame, which was still missing its feet and the bottom of the tool-box.

By the time I had assembled the second frame, my chisels had arrived so I could start work on the feet.

This involved chiseling out a mortis and screwing it to the upright after squaring everything up.

The final construction step was to screw the tool-box bottom (which had no structural importance) to the tool-box sides.

A little later when my plunge router had arrived, I made a template for a handhold in the middle of the tressle top using 1/4" MDF.

I had specifically picked out a set of template guides with only 3/16" depth for all the guides so that I didnt loose too much cutting depth, which is important since with my 3/8" router bits the resulting maximum cutting depth is barely 3/4 ", all of which I needed to get through the tressle top.

The final step will be to sand them and perhaps apply some protective finish coating, but I have been using them as is for now.