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Shop Reorganization for the New Year

by Curtis Turner
Round Rock, TX

Note: click on any picture to see a larger version.

As 2012 comes to a close, I have begun to think about goals for next year. The ringing in of the New Year brings the opportunity to re-evaluate and reorganize with the promise of a fresh start. So, I recently reconsidered my shop setup, and how I use my tools. My goal was to develop a more efficient work flow in the space where I have worked for nearly eight years. I spent some time evaluating my current shop arrangement, and thought about ways I could reorganize my space. I looked at how I use my tools, and what I could do to improve efficiency. Ultimately, I realized I liked things just the way they were. I had become organized through a natural process of moving cabinets and tools around as the need arose. I also realized during the process, I have a few non-traditional turning tools that have migrated from my "flat woodworking" space to my turning space. I thought this month would be an appropriate time to share my shop layout and the various tools I use. I promise not to lecture you on how to keep your shop squeaky clean in the next year.

Let's start with the centerpiece of my shop, the Powermatic 3520B. When I originally had my shop wired, I placed a 220v outlet on the wall behind where my lathe now sits. My thought at the time was, if I ever acquire a large lathe, it would sit in front of this white sheet rock wall. When I first began to turn, I placed my Jet 1220 along this wall. I had not considered that wet chips and dust would quickly stain the wall. I also was launching more bowls in those days. One or two bowls left dings in the wall, fortunately nothing that required patching the dry wall. I quickly realized this was not the best location for a lathe.

Once the day came for my big lathe to arrive in the shop, I placed it on the opposite wall. This wall is a cement block wall. Now I have no concerns about wet chips or flying bowls causing damage to the wall. Unfortunately, I have to plug in my lathe by stringing the electrical cord across the floor to the opposite wall. So despite my best planning, I had to be flexible and adapt.

I also built a hanging tool rack on this cement block wall. This rack contains my larger turning tools, sandpaper storage, and my favorite lamp. I built a cabinet to sit on the right side of the lathe. When turning, I place the active tools I am using for the current project on a flat tool rack on this cabinet. This keeps them handy as I switch between tools. I keep small turning tools, calipers, chucks and various accessories in this cabinet (see picture below). You will notice a few items that you may not think of as "turning tools". First is the wallpaper brush. I leave this stored at the end of my lathe. It is always handy for cleaning off the lathe or my clothes. If you don't have a wallpaper brush around the house, I would recommend something like the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks dusting brush. It is a fantastic brush with long bristles. I keep my brush hanging over my workbench at the other end of the shop. Not pictured, but another favorite non-traditional turning tool, is a goose neck scraper . I use this for scraping the bottom of bowls and boxes prior to sanding the bottom.

Also on the table is a small thin flexible saw . I use this saw every time I need to cut through a tenon. Experience has taught me that twisting off a turning to break the tenon often results in serious tear out, because this method can pluck out wood fibers. This creates extra sanding work, and the tear out may be deep enough to ruin the piece. I have had this saw for many years, and first used it to trim wood plugs on furniture I built.

Of course, a range of calipers is critical for proper sizing of parts. These are inexpensive and will last a lifetime. I keep the calipers on a hanging rack attached to the left side of this cabinet. Also, I find an awl is perfect for marking the center point on a blank. The divot created by the awl allows me to perfectly register the center point of the drive centers into the wood blank. This tool is stored in the top drawer with an odd assortment of tools and accessories like scissors, pencils, markers, and short handled turning tools. (By the way, awls make a good turning project.)

You may be able to see in the background that the bandsaw is conveniently located near the lathe. This location makes it easy to take a blank from the bandsaw and quickly mount it on the lathe. On the opposite side is my slow speed dry grinder. The various Oneway Wolverine grinding jigs are located on the shelf just to the left of the grinder.

Finally, along this side of my shop you can see the duct work hanging on this wall. The cyclone dust collector is on the second floor of my shop. This saves valuable space on the first floor, while keeping some of the noise outside my work area. When I purchased the space, I had the second story loft installed, in part, to host the dust collector, as well as to be additional storage for the shop. It's not a space where I actively work, but it provides a very valuable service to me in my daily work.

At the wall on the opposite side , you will see a Jet 1220. This lathe mostly servers as a dedicated buffing station. I keep all the Beall buffing supplies in the cabinet next to this lathe. The Beall system is a great addition to any turning shop. It allows me to quickly buff and polish my turnings. I want to point out the towel on the bed ways. This helps to protect a finished piece from damage should it be yanked out of my hands while buffing. You can also see the unattractive plastic sheet hanging behind the lathe. That is to protect the wall from buffing compound that can be flung against the wall.

Finally, one of my favorite tools is the Foredom Flex shaft tool. While not really a turning tool, as I have mentioned in past articles, it is perfect for sanding the bottom of almost any project. It also excels at sanding the inside bottoms of boxes. I had expected to use Foredom more for carving and grinding operations; the sanding component was a nice surprise. I have the TX 1/3 horse power model . I recently purchased the new angle grinder for the Foredom . I have high hopes for this attachment. I am sure you will read about it in future articles.

I frequently clamp a carving stand to the corner of my Foredom bench. The carving stand is an excellent way to hold a turning while still in the chuck. While I don't use the carving stand on every turning, it is often just what I need to add details or sand bowl or box turnings. The chuck simply spins onto the threaded spindle. I use this device when I want to carve a detail on the piece but then need to put it back on the lathe for more turning work.

I hope you found this information helpful in thinking about your shop space. Also, I hope this helped you come up with a few ideas of your own for non-traditional turning tools you might have in your own shop. Often thinking outside the box will help you solve a problem.

Maybe next year I will reevaluate my scrap pile! I hope you have a happy, productive and safe New Year.

Curtis is 2012 President of Central Texas Woodturners, a member of the American Association of Woodturners, and a member of Fine Woodworkers of Austin.  Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also owns a studio where he teaches and works. Curtis lives and works in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at .

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