by Steven D. Johnson
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The Biggest Shop Time Killer
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Do you have a separate dust-free finishing area in your shop? Well if you do, consider yourself one of the lucky two-percent. Most of us finish our projects in the same shop space where we build them. And while we meticulously apply coat after coat and wait for things to dry, we can't (or shouldn't) cut, shape, drill, mold, or spin a single thing lest specks of dust are stirred up to inevitably settle on our wet finish. Finishing effectively stops all other work in the shop… it is a giant time killer.
Not to diminish the importance of applying a finish… it can be the most important part of a project. But I like to build things. I've tried some makeshift workarounds like plastic tents or temporary partitions in the shop to protect "wet" finishes. They were only partly effective, time-consuming to set-up, and generally in the way. I tried moving a project to the basement in my house and doing the finishing there, but that met with some stiff objections from my spouse, my cats, and my own delicate sinuses. Because of the position of my shop and the general topography around it I cannot easily add on to my shop. There is an obvious budget constraint, too.
Stymied for a remedy, I started to think how I might build an inexpensive finishing booth to house a project in a dust free environment while curing the finish and that would still allow me to build things (make sawdust) while each coat was drying. An enclosure would need to be portable, easy to set up, and easy to knock down and store. It should be scalable, meaning I could configure it "small" for a small project or configure it "large" for a bigger piece of furniture. And it should be quick and easy to build… I've got enough other complicated projects underway as it is. And of course it needs to be dust tight.
to watch the first of three installments of my new video project series "Building a Portable Dust-Free Knockdown Finishing Enclosure." I'm pretty sure you will want to have one of these for your shop when you see how much time it will save.
Side-By-Side Product Showdowns – Next Month!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have manufacturers send you products to test? Have you fantasized about woodworking tools showing up at your doorstep for free? I'll admit, I have. But no big manufacturers are knocking down my door, so as is typical, I had to take things into my own hands. Next month I am starting a new section of this column called "Showdown!" and in true Down To Earth Woodworker fashion, I will be comparing two products head-to-head, mano a mano, Thrilla in Manila style. Only one product will be crowned the champ and the other gets a ten-count in these Showdowns! Stay tuned!
Also next month I'm building a thick frame for a rather giant piece of stained glass, using some tricks to make some 3/4" maple look like 10/4 maple, and joining the frame corners with drawbore tenons. lots of fun! We will also wrap up the
"Portable Dust Free Knockdown Finishing Enclosure" video series
. Until next month, stay safe and have fun!
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Steven Johnson is retired from an almost 30-year career selling medical equipment and
supplies, and now enjoys improving his shop, his skills, and his designs on a full time basis
(although he says home improvement projects and furniture building have been hobbies for most of his
Steven can be reached directly via email at