James’ Garage Workshop

Shop Tour - Submitted by James Maichel from Oak Harbor, WA
Added on January 24, 2012

I decided to start woodworking about two years ago after my wife, Michelle and I went shopping for a new bedroom set. We visited the local furniture mart and Michelle found a set that she liked. It looked nice and each piece was priced around $500. When I asked the salesman what it was made out of, he talked in circles for a minute or two, fed me a line of BS, then walked away to ask his manager. It certainly was not hardwood and didn?t seem any better than the IKEA stuff we had. Frustrated, I left the furniture store and made a decision to start building my own furniture.

I went to my local big box store and loaded up with tools that I thought I needed. I somewhat successfully built my first project–a bookcase for Michelle. I had some real problems with the finishing process. Frustrated with how the bookcase looked, I took a hammer and just start beating the crap out of it. It was literally one of those “tiger got out of the cage” moments. Michelle heard all the pounding and expletives coming from outside and quickly ran to see what was wrong, fearing that I might have already injured myself during my inaugural build. Seeing the look on her face as I was turning her bookcase into kindling, I realized that injuring myself would have been far better than the wrath I was about to endure for ruining her bookcase. Needless to say, I made “nice” and managed to salvage the project and turned it into a bench. From that moment it became clear that it was going to take a lot more time, practice, tools and most of all patience to build furniture!

Over the past couple of years, my shop has gone through a couple progressions. I bought a cheap Delta table saw and Dewalt router from CL and built a couple more projects with some major issues as I continued to struggle. Not happy with the performance of my cheap table saw, I decided to try the all hand tool route. I sold my table saw, router and some of the other unnecessary power tools. Talk about biting off more than I could chew. I loved the idea of working with hand tools, but not the results I was getting. It is a slow, tedious and somewhat difficult process to learn for a new woodworker. It was driving me crazy and I was ready to quit. I took some time off and tried to figure out what it was that I was trying to accomplish. I figured out that I did not have to live in a world with only hand tools or only power tools. I now think of my shop and woodworking as a constant progression and try to enjoy the process as much as the end result. For me there is no finish line, timeline or deadline only enjoying time spent in the shop when I can.

This is my shop in its current state, part of a large one car garage. My workbench is a very basic and inexpensive design. Two IKEA tops laminated together with 3/4? dog holes drilled into it. The top sits on a base built out of 2 X 4?s joined together with pocket holes. Not super sexy, but after I added bench dogs, wonder pups and a couple of Gramercy Holdfasts, it became very functional. I also added a T8 light above the bench that I got from Home Depot for about $40. On the bench are a few of my hand tools. I have two LN independence saws, one filed crosscut and the other rip. I have a Veritas Plow Plane, Router Plane, Spokeshave, LN block plane, Stanley Jack Plane Type (Type 14), Tite Mark and Veritas marking gauges and a Blue Spruce marking knife (worth splurging for). On the back of the bench I have a set of LN chisels, two Buck Brothers pairing chisels (wood handles made in Maine) and a Starrett combination square. Underneath my bench is where I store a very generic version of a tool chest, its actually a footlocker from a deployment I went on a few years ago and has come in very handy for storing my hand tools until I can build a legit tool chest. Inside of it I have a Stanley hand brace, Jennings pattern bits, sliding bevel, winding sticks and a couple other miscellaneous tools.

To the right of my bench is my sharpening station. I use Shapton 1000, 4000, and 8000 grit stones, a DMT duo sharp (coarse/fine) to flatten my stones, a Veritas MKII honing guide and a Rockler LED light courtesy of a monthly drawing on The Wood Whisperer site. The surface is just a piece of 3/4″ MDF bolted on top of what used to be the base for my table saw. The Ridgid jointer is a recent addition found on CL. I was not in the market for a jointer but it was only $100. It was in pretty poor shape–there was a lot of surface rust and it needed some serious TLC. After a couple days of hard work, all the rust was off and it looked pretty good. As far as functionality its okay, but I am not in love with it. The bed is short, its finicky to adjust, its only 6? wide and it I don’t like the amount of tearout I am getting, but it was only $100. Right behind the jointer is where I store my parallel clamps, nothing fancy but it works.

The planer was my first power tool addition. Its a Delta 12 1/2″, 2 knife lunchbox style planer that I got off CL. This was a great find, I bought it from an older guy and it looked like he had only used it once or twice. The manuals where still in plastic unopened and it came with the mobile base. Its only a two-knife plane so I take very little off each pass; it takes little longer but sure is easier to thickness a board with the planer then by hand.

My newest power tool addition is a Grizzly G1022 ProZ, contractor style table saw with a Shop Fox Classic Fence. Another CL find and the one I am most proud of. It was almost a two hour drive to pick it up, but well worth it. The saw is in great shape, with limited use and very well taken care of. It came with a mobile base that the previous owner built, but I added the drawers, which are from Lee Valley and excellent for extra storage in my small shop. I added a couple of accessories–an Infinity Super General Combo blade, Onsrud Rip and Dado blades (eBay finds recommended by Knotscott). I have not used either of the Onsrud blades so I can’t offer any personal experience but from what Knottscott told me about them, some various opinions around the Interwebs and their very reasonable pricing, I am confident they were a good buy. Can’t forget about the safety equipment–3M respirator and a Grr-Ripper, which is a must have, love that thing! Oh and of course a WW push stick!

There is a very basic outfeed table behind my table saw. Under the outfeed table is my temporary dust collection system. Its a Dust Right Vortex Dust Separator hooked to a shopvac. The shopvac is loud and not the greatest when it comes to DC but it gets the job done.

Finally, we have what serves as my assembly table. Just a piece of plywood mounted between two beams in my garage. On the table is a Ryobi grinder, storage cabinet for screws and favorite new toy?I mean tool, a Festool CXS drill! Oh yea and a pair of Festool safety glasses.

I have an idea of where I want my shop to go over the course of the next couple of years but nothing is set in stone. I will just let my projects dictate my next couple of shop upgrades and continue to enjoy the process of working wood. I will post all of the shop updates on my blog www.jamscroll.com