Work Spaces

It’s been a while since my last post but there’s been only minimal progress on the layout because another project has been eating up my time. As I may have mentioned before, I spent 1978 as a 17 year old working through my first year of a four year carpenter’s apprenticeship. The path I took from 1978 to becoming a school principal is far too complicated (and lacks any connection to model railways) however I have been officially retired from the teaching service for 8 days at the time of writing and as such I’ve been doing some evaluation of what I want to do to fill up my free time.

1. Trains

2. Drink Coffee

3. Get Fit

4. Make stuff from wood

That about covers my bucket list! I was on the phone to a friend the other day and he asked me if I’d made a part I’d told him weeks before that I would make. I told him I’d been too busy. He asked “does you being too busy mean going to the gym and drinking coffee?” to which I replied “and your point is?” 🙂 I have been going to the gym, a lot, but that’s not the only reason I didn’t get around to making the part. I’ve been consumed by the job of fitting out my workshop.

I’ve been living in my current home for a little over 2 years. It has a very large, separate, steel, double-storey shed at the end of the driveway and while I love the house and it’s location overlooking the sugar cane fields around Murwillumbah in Northern NSW, I can’t pretend that the shed didn’t play a big part in my decision to buy the place. Trains upstairs, tools downstairs, bed and TV in the house! Simple. I’ve discussed in fairly minute detail the process of preparing the train room and building the benchwork upstairs for the layout but, as might be expected, I’ve written very little about the workspace downstairs. Why would I? This is a blog about Morpeth in O-scale, not a woodworking blog. However, as so much in our lives, having a clear demarcation line between trains upstairs and wood down works ok in theory but doesn’t work so well in practice because there’s no such demarcation between the tools I use to work on my trains and those used for my other projects. This has become more apparent recently as I’ve set about seriously reorganizing and improving my workshop space.

Never fear, I’ll get back to the trains eventually, however if you’re not really into workshops, tools, wood and storage solutions for workshops this may not be a blog post that is going to interest you overly.

About 4 weeks ago I made the decision to commence construction on a small, portable mixed NG/SG project layout in 7mm that will sit along one wall of my modelling room. This is a spare bedroom in the house. This will eventually form the basis of some articles on the construction process. I was happily pottering about planning this layout and running here and there buying materials and getting the basic frames built when I hit a wall of frustration with my workshop. I wanted to do one small cutting job on some of the timber I was using for the bench-work when I found myself thinking “this would be so much easier on a proper table saw”. For those of you into this type of stuff I’ve had a Triton workbench saw table for about 30 years. It’s been used to build just about every layout I’ve ever had anything to do with plus, being portable, I can stick it in the back of the ute and take it to other places and work on other people’s layouts too. I’ve built a lot of layouts with this saw. However I’m not moving again and I have a huge workshop space downstairs so I can have something better if I want it because, while the Triton has been great, some operations are a pain in the butt to carry out on it.

I made the fatal error of looking on Gumtree (equivalent to Craig’s List for my Nth American readers). These photos show what the result of that was:

The great advantage of a table saw with a cast iron top is that it’s heavy. The great disadvantage of a table saw with a cast iron top is that it’s HEAVY! Using it is ok but moving it is a pain. Luckily the guy I bought it from happened to have a fork lift in the yard. As you do 🙂 He was selling it because he’d got himself a bigger saw! Those logs you can see in the background are all furnture grade hardwoods. OMG! I was in heaven and I’m going back next week to get some timber.

Louise was kind enough to let me use her trailer to go pick the saw up. It was easy to load it, tie it in and get it home but getting it out of the trailer was beyond me on my own. I called in some friends! Note the workbench and tools hanging on the wall over on the far side of the shed.

I saw an ad on Gumtree for a second hand table saw about 25 minutes drive away and next thing I know I’m heading home with it strapped into the trailer. Then things really started to get complicated. I now had the saw I’d always wanted and the room to set it up properly however there are a couple of other tools and pieces of equipment I’ve wanted for a long while and, now that I was retired and my super scheme was throwing money at me, I decided it was time to finally do something about acquiring them. However the shed was a disorganized mess and before I could get to where I wanted to be I needed to do some work to improve matters. We arrive at today.

I call this the Armidale workbench. I made it around 2003 to go into a small space I had against a wall in the garage in my home in Armidale, squeezed in between my beer fridge and the first iteration of Morpeth in O. As you can see it’s not exactly a pristine workspace with acres of spare room. Also note that I decided I wanted to line the walls of the shed. I won’t be lining every wall but where I want to set up my workshop benches, lathes and hand tools I wanted it lined and lit well. Why plywood? Because while it’s more expensive that plaster board, having ply on the walls means I can hang anything anywhere I want. I don’t need to find studs, put up cleats or battens. Need a shelf 3′ from the corner of the room at eye height? Snap!

Rather than build new or work with the old 1.3m long Armidale bench I decided to extend it. I’ve got a couple of new legs installed on the right (70mmX70mm pine) with new, longer 4×1 beams along the top and bottom rear. The pace on the left will house an open fronted box with a shelf to hold my hand power tools.

The only real issue in getting stuck into this project was that it’s tending to divert me from modelling. But by Heaven I’m enjoying myself! I’ve been working in a make do environment for so long I’d forgotten many of the things I’d really wanted to get from a permanent workshop. This can be illustrated by my small metal sheer and rollers that was such an important tool in the building of my 20 class loco a couple of years ago. I was working on the new bench and I made the decision that I wanted to put in two new drawers for all the drill bits, router bits and other bits and pieces that I’d been cramming into some tiny drawers that sat on top of the old bench. I’d made a new bench a few years ago to use my mill and Sheline lathe on and this had a single drawer under the bench-top that I was planning to replicate. However this time I was going to have at least two drawers. They would have ply bottoms and use full extension drawer runners. Magic! As I was examining the drawer in other bench I noticed the metal sheer sitting under the drawer.

These plastic drawers have been sitting under my workbenches for years. They’re where I’ve been storing all my smaller hand tools for something like 20 years. The metal sheer is the red object on the right.

The metal sheer is a great little tool but it’s cast iron and heavy. As I tend to only use it when I’m working on a loco it tends to spend most of it’s time stuck in a dark corner and while this is ok for storage, when you want to use it having to crawl around on a concrete floor trying to see and cut your metal with it is not conducive to accurate metal cutting. This tool, even though it’s small, is way too heavy to lift up onto a bench and then back under it every time I need to use it. So in addition to new storage drawers for my hand tools on the longer workbench, the metal sheer is going to get it’s own, heavy duty stand that will be at a good height to both see the metal and hold the heavy tool in place when I have push down on it to cut metal.

I spent day 8 of my retirement assembling the drawers I’d made on the new table saw which I had managed to get off the trailer and set up last weekend. As you can see they are on full extension drawer slides that are rated to carry a weight that is well beyond what I’ll be placing in them. They have 7mm ply bottoms and will happily carry the weight of the tools that I’ll stack in them.

The next step is to secure the bench to the wall and put the ply top on, build a charging station for my battery re-chargers which will include a spot for a sound system and then I’ll move onto setting up the new band saw and dust extraction system I acquired yesterday.

4 thoughts on “Work Spaces

    • It’s located along the other wall that you can see in the photos at 90 degrees to the wall the new bench sits against. I’ll talk about that in another post as it’s a section of the workshop I haven’t got to yet.

  1. You have made more progress in 8 days of retirement than I have in almost 5 years. For me health issues for both my wife and I interevened along with dealing with the terminal illness if a son in law. I have promised myself that I will get back to it with a vengeance as soon as my one year legislative attorney contract wraps up in June!

    Enjoy your retirement!

  2. Congratulations on your retirement Trevor , missing all of you people but your blog keeps me enthusiastic and entertained .
    Good health and happiness to you my friend .

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