ERIC'S BLOG

My Workshop & Tools: Creative Chaos in Action

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Every woodworking craftsman needs a space where they can hone their art. I’ve seen some amazing converted garages and even a few backyard sheds as DIY workshops. ED Practical Art’s workshop space evolved out of a tough time. My wife and I were living in a condo and just as the real estate market was crashing in Tahoe I became unemployed, which also meant no place to store my tools. There were no construction jobs available, unless you were willing to go off the mountain. My wife had just started a business and still had a full time job, so I took over caring for the household (cooking and cleaning) while she spent most of her time working. She was extremely thankful and often told me she wouldn’t have been able to survive without my support. Lovely lady, she tried to be patient with tools and project starts everywhere but then sweetly suggested I look for a shop. It didn’t take more than a nudge because I’d always wanted a workshop and always dreamed of starting my own business. We stumbled a few times along the way, but then found ourselves right here, making beautiful things out of materials that would otherwise get thrown away.

When I began looking for a creative space I knew exactly what I needed: AFFORDABILITY!  We were lucky enough to stumble upon the perfect space on Craig’s List and scooped it up! Workshop spaces don’t come available very often in Tahoe and the rent was well below market at the time. As luck would have it, living in a small town, the building owner knew some of our references personally, so we were in quickly.

In setting up the shop I wanted to keep myself organized. There is nothing as frustrating as envisioning the perfect project, being fully geared up on a liter of coffee and not being able to locate the right tool! As much as I try, this still happens to me all the time! All the storage in my shop is made of reclaimed and salvaged materials that I repurposed to help me get organized… but I am really not one of those guys who can show off how neat and tidy his workshop is; my workshop is more like the before picture in one of those tool organizer adds…

I do store my reclaimed wood by size and type of wood on these giant metal shelves I was able to acquire from a local business closing (circle of life huh?) and I built or repaired everything that I use for work space and organization in my shop – I even built a custom worktable on wheels that is larger and taller than most work tables are (to take it easy on my back) and I recently redesigned it to have my chop saw built into it. I then modified my ‘shop vac’ by installing it in my worktable so it collects most of the dust caused by using the chop saw, to keep the air cleaner and minimize clean up time.

Keeping the storage simple freed up space and improved my workflow.

I’d love to say after the sweat and tears of organizational set up that I keep it tidy but there are days my shop could definitely be titled, Creative Chaos! 

These are the primary tools I use: Saws, so many saws… circular saw, chop saw, band saw, scroll saw, nail gun, grinders and sanders.

My best sellers are my silhouettes, here is how I make them: I use a template to mark the silhouettes I will be working on that day on plywood; then the circular saw to separate each silhouette; then the band saw to cut the silhouette shape out of each piece, unless they are too big and I have to use the scroll saw. Then I take out the chop saw and cut the pieces of wood that will cover each silhouette and nail and glue each piece until the silhouette is covered.

The next day, it’s back to the band saw (or scroll saw, depending on the size of the piece) to cut the shape out of the wood I nailed on yesterday.

Then I burn, sand and grind each piece before applying a finishing coat.

All this is done right on my trusty, hand-built worktable!

I put it on wheels, so in the summer, I can even roll it outside so I can have more room to walk around the table and work in the fresh air.

Safety is always a priority. Of course I always wear goggles, earmuff and steel-toed boots. I never wear baggy clothes. I am getting better at wearing dust masks and gloves, but there is still room for improvement. I pay close attention when I am working with power tools and always make sure my fingers are not in the path of a saw blade.

Cleaning up after a project … since cleaning is not my favorite thing, it’s more like cleaning up so I can work on a project… or so I can find my way out of my shop… I basically work until I HAVE to clean up, then I spend a couple days cleaning up, then I do it all over again… Creative chaos.

My wife won’t let me take care of the house this way, go figure…

Thanks for taking a quick tour of the shop with me. Follow EdPracticalArt on Facebook and Instagram so you won’t miss any of our new projects!

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