Monday, March 5, 2012

CO Workshop Update #9 - How Low Should I Go?

It’s time to give those cabinets we picked up (for free) last year their “second wind.”  They’ve done a great job at taking up parking space in the garage, but it’s time for them to answer a higher calling…and my lovely bride would like to park indoors…silly woman!  Yesterday I brought one of the three drawer base cabinets down from the garage to see how they’ll look under the windows. 
There is still a good bit of space between the top of the cabinet and the bottom and top of the window sill, so I’ve got a little room to play with in raising the height.

The height of the cabinets is 28.5 inches, so I’m thinking I can build a 2X4 deck frame to raise the cabinets up a few inches and still have enough room to install a bench top of 1.5 inch thickness.  That would put the bench top surface at just under 34 inches…falling just below the bottom of the window sill, and about 2.5 inches shorter than my main workbench.

I could go up another 1.5 inches to the top of the window sill and not interfere with the function of the window, but right now I’m thinking about keeping this surface a little lower as an assembly area. 
Any thoughts from my fellow woodworkers?  Do any of you have a lower bench surface for assembly or finishing?  Should I consider scrapping the idea of a deck frame all together?  Without the frame I could add a bench top and clock in at around 30 inches in total height.
I’ve got five of these drawer units and a few base cabinets with doors, so it looks like I could string together somewhere between 9 and 14 feet of work/storage space.  I’ll make the final call when I finish working up the plans for some bench space along the adjacent back wall as well.
The total depth of the cabinets is 22.5 inches from the back of the cabinet to the face of the drawers.

When I build the bench top I think I’ll go with a 24 inch depth so that I’ll have some overhang of the work surface to attach clamps to.
We’ll see how things go with the day job this week and if I’ll be able to get some time to start installing the cabinets in the evenings.  If not, it’ll be a bit quite in the shop until next weekend.
I’ve got another project on the short list as well.  After needing to rip quite a few longer pieces of material on the table saw over the last few weeks, I’ve really come to see the need for a rolling work cart/bench that is the same height as the saw’s surface.  I’d like to be able to use it as an in-feed support for the table saw as well as being able to roll a portable work surface out onto the back patio to work outside…once it’s a lot less wintery out there, that is.
I really like the simple design that Steve, over at Woodworking for Mere Mortals, came up with a while back, so I think I’ll be looking at something very similar.  Give his rolling bench a look (and check out some of his other videos as well!)
I may try to modify his design a little, maybe add some sort of lower storage bin so that the cart can be loaded up with tools and clamps before doing any off-road woodworking in the back yard. 
I’m always amazed when getting a peek into other woodworker’s shops at how resourceful folks are.  Almost every shop I’ve seen, in person or online, incorporate quite a bit of reuse of tools, furniture/cabinetry and materials.  I guess it’s in the nature of the craft, to salvage and make best use the materials we have on hand, or that we can pilfer from others.  Everyone’s shop is an expression of themselves and the type of work they like to do.  It’s a custom haven in which to design, create, become inspired (or frustrated!) and even to escape the day to day and find some solace in some good, old fashioned work with our hands and minds on something tangible.  Sometimes running your hands along a finished piece of work really puts that amazing performance model in Excel to shame.

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