After almost three years, our return to the mainland has meant the return of my woodworking and other tools. This naturally meant the start of new projects for the home that have been lacking or been wanting for a while.
As part of our apartment we’ve also been provided with a one stall garage which I wasted no time in setting up as a small workshop with a simple table, shelves, and a wood rack. The only issue was that the only power supply to the garage was through a single wall outlet whose sole purpose in life was to power the garage door opener and the single overhead light.
I should have known when the front office warned us that the outlets weren’t known to provide much amperage. But I was able to experiment with the lathe function of my shopsmith just fine. Sure the light turned off when you started any machine, but as soon as it was running it seemed fine.
My first project was to be a bookshelf. The $25 Target shelves that I had acquired in college simply weren’t cutting it, so we had gotten rid of them in Hawai’i. By October we still hadn’t unpacked all our tubs of books. Jess and I found a plan in a Woodsmith Magazine (a link for those truly interested in the original plan). Naturally, I promptly lost the magazine, drew up some plans from memory, bought the lumber and got to work.
And immediately ran into a road block. My primary tool for doing anything (a Shopsmith 5-in-1 machine) simply could not cut through the boards. The machine started (with the accompanying light show) and ran smoothly, but as soon as I attempted to feed wood through the saw blade, it would slow to a stop.
I scrambled for solutions. Short of running extension cords from the apartment to the garage, it was doubtful I would get the Shopsmith to run consistently, let alone any other machines that I may consider purchasing. I considered switching over to hand tools only, but rejected the idea based on the equipment I had on hand as well as immediate skill set (plus, who really likes ripping the equivalent of 70 feet to width with a handsaw).
So I began searching for Makerspaces (fully equipped public workshops) in Omaha and came across several requiring memberships, and then found one across the Missouri in Glenwood, Iowa that was a non-profit, free to use, donations only.
I took the lumber I had over, introduced myself to the caretaker/president, and never turned back. We now go there at least once a week, sometimes more. I’ll work for 3-4 hours and Jess will hang out around town and the local parks.
Now to the projects. I was able to finish the first bookshelf in about 3 weeks. My plans that I had drawn up from memory were slightly larger than the originals, but otherwise my shelves were functionally the same. The uprights are made of Red Oak and the shelves themselves made of maple with Walnut accents. I made the mistake of allowing to much clearance between the uprights and the shelves so there is some side to side wobble, but laden with books, it’s hardly noticeable.
My second project was another shelf, this one wholly my own design that I had drawn up while working nights in the fall. This was a corner shelf designed based off the perfect 5-12-13 right triangle (this is best demonstrated in that each shelf edge is 5 inches longer than the one above it and each shelf it 12 inches below the one above, and 13 inches along the diagonal). An additional challenge I added to this project was to only use the offcuts that I had on hand from the previous project – this wasn’t a problem for the vertical and diagonals, but making the shelves proved a lesson in angles and glue and made for an interesting visual effect with the grain.
I made multiple mistakes with this project, most notably cutting the diagonals to be identical. Who knew simply looking at them that they would need to be left-hand/right-hand.
In between these two major projects I’ve had opportunity to experiment with small crafts including a large cutting board made from the sink cutout from the countertops we replaced in Hawai’i. The makerspace has a complete woodshop, complete with two lathes, more clamps than is reasonable, and a CNC Router. The former has proven a source of fun recently as I’ve been experimenting with different methods for making wooden balls, to great success.
The latter, the CNC Router, is my next long term project, but more of that as it progresses. Needless to say, I am very thankful to have found Loess Hills Makerspace. It has brought me much joy, and will likely to continue to do so through the short days of winter ahead.