A Downside to My Small Hand Tool Shop

To the casual reader, my shop space may seem like an ideal hand tool shop. In a lot of ways, it is. It’s cozy, it’s inviting, it’s accessible, it’s climate controlled, it has a nice window, it’s bright and it just begs you to come in and spend some time taking in the fragrance of wood shavings. I really do love my shop the way it is set up, more than any other shop I’ve had in the past. However, all of this coziness occasionally has a down side as well.

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Being a mere 7’6″ by 13’6″, lumber storage can be a challenge when I’m gearing up for a new project. Take this big ole stack of walnut for example. This is most of the lumber I will need for the bottom cases of the entertainment center I posted about last week. Most of these boards are over 8 feet long, which is just a little too long to be stored on my wall mounted lumber rack. In addition, the bottom board is over 16″ wide, which is too wide to safely store on the lumber rack.

What this means is that for now, my shop has gone from cozy to cramped. I had to move my desk right up next to my workbench in order to store the lumber on the floor here. My shaving horse is temporarily being stored behind my lathe, and my saw bench is out in the middle of the room at the moment. Of course this is all just temporary until I can spread the boards out on the floor, decide what each will be used for and rough cut them to length. But it makes things a little inconvenient at the moment. I even have to store one board that is over 10′ long on my bench for now because it sticks out into the doorway if I put it on the stack. This makes the work I’m doing at the moment a little challenging.

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There’s another drawback to working entirely by hand in a small shop that I experienced this weekend as well, and that has to do with lumber selection. I typically like to work with the widest boards I can when I build a piece. Not only do I think the wide boards look better than a panel glued up from 3 or 4 narrow boards, but they make hand work more effecient. It takes just as long for me to flatten one face of a 5″ wide board with my hand planes as it does for me to flatten the face of a 15″ wide board. So it makes much more sense for me to work with nice wide boards.

The problem with this is that the boards I desire aren’t always available. Case in point is this stack of walnut. While at Hearne this weekend, I managed to find a couple wide 4/4 boards; one 16″ wide, one about 11″ wide, and one about 9″ wide. But everything else in the 4/4 and 5/4 racks was 5-6″ wide, or had too many defects for my liking. Unfortunately, this is the nature of 4/4 and 5/4 walnut. Most 4/4 and 5/4 boards are sawn from smaller trees since walnut doesn’t typically grow very big.

The rack of 8/4 FAS walnut, on the other hand, was chock full of beautiful wide boards. The thought occurred to me to go with 8/4 instead of 4/4, but unfortunately, I have no way to resaw 12-18″ wide boards in my shop, and the folks at Hearne weren’t able to do so on the day I was there. So I had to settle for boards that were less ideal than what I was hoping to get. I still wonder if I made the right decision, but it’s too late now, so I’ll work with what I’ve got.

It’s times like these that I really wouldn’t mind having access to a 20″ Laguna; or maybe a sharp pitsaw and a (naive) willing friend. I’m guessing it will be easier to find the 20″ Laguna though.

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6 thoughts on “A Downside to My Small Hand Tool Shop

  1. Bob,

    I have a 20″ MiniMax if you are not too picky about brand names. However, I am all the way down in the middle of Virginia. If you don’t mind the drive, fetch the wood and bring it down.

  2. Man, I feel your pain, even if my shop is huge compared to yours (12′ x 12′). I feel like it get cluttered so quikly! I dream of a 16×16 shop, with 9′ ceiling. One day.

    • David,
      I’m with you. I dream of a 14 x 18 or so detached timber frame with a wood stove and front porch. Something like Pete Galbert’s or Curtis Buchannan’s.

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