Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My carving bench and messy shop

I had a request on a previous blog entry to do a post on my carving bench set-up. I've shown pictures of my workshop in my woodturning demonstrations, but hadn't realized that I don't yet have a post of that here.

So, here's a view of my basement workshop during one of it's tidier incarnations. This photo was taken shortly after I built my carving bench, which is shown at the left. My lathes are at the far end of the shop, my wood is piled on shelves, and now the floor, along the walls of the shop, my bandsaw is in the middle and I have a bunch of cabinets/horizontal surfaces along the perimeter walls.

And here's the view from this morning. The take home message? I have way too much wood right now and not enough time to turn my blanks into something more interesting than stacks of wood. I know there are a lot of woodturners/artists out there who have immaculate shops all of the time, but that just isn't feasible for me given my busy schedule. I'm lucky to have a free hour on a weekday evening to go to my shop to play with wood. I'm certainly not going to waste any of that time vacuuming and sweeping! My shop clean-ups occur when I have large blocks of time to dig into the mess and reorganize. That happens a couple of times a year - usually on one of my academic breaks.

So, let me take you on a virtual tour of my carving station. . .

This is the carving bench I built after seeing Michelle Holzapfel's set-up in Wood Magazine. Terry Martin wrote a lovely article on Michelle, her work, and her studio. Her workbench was made from a roll-top desk and I thought the design was perfect for my needs. My bench is much smaller than the one shown in the magazine, but it's appropriate for the scale of work I do. The piece shown on the bench in this picture is 15 inches in diameter.

Because I do mostly power carving on small pieces, I don't usually have to clamp a piece to a bench or a vise. I wanted a set-up where I could work comfortably without having to hunch over the work. This set-up fits the bill nicely in that I can work with my elbows resting on the front edge and the piece is usually in position that I can work without any strain at all. The drafting chair can be raised and lowered as needed to facilitate correct positioning. On my most recent carving I had the chair very low with the piece at eye level as I was using my magnifiers to see the fine detail while carving with my micromotor tool.

The side frame rails have a curved profile, the front and back rails have different heights, and a tambour door was attached to the frame after it was assembled. The carving bench is attached to my other workbench with L brackets so it serves as a desk with kneespace underneath. I usually rest my feet on the footrail of the chair or on a toolbox that sits next to the bench. My foot switch for my Foredom tool is on top of the toolbox (not shown in this picture, but visible in one of the next couple images).

Here's a view of the front of my carving station. I have a Foredom tool hanging from the ceiling on the right hand side of the bench. My powercrafter handpiece is on the bench to the right side. The oil regulator is on the workbench to the rear, righthand side, and my noisy aircompressor is on the floor to the right. The airhose is that yellow coil going into the oil regulator. My Foredom micromotor tool is on the carving bench toward the rear, righthand side. Its that small box with a blue front that is connected to the black handpiece. My carving burrs for the Foredom tools are in the orange holders on the left of my bench and the ones for the powercrafter are in the white holder to the rear of the bench.

Sitting at the top of the bench is a Razair dust filter, which draws the dust away from me. I use a dust mask at all times while carving as well as safety glasses and earplugs. You can also see the magnifiers I use for all of my detail work. The bath towel covering the bench is there to help position the piece I'm carving and to provide some cushioning. Oh, one more thing, I have a magnifier lamp connected to the bench for when I really need to see some details. My overhead lighting is a bright fluorescent ceiling unit - gives nice, bright light for the workstation.

This is a side view looking at the station from the right. Boy, do I need to do a clean-up of this area soon. The clutter in the background drives me nuts, but it doesn't get too much in the way of my working. I can reach and find everything I need in seconds. You can see how the Foredom tool hangs from the ceiling here - it's in a perfect position to be at hand at the right orientation to not put a kink in the cable as I'm carving.

Here's a closer view of the carving bench showing my working arrangment and a few of my projects in progress at the moment.

On the left hand side of my workspace I store my microfiles and rasps. These are next to a few of my often-used carving gouges and chisels, and, most importantly, my clock. I try to work in one-hour blocks of time, but often am amazed to find that several hours have gone by before I start to feel any fatigue. That's how comfortable my workstation is for me.

The last area on my workstation has a couple of storage bins for extra burrs, chisels, gouges, earplugs, extra magnifier lenses, sanding tapes and strings, etc. I never have to go searching for things - everything is right where I need it. It's not neat and tidy, but it works for me.

One last safety item - an excellent air filtration device. I use a JDS air system and it works very well for my enclosed space. I share this area with the furnace and laundry room, so I need to keep the dust to a reasonable level.

And here I am at work - I look like a nerd, but, hey, I'm a happy one here in my workshop.

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