Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tech Tip Tuesday

Cleanliness is next to...  Impossible?

A friend has a tag-line on his profile at an online forum that reads, "Never trust a man with a clean workshop."  I guess that I have to say that I am eminently trustworthy.  My shop is never neat as a pin but I'm trying to do better.  There are a bunch of reasons that I think that a clean, well-organized shop is such a good idea.

First and foremost is safety.  You want the floor clean and clutter-free.  If you've got lots of things lying around on the floor, they're a tripping hazard.   This can include off-cuts and other scrap as you're working.  Also, if you've got lots of shavings and dust around, they are a fire/explosion hazard.  Dust, and in particular, dust that can get airborne is a respiratory hazard.

The second great reason for cleanliness is if you're going to be applying finishes in the shop.  Most of us don't have the luxury of having a separate finishing room or booth that we can keep scrupulously clean. We've got to make do in the shop.  If you've got a reasonably clean shop, you don't have to worry about dust or grease contaminating your finish.

The third great reason for a clean and well organized shop is your ability to simply find things and work efficiently.  While I'm not a great fan of the, "He who dies with the most tools, wins" point of view, I am a great proponent of the "It's not the clothes that makes the man, it's the tools" perspective.  Being that this is true, I've got quite a few tools.  First, as a homeowner, you need quite a few tools to maintain the house.  Then you need to be able to maintain the equipment you use to maintain the house (chainsaw, snowblower, lawnmower, etc...). Then you've got the hobby tools and then hardware, paints, varnishes and...  Well, I think you get my drift.  Lots of tools and hardware. 

They all need a well organized and well labelled place just to keep you sane.  If you don't, you'll be going to the hardware store for things you've already got and can't find or spending all your time looking for the things you think you've got but actually don't and finally heading out to the hardware store to get them.  Don't ask me how I know this.

How can you accomplish this?  Well, first, a good dust collection system with a chip separator for your tools is a great first step.  Most, if not all stationary power tools have some sort of dust port on them and many hand tools do as well.  Another good addition is an overhead air filter to remove any airborne dust to get what the dust collection system may have missed.  Use a downdraft table for sanding.  Have bins/boxes/totes/shelves/toolboxes for your tools and hardware that are neat and well labelled.   (Pay attention to moisture issues with tool storage!) Put tools away when you're done with them.  Keep a scrap barrel for dust and off-cuts that you don't intend to save.  (I have yet to see a good system for keeping off-cuts that you DO intend to save - they're always different sizes and shapes that don't lend themselves to good storage.)  Have a good dust pan and bench broom for cleaning up.  Periodically clear out the cobwebs and the corners with the shop vacuum.

Once you get the good habits going, it makes it much easier to keep the shop tidy and helps to make it a much more pleasant place to work.

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