Monday, November 8, 2010

getting outfitted 2

After I got my drill press, my good friend Daniel said I "better get a sturdier table for that 500 pound drill press." The drill press is only 100 pounds, but the point landed. Using a plastic folding table for a workbench was not going to work for several reasons.

Hardly a workshop

One was that the drill press that was sinking into the hollow polyethylene table, but also the height of the table was too low to work comfortably, and the footprint of the table was not large enough to fit everything .

So I decided to build a workbench. First things first, what did I want out of the workbench? Well, I wanted it to be strong, I wanted it to be tall, and I wanted it to be deep and wide.

So I made a design on a piece of graph paper and headed to the Home Depot to pickup some 2x4s.

Note: I elected to use 2x4s for the legs of this workbench, but not for any particular reason. I am aware that 4x4 legs are more common, and make more sense. In hindsight, I should have gone for 4x4 legs, because the 2x4 legs on my  bench seem to have more flex in them than a workbench should have. The bench is stable, but it could be better.

2x4s mocked up to show dimension of the bench against the wall

I came home with a pile of 2x4s and two melamine shelf boards (96x16x0.75) for the bench top. The melamine boards have heat-resistant, low friction, wipe-clean surface - perfect for a workbench. 

Since both the 2x4s and the melamine boards were 8 feet long, I decided to just make the bench 8 feet long. Since the melamine boards are 16" deep, I decided to make the bench 32" deep. After measuring 100 tables, countertops, benches, etcetera, I decided on 38" for the bench height. I am a tell person, and I hate bending over, so this awesomely tall bench is perfect for me.

Workbench finished and basement organized

Doing the entire build alone presented a few trials, but I got it done and that's what matters. I would not recommend building something of this size alone.

After getting the workbench built, I was ready to start making templates for my guitars. I will jump ahead a minute here and mention that in the time during and after building my workbench, I picked up a few tools that will be essential to guitar building.

First up was a solid circular saw. I only had a batter powered circular saw when I started the workbench build, and anyone who knows me knows this: I HATE BATTERY POWERED TOOLS. So I found a very, very solid feeling unit that made short work of not only the workbench cuts, but also helped and will help me rough-cut pieces of MDF and wood for guitar builds.

Another piece I picked up was a Oscillating Spindle / Belt Sander. Both the belt and the spindle sander will be immensely helpful in getting smooth edges on my guitar templates and bodies, and the belt sander will be helpful in shaping guitar necks out of raw wood.

Next up, I HAD TO get some dust collection going. If you've ever worked with MDF, you know, but if you haven't, hear this: the dust from cutting and sanding MDF is toxic, it WILL irritate your respiratory system, it WILL make you feel bad, and it WILL take years off your life.

So, I picked up a simple wet-dry vac at Home Depot, but MADE SURE I got a dust collection bag for it. Dust collection bags are tighter / finer than a regular vacuum filter, and they prevent the fine dust from cutting and shaping wood (and MDF) from passing through the filter and recirculating. In the picture above, you can see the wet-dry vac under the table. What you can't see is that there is a hose running directly from the vacuum to the spindle sander. The table surface of the spindle sander has slots cut into it that are plumbed to a vacuum port on the back of the unit. Simply hook up a vacuum hose to the sander, and enjoy integrated dust collection.

As a secondary precaution, and since I do not have integrated dust collection on my circular saw, which produces a lot of dust, I picked up a respirator. There are all sorts of units out there, some of which have canisters rated for paint and finishing, and others, like mine, that have canisters rated for fine particulate matter. I picked up an MSA model with dust canisters, and it's both comfortable and effective. It takes some getting used to, though --- inhaling through filter canisters and exhaling through a tight 1-way valve is a bit restrictive at first, but once you get the hang of slow, deep breaths, you're all good.

Also of note, I have been using simple "science goggles" when working with dust. Getting MDF or wood dust in my eye is not something I'm interested in. I wear glasses - pretty large frames, too, and the goggles fit over them with little interference.

Phinn, I am your father

At this point, I am fairly well outfitted for basic guitar body building. I will need a few more specific tools to get into guitar neck building, but we're not quite there yet.

Next up, let's start making some templates!


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