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How to Set Up A Workshop for Furniture Making

Oct 28, 2007
There are few occupations for pleasure or profit, as satisfying as working in wood. And this satisfaction is nowhere more fully realized than in shaping wood into things of beauty and utility that add charm and comfort to the home.

The first thing to aim for is excellence of workmanship through painstaking effort. In this, the tools play a large part. Good tools last longer and help in doing good work - provided they are kept in good shape.

If it is necessary to deal with large pieces of wood, room will be required to work on them from either end. Sometimes a small room with strategically placed doors or windows - through which to poke the free end of a long piece - will serve just as well as a bigger room. But it is much better not to have to rely on such borrowed space, especially in bad weather.

If there are one or more power tools, it is well to have them movable so that large pieces can be fed to them from either side. This means a sufficiently long electric cord (or alternative outlets) and a solid base for the tool that does not need to be fastened to the floor.

Usually, the tool that benefits most from this arrangement is the bench saw. In any case, before installing either bench - or floor - type tools and equipment, it is wise to make a scale plan of the room (of at least half an inch to the foot), and cut out pieces of cardboard to the same scale to represent the tools, etc. Then by shifting the pieces around they can be located efficiently. The locations of doors and windows should be considered.

Other prime requisites of working space are plenty of light and comfortable working temperature in all seasons. The space needed will be governed to some extent by the kind of work to be done and the size of the pieces to be handled.

For lighting, nothing can beat daylight - and if that can't be arranged for, or if the shop must be used before and after daylight hours, the best substitute undoubtedly is the fluorescent light. It may cost more than an ordinary fixture but it will soon save the cost through smaller electricity bills. However, just any kind of fluorescent lamps will not do - especially in shop concerned with colors and finishing.

The lamps must give the closest approach to daylight that can be had. This can be checked by looking at paint color cards, first in daylight then by the light of the lamps. The so-called "white" tube usually is much too pink, and the "daylight" tube much too blue. A combination of the two will give much better results - or at least the colors applied under such a light will look more natural in daylight.

To get good fluorescent distribution requires large lamps with long tubes (and two tubes to a fixture - which, incidentally, reduces flicker), or two fixtures to a tool so that there is no shadow on one side. The 40-watt tubes, four feet long, are ideal in many cases.

For a power drill or jigsaw a supplementary spotlight will be called for, focused on the work and usually attached to the machine itself. These can be the ordinary type of light bulb, but they should have a shade so that the light is concentrated on the work and does not get in the operator's eyes.

Equally as important as unhampered vision is bodily comfort - for which the first requisite is proper working temperature. Frozen fingers are no aid to good work, and neither is perspiration in the eyes. It is essential also to have a comfortable floor to stand on. Concrete may be cool and clean, but it is also tiring. Usually, something a little more resilient is called for - a wooden boarded floor is perhaps best. It has the necessary "give" and has insulating value against heat and cold.

With your workshop set up thus, you are ready to start the important work of furniture making.
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