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On the way to done

Posted by joeabbott on June 19, 2011

imageI’m not typically messy but I do accrue a fair bit of clutter in the silence between projects. But, at the end of a day in the shop, I’ve created a wasteland. When done, I return all tools to their respective places, sift through the detritus for cut-offs, waste, or burnables, and sweep the area clean. It helps in that I don’t have a dedicated space and my wife enjoys parking in the garage. 🙂

However, on the journey from start to finish on a project, I tend to kick up a little dust.

My latest project was a sitting area outside a gate I’d built a few months ago. I just realize now that I never actually shared a picture of how it turned out (just a SketchUp model line drawing), so I’m including one here to the right.

This also shows what the area around the gate looked like previously, in case the pictures from the “latest project” link don’t show it well enough.

It’s a simpler gate than the one I’d built for the far side of the yard but it was also knocked out in a couple days. And as for keeping the chickens in Chickenville, it does a standup job. They don’t know they could walk right between the slats!

Anyhow, the reason for today’s post is to talk a bit about the “construction process”. At least in terms of how I approach things.

For building out the bench around this gate, I started as I normally do: I pulled two saw horses out from their storage place, grabbed a suitable piece of “sheet goods” from where it was tucked against the wall, and started bringing out tools as I needed them.

My ersatz workbench does a fine job and allows me to work in better light and away from the clutter of a half dozen other projects. I nearly always pull out my miter saw as a start, but from there it’s just one tool at a time. Here’s what my ended up on my little workbench … it was quite a mess:


imageJust for fun, let’s zoom in a on few things!

Here you can see

– My ball cap … good for keeping a bald head warm and sun out of the eyes

– Hearing protection … I almost always wear safety glasses and hearing protection

– Drawings … it’s good to know what you’re doing

– Galvanized spikes … I used these to join the planter box that I built inside and then moved to the bench area


In the picture to the right you can see a few more things:

– Clamps … always good for securing things. I used a couple of these when I was screwing the bench slats together

– Nails … I only needed few but I used these to secure the framing around the planter top

– Framing hammer … partially obscured, but I used this to beat out the waste from the half lap joint securing two of the beams together

– Auger bit … it would take a keep eye to see this next to the orange-handled item, but it’s there. I use this in nearly every piece of landscaping timber in the yard. And there’s a lot of landscaping timber in this yard! I always pre-drill to avoid splitting the wood but this tired little tool needs some sharpening or to be replaced.

– One-handed trencher … not sure that’s what it’s really called, but the orange-handled tool is what I used to clear away rocks while laying in the foundation for the planter.


Next set (to the left):

– Drill motor … it was a $15 replacement drill I got from Harbor Freight and it’s still holding up. Poor speed control and corded, but it works!

– Sander … I used this to bring down some edges on the cedar framing around the planter. I did a quick job and that wasn’t the same as a good job, so I needed to sand to ease the mis-matched edges. 😦

– Sledge hammer … on all of the landscaping timbers, the first two layers are pinned to the ground using 2’ rebar stakes; after that, they’re attached to one another using 8” galvanized spikes; this hammer is what drives ‘em home!

– Level and tape measure – standard layout tools that fool my wife into thinking I know what I’m doing out there!


And the final close-up (to the right), we have:

– Stapler – in the center on the left side of the picture, this was used to tack down the weed barrier to the bottom of the seat slats. While the staples aren’t galvanized and won’t last long in treated lumber, they won’t have to. I just needed it in place long enough to install the seat … and that’s done.

– Cordless drill motors … this makes three drill motors, and I used them all! The cordless drills are nice for flexibility in using them wherever, but having multiples also keeps you from changing out bits all the time. The motor in the lower part of the picture is actually an impact driver, and it’s what I used to sink the 6” lag screws holding the bench slats together.

– Grinder … the orange-bodied tool with the wheel on the end is a grinder I used to cut off some rebar before I’d completely sunk the entire 2’ length. I regularly hit stone but with enough smacks from my sledge, I haven’t been stopped yet. However, a couple times I found myself in a tight situation where I needed to cut the rebar short because I couldn’t get a clean hit. I also used this to cut a short section of rebar to use for attaching the back rest to the gate post.

– Trim router … this tool was used to ease the seat slat edges

– Safety glasses … you can see them at the top left of the picture; I don’t do a project without them. Ever. I haven’t built anything that’s worth going blind over. While the chance of something flying out and hitting me in the eye is small, wearing glasses makes that chance vanishingly small. I like those odds even better.

P1020708On the floor I gathered a few more items:

Miter saw … this was a gift from my wife when I graduated from getting my Master of Software Engineering degree. Best gift ever. Love it.

Tape measure and Speed square … again, more layout tools used to give the illusion of competence and mastery of a craft.

Clamp … I have a lot of clamps; not enough, mind you, but a bunch. So many that I need special storage just for them.

Chisel … you can just make out the yellow handle of a cheap chisel. I used this to flatten the half lap joints I’d spoke of earlier. And, because my method for clearing some space on my little bench lacked … subtlety … I now need to spend a bit of time at the sharpening station.


And that’s it! I can make a heckuva mess but it doesn’t take all that long to clean up. As I mentioned at the beginning, everything has its place for being stored and so it’s just a matter of shaking off a bit of saw dust and returning the items whence they came. Then a good sweeping.

Well, I had fun making the mess and enjoyed sharing a bit of what went into my last project. Thanks for reading!


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