Progress! – A Summer of Easy Woodworking Projects

ProgressGraphicForward is better than backward. But sometimes it’s good to look back a few months just to see the progress.

On April 24th, I wrote a blog post called “Paychecks, Tools and Independence” that ranged from the neglected status of my tool collection to the first interview with Christopher Schwarz in this job. The community benefited from a number of great comments on this post, spurring us (or at least me) on to more woodworking production. Today I’ll show you the progress. I have gotten a few easy woodworking projects out of the way, building confidence for some real furniture making over the next months.

As you know, I am working under the constraint of an “interesting” space limitation. I live and work in a third-floor apartment. Over the course of the summer, I discovered two ways to adapt my methods and get projects done. One way is to be a little more social about woodworking. I made one connection, with guest blogger Bill Rainford, that also opened up the opportunity to do some basic turning.

toolchestassemblyDFThe other way I’ve found to get projects done within a small space is to be creative and adaptive with project plans. I really wanted to build the Two-Day Anarchist’s Tool Chest, but did not have access to a table saw. So I adapted the plan to work on the scale of those pre-cut plywood panels, sometimes called project panels, that you find at the home center. The number of hand cuts that I needed to make was greatly reduced. I cleaned up all the edges with my router and a straight-edge jig.

toolchestpaintjobDFI’m really happy with the result because it fits all my power tools and pneumatic nailers, and it is also big enough to serve as a large work surface – which is another thing I needed in my apartment. I gave it a flashy paint job which may cause some disdain (but I don’t care), and have dubbed it the “American Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”

My tool collection is also improving. I now have a good-sized set of Bessey clamps, in addition to the old Jorgensen wood-screws I had acquired in April. I also have my vintage Stanley #4 that I’m almost done restoring. More on that in upcoming posts …

So now it’s a question of charting my course for the fall and winter. As always, it’s important to maintain the fundamentals. I will definitely include Jeff Miller’s “Foundations of Better Woodworking” in my curriculum. There is a newly released book and DVD bundle in the store, if you want to follow along. Great value!

As far as projects, I am thinking about chair making as a good next step. We’ll see. What are you going to be building this fall? Please tell us in the comments below. You gotta think ahead!

Dan Farnbach

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Dan Farnbach

About Dan Farnbach

Dan apprenticed and worked in two professional shops during the years after college. But sweeping shop floors only goes so far toward learning woodworking. These days Dan is online editor for Popular Woodworking, and is learning new skills every day. He divides his time between Boston and Maine.

19 thoughts on “Progress! – A Summer of Easy Woodworking Projects

  1. loonhunter1

    I am going way off my chosen and well beaten path of fine woodworking. I am building a wood-fired, wooden hot tub. I just finished the bottom and now have a beautiful 7 foot wood disk in my backyard. This will most likely be the most used item I have ever made. I can’t wait until the first heavy snowfall here in Ohio where I will find myself soaking in the steamy waters that are heated by the scraps and mistakes that fuels the furnace that heats the water and perfumes the air. Cheers.

  2. chusting

    I too am building the weekend Anarchist tool chest. I had some left over chalkboard paint (my wife and I are teachers). I plan to use the outside to draw on for designing and writing down measurements. Keep up the good work!

  3. Hjanes

    Congrats on finding a way forward. You might look for some shop time for breaking your lumber to size through woodworking clubs or community college continuing education facilities. Also, joining Mid West Tool Collectors and attending a gathering will acquaint you with all sorts of affordable “user” hand tools. BTW, I purchased my first table saw (Rockwell Contractor 12) from a fellow who had been using it in a second floor apartment in Chicago — noise, dust and all. I didn’t speak with his neighbors about this.

  4. REFFI

    I, too started out in an apartment. I had a friend whose wife worked fir B&D. He called to tell me that they were having an employee tool sale and did I want anything. All tools were 5$ apiece. I bought a variable speed drill, a shop vac, a jigsaw and a circular saw (which I still own and use to this day). My first project, with the help of my friends new B&D radial arm saw, was an eight-inch thick free-standing endgrain choppin block, the individual pieces of which I fit with a set of all steel bench chisels purchase from Sears (still have them, to, but have graduated to a set of Veritas chisels). The second project was a matching speaker for my Hi-Fi system, so I could go stereo. As you may have guessed all this occurred long ago in the late sixties. All the parts were cut in Baltimore and I drove them home, for assembly in my kitchen in Pittsburgh. I have, at long last, come back to woodworking and now am space constrained in my overfull garage.

    As to my next project: I’m finishing up a chest of drawers for my daughter and will be moving on to make the campaign dhest that was featured a few issues ago. One of the reasons my garage is so crowded is the nearly 400 boad feet of camphor wood I’ve got stacked in there. I am hopeful that my campaign chest will be as authentic (at least wood-wise) as I can make it.

  5. latcatin

    Hi Dan, I am new to woodworking and your blog. I am inspired by what you are building in your apartment as I am in an apartment as well. I have hand tools and few battery-powered tools such as a circular saw and drill. I would like to add a router to the mix. How are you controlling the router dust? I am considering a small, portable shop vac. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Dan FarnbachDan Farnbach Post author

      That’s great! Don’t let the space limitations stop you.
      So far, I have been using a dust mask while working, then simply sweeping up after the dust has settled. It’s not ideal, but seems to do the job.
      I definitely recommend the dust mask. I neglected to use it one evening, woke up the next day sneezing and feeling lousy.

    2. RWSmith13

      I would say look into Festool stuff as their dust control systems are outstanding, but then you need a rather thick wallet to pay for the stuff. Their router system with dust control virtually has zero dust!

  6. sbussell

    HI Dan, Great tool chest and paint job. I don’t think you’ll get any “disdain” around here.
    Hope you don’t mind if I steel the idea for my granddaughters toy box. Steve

  7. RWSmith13

    I like the tool chest and the paint job….well done given the handicap you have to deal with in the way of no table saw and picking woodchips out of your nightly meal! I thought I was the only one that had to deal with space issues! LOL I also like hhalka’s suggestion about woodworking clubs!

      1. RWSmith13

        No….not the woodchips in dinner issue but the wife has too much stuff in the garage/basement issue so I don’t have enough room….okay, some of the stuff is mine , I guess, so I can’t completely blame her!

  8. jack conklin

    I am getting ready to make a special keepsake box for my nieces upcoming wedding in the Philippines in January. Also will start to make a 1st class bench. Thank you Chris Swarz.

  9. hhalka

    Chest looks great, keep it up! Another thing is to see if you have a local woodworkers guild/club. The one in my area is fantastic, great mentoring, all the bigger shop tools, etc. I break my lumber down there and then finish the projects in the home shop. They have all the machines I only need to use once a year. Great youth and scouts program, excellent library, and they even carry some lumber :)

    In an apartment I would be inclined to use a lot more hand tools because of less mess and noise! Worst case, I hear Megan may know of a house you can buy ;)

    1. Dan FarnbachDan Farnbach Post author

      Thanks! Those are good tips. I definitely think there’s an opportunity for more membership around the country at the local guilds.
      I am in the Boston area, or else I would go have a look at Megan’s house! Looks really nice in the pictures she posted.

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