Garage Storage

My woodshop is the third bay of our garage so I basically have one long wall to work with. It has always been a catch-all spot where I storage random sheets of plywood and generally dream of what might go there some day. It was time to stop dreaming and make use of it. I find that in my workshop I repeatedly get stuck in indecision. It’s silly because I will be making it all myself and I can just change it later if I decide I want to. Pick a path and go for it!

I saved some money by not building actual individual cabinets but rather each cabinet shares a wall with the one next to it. It was going to be a LOT of plywood, so I started by drawing the whole thing out in Sketchup, figuring out what pieces I’d need to cut and then I used a free cut list generator to help me optimize my plywood usage.

Part of the plan was to make a more permanent place for my miter saw to sit. The cart that I built in 2015 has been working great, but I’m tired of having it be in the way. With this new plan, the miter saw sits lower than the other cabinets so that wood rests flat across the saw onto the top of the cabinets. At some point I’ll put some T-track into the top of the cabinets to add a stop block with a tape measure for quick, accurate cuts on the miter saw. Normally you see these built with outfeed support on both sides, but I don’t have enough room for that. And while I’d prefer to have the outfeed support on the left side, this made more sense. The garage door is on the left so if I have to cut a really long piece, I can open up the door and get some extra room.

I used 3/4″ pine plywood (~$35/sheet at Home Depot). I’ve used that for most of my shop projects and I’m always impressed at how nice it is for the price. The tops of the cabinets got two sheets of the plywood. It adds a bit of cost but it really strengthens the top and makes the cabinets feel more solid.

The first step was cutting each of the vertical pieces. These were basically just rectangles with a notch cut out for a toe kick, but there were two complications. First of all, I had to cut out a notch for the foundation wall. Secondly, the garage floor isn’t level. I wanted to spend a little extra time to make the top work surface be level to avoid hassle with the drawers later. So each of the vertical pieces was going to be a slightly different height. Instead of trying to get that perfect, I left each one about an inch short. Then when it came time to mount them in place, I would hold them at the right height, slide a piece of scrap plywood up next to the bottom and screw the scrap into the vertical divider. So the cabinets are screwed into the studs and then rest on the floor.

I don’t know if I’d do it this way again or not, but to space out the vertical dividers, I cut a bunch of pieces the with of the cabinet and pocket holed them into the dividers. On the plus side, it made it easy to assemble each section one by one and keep them all evenly spaced, but on the down side, it was a lot of screwing and cutting.

You’ll see that not every opening is the same width. I went with 3″ multiples since that’s what normal cabinets use, but I tried to add in some variety for storing different things.

After adding the top (YAY! Finally a place to put some tools!), I ripped down some 2x4s to make a face frame. Hiding the plywood edges looks nice but it also helped me make perfectly rectangular openings which pays dividends down the road when it’s time for drawers. The laser level was instrumental in getting the top of the cabinets level and also at this point in the process when I was making the dividers perfectly vertical and the horizontal face frames perfectly flat.

Now it was time to make the drawers. A LOT of drawers. 20 to be exact. Again, I probably could have gone an easier route, but I chose to assemble the drawers by using dadoes. This gives a bit of additional glue surface and helps to keep things square during assembly. Unfortunately my little shop vac can’t handle the dust collection duties for dadoes so it repeatedly slogged up the hose inside my table saw. I finally just gave up on dust collection with the dadoes, disconnected everything, and cleaned up afterwards.

Most of the drawer sizes were pretty standard, but there were two special ones. One of them is full height and my plan is to use that for scrap hardwood storage. I have a bunch of smallish pieces and I had previously been standing them up in a trash can. The other one holds my planer. That planer is pretty heavy so I ended up using a double set of drawer slides which seems to be working well so far. If it starts to sag I can always kick a block under the end of the extended drawer when I’m using the planer. I don’t know how well both of these special drawers will work in the long run, but it’s easy enough to take them out and add standard drawers later.

Speaking of drawer slides, that part of the project can really break the bank. I have bought some very cheap slides from Amazon in the past and had good success so I went that route again. This time I got Promark full extension slides along with some mounting screws.

After the above photo, I finished off the last six drawers and now it’s fully functional. I moved on to some other projects, but soon I will add drawer fronts. Those will help to hide the uneven spacing of the actual drawers and bring them up flush with the face frames. I’m planning to design and cut some drawer pulls on my new CNC machine as well.

This was a huge project and it was a pain breaking down 13 sheets of plywood, but man I’m loving it! I have a huge new work surface and so much storage. Building drawers takes a lot of extra time and money, but I find that they are a lot better than deep shelves because you can actually use the whole depth instead of forgetting what’s behind the first row of stuff.

Elijah came in at the end of this post and wanted to help so I’ll close out with his thoughts. “I just really like those cabinets. I love them. I just really love those cabinets. They’re so great. They’re just so great. That’s all.”

Calvary Christmas Videos

As the resident AV geek at church, holidays are a busy time. This Christmas was no different as I burned away the CPU cycles rendering out a lot of video. They’re all available in curated playlists on our YouTube channel, but I’ve listed them out here as well. If you’re just here for content featuring Elijah, check out the two kids Christmas programs and the first English verse of Silent Night (if you listen closely.)

Shapeoko 3 XXL Initial Thoughts

After years of hemming and hawing, I jumped on the Shapeoko Black Friday deal this year. It took me a while to get around to unboxing and assembling it because I was finishing up some Christmas gifts, but now that I’ve gotten started on my CNC journey, I want to share some thoughts.

  • Cost – There’s no getting around the fact that this is expensive. I mean, this is a high tech piece of equipment that would have been completely out my grasp 10 years ago, but I think the cost part that bothers me is that this isn’t going to hold it’s value like a table saw. This is a point-in-time snapshot of technology and new models will continue to outpace what I have today. Most of my hobbies have a point where I spend a bunch of money on something fancy and then lose interest and kind of regret my big purchased. I’m really hoping that this CNC purchase isn’t that point for woodworking.
  • Size – I went for the XXL version, which, as the name implies, is the biggest one they sell. The cutting area of the smallest one is 16″x16″ but my version is 33″x33″. I still haven’t decided if that was a good move or not. It’s huge and my shop is not. I’m starting to feel better about the choice now that I’ve built a shelf that flips up against the wall. Storing it vertically is probably not idea in terms of fine tuning the machine, but there aren’t a lot of good options available in my small shop. It’s a beast to raise and lower though. I think the whole machine and table probably way at least 120 pounds.
  • Complexity – While setup of this machine is dramatically easier than something like an XCarve, it’s still not a turn-key solution (that’s one of the reasons why it’s cheaper than other options.) The time from purchase to first success is a LOT longer than any other tool in my shop. I spent probably three or four hours getting it “set up” but that’s really only the start of the journey. Want a way to hold down your material? You need to figure that out and implement it. Want to make sure your bed is flat? You can create a job to do that but you oh wait, if your spindle isn’t perfectly square to your bed you won’t have good results. Want to make sure your spindle is square to your bed? Build or buy a tramming device and spend a long time shimming and tweaking. And even once you plow through all of that, you need to get familiar with the software and spend a good chunk of time drawing out your design using vector art on the computer, setting up the correct tool path for the machine, getting your feed rate correct so you don’t cut off a bit, etc. As I’m going through all of this, I kept comparing it to my table saw upgrade which was in a similar price category. The table saw had a similar unboxing time requirement but then I was instantly more productive. That’s far from the case with a CNC machine. If you’re not up for a massive amount of learning and experimenting, CNC is not for you or rather, the DIY end of CNC isn’t for you. There are other products like the Nomad from the same company which are a much easier experience. With those tools, you can focus more of your effort on the programming/drawing side of things but you also pay for that privilege.

As you can tell, I’m still nervous about whether this was a good purchase or not. One thing I realized is that every time I hit another step, I’d go online to try and learn from people who had gone before. That’s generally helpful but it can also be a quagmire of indecision as there are a ridiculous number of different ideas about how to do something that seems as simple as holding your work piece safely to the bed so it doesn’t fly off when the spindle touches it. I finally gave up on trying to do a “smarter” version of every single step and decided to just plow forward with something that seems good now. I’ll learn and redo things as I go. There’s just too much knowledge to ingest without some background experience.

My first big step was drilling a bunch of holes into my waste board. I bought a pack of 50 threaded inserts from Amazon and drilled a pattern of holes all the way through the waste board. Then I installed the threaded inserts from the bottom of the waste board. Now I can use those as mounting points for hold down clamps (which I still need to fabricate.) A tutorial on the Shapeoko website was really helpful for that project and I’ll probably use their hold down clamp tutorial too.

My first project is going to be a zero clearance insert for the table saw. I have a fancy one from Grizzly that works well for most cuts, but it’s nice to have the zero clearance inserts for the dado stack, angled cuts, etc. Once I have down the work to program it all on the CNC, I can whip out new ones very quickly and cheaply. This is kind of a silly project because I can make one by hand in probably 20 minutes or so, but it seemed like a useful project with a low level of difficulty before I jump into something more complex like making a sign.

Fantasy Football Team Stats

The Seahawks have sure had a lot of tight games this year. And my super-informed 8-8 prediction proved to be quite pessimistic. 10-6 is way better than I dreamed after their roster took such a big hit. Kudos to Pete Carroll and crew! I wonder what’s they’ll do in the playoffs. They looked great against a Chiefs team that was much better by the numbers (but maybe the loss of Kareem Hunt will destroy them), but then the Seahawks had a tough time with the Cardinals who have the worst record in the league.

Anyway, let’s check out our own league. I’ve long theorized that to make the playoffs in our league, you need to be actively looking for new players throughout the season, but I had no proof. Or maybe that’s just my approach and the key really is a good draft? So at the end of this season, I wrote a program that grabbed our roster for every week and the number of points scored by each player.Here are the stats that I came up with…

How many non-bench points were scored by players that were on the roster in week 1?

Team Points
Goat Ropers 1533.27
EndOverEnd 1492.07
Helmetheads 1475.55
Krazy Kanuck 1457.42
Insert Creative Name 1251.15
Beer-me 1219.57
Kool Aid Kid 1103.25

How many week 1 players were still on the roster in week 16?

Team Count
Helmetheads 11
EndOverEnd 10
Insert Creative Name 9
Beer-me 7
Goat Ropers 5
Kool Aid Kid 4
Krazy Kanuck 4

How many different players were on the roster throughout the season?

Team Count
Goat Ropers 47
Kool Aid Kid 45
Krazy Kanuck 35
Beer-me 25
Insert Creative Name 23
EndOverEnd 21
Helmetheads 21

Which free agent acquisitions averaged the most points per week? (Top 10 by Points Per Week descending)

Team Player Points NumWeeks PointsPerWeek
Goat Ropers Jameis Winston 58.8 2 29.4
Kool Aid Kid Patrick Mahomes 408.56 14 29.2
Insert Creative Name Miami 26.74 1 26.7
Insert Creative Name Russell Wilson 179.6 7 25.7
Krazy Kanuck Damien Williams 48.8 2 24.4
Krazy Kanuck Matt Ryan 297.96 13 22.9
Krazy Kanuck Doug Baldwin 22.1 1 22.1
Beer-me Jared Goff 300.78 14 21.5
Beer-me Giovani Bernard 40.7 2 20.4
Goat Ropers Andrew Luck 158.54 8 19.8

I don’t really know what to make of this. In general, it does look like a good draft is a big help, but it’s not critical. There does seem to be a correlation between the number of roster moves and your ability to make the playoffs.

Do you have ideas for similar stats to investigate?

2018 Year In Review

It’s time to stop opening these annual posts by talking about how short the year was because I feel like I just wrote that a few days ago… see what I did there? Let’s dive right into some of the highlights:

Dad and Mom have been out here for a few Easters in a row and this last one was no exception. During their trip, we got to go sailing with Larry from our church. Tyla and I have been out with him once before but this was a first for Dad, Mom and Elijah. The weather was cool but much nicer than should be expected for early April.

Disneyland! (And here’ a link to our trip video.) Tyla and I have talked about this since before we were married and this finally felt like the right year to do it. Being a bit of a tightwad on this stuff, I spent a lot of time researching and in the end I felt like every minute of that time was worthwhile. We felt relaxed going through the parks but I feel like we got to do more during that time than most people and the one day break in the middle of the two park days was perfect. Elijah was amazing and hardly complained at all. We spent the entire day in the park on both of our park days. It exceeded my wildest dreams for how smoothly the trip could go!

In June we headed to the shore with Tyla’s family. Since we were in Washington, that still meant that we were wearing winter coats, but the sun was shining. When people talk about Washington they often comment on how few mosquitoes there are. On that trip, we learned that this isn’t quite true. Washington has as many mosquitoes as other states. The difference is that in Washington, all of the mosquitoes congregate on the hike that we took. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We were supposed to go camping with Tyla’s family this summer, but since Don ended up being out of town for much of the year, we canceled it and replaced it with a day trip to San Juan Island. That ferry ride is always gorgeous and it was fun to go on a couple very short hikes and have lunch at San Juan Island Brewery.

Aside from Disneyland, the biggest thing I’ll remember about 2018 was our massive home improvement project. We had the siding and windows completely replaced and obviously got a new coat of paint when it was done. We were happy with the quality and had a good relationship with the contractors, but man, it took a long time! The original estimate was that it would start the first week of April and be done by mid-May. Yada yada yada, it didn’t wrap up until August. That made a huge different in the shape of our summer, but thankfully, it’s over now. It feels good to have that huge expense behind us.

Elijah was too big for the hiking backpack so it was up to him to use his own two feet. I picked Twin Falls for his first hike and that was a big success. It was awesome to see the look of accomplishment on his face! I did one hike with Logan to beautiful Lake 22, a hike to Independence and Coal Lakes with Tyla, Elijah and Logan (that one had an awesome road to the trailhead), and then a hike around Crystal with Elijah and Tyla’s whole family. When Elijah was in the right mindset, he could do some impressive distances. I hope we can do a lot more next year! There are no shortages of amazing sights to see and I feel like part of my daddy duty is getting him off the concrete and carpet.

Speaking of Elijah, he had some big spills on his bike and scooter. The first was on his first attempt to ride down a hill at a skate park on his scooter. That one tore my heart because he was so excited to try and tried so hard to not cry in front of the big boys. The next accident was less than 48 hours before our trip to Disneyland. That thankfully didn’t require a doctor visit before the trip, but the second one was much more severe. He wiped out going around a slippery corner. He was riding behind me so I didn’t see it but I heard it and immediately knew it was bad. I got to him in a flash but his shirt was already covered in blood. Bad sign. To make a long story short, we ended up in the hospital to deal with a big split in his chin. They patched that up with fancy super glue and after about a week and a half he was back to normal (where “normal” now means “full face helmet”.)

Tyla and I had our first full weekend away from Elijah too. Mom stayed with Elijah at our house while Tyla and I headed to Hood River for a marriage retreat put on by our group of churches. What an awesome weekend! We missed Elijah but it was a great chance to strengthen our relationship and get a big block of time together. The retreat happens every two years and I think we’d book the next one now if we could.

Like the guy in Monty Python, my blog is saying, “But I’m not dead yet!” I have continued to sustain the trickle of posts every week. I’m happy I gave up on the “blog post every day” pace I was at before, but I do still feel like this is slipping away from me. Maybe it’s just a function of getting older, but when I have something to share, I find myself wanting to do an Instagram post instead of a blog post. Our family has a bunch of accounts that you can follow: benwmartens, tylammartens, elijahmartens, martenswoodshop, and elijahmakes. I have no plans to stop this site, but I can see the posts continuing to slow down. We’ll see how it goes.

For seven of the last eight years, I’ve been a trustee at church. (That basically means I’m a property manager.) This will be the last year for a while as next year I start a three year term as elder (someone who helps with church nurturing, growth and discipline). I expect it will take similar amounts of time but it will be a change of pace and maybe it will mean that I’ll trade extra trips to church for a little more time spent at home working on the computer and the phone.

I stopped all woodworking projects in early April in preparation for the siding project. The windows were getting stored in the garage so that meant a bunch of other stuff ended up in my shop area. As that dragged on longer than expected, I was happy to see the last window finally disappear from the garage in July and I jumped back on the woodworking train. So a quarter of my year was lost, but I still managed to make some fun projects: side tables for the theater room, a walnut box to hold a Retro Pie, robot art with Elijah, a curly maple box, a cross made out of a tree I cut down, a wooden pixel Mario, a name puzzle, a wooden skid steer toy, built-in cabinets for the shop, and a plaque for Don’s Navy clock. The big addition to the shop was a CNC machine. That was in brand new so stay tuned for some early thoughts coming soon.

Looking ahead to 2019, the biggest thing on my mind is Elijah going into first grade. He’s at our church preschool and kindergarten this year, but the school stops with kindergarten. So whether we choose the public school or a private school, it’s going to be a huge change for our family. It’s comforting to know that God already has it planned out so I just need to keep my ears open and make sure I follow down that path.

Previous Year In Review Posts: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017