It's finally Autumn! I'm fairly busy in the shop, working time is about a week prior to ship.
It's finally Autumn! I'm fairly busy in the shop, working time is about a week prior to ship.
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Shop rules I've slowly come to

As one might expect, after building my products for about a year I've realized a few best practices in the interest of making consistently good stuff. When I first started out I was just hacking it, trying to make things at all, trying to get quality results but without having the experience to back it up there were lots of errors and mistakes and ruined parts. I thought I'd take a moment, a year in or so after cutting my first parts to share a few insights:

1. Don't cut a whole sheet at once. Due to some risks with a self-built CNC, sometimes the machine has errors. If I'm in the middle of cutting a whole sheet of parts, an error or problem could ruin a whole sheet instead of just 1/4. For that reason, design the programs so that each program cuts one product. Don't cut three products on one program, the risk isn't worth it. Better to run a program 3X.

2. Don't do any manual action by hand except finish sanding. Anything I do by hand, drilling a hole, routing a slot, trimming something needs to be controlled by either a drill press, drill jig, some sort of firm tool that restrains the action from making an error and ruining the part. I've had too many instances where I thought "I'll just drill this real quick.." and then the torque of the drill caught the wood and went in too deep, or off center etc. It's just not worth it. If I want to keep parts clean I have to only fix modify them under tooled control. By hand is just too risky.

3. Wipe excess glue now. Early on I thought I'd just do all the gluing and then take off the excess with a chisel. Awful. So much work. Then I thought I'd wipe the glue off after I was all done clamping. Still a lot of work and it had started to set leaving residue. Now the current best practice is to glue larger assemblies such as chairs in stages, and clean all the glue off as I go as clean as possible. The time taken now cleaning glue is more than worth it for the future. It takes 5x the time to clean off dry glue than it does to wipe off wet glue. I must finish the glue up process with the cleanest part possible.

4. Spray finish is so much better and faster than brush finish that it's worth it to figure it out. I have fought so much with getting satisfactory varnish finishes that I went back and forth between just giving up and wiping it on or brushing it. No. No. It's too long and if you take the time to dial in the spray settings and viscosity you can spray the piece in a tenth of the time with a better finish. Finishing is the hardest part of woodworking and it is worth it to figure it out. I have not "figured it out" fully at this point but I am getting there. If you take the time to make a good piece you must learn to finish it.

And now it brings me to one that I'm still thinking a lot about. If I have a damaged part, say the veneer peeled off because of a cutting operation or the plywood was especially poor in one spot so it's delaminating inside, should I try to repair it or scrap it and move on with life? In some ways both options take a similar amount of time, although the latter requires the use of more material and therefore more cost. But often repairing results in a finish that's a little worse, i.e. the repair can be seen and isn't as perfect as a new one would be. I've been mixed on what to do, so perhaps in a blog post in a year it will be so clear and I'll list it like it's a rule. I guess we'll see, that's the fun of the journey.


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