Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shop Tour: Wood Storage

Like a lot of woodworkers, I cannot throw away a piece of wood, no matter how small. I would qualify for one of those shows on TV about hoarders. I can easily imagine them following me with the camera and mic, as I climb up the ladder, searching for exactly the right piece of material. The anticipation of all that wood falling down and crushing me would be perfect for modern television viewing.

I can spend half an hour searching for the perfect piece of wood to make a 10 minute repair on an antique "just right." I seem to remember each piece of scrap wood that I put somewhere, and it is weird that I can remember where it is, even though I cannot seem to remember someone I just met the day before.

I have devised ingenious ways to sort my scraps: by length, width, thickness, species, age, character, color, purpose, etc. I have used boxes, trash cans, racks, bins, and any corner that otherwise was free. No matter what I do there is always the problem of dirt. It seems that lumber storage is the most difficult area of the shop to clean, and, in a finishing shop, that is a problem. At least I don't have power tools contributing to the dust problem.

For the first 30 years the wood just "collected." I never had to throw any out, so it was ridiculous how much out of control it was. When I decided to build the new addition to the shop, I had to move all the wood to storage. That is when I realized that I had enough wood to completely fill a 20 foot room floor to ceiling, stuffed up to the door.

I designed a room in the addition for material storage, mostly for repair pieces. I had a welder create wall mounted brackets which I attached to the upper wall, for short lumber. I also had the welder build much larger brackets to attach to the main wall of the addition for longer material. These brackets are extremely strong. I used a lot of 1/4" thick steel angle iron, which is 2 x 3" in section. For the main lumber, I ordered 7 units made. The piece which attaches to the wall is 8 feet tall, and has 26" angle iron arms welded every 18" apart to support the wood. These units are bolted with 3/4" lag bolts, using an impact wrench, directly to the 2x8 wall studs, spaced 32" apart along the wall. That results in easy storage and access to all my large pieces of wood, and the rack is just inside the roll up door at my delivery ramp.

I am amazed at how much lumber I can keep on these racks, and how easy it is to get at it. I have no idea how much weight is there, but I am confident that the design of the rack is sufficient to carry the load, which includes me when I climb up to get to the top. Since I need to buy lumber which is generally kiln dried, I do not like to use it for several years. That means that new lumber needs to go to the bottom of the pile, and older pieces move up to the top.

The parts room is more of a challenge. I have wood in there which is ancient, for exactly the right repair. 18th century cherry, Cuban mahogany, old pieces of boxwood, Brazilian rosewood,Victorian walnut, old growth pine, and so on are carefully kept in special places, ready for the client who needs them. There is also a huge pile of broken furniture parts: turnings, feet, drawers, sides, table tops, and other elements, which could be used if necessary.

To give you an idea of what I did with the wood from the storage room, when I moved back in to my new space, imagine this: I have a long driveway on the side of the shop, over 40' long, inside my fence. Each trip from the storage, I would just dump the wood on the driveway and begin to sort through it. Over several weeks I culled the wood, picking up the best pieces and installing them in my new building. Towards the end, I would just dig through the remaining pieces for that occasional treasure find, carefully looking at each piece, thinking how it might be useful.

Sad to say, at the end of that job, I ended up taking a full truck load of scraps to the dump. It was the bravest thing I have ever had to do. I understand how the hoarder feels when they watch others dig through their "stuff" and make the decision to toss it. It seems that the minute it is gone, you find a use for it.

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