The Spray Booth

§ by on February 11th, 2009


The woodworking shop here at at August Home Publishing can be a very busy place. It’s where all of the projects for Woodsmith, Workbench, and ShopNotes are built as well as the props for the Woodsmith Shop television show. Now, all of the projects that come out of our shop have to hold up to the uncompromising standards of magazine photography. If there’s a scratch, drip, or chip it’ll show. So our shop craftsmen put a lot of effort into choosing the best lumber, matching it carefully, building to very high standards, and applying a flawless finish.

Most of the equipment in our shop any hobbyist would recognize and might well own: table saws, drill presses, planers, and workbenches covered with parts and hand tools

There’s one item that we have that the home shop might not is a dedicated finish room with a professional spray booth. With the volume of projects that get built around here, it’s an important tool in our

I am in awe of this thing. Some people love to apply a careful, flawless finish and they’re great at it; I’m not one of those people. I find it all to be a bit tedious and frustrating. A spray booth excels in applying a final finish (clear or paint) evenly and smoothly. The booth also has the advantage of providing a clean and well lit environment. It’s a much better place to apply finish than in the corners of a dusty shop.

The spray booth arrived on several pallets stacked with all sorts of galvanized sheet metal parts and fasteners like an Erector Set spilled on the floor. Piece by piece it was bolted together. This was followed by a parade of sort. First came the contractors for electrical work, plumbing the compressed air lines, running an exhaust duct to the roof, and setting up the fire suppression system. Next came the inspectors from the city, fire department, and insurance co. You don’t have one of these installed on a whim.

The front of the booth consists of two large doors for easy loading and unloading. The doors also act as pre-filters to help trap dust. In the back of the spray booth are filters that catch overspray as the air is drawn out by the fan. And it has a big fan. There’s no doubt when someone is using the spray booth because it’s actually hard to open the exterior doors to the shop due to the suction created by the fan.

All of the electrical equipment is explosion proof (no sparks please). There’s one switch to turn on the lights and a second that simultaneously turns on the fan and opens a valve that lets compressed air flow to the spray gun. You can’t spray if the fan isn’t on.

With all of the use this spray booth gets, there’s a bit of overspray, so, the interior has a peel away coating. When the overspray gets too thick we can peel it off and apply another coat. We typically keep the gun full of clear lacquer and ready to spray. Lacquer has the advantages of being clear (color neutral), easy to sand, and very fast drying.

For my projects at home, I’m still a fan of simple wipe on finishes. They’re easy and almost (but not quite) foolproof. But here at work, nothing beats the spray booth for fast, quality, no- hassle finishes.


Garage Storage Cart

§ by on January 19th, 2009

wb311-garagecart04smWorkbench Magazine has been doing some interesting things with plywood, paint and stain–creating beautiful furniture that’s well-made, fun to build, and surprisingly in expensive. The current issue, Number 311, is no exception with a couple terrific cabinets for living rooms, family rooms, or where ever you display your favorite books and curios or watch wide-screen TV. But they also focus on storage, and I especially liked the roll-around garage storage cart in this issue. It’s a clever, multi-sided cart that has loads of storage space in a compact footprint. They call it a garage storage cart, but I can see this in use anywhere you need lots of storage, but don’t have much space.

Not much to building it either. If you got some basic cutting tools and a hand drill, this is a weekend project. You’ll find more photos and a terrific subscription offer on the website.

Three for Three

§ by on November 21st, 2008

Three cribs for three Forums member QSAWN says he’s “finally finished” building three cribs for his three new sons.

Well, it took me about a month to complete 90% before the boys were born and 8 months to complete the last 10% after they were born.

Well deserved congratulations on both counts and more comments in the Woodworking Forum. BTW: Plans for the crib (originally published by Workbench Magazine) are available in print or as a download at

What Would You Do With $25,000?

§ by on November 7th, 2007


My shop is only 400 square feet. Things are always underfoot and I’m constantly having to move one machine so that I can get to another. The lathe is stored in an adjacent (finished) room, the miter saw and stand are out in the garage, and I have to set up a couple of sawhorses out there just to cut a sheet of plywood down to size. Boy, what I wouldn’t give for a big addition to my house for a new shop!

The problem is, I don’t have an extra 25 grand laying around to spend on fixing up my home. But I could. And so could you.

That’s because Home Depot is giving away a $25,000 gift card (and many more prizes) to the best YouTube video entry showcasing the projects Home Depot customers would like to tackle around the house. You can submit your video from November 10 to December 15, 2007, and the winners will be announced sometime just before Christmas.

Think about it, you could finally add that gourmet kitchen you’ve always wanted…or put on a new roof…or add a backyard getaway…replace all the flooring…the list goes on and on. Or if you need some really great ideas for your video, pick up a free preview issue of Workbench. It’s full of practical ideas for your improving home.

Are you feeling creative? Then get to it.

To keep track of everyone’s videos, log in to YouTube and join the Home Depot “Gift Card” group.

Top 5 Most Influential Woodworkers

§ by on March 12th, 2007

Garrett French is at it again over at the blog. He’s compiled a list of the “5 Most Influential Woodworkers” based on input from folks at a couple of forums, including the WoodNet forum. Like any list, it may be more interesting for who was left off, than who was included. I’d like to mention a couple of people who weren’t on the list, but in my opinion, should be placed right near the top.

Don Peschke and Paul Roman.

If those two names aren’t so familiar to you, it’s because they’ve both worked more behind the scenes as the pioneering editors and publishers of Woodsmith and Fine Woodworking magazines, respectively. Each has probably influenced more people to get into the shop and actually build something than just about anyone else on Garrett’s list.

Neither Don nor Paul’s name is as familiar perhaps as Norm Abram, but to me their magazines were groundbreaking. Woodsmith, published by August Home Publishing (they also put out ShopNotes, Workbench, Garden Gate, and Cuisine at home), is unique in that it doesn’t just show you a pretty project, it helps you build the project with detailed step-by-step instructions and clear, concise drawings and photos. I remember the first time I picked up Woodsmith magazine, my very first thought was “I can do that!”

(As you may know, Don owns the company I work for, so this is not a completely unbiased post! But the fact is, I’ve been an editor for Woodsmith for 7 years, but I’ve been reading the magazine for over twenty-five years.)

Paul Roman, and his wife Jan, started Fine Woodworking in 1975 and it eventually expanded into a publishing empire that includes magazines for woodworking, home building, cooking, and gardening. Paul’s goal was to have a woodworking magazine that not only informed, but also inspired its readers. There’s no arguing with that, it’s an awesome magazine.

I suppose we’ll always be more influenced by TV personalities. And this is not a knock on Norm, but I’d rather read about woodworking and then go do it myself, than watch it being done on TV anyday.

If you’d like to subscribe to Woodsmith to find out exactly what I mean, click here.

Young Homeowner Finds Workbench Magazine

§ by on February 15th, 2007

Chris Snider bought his first home in the spring of 2006 after living for several years in an apartment. Chris writes a blog for first-time homeowners on the Des Moines Register’s Juice website. Juice is a supplement of the daily newspaper geared toward singles in Des Moines.

He attended a woodworking seminar recently at the Woodsmith Store and liked what he saw. Now, he’s

become a fan of Workbench magazine. Read the rest of this article »

Woodsmith Woodworking Seminars

§ by on January 8th, 2007

Space-Saving Home Shop

Our latest slate of woodworking seminars at the Woodsmith Store starts in just 10 days with Jim Downing, a senior design editor for Workbench magazine, presenting “Tips for Setting Up a Great Home Shop.” Jim has given this seminar a couple of times before, but it’s always an interesting seminar because it’s constantly evolving. The last time Jim gave this seminar, he offered some great ideas for a space-saving home shop (see the photo above).

As it turns out, most of his ideas were featured on the cover (and inside) of the October 2006 Workbench magazine. The cool thing about his design for the shop is that it includes set up space for 5 major tool stations — in just 50 square feet!

The full schedule will be posted soon on the Woodsmith Store website. We’ve combined the schedule for both the Winter and Spring 2007 seminars in a single brochure. Plus, we’re offering 4 ways to pay for the seminars — single passes, Winter Season passes, Spring Season passes, and a new Gold pass — good for all 19 seminars. As usual, each paid $8 admission receives a $5 Sawbuck that can be used toward any purchase in the Woodsmith Store. If you’re planning on attending all the seminars, the Gold pass is the best deal because it saves you up to $27.

50 Years of Workbench

§ by on December 19th, 2006

The slogan for Workbench magazine is “Practical Ideas for Your Home.” And as editor Tim Robertson describes in the February 2007 issue, “It’s a magazine that DIY’ers have come to depend on … for practical projects that they (can) build using basic tools, techniques, and materials.” Read the rest of this article »

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

§ by on September 18th, 2006

House Overview

I had an interesting day last week visiting on-site during construction and filming of the ABC-TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. This is the first home they have built in Iowa, so my wife, Cathy, and I decided to drive the hour and a half north of Des Moines on a sunny, autumn day and check out the action.

Read the rest of this article »

Electrical Capacitance (And how it may affect your pocketbook!)

§ by on September 13th, 2006

SawStop Table Saw
Until recently, interest in the SawStop Table Saw mostly centered around how cool the flesh-sensing magic of the safety device was. The SawStop Table Saw works by sensing the electrical capacitance of human flesh to stop a spinning saw blade instantly when the blade senses a drop in voltage. Not exactly magic, but cool nonetheless! Workbench magazine reviewed the saw in its June 2006 issue, and you can see a video of the SawStop in action here.

Now, it seems that a recent ruling in favor of inventor Stephen Gass’ technology by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission will turn the debate into one of economics rather than safety. You can read more about the ruling here.

The problem is, manufacturer’s of woodworking machinery are not embracing the technology. And the ruling has led the U.S. government to agree with the recommendations of the CPSC, that mandatory safety standards for table saws be raised to include the SawStop technology.

That’s where money comes in. According to Charles Murray, technical writer for Design News, woodworking tool manufacturers face the prospect of investing millions of dollars to re-tool existing production lines. And inventor Gass agrees, “… there’s a huge product liability problem for any manufacturer who doesn’t have this. People will ask, ‘Why didn’t you have this on the saw you sold to us?’”

So now thanks to this ruling, and as is often the case when lawyers get involved, it comes down to one thing — money. (By the way, Stephen Gass was a patent attorney and a woodworker, when he came up with the SawStop.) If manufacturers of table saws are faced with adding safety features that will potentially cost them millions, who do you think will pay for it in the end? You guessed it — woodworkers!