Come along for a look at the talents of Eagle Lake Woodworking.
SHOP OWNER: John Nixon
LOCATION: Wheatfield, NY
I am a hobbyist woodworker with an interest in making American Arts & Crafts style furniture. Located outside Buffalo, New York, I have a basement woodshop that is approximately 440 sq feet; of which I use every inch. Having a small shop forces me to be better organized and to find creative ways of using my space. I've been doing fine woodworking for about five years now. Before that, I did carpentry and home remodeling for 10-12 years.
This sketch shows the layout of my workshop. Like most small shops, I have some machines on wheels to allow me to reposition them if needed. I have positioned and oriented the major machines in the shop so that I have at least eight feet for infeed and outfeed. The bandsaw and wide drum sander do not have 8 feet for infeed and outfeed (more like 5ft or 6ft), but they are on wheels and can be easily repositioned. Even then, I rarely find myself using this equipment for longer stock.
One important area for me is what I call the 'L'. I suppose it's similar to the “worker's triangle” referred to in kitchen design. The 'L' in my shop is the perpendicular relationship between my router table and my tablesaw. I made four items in the shop the same height so that they could all work together providing infeed and outfeed for each other. The four items are the workbench adjacent to the router table, the router table, which is five feet long and includes my horizontal router table, the tablesaw, and the table saw's outfeed table. The arrangement of elements in this manner has proven to be quite effective for supporting stock at the router table and tablesaw.
Every area of my shop has a useful purpose. I create storage in just about every unused space I can. I have two areas for wood storage - the ten-foot shelves above and below my miter saw station, and the racks in the dust collector room.
For wood chip and dust control, I have an ambient air filter that is suspended from the ceiling and I have a dust collector that’s connected to each machine. I try to encourage new woodworkers to buy a dust collector before their next big tool purchase. If I had known when I started how much of a benefit a dust collector would be, I would have bought one sooner.
The focus of what makes my shop tick is the shop-made devices or innovations that may be somewhat unique to my shop. My foot-activated Motorized Router Lift is probably my best shop-made innovation. The device raises and lowers a table-mounted router via a foot pedal or table mounted switch. You get the benefits and capability of a plunge router with the safety and predictability of a table-mounted router. I was looking for a way to create mortises and, like most woodworkers, I considered the many options available. I was close to building a jig for use with the plunge router when the idea of the motorized router lift struck me. The missing part of the idea was how to control the movement of the stock above the table in a precise and constrained manner. A modified tenon jig was the answer! With only minor modifications, a heavy-duty tenon jig combined with my motorized router lift became an effective way to make accurate and reproducible mortises on the router table. The benefits of the motorized router lift are numerous.
Changing bits - My motorized router lift is connected to a Hitachi M12V. Changing bits on this router when it's mounted in a table can be time consuming. With my motorized lift, I can drop the router down in a matter of seconds to easily change bits. The router goes right back up to the ready position in seconds.
Stopped Dados - I can start the bit in the middle of the work piece by raising it up with the lift. There's no more tipping the work piece onto a spinning bit to make a stopped dado.
Mortising - With the modified tenon jig equipped with stop blocks, I can setup and cut reproducible mortises in no time at all. This setup is great for making matching mortises for loose tenon joinery.
Incremental Passes - How often do you take too much off in one pass because you just don't feel like changing the bit height in between passes? With the motorized router lift, the pulse of a button on the table changes the bit height so making incremental passes is really easy.
Cutting Circles - I made a circle jig for the router table. It's the standard pivot type affair, but I can rotate the blank while raising the bit with the foot pedal and cut a circle fast and easy. The device is patent pending and I am working with a company now to make the Motorized Router Lift available commercially.
There's more information, including many videos that show the Motorized Router Lift in action, on my Website - Eagle Lake Woodworking. Just follow the links. Also, anyone interested in the article I wrote about the Motorized Router Lift and published in the September 2006 Issue of Woodshop News, Click Here.
I often laminate or veneer sheet goods. Not having the money for a vacuum setup, I created a Lamination Press that stows above my workbench and out of the way when not in use. The press has four cauls that suspend from the main beam, and can be configured every six inches (there is space for 10 cauls).
Turning a nut against the lower face of the main beam tightens the cauls down. With a 3ft x 5ft capacity, this press has come in handy many times for gluing up field panels and for veneer work. More photos can be seen here: Lamination Press.
What do you get when you cross an old belt sander and a tablesaw - The 'FrankenSander'! I picked up this 50's belt sander from an older woman who had a basement full of tools from a husband who had passed. Around the same time, I garbage-picked a tablesaw from a guy a couple of houses down. Before putting it out for the trash, he cut the cord off the saw, left out a leg from the stand, and didn't include the arbor nut. So he obviously didn't want anyone to use it as a tablesaw after that. I can take a hint, so I decided to use it as a mount for my new horizontal belt sander.
Now, onto the collision - one neat element to this is how I used the tablesaw motor and trunnion. Normally, the tablesaw motor moves up and down when you crank the handle on the front. I remounted the motor so that the crank now moves the motor away from the belt sander pulley to tension the belt. After figuring out how I was going to mount the motor, it was a matter of mounting the belt sander to the tablesaw carcass. A picture from the bottom shows how I mounted the belt sander to the tablesaw. It was my first time routing aluminum - it went better than I imagined - it's very soft.
The sander gets a lot of use in my shop. It has about 18 inches of flat surface and access to the rounding drums for sanding inside curves. More photos can be seen here: The 'FrankenSander'.
Lastly and probably the heart of my efforts are the many instructional videos I've made. I made my first video for the Internet a few years ago when I wanted to show off the Motorized Router Lift. I quickly found that it was a great way to reach a lot of people in a desired format. With the encouragement and support from viewers around the world, I starting making more videos. My approach to woodworking videos is simple - I want to show you how I do things in my shop with as much close-up woodworking action as possible. I like to share my techniques and travels in woodworking with the world. My intent is to continue making project-based woodworking videos for all to enjoy.
. . . John Nixon