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by popular demand

Photo tour of Charlie Plesums shop

for his custom furniture business


Thirteen years ago I retired from a good paying job to build custom furniture. One requirement was that I be able to safely work alone, which led to getting rid of the small table saw with numerous precarious infeed and outfeed stands, and replacing it with a sliding table saw. Or actually replacing it with what, at that time, was the top of the line MiniMax combination machine. No longer could I roll the saw into the corner and get the cars into the garage - one car was banished to the outdoors. The second car stall was often used for the actual projects, so the second car was most often outside as well. Eventually, both sides became dedicated to the workshop. Or to the studio - as the saying goes, a one car garage is a shop, a two car garage is a studio.

There is a wealth of expensive equipment in this shop (and the tour doesn't include the multiple routers, multiple sanders, lipping planer, and other many hand tools with and without power cords). But something to keep in mind... every piece of equipment was paid for from woodworking income in the year in which it was purchased. This is not a hobby, but legally and legitimately it is a business, that has made a profit every year. I admit, not nearly enough profit to live in the style to which I am accustomed, nor to put a kid through college, etc., but as a "retirement business" it has been very successful.

There is now a web page on this site about shop lighting. What you see here is barely acceptable - far less than recommended, installed before the lighting paper by Jack Lindsey was available.

You enter my shop through the usual garage entrance from the house. That path into the shop is narrow - I store some of the smaller pieces of plywood along the walls of the passage. In the blue bins on the floor are pieces of mesquite leftover from a recently completed project - waiting to be sorted. You will see numerous 5 gallon pails around the shop, including in front of the garage door, with small wood pieces, sorted by species.

The garage door is blocked since

  1. I now have heating and air conditioning so the door is rarely open
  2. The electric opener died, and I haven't felt the need to replace it
  3. I can still open it manually if I have a large wood delivery.

Walk in and look to the right and you see my work bench - a low bench on wheels that I used for years, with clamps to hold the work, instead of any vice. A few years ago I built a stand-up bench inspired by Steve Latta's mini-bench in Fine Woodworking - a bench that puts the work at a comfortable standing height. It also has a 2½ inch thick laminated MDF top, my first woodworking vice, and bench dog holes. Behind the bench is my MM24 bandsaw, normally with a 1 inch carbide blade used for resawing. In this compact shop, if I need to resaw a long board, the door behind the bandsaw, leading to the water heater, can be opened for outfeed space.

There is naturally space under the mini-bench, but it is positioned so that the 8.5 foot slider on my saw can go between the benches. In the rare event that I have to rip a wide board or piece of sheet goods the full 8 feet long, and more than a couple feet wide, the whole bench is on wheels and can move. The miter fence on the slider is stored on the machine in this funny position, but can quickly be moved to a useful angle (but then it doesn't fit through the hole between the benches)

The MiniMax CU410 Elite combo is the centerpiece of the shop - and at 2,200 pounds it rarely is moved. The outrigger can handle cross cuts in wood with almost 8 feet to the left of the blade, and by reconfiguring the fences, about 4 feet to the right of the blade. The saw itself has a 10 or 12 inch blade, plus a small scoring blade that rotates in the opposite direction, both driven by a 4.8 hp motor. The rip fence is on the saw, but is rarely used - the slider creates a more precise cut. The cast iron aircraft carrier standing vertically is the table for the 16 inch jointer, with the jointer fence on the table ready to go (but here being used as a shelf). With the combo the same cutters are used for the jointer and planer; here configured for planer use, with the work passing under the cutters, but with the jointer table down the work passes above the same cutters, and the jointer table becomes part of the saw table. It is driven by a separate 4.8 hp motor. Lurking below the saw table is a tilting shaper with a third 4.8 hp motor and choice of ¾ inch and 1¼ inch spindles.

Behind the jointer table you can see the 16 inch planer, and hanging off the side of the machine, the slot mortiser (driven by the jointer/planer motor). One of the lucky coincidences is that the infeed of the planer (from where the picture was taken) fits under the table of the MM24 bandsaw. The outfeed of the jointer is above the MM24 table. If the outfeed from the planer is over 8 feet long (extremely rare), the garage door can be opened.

Continuing counterclockwise around the shop you come to the small 14 inch bandsaw, a Grizzly G0555 that typically has a 3/16 inch blade on it. It, too, is on casters since it occasionally has to be moved to allow large pieces to be cut on the combo. On the floor behind it is the air compressor, and the trash can separator used to remove the jointer/planer chips from the dust going to the cyclone. You can also see my heat pump, raised for good air flow through the shop. During the coldest part of winter plain electric heat is more efficient, so I have a small space heater to supplement it at the other end of the shop (the black thing on the MM24 bandsaw table).

In addition to the shaper in the combo, I have a separate 5 hp Powermatic shaper. It has an outstanding fence, so is quick to set up and use, but it is extremely hard to remove the fence. The shaper on the MiniMax has a fence that is very time consuming to set up and use, but works extremely well when a fence isn't required. (The time to switch to and from the combo shaper with fence is the only transition that is slow on the combo - all the other function changeovers are quick and easy). Notice that the cross-cut fence from the combo saw fits over the shaper table - when using the shaper the sliding table is just pulled back out of the way. The mystery piece on the shaper table is some mesquite with epoxy fill, curing.

Behind the shaper is a Nova DVR lathe. The one or two dust hoses to the shaper are removed when using the lathe. To the left of the lathe is the infeed for the 38 inch drum sander. In practice, most of the pieces are far less than 38 inches wide, so can be sanded without moving the sander, but the sander is on casters, and can be pulled into the center of the room when necessary.

The wide sander has been sold to make room for a veneer cutter. Think of it as a 40 inch paper cutter, heavy enough to cut through wood.

Here you can see the outfeed side of the former drum sander. On top of the sander is a small belt/disc sander only used rarely (but I have owned it for decades). You can also see the bottom of the cyclone, with filters and the dust collection can.

I have numerous 4 wheel furniture dollies in the shop - with no real home, like the two here. They are normally under the work in process, or the stacks of material being processed for the current project.

The drill press is hidden behind the plywood and lumber storage. Actually this is a small part of the lumber. The entrance to the shop is from a hall with the pull-down stairs to the attic, aligned with the shop door. I have several hundred board-feet of lumber stored in the attic rafters.

Why is the miter saw on a furniture dolly on the floor? Because the ceiling is just under 10 feet tall, and many boards from the lumber yard come in 10 to 14 foot lengths. They are brought in and stay on the floor until they can be cut, at least to rough length, working at floor level, or can be moved to the attic.

You may notice extension cords and vacuum hoses on the floor, most visible in front of the combo. My small Fein vacuum lives near the outfeed side of the saw (dating back to the days that my finishing room was the driveway). It is only a small vacuum since it is easily emptied by sucking the collected dust into the cyclone via any nearby hose. An extension cord (for the tools that will automatically start of the vacuum) leads towards the bench, and one to three sanders are plugged into that extension. The vacuum hose moves from sander to sander, but the power for the active tools remains plugged in.

The outrigger of the saw looks like it wastes a lot of space in the shop. Yes, it is easily removed and stored. But in fact, it is perfectly flat, so becomes a great place to assemble and clamp the work. It was my primary workbench for hand planing as well (lock the slider and go, just no pounding), until I got the small auxiliary bench you saw at the start of this tour. It is now used so much for things (assembly) in addition to sawing that it rarely comes off.

This is truly a one person shop. When I am working, I count on the other machines and tools staying in place. For example, when I am at my bench, my body blocks the slider so the saw cannot be used; when I am planing the work interferes with the large bandsaw, when I use the lathe, the shaper is out of commission, and so forth. Not a problem with one person, but no room for two.

These pictures were taken in a rare "empty" condition when a large project had just left the shop and it was far cleaner than normal. Now imagine this shop with, say, a chest of drawers under construction, or a set of bookcases, or an entertainment center. Cozy!

Are you ready for the test? How many 4.8 or 5 hp motors are in the shop?

  1. MiniMax saw (combo)
  2. MiniMax shaper (combo)
  3. MiniMax jointer/planer/mortiser (combo)
  4. MiniMax MM24 bandsaw
  5. Powermatic shaper
  6. Woodmaster drum sander (now gone)
  7. Clearvue cyclone

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