He can't get enough space
Whether Tom Clark is assembling cabinets in his 2,400-square-foot workshop or gazing at the stars through a 1,500-pound telescope that he built, it’s always a question of space.
Tom Clark's Florida workshop
It was a passion for space that got Tom Clark hooked on woodworking. Gazing through a telescope soon became a passion for finding enough space to make his own. Because telescopes, as Tom says, "are basically plywood boxes with some aluminum parts to hold the parts together and keep the assembly light," the transition to making cabinets was a natural one. And at the time, as a contract machinist, Tom needed cabinets to store extra parts generated by his business.
Tom Clark does more than make cabinets and furniture in his Florida workshop. He also built an observatory, designing and assembling the dome inside the shop.
The observatory is 24' in diameter and 18' high. Inside is a shop-made telescope with a 42" mirror. Tom says it's the largest telescope east of the Mississippi.
TYPE: Dedicated outbuilding
CONSTRUCTION: Steel building over concrete pad; I-beam frame with steel walls and roof. Wall height is 10'; ceiling height is 12'.
HEATING: Air from the air conditioner is blown across heated elements (heat strips) and circulated through ductwork.
COOLING: Exterior air conditioner blows cool air through a single duct that spans the center of the shop.
ELECTRICAL: 100-amp breaker in the shop; 110- and 220-volt outlets throughout
LIGHTING: Twenty-four 4' and 8' dual-tube fluorescent lights
DUST COLLECTION: Grizzly 1-hp for his bandsaw; Grizzly 2-hp for his tablesaw, planer, and shaper; shop vacuum for radial-arm saw and router
AIR COMPRESSOR: Speedaire 5-hp, 60-gal. vertical
The tablesaw setup includes a 48"-capacity sliding table, which Tom considers "the biggest timesaver there is for working with sheet goods." And seeing another opportunity to make good use of space, Tom made the cabinets to fit under the saw's extension table.
Double-decker lumber rack
Tom built this rack from leftover 3⁄4 '' plywood to store sheet goods, but he made several adjustments to strengthen it as long stock began to accumulate on top. A second top constructed of 2x4s plus 2x4 legs that go all the way to the floor support the weight of the second level without adding any more weight to the original structure.
Dueling drill presses
Along the north wall, Tom built cabinets as machine bases to replace the stands that accompany many machines. Normal cabinet height is 36", but the center grouping was built 30" high to make the working height of the drill presses more comfortable.
The floor plan
Space was the objective when Tom laid out his shop. He needed a lot of it, and he didn't want to waste any.
This simple jig that Tom designed eliminates the need for a slot in the router table. The fixture is always perfectly square to the fence and keeps the workpiece from splintering when the router bit comes through.
Laminate-top router table
When Tom designed this router table, he had four goals in mind: a super-smooth top, minimal effort to change router bits, dust collection, and efficient use of empty space. He accomplished each of them. The tabletop and 9" fence were faced with butcher-block Formica for a slick surface.
A continuous hinge cut to length gives easy access to wrenches stored in the tray below. A prop stick set against a safety block holds the lid up so Tom's hands are free to change bits, which are stored in the top left drawer.
Shop-built air cleaner
Rather than buy an ambient air cleaner, Tom built his own, shown housed in the cabinet between the router table and bench. In addition, the cabinet serves as an extension of Tom's workbench and provides needed storage space.
Mobile-base planer stand
Another example of Tom's ongoing search for usable space, the planer was sold with an $80 stand optional. Tom declined. Instead, he built this planer stand out of 2x4s, 4x4s, and plywood. The inside holds leftover pieces of planed stock too short for the lumber rack.
Drewers a plenty
Frustrated by hunting through cabinets for a tool or accessory (frequently found in the back of the lowest shelf), Tom decided to make a shelfless workbench with nothing but drawers—18 of them. The butcher-block-look Formica surface is 261⁄2 " wide.
Expanded bandsaw tabletop
Tom built this simple top to increase the bandsaw table surface from 18" square to 36" square. He used a 3⁄4 '' piece of plywood covered with Formica and surrounded it with a 2" frame for stiffness.
Want to save time and sandpaper, too? Place a simple ramp on the belt-sander table, clamp it in place, and use it to support the workpiece. Instead of concentrating on a small area, which shortens the sanding belt's life, the abrasive action is distributed across the entire width of the belt.
Cluster approach to dust collection
To use space efficiently, Tom arranged the tablesaw, shaper, and planer in a cluster, all attached to this simple dust-collection system. The dust collector has two inlets: one to the tablesaw and the other to the plastic lid over the 30-gallon trash can.
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