I’m a big fan of Adam Savage and Tested, so when I saw he was writing a book, I preordered it from Amazon.
That was four years ago. I’m embarrassed to say the book had been untouched on my Kindle since it was released in May of 2019. I finally turned the page on the flights to Madrid and easily finished it.
Putting something in the world that didn’t exist before is the broadest definition of making, which means all of us can be makers. Creators.
Everyone has something valuable to contribute. It is that simple. It is not, however, that easy. For, as the things we make give us power and insight, at the same time they also render us vulnerable. Our obsessions can teach us about who we are, and who we want to be, but they can also expose us. They can expose our weirdness and our insecurities, our ignorances and our deficiencies.
If you’re a creative of any type I highly recommend reading Adam’s book. I learned a lot and it felt good to know other people think the way I do about a lot of things.
One of the chapters focused on lists, which is something I use often. Usually I prefer Apple Notes because is syncs between my iPhone and MacBooks (work and personal), allowing me to quickly update the lists. Here’s a list I started partway through my bathroom remodel.
Adam writes out his lists and makes a checkbox next to each item. When something is halfway or mostly complete he splits the box diagonally and fills in the upper left area. On completion, the entire box is filled in. It’s such an important process for him that after the Lists chapter was another titled Checkboxes!
Whenever I put a list to paper I’m going to try this method.
I’ve been keeping my Ryobi cordless 18v tools on some shelves on a wall next to a drain pipe.
As you can see, I outgrew the area. I also had several sanders in the drawers of my sanding cart and even more tools in a box on the floor.
Look at that picture again. Wouldn’t that wall be a great place for cordless tool storage? It’s not in a weird location, is further away from the big tools that make all the dust, and in reach while working at the assembly table.
I took down the vise shelf, chopped and cleaned the plywood, and installed it on the wall entering the shop.
After taking down the nail bins I took the opportunity to spread them out on the backer board since I have more vertical space in the new location. Then I moved the nail bins around the corner, under the rest of my bin storage.
I had a blank canvas.
Before building anything I had to figure out tool arrangement, so I marked out space on the floor to match the area of the wall.
After gathering all of my tools I messed around with layouts and tool groupings.
When I had something I liked, I started making shelves one row at a time.
As you may have noticed from the photos, I kept changing things as I went, and there were a lot of iterations I didn’t get pictures of. When I was about 80% done with everything I remembered I had the rotary tool and my Armor Tool Auto-Jig Pocket Hole System stored in the drill press press cabinet. I definitely wanted both tools out in the open where I’ll be more likely to use them. All of the changes were worth it; every tool has a place and I love it. I’ve been wanting something like this for years.
As I was building, it was so handy to turn around and grab a tool or a battery that was already in its place. No more walking over to the other area and reaching around the corner. Little things like the magnetic strip for bits and accessories make a big difference too. Another bonus is this project used a bunch of odd scraps I had in my wood collection.
Are you a Ryobi fan? What are your favorite tools?
I’ve had a bunch of pegboards in my shop for over five years, and I’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t. I love that a lot of my tools are in direct view and can quickly be accessed. I didn’t love a few areas that I go to frequently though. The first wall I wanted to tackle looked like this.
The main problem was the hammers. They’d become crowded and it was a pain to pull one out when it was second or third in line. I moved all of the other tools up on the wall and lined up my hammers on the assembly table.
After taking measurements, I cut up oak pieces from my old kitchen light box. This storage shelf came together pretty quick and has room for even more hammers. Now I can quickly grab any hammer without disturbing the others.
Here’s the updated wall.
The next wall to the right was making poor use of space, especially since I don’t grab some of the saws very often. Take a look and see they were nearly occupying half of the wall. The files never worked well on those individual hooks either, which always pulled out of the wall.
By moving stuff around I was able to get several more saws, like my Japanese pull and coping, as well as other tools up on the wall.
Over to the right again was tools used primarily for measuring and alignment. In February of 2018 I made a shelf for the squares, which has taken up way too much space. I really liked the grooves in that shelf, but the squares weren’t secure enough. Here’s how the wall looked before I touched it.
I reorganized everything else first and then made a new shelf that was longer so I could add slots in each groove to drop one of each square’s legs down.
Huge improvement and look how much extra space I have for more tools! I need to get myself a nice set of chisels.
Last up was the pegboard on my bench.
I’d been using four of the pegboard holders made for screwdrivers here and don’t care for them; the holes are too big and the spacing is too wide. All you need is scrap plywood with holes drilled in it, which allows you to run two deep and have plenty of expansion room. I also made a holder to store the wood carving set that had been unopened in a box buried on the bench for years.
So much better. Now I can tackle the reorganization of my shop closet.
In early 2018 when I bought a band saw, I installed a bench grinder on the same cart and never liked how much vibration the grinder sent through the saw. I’d been been keeping my eye on Facebook Marketplace for a heavy grinder stand and found one about two years ago, along with a second grinder. It was finally time to clean things up and mount both grinders. I forgot to take a picture before disassembling things, but I did find a really small thumbnail from the Messenger chat that I zoomed in. You can kind of see how rusty things were.
I separated the parts and used a flap disc on an angle grinder and a brass wire wheel on a drill to clean up a lot of the rust.
Then the stand parts got a coat of rusty metal primer.
Then I cut a larger top plate from 3/4″ plywood and chamfered the edges. I drilled out mounting holes for both grinders and transferred those to new holes in the metal top plate. It all got two coats of black paint.
I cleaned up the grinder with a wire brush, but didn’t bother with a new paint job. I bought a new buffing wheel, mounting bolts, and some rubber feet (time will tell if they’re too small). I found some bolts in my bins that were the right size for tightening the stand’s top and bottom to the cylinder.
After the paint dried I installed clips and a hook for the power cords and assembled everything.
Last month I was messaging my brother, who said he loved his 40V Ryobi snow blower and lawn mower. I’ve had an Ariens 520 two stage snow blower for over a decade, but haven’t used it much the last few years. It used up a lot of space in the garage, took a long time to get started for the winter season, was slow to use, and left me smelling like exhaust. The thought of getting away from gas yard tools was exciting and I have a large collection of Ryobi’s 18V power tools, so they’re a brand I trust.
The only steps involved in assembly were to twist on the chute, secure it with a screw, and tighten the handle. I immediately loved how compact it folded up.
We got snow the next day, so I put it to a test.
The snow blower was easy to start with the push of a button. It was very quiet, light, easy to maneuver, and has a bright LED light. Right away I noticed it didn’t have the power to throw the snow very far as you can see in the video. I would be throwing the snow right in to an upcoming path, so would be moving the same snow 2-3 times! Not a good start.
The triggers on the handle that need to be held in order to keep it running were awkward to use and I accidentally let go multiple times. Then after less than 10 minutes of use, I let go and the motor wouldn’t start again. Both batteries had about 75% charge left and the LED headlight was coming on without a problem. I could hear a bit of a clicking sound from the motor.
I loaded it in my car and returned it to Home Depot the next morning.
I was extremely disappointed in the machine and due to my positive experience with other Ryobi products, I felt the need to leave an online review, which I almost never do. To my surprise, I got a response the next day.
I also received the following email.
My name is Christian, and I am the Product Development Coordinator for RYOBI Snow Blowers.
We received your online review on the RYOBI 40V HP 21” Snow Blower. We understand you have had an issue with your RYOBI Snow Blower. It is our policy to make absolutely sure that 100% of our customers are pleased with their experience with RYOBI. Could you please call me at 864-642-8094? I would like to investigate this issue with you and make sure that your experience with our products moving forward is a positive experience and that you walk away understanding that our customer service is unmatched.
If you prefer you can reply to this email, and we can discuss your experience to find a solution that meets your needs.
I emailed back…
I returned it to Home Depot two days after it was delivered (the night after trying it). We had less than 2 inches of light snow and the unit was pretty terrible. It barely threw the snow 5-6 feet, so I would end up going over the same snow multiple times to do the driveway. Then after maybe 10 minutes of use, the auger wouldn’t start again. The LED light was on and both batteries had 3/4 charge. Maybe there was something wrong with the motor on this unit, but it seemed very under powered and I wasn’t confident it would be able to handle any real storm. It was quite disappointing because I have a lot of Ryobi hand tools and they all work great. I was hoping to replace my gas snow blower and lawn mower with Ryobi units for ease of use, space saving, and not having to deal with gas, but I’ll be sticking with them now.
Their next reply…
This issue your snow blower experienced has become know and we have since corrected the issue with our units in inventory!
I would like to offer to upgrade you to our brand new RYOBI 40V HP 21″ Whisper Series Snow Blower as I see you were not impressed with the previous models performance. This kit has an upgraded controller and 2x 7.5Ah batteries for increased power and runtime.
Would this be something you are interested in? I want to make sure you are taken care of.
The unit had some damage to the knob used to adjust the auger speed so I asked if they could send me a replacement part and I would fix it myself.
Apparently it’s not an easy fix, so they sent me another snow blower. FREE! Same model, fully complete with the batteries and charger. I was floored!
This new model is better in every way.
Build quality of the machine feels much sturdier.
Larger batteries provide more power and runtime.
The handle folds away in one step instead of two.
Triggers to keep it running were replaced with the more traditional bar you find on lawn mowers.
I’ve had the chance to use this snow blower during a few different sized Michigan snow storms and it did a great job. It throws the snow much better than the other model and it didn’t miss a beat. The machine maneuvers so much better than a heavy gas snow blower and is actually fun to use. There’s no worry about it starting up, so I can just throw in the batteries, push start, and be good to go.
I quickly sold my Ariens gas snow blower, gave the “broken” Ryobi to my brother, and am enjoying the extra space in the garage. Isaac had an older Ryobi model and said this one is awesome.
One minor negative is the snow blower doesn’t come with any kind of shovel tool to clear snow out of the chute or auger. I came up with my own solution though.
Before I purchase a lawn mower I’m waiting to see if Ryobi releases one in their Whisper series before spring. If they don’t, I’ll buy one of their current models. The mowers fold up better to save even more space, which will be great.
This whole experience with Ryobi’s customer service makes me happy I switched to Ryobi a few years ago. It even pushed me to buy their cordless nail guns to replace my pneumatic ones last week. One of my shop projects after the kitchen is finished will be to build a system to better organize and store all of my cordless tools, so I’ll share my Ryobi collection then.
Yesterday I picked up a used 23 gauge pin nailer. I also used a mini die grinder for the first time, which had been sitting on a shelf in the package. Both tools needed places to live, so I made spots on my air tool wall.
I stopped at Harbor Freight and bought 3 sizes of pins for the new nailer. I also had some unopened boxes of various brad nails sitting around. I took the opportunity to reorganize my bins and more than doubled capacity. Seemed like a good place to move all of the regular nails too.
I love when everything in the workshop has a home.
It took me several more weeks to get to it, but the table saw upgrade I mentioned in my previous post is complete. I installed a new fence and built custom wings. These are huge improvements to the saw!
The road to get here was a bumpy one though. The fence is the 30″ 36-T30T3 made by Delta and it goes for $200. I ordered one from Amazon, which came banged up with holes in the box and missing parts. They sent a replacement and it was the same problem, so I returned both. Lowes sells the fence for the same price, so I ordered one and had it shipped to the store, hoping their delivery system would take better care of the box than UPS. It worked out and I received a complete box of parts.
I’m not going to go in to detail on the installation because it’s different depending on the type of saw you have and there are several YouTube videos and articles out there. My saw is a Craftsman 113.298032, which required some new mounting holes. Some people drilled in to the cast iron top, but I went the other way and drilled new holes in the fence rails, which I think is a much better way to go.
I’ve found it a pain in the ass having to screw/unscrew the clamping mechanism. Without any dust collection, it makes a mess too. I figured I could come up with something similar to the pocket hole systems that run $100 or more. So I made a jig for the jig.
I bought a toggle clamp at an estate sale (maybe $3?), which has been sitting on a shelf begging to be used. The other material was scrap wood and a $1 can of white spray paint I wanted to get rid of. The build was sloppy, but I wanted something quick and dirty.
The toggle clamp isn’t perfect but it seemed to work fine in my quick tests. I can’t believe how well the dust port works though. At the end of the video you can see a comparison between the original and my improved version.
The video is a really rough cut just like the build.