Only general observations are possible, for there are so many factors to be considered— number of personnel; type, variety and standard of work to be produced, and amount of fixed machinery which is to be employed. In factory production the work-flow can be systematically planned from the kiln-drying units to the polishing-shop through a system of inter-communicating units. In the small handshop which caters for 'specials', 'one-off or contract furniture, with an occasional prototype for a large concern, short runs of smaller items, coffee-tables, etc., and a certain amount of bread-and-butter repair-work, most if not all of these activities must be carried out under one roof, and compromises are inevitable.
Location of the workshop is not of paramount importance, for the handshop is not necessarily dependent on easy road and rail access or a convenient pool of near-by labour, and there have been good shops on mountain-slopes and over mill-streams. More immediate considerations are a three-phase electricity supply, good natural lighting, a dry shop and pleasant surroundings (for the psychological effect is considerable with skilled craftsmen working to high standards). Concrete, asbestos and galvanized iron for the structure should be avoided wherever possible for they all condense heavily in changeable weather, which is bad for work and tools alike. The ideal would be either cavity brick or a wood-clad structure lined with insulation board, and a tiled, slated or boarded and felted roof. Windows should be adequate to give a general flooding, for lighting from one side only can create dark shadows and dangerous twilight areas. North lighting may be cool, clean and factual, but is psychologically unhappy over long periods, while south lighting is good but must be screened in summer otherwise hot sunshine through glass can play havoc with unprotected wood surfaces. Artificial lighting should be plentiful; but while fluorescent lighting is excellent for general flooding it creates little if any shadow and it is then difficult to judge both depth and surface texture, therefore drop lights over each bench are essential if there is much working after nightfall. In particular all fixed machinery should be lit from every angle with no harsh shadows; but the quality of the lighting must be such that all moving parts are seen to be moving. Powerpoints should be numerous also, and there again hanging lights over each bench will keep the working surfaces free from trailing cables.
Suggested illumination levels are: rough sawing and bench-work, 15 lumens per sq. ft (929 cm2); medium machine- and bench-work, veneering, etc., 20 lumens per sq. ft (929 cm); fine bench- and machine-work, sanding and finishing, etc., 30 lumens per sq. ft (929 cm). Colour matching/north-light fluorescent tubes are suitable for veneer matching, staining and polishing, etc., while the final inspection of furniture where surface perfection is looked for should be done in a light source large in size and low in brightness. The ideal is inspection on a revolving platform against a brightly illuminated screen.
If heavy machinery is included in the workshop some form of concrete raft is necessary, with the working areas round each machine heavily dressed with coarse carborundum powder in the surface screeding; but the rest of the working area is better capped with wood if possible, for bare concrete surfaces are cold, dusty, hard and tiring to work on. and inimical to dropped tools. Wooden floors should not be waxed or polished in any way for they soon become slippery, and this is the chief objection against composition floors. Heating should be sufficient to conform to the minimum requirements of the Factory Act (15° C), (60° F), and there is much to be said for the old-fashioned round coke-burning stove which radiates its heat in all directions and can also be used for burning all the rubbish. It does not consitute any additional fire risk providing it is placed on a raised concrete platform, the ashes are not allowed to accumulate, and the floors are kept free from shavings. The aim should be to maintain an even temperature—not too hot and certainly not overdry—and localized electric fan-heaters, which can be swivelled in any direction, are not the happiest solution, for if forgotten they can soon ruin uprotected work. For heating the old water-jacketed glue-pot a gas-ring is better than an electric boiling-ring, while a water service with glazed sink is essential for modern adhesives.
Was this article helpful?
Wood finishing can be tricky and after spending hours on building your project you want to be sure that you get the best outcome possible. In The Complete Guide To Wood Finishing you will learn how to get beautiful, professional results no matter what your project is, even if you have never tried your hand at wood finishing before. You will learn about every step in the wood finishing process from a professional wood finisher with years of experience.