Saturday, March 7, 2015

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  I've been working away at the electrical wiring in our barn.  Yesterday I mounted a sub-panel in the workshop and started to wire it into the main breaker panel.  There's a 65' run between them, with three 90° bends required.  The sub-panel has a 50 amp capacity, so I'm using 6 gauge wire: two “hot” wires, one neutral, and one safety ground.  I'm using separate wires (rather than romex) to make it easier to pull it through the 3/4" conduit.  I'll have that finished with a another couple hours of work.

Meanwhile, I've mounted an LED ceiling fixture in the bathroom, with a wall switch, and I've ordered lights for the garage section (10 lights) and the workshop (15 lights).  I figure each light is about 30 to 45 minutes of work, so I've got a few days of work just to get the lights up.  Both of these areas present some light-mounting challenges, as there are obstacles on the ceiling.  In the garage area I can't mount any lights where the garage door traverses, and in the workshop area I have the large “hatch” in the ceiling (to hoist heavy items up into storage).  I haven't yet decided how to deal with the latter issue.

Yesterday I ordered the first pieces of equipment for my woodworking shop.  This feels like a milestone of sorts, as that woodworking shop was one of the big motivations for building the barn in the first place.  The first two pieces of gear: a dust-collection system (a 3HP Grizzly model that gets good reviews) and a table saw.  On the table saw I splurged a bit to get a SawStop model with their safety technology.  I've watched their hot dog demonstrations several times in person (see the link for a video), and each time I was astonished at just how well it worked – it stops the blade so quickly that there's barely a nick in the hot dog they feed directly into the spinning blade.  The blade and the brake are destroyed in the process, but for around $100 they can be replaced, and you're back in business.  That seems like a very small price to save one's finger, no?

I'm a careful guy around power tools; I have a lot of respect for the damage they can do to the user.  Table saws have always worried me, though I've never hurt myself when using one.  With that completely exposed blade that you're pushing work into, it would be so easy to make a tiny mistake that cost you a finger.  One little slip, and it's “bye bye” to a finger or two.  On most other power tools, you're not feeding work into the blade, so the danger is substantially lower.  Consider, for instance, operating a drill press: you have the work clamped or held on the work table, and you turn a control to lower the drill into the work – this is inherently a much safer task than pushing a piece of wood straight into a spinning disk rimmed with sharp carbide teeth.  Also the table saw is one of the central tools for any fine woodworking – one would probably spend more time with it than with any other dangerous power tool.  Add all that up, and it starts to make sense to spend a bit more to help preserve my digits.

Both the saw and the dust collection system require 220V single-phase electrical connections.  More wiring :)  With any luck at all, they will arrive within two weeks, and probably a week or so after that I'll have them up and running.  Once I have an operable table saw, I can start actually building some things of wood.  Woo hoo!

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