8.25.2013

looking after things

It is said, in some circles, that your possessions own you. The more stuff you have, the more stuff you must maintain, repair, store, etc. Your either resign yourself to invest the time in regular upkeep or, when you actually need to use the item, you find that it's not in serviceable condition.

I've had a couple of recent, age-related failures around the house. Some of the items are necessities; i.e. you can't live in a house without having them in working order. These things have to be fixed; no option. So out comes the chequebook and other plans change to accomodate the unexpected situation.

Other things break down and can, in many cases, simply be done without. Trivially, how badly does one need toasted bread vs plain bread for example?

Yet more are chronic conditions. Not really inoperative; you can get by with the semi-functionality that comes with decrepitude, but it's generally a pain in the arse. For most of these situations, I have bought the necessary widgets for the repair but have not yet yielded to the nagging pressure to "Do something about this annoyance!"

I'll note now that I'm glad I don't own a century home. As much as I like the visual aesthetic, I can't see physically dealing with all of the wild and wooly things that can go wrong in a 100+ year old structure. It's bad enough in this 50+ year old cracker box. My energy level and enthusiam aren't high enough to meet the former challenge.

As far as hobbies are concerned, a similar situation exists. Often you can spend more time preparing for the work (and/or cleaning up afterwards) than you manage to spend doing the work itself. For instance, I find the prep and cleanup for airbrush work to be more trouble than it's worth unless there is a pile of backlogged models to paint, though I have found an Iwata cleaning station and some new paints to try that may reduce my overall expenditure of time and tip the balance.

Getting to the point of this post, my workshop space had simply gotten away from me. I would buy some tools, stash them in the room for 'someday', and go on with something else - repeating this cycle several times since moving here. Last month I'd had enough of not being able to get in to the shop and move about in a purposeful manner. Without resorting to the seven basic ballet moves, I could no longer traverse the short distance from the shop door to my modelling bench. Enough!

And so, reluctantly, I began to apply the now corporately popular "5S" process to my home work space. Sort, Set-in-order (Store), Shine, Standardise, and Sustain. While progress has been slow, I can already see a measurable improvement in my access to tools and materials. Must get the first 4Ss done so that the 5th has a chance to succeed.

Now, I've said publicly many times before that I have been "cleaning in the shop", so why am I still at it? To borrow a golf term, it's a "lack of follow-through on the swing". My previous organisational efforts have been like inexpertly chopping at a golf ball without visualising the path that it needed to follow to make the green. Sure, the ball moves, but that's only part of the activity. So everything that was done merely accomodated a short task without dealing with the big picture; how am I going to undertake complete projects in this space?

I've set a goal of spending between 1/2 and 1 hour in the shop each day; whether working on projects, cleaning, determining what stays or goes, or creating improved storage solutions for the items remaining. Making it easy to get at your tools and materials pays dividends on ever task you undertake going forward. In the last 9 days I've averaged well over an hour each day, so I'm fairly pleased (for now).

As an aside, I strongly recommend thorough photo documentation for any machine teardown/rebuild that you find yourself involved in. Due to bad planning, I have manged to forget how certain things need to be re-assembled. When some of my machine tools were purchased and taken apart for transport, I assumed that I'd be putting them back together almost immediately upon delivery to my shop space. This turned out not to be the case for two significant pieces. One, I have finally managed to get back to 95% of as-bought condition while retaining what's left of my hair.With the other, I'm going to experience significant difficulty as I do not have a service manual or original paperwork. Had I taken the time to snap a series of digital pics during the teardown, I'd be far better off at the moment.

Back to the shop.

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