Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Sample Shop

I had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in the sample shop at my work. We were in the process of quoting several vanities for Home Depot’s Martha Stewart line. They recently just launched their custom bath and kitchen line. We were working on the retail/in-stock line. These units were designed by Martha Stewarts’s design team and completely different than what we do now. The past two weeks were spent making the samples. I hate to say that the drawings made were rushed and not all clear to give someone to build. Our sourced parts were good but the assembly drawings were either sketches or drawings not updated with the new design changes. This is probably more information than you care to know so I will get to the point. To aid the sample shop in assembling these units as quickly and correctly as possible I was out assisting the build because I was the lead engineer on the project.

It was interesting to see how they put together these units. The most interesting fact is that they use one tool for 80% of the work. They have a sliding table saw for sheet goods. They use it for squaring board, ripping small strips, cross cutting and cutting dado grooves, rabbits, and tongue and grove joints. They have a miter saw and a cabinet table saw with a dado blade set. They also have two routers. It took a week to realize why the used this machine so much: setup. This machine was easy to set up and had a scale that was accurate to the blade. It would take several minutes to setup the other machines.

Setup was the second thing I noticed was quickened. Rather than set up stops and fixtures to drill holes or cut accurate dado grooves they would take short cuts that resulted in the same result. I am not saying to make shortcuts. They need to work fast and they have adapted. Why set up a dado blade when moving the ripping fence 1/8” at a time has the same result? A dado will have a cleaner cut however in particle board the result will be the same. It is also about tool wear, accuracy and precision. Their shortcuts will dull the table saw blade faster. The dado blade will also resist deflection.

What have I learned from this experience? Something I all ready knew: there are several ways to do the same thing. Am I going to change my practices? No, I am comfortable using my tools to do the assigned tasks. Am I going to use the shortcuts I learned the past two weeks? There may be a couple of situations I use the techniques I learned. I am not graded on my speed. I would rather take may time and not make something I enjoy doing a job. I am also grateful to have my own tools.  I do not want to trust some one else to the care and maintenance of the equipment.

Just a note unrelated to this post: I am sanding another bucket of blocks. So by the end of the month there should be another contest.

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