A fantastic idea! (Until it isn’t)

Ever do something in your shop that was the best idea you’ve ever had, but then later wondered what the heck you were thinking?

All woodworkers have great ideas. Some are for jigs and some for project design, others for processes or methods of work, still others for simple shop layout or storage. But all great ideas have to actually be used and worked with after their creation, and that process sometimes leads to the realization that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. A woodworking “New Coke” moment, if you will.

A couple years ago I tried something I thought would help my space-cramped garage woodshop, and that was putting my compressor on wheels. I had a small hand truck I didn’t use much, and came up with the idea of attaching a larger platform to it, and then bolting my compressor to that. A hanger for a coiled air hose completed the ensemble. It came out great and – as you can see below – the fact that the hand truck was already the same color as the compressor meant it even looked great.

But after a year or two it became painfully clear that no matter where I parked it, it took up more room than the compressor did by itself, plus I always had to take the hand truck’s height into consideration. A great idea, but in practice my space-saving idea was constantly in the way. Adding further insult to my supposed creativity, in all that time I never once took real advantage of its mobility – when your shop is only 22’ wide and you’re using a 25’ air hose, those wheels are more than a little pointless.

So I scrapped the whole idea, tucked the compressor beneath my clamp rack, and mounted a hose reel beside it that gives me air power anywhere in the shop I need it. The arrangement works great, and because it doesn’t stick out any farther than the cabinet next to it I have yet to feel like the compressor is in the way.

Part of what makes an idea seem so fantastic, I think, is how elegant it turns out. And you have to admit that mobile compressor ended up looking pretty elegant, even considering that the matching colors were just dumb luck.

But in my case, the inelegant solution of just shoving the compressor into a corner ended up being the better idea.



  • Roger Muller says:

    I spent 30 years in corporate America in a Fortune 100 company. A major challenge in new product development — don’t invent solutions to problems that don’t exist. Always touch base with others to the maximum extent possible without giving away propietary confidential info. I still keep doing that — what was I thinking when I bought this or invented that????

  • Mike C. Smith says:

    I also have a second compressor very much like yours but it’s strictly for use as a portable compressor. I like your idea for making it more “portable.” I also have an old hand truck that I never use, so I’m going to use your idea to put my compressor on. As you get older, things get heavier so this is a great idea for making it easy to move around. I think my shop is similar to yours so where to put it will still be a problem.

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