OPSEC, and taking credit

So this post is a little late due to some of the considerations that went into the construction of this FIFO unit.  So we’re going to start tonight by talking about OPSEC.  That’s the acronym for “OPerational SECurity”, and in my former life (carrying a light machine gun for a living), it was a big deal.

The basic idea surrounding OPSEC is that enemy forces (whatever colour/religion/ideology they might be) can have you under surveillance at any time.  If you talk or write about operational details, that can give the enemy intel on where you might be or how large your forces are.  This is a bad thing, and should be avoided.  The military has been (and continues to be) paranoid about this for some time, though it reached its most publicized peak in the Second World War.


I can hear the mutterings now: “Great, is this on the test or something?  Who cares and what does this have to do with chopping mortices at all!”  Well, it has nothing at all to do with the mechanics of woodworking, and everything to do with the patrons of woodworking.

If you recall a while back, there was this TV show called “Doomsday Preppers”.  It highlighted all sorts of crazy folk really very nice people who felt that one way or another, the world as we know it was going to crash and burn and we were going to be in Mad Max/Omega Man/The Walking Dead.  ANY DAY we could wake up and it was going to be DAY ZERO.  WOLVERINES!!!!

Sorry.  Anyway, the show was basically people going on television and showing everyone on earth what their name was, and what their house looked like, and what kinds of fancy gear they had, as well as their 47 cases of Dinty Moore.

This was extremely poor OPSEC.

So now we come to my shop.  The client I built this FIFO for was not inclined to make the same mistake.  On the other hand, he understood that I publish pictures of my work, and that I would like to post a final picture so all y’all could see how it turned out.  So I took my pictures, which I edited a smidge, and then submitted for his approval.

This is important because my patrons deserve respect, and because I feel it is important that they trust me.  If I didn’t show them respect, I’d find myself without work in no time.  That’s purely pragmatic, and ignores the important ethical responsibility that I have towards others (which I actually find more compelling).

So here is the final, vetted picture of our FIFO build.  It holds twenty cans of mushrooms, and though it is five feet tall, takes only 4 ½” square of space, which allows it to be shoehorned into some mighty tight spots.  It will keep your stock as fresh as can be with a minimum of effort.  Hope you enjoyed this series, and maybe it can be helpful if you too want to keep months (maybe years!) of fungus on hand.



Magazine clips

Once the FIFO unit I’d been making was together, I went ahead and gave it a coat of paint.  It might not have been strictly necessary, but I wanted the protective qualities and I also wanted it to draw the unit together visually into a cohesive whole.  Yes, knotty pine drives me insane.


To attach this unit to the wall, I’m going to use some aluminium clips.  These are sort of like a metallic French cleat.  There are a few different styles, but I these ones from Menard’s were both readily available, and inexpensive.  You’ll find them in with the picture hanging supplies.


It was cheapest per inch to buy a 30″ length, but I only needed about 4″.


The flatter part gets screwed to the FIFO unit.  Make sure it is oriented correctly, and square across.


The piece with the cylindrical portion in the middle goes on the wall.  That bit of cylinder holds a little bitty (included) level.  Not strictly necessary for me, but nice for the unequipped.  Make sure that the maths work out for where the clip is screwed to the wall and where it is on whatever you’re trying to hang.  If you get it misaligned, it’s a real pain to fix.  I’ve attached these clips to a piece of 1×4 that I’ve run across the drywall and attached to the studs with very long screws.  This allows me to use every stud in the wall space provided, and not have to be restricted on where the FIFO can be hung.  In theory, I could have angled the top edge of this rail and used it for the cleat directly.  But I wanted a little air circulation between the FIFO and the wall so that it didn’t moulder back there.  That is not a surprise you want to find later.


Back-channel negotiations

Last time, you saw that I had ripped a piece of 1×6 to fit the width of the FIFO unit.  Once I cleaned up the kerf marks with my #7 jointer plane, I used a moving fillister plane to cut a long rebate on both sides of the back.  This provides a more secure defence against racking under load.


Then, I attached the back to the carcase.  Since the unit will hang on the wall supported by this back, I may have gone a teensy bit overboard in that.  This is glued, nailed, and screwed to the carcase.  But it was nuking it from orbit the only way to be sure.


Once the back was on, I needed to put a front on as well.  Since this isn’t load-bearing, I just used a few nails.  I cut it short enough to clear the mushroom cans on both the top and bottom, allowing for both withdrawal and replenishment.


The last thing for today was that I felt that trying to wiggle a can out of the rack might be difficult as it was.  So I used a big 2″ Forstner bit to cut recesses out of the bottom sides (later cleaned up with a rasp) to allow for even my old busted up fingers to get to them.  Small, agile fingers should have it even easier!


Canned laughter

Well, the time had come to start working out the joinery for our FIFO unit.  Since the space I had would fit twenty (!) cans of mushrooms, and all of that weight would need to be supported by the corners, I decided to use dovetails for strength.  For expediency, I gang-cut the tails.


This FIFO unit was made to be fairly inexpensive.  It’s purely utilitarian, so I used white pine.  One 10′ 1×4, and one 10′ 1×6 was all this took, along with a few nails and screws and a dab of glue and paint.  And since I was using paint, I could use some non-primo pine too.  Altogether it was about fifteen dollars in materials.  To keep the shop time down, I decided to use the lumber as it came from the lumberyard, 3/4″ thick.  I probably could have made it a little thinner, but it was faster to do it this way, and stouter too.

The top and bottom got fitted to the sides in short order.  They did look a little disproportionate, but it will come together in the end.  Do take note that the tails are on the sides.  This positions the mechanical lock in the dovetail to resist the weight of the cans.


Finally, I got a jump on the next portion of the build, and ripped the front and back to width.  It is very quick to rip through this narrow pine, so be sure to keep your saw from wandering.  Next time we’ll see how these will go on to the carcase we just joined.


Fido? FICO? Five-0?

D): None of the above

A new problem this week: storage rotation.  This is a common problem, faced by everyone from Walmart to the various branches of government to the menacingly reticent apocalypse survival folks.  Basically it boils down to this: if you are storing anything perishable from food to gasoline to ammunition, you want to use the oldest stuff first, while constantly replenishing the back of the stack with new stock.  The acronym that gets tossed around is FIFO: First In, First Out.

Where this came across my bench was the need for rotating canned goods easily.  If you have a shelf that is accessible from both sides, you could in theory take from one side and replenish from the other.  But if your shelves are backed up against the wall, you have to pull the stacks all the way out in order to put new stock in the back.  It’s time-consuming and irritating and tends to be ignored, which is how you get spherical cans of beef stew on the back of the shelf that expired in the Bush administration…the first one.  Ewww.

So in the interest of science, I did some research and built a prototype dispenser for a “normal” can.  This consisted of buying a bunch of cans of beans (took me forever to get through all of them!), and playing around with angles and whatnot.


As it turns out, while I finally made it work, it was cheaper and more efficient to use the powers of injection moulding and mass production.  If you’re looking for a cost-effective solution that will fit on a regular shelf and is adjustable for can size, the Cansolidator is probably your best bet.

But there was a hitch.  Some cans are very small.  Mushrooms, tomato paste, and so on are packaged in tiny little cans that, while you can get them to fit into the carousel, waste a lot of space, since the bays are sized to accommodate much larger diameter cans.  In addition, while you could just make big stacks of these little cans and bull your way through, they also don’t stack: the top is the same diameter as the bottom, making it precarious at best.

So I came up with a different solution: a vertical FIFO rack that will hold a goodly amount of cans, able to be constructed economically, and fit in little awkward spots (like behind a door).  That’s what we’ll be building this week, and hopefully you will find this an interesting solution to your fungus problems…