After completing my Rack It Work Bench Kit construction, I wanted to protect the MDF bench top surface from damage. Initially I’d intended to use a spray lacquer or varnish, however my father-in-law recommended I use a Carnauba Wax. He advised it is more suited to the purpose and the surface can easily be restored in the future by re-waxing.
I purchased a 500 gram tin of Carnauba Wax from Bunnings. It’s available in either natural or brown. I probably would have gone with the natural colour if I had seen it, but instead I’ve got the brown.
To apply the Carnauba Wax, you smear some from the can onto a clean cloth and wipe a thin coating onto the surface with a circular motion. I found this to be a bit difficult to achieve a smooth consistent coating.
Fortunately I had started with the underside of the workbench, because I ended up with a blotchy finish with some spots much darker than other where more Carnauba had been applied.
After consulting with my father-in-law again, he suggested putting the Carnauba on the inside of a folded cloth and applying it through the cloth. This worked much better as the wax was applied at a much more constant rate as it squeezed through the fine holes in the cloth. I used this technique on the top surface and got a much more consistent end result.
Doing this is quite labor intensive but took about an hour for each side with lots of circular motions to spread the wax consistently and rub it in.
After leaving it to settle for 15 minutes, the surface is then buffed with another clean cloth to remove the excess Carnauba Wax that hasn’t been absorbed into the surface. This probably would have been easier with an electric buffer, but I was able to get a smooth surface result with just hand labor with a cloth. I used white cloth rags I bought in a bag from Bunnings cheap.
Overall I was quite happy with my end result. I think it looks great and it’ll protect the surface nicely as I use my workbench.
Having just put together my Handy Storage Rack It Work Bench Kit, I now wanted to mount a vice on it. Prior to doing this I’d already treated the MDF surface of the work bench with Carnauba Wax to provide it with some protection and to smooth it.
Positioning the Vice
I decided to position my vice to the right hand side of the workbench. There’s a bit of information around online about where to position it, but I decided to go as far to the right hand as I could, so as to keep the flat surface of the bench clear. It gives me good space for cutting things on the right hand side of the bench which is mostly what I’ll be using it for.
Drilling the Holes
The vice I have has two slots of either side for bolts and a hole underneath the centre at the rear which is hard to get to. I decided to use 75mm M12 bolts through each hole. Marking the hole positions for the side holes was easy but the rear centre hole was harder as I couldn’t just stick a marker through it.
Instead I marked the centre of the back edge of the vice, then used digital callipers to measure the distance from the back edge to the edge of the hole which was 10mm. The diameter of the hole was 14mm. This gave me a distance 17mm from the centre of the back edge of the vice to the centre of the hole.
I used a Dewalt hand held drill to drill out the holes with a 1/2″ bit which gave a slight bit of clearance for the M12 bolts. Drilling through the MDF was quite easy, but I took it slowly to prevent damage to the surrounding material.
Once the holes were drilled I put the vice on top to check that the bolts would go through into the right holes for confirmation.
Cutting two Metal Plates
To provide some extra protection against damage to the bench top, I followed some advice I found online to put a piece of steel above and below the bench top where the vice was. I used some .75mm Galvanised Steel for this which was cut with a bimetal blade on a jigsaw to 165mm squares.
Marking out the sheet was a matter of placing the square in the right position on top of the bench then placing the vice on top and marking with a pen through the holes. Marking the rear centre hole required some calculation though.
The bottom plate was marked out(in a different position due to the bench frame) by putting it on the bottom of the bench and marking through my drill holes. I then mounted it to my other work bench and drilled through the holes progressing from small bits to large bits as I don’t really have the right tool for this. I had to round out the holes a bit with the side of my 1/2″ drill bit to reef them out a bit as they weren’t perfectly aligned.
Bolting into position
Once all the holes were drilled it was then just a matter of putting the top plate in position, dropping the vice onto it and dropping the side bolts through with a washer. The bottom plate was then positioned underneath and the nut and bolts finger tightened underneath.
The rear centre bolt was inserted from underneath and a washer and nut applied in the gap underneath the vice slide. Once all in position everything was tightened off with a shifting spanner and socket wrench.
I’ll also be putting some small self tapping screws in the corners of the metal plate just to keep them down perfectly flat so things don’t get caught on it as some of the corners have raised a little.
I paid $169 for the Work Bench Kit and $60 for the Castor Wheel kit as I wanted a mobile workbench.
The kit comes in one large box and is quite heavy(more than 16kg) so you may need some assistance to pick it up and carry it. I used a small trailer to carry mine home as it wouldn’t easily fit in a car. Even the castor kit is quite heavy.
Opening the box, the contents are packed with foam to protect them from scratches and marks, although things can move around inside as you tip the package up or down. A single page instruction sheet is included in the Work Bench kit. The assembly is pretty straight forward though.
Unpacking all the components you get two 900mm high end frames(same type as for the shelving) and two 1300mm crossbeams(with brackets for holding the benchtop). The benchtop has nice beveled top edges and overlaps the top of the frame. I had been expecting the same type of MDF sheet as the shelves, but was pleasantly surprised that they supplied a nice solid bench top. It’s not coated or treated that I can tell though, so I’ve been thinking of painting or lacquering it protect the surface a bit.
Assembly is simple, just push the tabs of the crossbeams into the slots of the end frames and slide them down till they lock. Lock the first crossbeam into both end frames then the second. Then use either a mallet, or hammer with a wooden block for protection, to tap the crossbeams firmly home in their slots. Locking pins then go through holes in the joins so the crossbeams don’t come out.
At this stage I decided to put the castor wheels on. I figured it would be easier to put the wheels on before putting the heavy benchtop on the frame.
Unfortunately the castor wheel kit wasn’t as a good as the Work Bench Kit. While the castors seem to be great heavy duty quality, there were no instructions. The castors fit firmly on the bottom of the frame legs and have wedges to spread the load better. While the Rack It kits don’t really require tools to assemble, you will need the following tools to attach the castor wheels to the workbench:
Socket ratchet with 17mm socket
Size 2 philips head screwdriver
It’s a little awkward to get the bolt through the castor base, leg and wedge. It has to go through at an odd angle which then pulls straight as the nut is tightened off. Getting the castors all on took longer than assembling the whole rest of the frame.
Once all the castor wheels were on I then flipped the frame onto the wheels and lifted the benchtop onto the frame. After lining the screw sockets up with all the brackets you then put the screws in to lock the benchtop off. Be careful when doing this that the frame is squarely and firmly down on all it’s castors. The first time I screwed mine into place the workbench would rock back and forth on two wheels. It turned out when I screwed the benchtop off the frame wasn’t quite square.
Loosening the screws off and putting weight on the benchtop pushed all the wheels onto the ground and straightened it up, then I screwed it all secure. In the end it’s all very firm and solid.
The Rack It Heavy Duty Work Bench Kit from Bunnings is a great budget package for anyone who wants a decent garage work bench. It’s solid and with the castor wheels easily mobile.
It’s quick and easy to put together with the Work Bench itself taking me just 1 hour to put together by myself. If you want the castor wheels though prepare for it to take 1 extra hour to put them on.
Scroll to the bottom to see the modifications I’ve made after building my Work Bench.
Full Construction Gallery
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I wanted to protect my work benchtop a bit from damage as the MDF coating is porous and possibly would get damaged over time. So I applyed a coat of Carnauba Wax to protect the surface.
I also added a lower shelf for me to store and carry tools on. I’ll also mount an RCD Power Board on it to provide electrical supply. I’ve mounted a Rack It hook at the rear to hold a coiled power cable.
My wife and I recently had our first baby. The second bedroom of our small apartment which was being used as an office had to be converted to also serve as a nursery for the baby.
Being such a small room, with such an odd shape it was hard to decide on the best layout for all the items. The room needed to fit a cot and change table, as well as the existing desk, filing cabinet and bookshelf. Initially we’d just put the new items in the room but putting them all in had stopped us from being able to open the wardrobe.
We definitely needed to make a change to the layout, but with such heavy furniture and a small room I didn’t want to have to move everything around without a good plan of where they should go.
The answer seemed obvious: draw a diagram to scale and plan the new layout before moving anything. I wanted to make sure everything would be easily accessible and that the wardrobe doors could be fully opened. I figured I’d use the free CAD program LibreCAD to do the design.
LibreCAD is an open source Computer Aided Design application for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It provides a fairly comprehensive set of features for 2D CAD drawing. I’m not particularly skilled at CAD drawing so I had to bumble my way through figuring out how to use the basic features.
I started by measuring the walls and adding straight lines of the correct lengths and using the snap to endpoint feature to join them. I also added arcs to indicate the swing of the wardrobe and room doors. I then measured up and drew the furniture from the room and positioned them as they currently were.
After completing an accurate CAD drawing of the office it was a simple matter of moving the furniture around until I found a layout that met my requirements of making everything more accessible and allowing the doors to open properly.
I learned some useful techniques of CAD drawing which I’ll try to improve in the future. My next plan is to create a full layout drawing of our apartment which I can use in my internet of things applications.
Shopping at the supermarket has always been one of my least favourite weekend activities. I was pretty happy when I was able to convince my wife Jacqui that we should stop wasting time in the supermarket every weekend and instead order our groceries online.
We’ve never been totally loyal to one of the Australian supermarket chains. We go to Coles when convenient and Woolworths when convenient. However as our closest supermarket is Woolworths we typically go there. They have good quality products we like and nice service.
However our first online supermarket delivery experience was with Coles(due to a discount voucher we had). I was away, but my wife Jacqui was delighted with the delivery. The driver was friendly, explained everything as it was her first time and the products were all perfect. The driver even unpacked the bags out of the crates. Great service.
We were hooked. Jacqui was happy with it and keen to keep using deliveries.
Given we usually shopped at Woolworths, we figured lets order this one through Woolies and lets buy a 3 month delivery package. At only $3 per weekly delivery it just made sense. We didn’t give it another thought.
Then our delivery came. First time with Woolworths delivery. The driver’s demeanour wasn’t as friendly, but he did what we wanted. However the bags had been packed with much less care than Coles had done. When we opened the eggs, 4 out of 12 were broken. So we ring up the customer care line, discuss the problem, the eggs are refunded. No problem we figure, just one of those things that happens.
Second weekly delivery and the driver didn’t want to bring the crates inside. We didn’t press the issue though. This time the seal on a packet of bacon was broken. Again Woolworths refunded it. Then a few days later we went to open our packet of bean sprouts and they were mush. It turned out the used by date was the day after the delivery. Again Woolworths gave us a refund.
Tonight we got our third delivery. This time some genius decided to put 2 KG bags of onions and potatoes on top of our bread. It’s squashed as pictured. So that’s 3 out of 3 bad customer experiences with Woolworths.
So far we’ve been happy with Woolworth’s customer care line. There’s never been any question, they’ve just refunded damaged items after we told them what happened.
Not tonight. Sure they were more than happy to refund the items. But they didn’t care what was wrong. When we insisted on telling the customer service officer what was wrong, she tried to blame the delivery driver. The driver doesn’t pack the bags! So it seems they don’t care about improving their service, they’ll just buy your happiness!
We don’t want to have to phone Woolworths every time we get a delivery to get refunds on damaged items. We just want to get the same quality service we would get from a checkout operator.
Checkout operators carefully pack bags to ensure items don’t end up squashed or damaged. Why can’t Woolworths just get their checkout operator trainers to train their delivery packers? They’ve got all the hard parts of the logistics of delivery right. It’s just the simple things that they’re failing.
I’m not looking to bag them out, or chase refunds all the time. I understand this is a new service and there’ll be teething issues. I’m happy to help Woolworths improve by providing feedback. It seems they don’t really care about improving their customer experience though. They figure it’s just about refunds.
So the lessons I’d draw from this for all businesses is learn from your mistakes and make sure your customers know you’re improving. Seek feedback on your customer experience and apply it. It’s not just about giving money back – actually correct the problem. Not improving will lose you repeat customers.
Unless Woolworths lifts its game in the next 2 months we still have left, we’ll be going back to Coles.
When it comes to innovation opportunity, there’s three ways a business can go:
Not notice it till it’s too late
Defend against it
Seize the opportunity and exploit it
Taxis vs Uber is an example of an old school, slow moving industry at first not noticing an innovation opportunity. Protected by their monopoly protectionist government regulation the taxi industry has been slow to catch on to the needs and wants of the market place.
Taxi companies protected by their monopoly enforcing governments have long ignored the customer experience. Uber and Lyft saw an opportunity to provide a better customer experience and their success has has shown they’re providing what the customer wants.
Can someone please explain why govt regulates the #taxi industry? Why not just a simple cheap license and security check for anyone?
But in 2015, Uber and Lyft are standing together with the taxi industry facing another innovation opportunity. The driverless car is not far away and no one is prepared for the societal changes it will bring.
Imagine: you want to go from work to your favourite pub. You pull out your phone, select your pickup location and time, then select your destination. An algorithm finds an electric driverless car that will be available nearby at your pickup time with enough charge to handle your trip. The vehicle arrives, you don’t have to make small talk(perfect for the introvert) and quickly takes you to where you’re going while you read a book on your Kindle. Simple.
Think this is science fiction?
Google’s driverless cars can already handle the driving. It’d be pretty simple to connect the car driving computer to a cloud-based dispatch system.
Uber and Lyft using consumers wouldn’t have much of a problem with accepting driverless car technology.
Tesla already has electric vehicles that can do 300+ kilometres on a single charge and swappable battery packs already exist.
It’s pretty unlikely that people will be buying driverless cars in 5 years. However an innovative start up could team up with a driverless car manufacturer to get on the road pretty soon.
The taxi industry has already chosen innovation option 1 and has now moved on to option 2. Regardless of what government regulators do they will lose! They will lose because they were too comfortable in their monopoly regulations.
The question is will it be Uber or Lyft to first roll out driverless car services or will it be another new company still waiting to be started in someone’s old school garage?
Hi everyone! My wife Jacqui and I are both very happy to announce that we’re expecting our first child in June 2015!
She’s only 10 weeks along so far, but we had a scan today(2nd actually) and I finally got to see my baby moving its arms and legs around. I’d missed the first scan while in Canberra last time, but it was only 8.7mm long then. It’s now 3.5cm!
The scan print is pretty hard to understand – it looks so much more amazing when you’re watching it live. As the doctor moves the scanner it’s easy to recognise parts of the baby. Wasn’t expecting to see it move as fast as it did. Heart rate is still 176 beats per minute.
So far everything is going fine and we will find out its gender soon. We’ll be happy either way.
My wife Jacqui and I just attended our first “The Pulse” meetup in Brisbane. The Pulse is a community of entrepreneurs who meet up monthly for expert panels with startup and business leaders. This was our first attendance at one of these meetings, which was held at River City Labs, a startup coworking enterprise in Fortitude Valley. We found it to be a great opportunity to hear a wide range of expert opinions and meet new people in the entrepreneurial start up space.
The session was a fast paced Q & A type format. Here some notes on what I got out of tonight’s session with Steve Baxter(@sbxr), Aaron Birkby(@AaronBirkby), David Eastes and Ben Duncan:
A question was asked on tips for transitioning from 9 to 5 work to a startup:
Do both for a while – working 24/7 as it were.
Try to save capital if you want to take it full time.
Hardest thing you’ll ever do is raise money from an investor – use your customers to fund your business.
If you can’t make a few thousand dollars from your startup don’t leave your job.
Turn first customers into walking billboard.
Sell something straight away. Get customers to bankroll your start.
One thing panelists would do different if starting again now:
Hire staff earlier. One panelist tried to do too much. He wasn’t doing vital stuff because he was too busy working in the business.
One tip was to potentially offer an equity stake to good staff after a year or two.
One panellist suggested being a digital nomad.
Hire more people you really like working with.
Don’t stress out
Which 3 processes most important:
Don’t be too process focused too early – otherwise you can’t move quickly
Need to have processes to track your effectiveness – e.g. Validation of A/B Testing and Conversions
Processes need to come later on as you grow.
One panelist suggested when you get your second staff member you now need processes but you need to be flexible.
Allow everyone to change their processes if they’re broken.
All the panelists stressed the importance of good consistent project management. Base Camp and Trello were suggested tools
Project management important from the start
There was a question about finding angel investors while still pre-revenue:
Panelists suggested use customers as your angels.
If you can’t sell your product maybe there isn’t market.
If no one is investing maybe take a harder look at the idea
Got to be able to sell it.
Does anyone gain funding after proof of concept?
It was agreed by some panelists that you do hear of companies gaining funding in this way a lot.
It was suggested it’s still better to try to get customers to fund the idea.
Talk to customers find their pain point. Ideas from customers can be of varying value though.
Biggest challenge for the panelists?
Having total confidence in your product.
Suppliers being skeptical.
You need to talk about it like it’s your firstborn even if you don’t believe in it to begin with.
What do you tell people who don’t believe in you?
If you can’t push through that messaging you’re not going to make it
Prove your idea by getting a customer to pay you something for it.
Do startups need to look to Silicon Valley?
It helps to look at whats happening in a successful place.
US Market is huge in comparison to Asutralia.
The USA is an easy place to get to as an Australian.
Good Australian ex-pat community in Silicon Valley you can connect with.
Struggled with self belief?
All the panellists said yes!
Don’t wait till your ready. Just do it!
Was success a series of events or just one or two big things?
Panelist David Eastes said that for him it came down to two things:
Getting into good rankings with Google
Investing time and money into customers
Other good points:
Advertising waste of money. All money on word of mouth. Make them want to tell their friends
Do things that customers don’t expect – travel mugs, key ring bottle openers, etc.
There was a question about time management and commitment:
If you have an ability to work full time on your startup don’t waste it
Be sure to manage your heath and family time however
Put a high value on your time – $500 per hour for instance. Would you be doing a task if that’s how much your time was worth?
There was another question about quickly validating start up ideas:
Use the Lean Startup formula and customer validation.
If you can’t make something work, give up, move on.
How do you pitch your idea without losing IP?
NDAs are worthless and investors won’t sign.
Do your research on the person you’re pitching. Find out if they’re trustworthy. Have they invested in a competitor?
You’ve got to share your idea
Someone asked about the best methods of selling to your customers in the early days:
Direct mail. Get in front of them 3 times and they’ll remember you.
Think outside the box.
Advertising expensive hard to get good ROI
Conventional media has a lot of power in USA
A question was asked about outsourcing an online app startup
The panelists thought it was important to hold Intellectual Property tight and not outsource your core team.
One panelist said your startup is broken if you can’t build it yourself
There was a question on how to keep momentum and enthusiasm
Find a problem someone will pay to fix
If you’re not naturally passionate about what you’re building there’s a problem
Keep a good balance. Recreation helps with inspiration. Get away from desk.
At what point should you become a company?
The panel was unanimous that you should be a company from day 1 of your startup.
The last question was on the difference between an entrepreneur and a “wantrepreneur”:
An entrepreneur doesn’t die wondering
An entrepreneur is constantly thinking about doing things better
An entrepreneur take risks
Get s*** done
Fail a lot
There was also a suggestion to check out the Dan Norris 7 Day Startup.
I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at The Pulse and will definitely be going again. It was great to meet a positive group of people trying to achieve success. I hope some of you find these notes useful.
My busy schedule over the past week has given me an interesting case study in customer experience. As a I’m hoping to one day be an entrepreneur I’ve been a keen student of business practice and theory. These days we don’t just talk about customer service, we talk about customer experience. How does it really feel as a customer to experience your product or service and how does that affect whether or not I buy again or recommend you to others. As noted in Forbes, ‘Customer Experience’ is today’s business benchmark.
In the past seven days, I’ve flown three different Australian airlines over four different flights. One flight was on Qantas, the next on Virgin Australia, and the last two on Jetstar. It’s been a good opportunity to compare and contrast the service offerings of the three. I didn’t get a chance to try Tiger Airlines, but then again I prefer my pilots be qualified to fly, so probably best that I didn’t.
Qantas still has it’s old fashioned approach to customer service. It’s good – a bit dull, but good. Everything works the way you expect although there is a big push towards self service everywhere.
Virgin Australia has a fresh innovative feel to it, but they do focus on good old fashioned face to face customer service. You can use fancy new mobile check ins and boarding passes, but they don’t make you feel guilty for using the traditional bag drop either.
However it’s Jetstar I really want to focus on as a real case study in a bad customer experience. The first thing you’ll notice when you book Jetstar is their deceptive marketing practices. They have been forced kicking and screaming to moderate some of these by the ACCC, however you will find that in practice the fare they advertise is not the fare you pay.
Fares advertised by Jetstar are advertised as “1 way carry on baggage only”. Carry on baggage is defined as 2 items total of 10kg. What they don’t spell out clearly(sure it’s in the fine print though) is that they can’t actually offer what they advertise. If everyone brings 2 items of carry on to a full flight, they simply cannot fit them on the plane. Not only that, because of the $25 standard extra fee for checked luggage, everyone will be trying to take 2 items of carry on. Therefore they go to extreme lengths to enforce the 10kg rule.
What they don’t advertise is that unless you book the checked luggage in advance, they will check your items with scales in the boarding lounge. It’s easy to have a suitcase well under 10kg. However what’s not so easy is to have a suitcase and backpack or another bag under 10kg. Most of us often carry 4-5kg in our back packs without even thinking about it. Most people on my flight were stung with this. Main bag only 5-6kg. Second small bag 4-5kg.
Now what would be a reasonable cost to check suitcase. The $25 standard checked fee would be good. But no. After baiting people to try their luck with carry on, they sting you $50 if one of your bags has to be checked from the gate lounge. A quick look at how many people they stung, tells you that this is a major profit strategy for Jetstar.
Plus, they won’t let you check your bags until precisely 2 hours before departure. Too bad if you do the right thing by being early and booking checked bags. It’s ok in Melbourne, there’s good facilities outside the secure zone. Too bad if you’re in Brisbane where there’s barely a coffee stand for your long wait to bag drop.
The bad customer service experience doesn’t stop once you’re through security. The terminals, bars and cafe’s in both Jetstar departure lounges were filthy, both times. Ok so maybe Jetstar doesn’t operate the the bars and cafes. However they do set the standards that companies are expected to work by in their terminals. The massive stacks of empty pizza boxes, piles of empty drink bottles and glasses, and food all over floor shows that they don’t care about their customer experience. I don’t expect polished gold leaf, but I do expect to be able to find somewhere to sit without having to move other people’s empty drinks out of my way and having to wipe down the table.
When you watch the tarmac prior to departure you see more of their cut price approach. Instead of professional looking well marked trucks, services are provided by a bunch of people who stuff waste into the back of a bodgy looking stationwagon with a cheap magnet stick on the side. Angry baggage handlers hand carry extra bags to the plane. Not a good look.
On board you’ll find the cabin crew are courteous but short. They combine the lack of formality of Virgin, with the lack of humour of Qantas. Overall it’s a bad end result. Even the food cart practice is worse. Instead of both people operating the cart from both sides like other airlines, one person operates the till(the main focus of Jetstar’s model) and only one person serves. The result is if you’re waiting to get a drink on the plane you’ll be left thirsty for a long time waiting.
So overall Jetstar gives a very poor customer service experience. I can complement them on one thing though. They do have a very good safety demonstration and briefing, particularly for exit row passengers, in comparison to Virgin and Qantas.
I would suggest only flying Jetstar if you only fly occasionally and they have the cheapest fare(after adding all the fees and surcharges). Be very careful and don’t believe the prices you see advertised. I would also suggest the following tips:
Be sure to weigh all bags before leaving home if you expect to use the “2 Carry-On bags, 10kg option”. If you’re anywhere close, I’d suggest book the $25 checked luggage option.
Don’t expect fast service on board – take your own food and drinks.
You can’t check bags until 2 hours of your flight time – find a bar outside the checked area if you can and wait.
Don’t bother with their mobile boarding pass option. It’s a joke and a waste of customer time.
This book will teach you how to work smarter and avoid becoming the overworked micromanaging business owner. Even if you’re not planning to run your own business this book will give you ideas on how to reduce your working hours and how to be location independent. I thoroughly recommend it.
An excellent book on how rich people think differently than the middle class. Helps you to think about assets and liabilities in a different way. I’d also particularly recommend Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant. His other books are good too.
I’ve recently bought the following books on recommendations of others but not yet had time to read them: