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Building the Wood Shop: Part I

Part I

This will be a journal of the steps I've gone through building a new shop for myself. I'll try and go through everything from deciding to build, to the design process, to getting the foundation laid, putting up the walls, roof, and everything right to the (not so) bitter end. Up to this point - with the exception of most of the concrete and (literally) one or two days of help - I have done all the work entirely by myself.

As I start this journal, I'm about halfway there - the shop is up, but not quite running. The exterior is complete, but I have yet to start the interior - including wiring, insulation, finish, and equipping...

The process started sometime in the spring of 2006, when through a set of circumstances I found myself on a sabbatical from my employment... Mom had suddenly passed away just before Thanksgiving the year before - after which dad fell into our care because of advanced Alzheimer's all of which resulted in finding myself as his stay-at-home caregiver... That is how the opportunity to put up a shop for myself came to be. It seemed I had all the time in the world... But as you know, the best laid plans...

But - I should back up a little bit.

The Decision to Build

I did most of my growing up in a shop. Ever since I could remember, I spent most of my spare time doing one project or another out in dad's shop, where I learned almost all of what I know today. Over the years until I moved away from my home town I made cabinets, restored and made furniture, built motorcycles, hot rods, Harleys... between my brother and I, we did just about anything you can do in a shop. From then on, I always had a shop of some sort... some were heated, some weren't, and some were my living room. But I've always had a shop. And over the years, I've acquired tools along the way - but nothing I couldn't manage.

For the last 10 years or so, my shop has been a single car garage - here's a composite photo, made up from two separate photos showing one end:

That is in an unusually clean state... It was quite useable as long as the project wasn't too large and it was only myself. Then, when dad moved in with us, the place became crowded. It was already cozy for one person, but two made it cramped. It was really the only activity dad would engage in, doing projects in the shop... so that's where we were for most of each day. In the end, it turned out that dad was only with us for less than a year - he passed away in Sept. of 2006. But at the time it was still enough motivation to get started on a shop. With the time off work, I thought, I should be able to build it myself...

Even with dad gone, I am still in need of more space. After he passed away, I inherited a ton of stuff out of his shop, and still have nowhere to put it all. Turn around from the picture above, and this is what you'll see today:

Worse yet, it seems to be growing - it's too the point that I've about given up on the table saw, as getting it out takes a major rearranging of nearly everything in the shop - and even then, I'm limited to things no longer than 5 feet long and 2 feet wide. Trying to build even something as small as a chest becomes a major effort. My shop has become more of a storage shed.

So - the time has come to build a full-on, dedicated shop.

Up next, I'll go through the design process and discuss what decisions I made.