Building the Wood Shop: Part III - Finally, a Little Style
Alright - so I had gone through designing a basic setup, it was time to go the other way and design (at least in my opinion) the ultimate shop - at least within the approximate footprint that would fit within the space it was destined to be built, and within some reality of budget in mind - and with the cold/hot climate of the inland Northwest in mind.
I've always believed that the space you work in can have a positive or a negative affect on how you work. If you work in a soulless box, for example - your work will turn out a little bit more toward the soulless side. If, however, you work in a space that gives you pause because of it very presence, your work can only be positively affected.
For influence, I dug deep into what it was that inspired me - and that is classic woodworking. It might be a bit of a romantic image of the trade - that of classic furniture builder of centuries past, but its allure is still there. So I researched a few older references, read a few period books and gave myself a mental picture of what a wood shop really is. I went through literally dozens of different designs, including everything from one to two story buildings; from modernistic looking boxes to wildly organic; and from the practical and pragmatic to pure opulence.
I also spent some time looking at what the local architecture was about. Idaho has a rich heritage in the lumber and mining trades, and much of the settlement of the area occurred after 1880 or so and continued into the 1920's. Much of the architecture is a mish-mash of primitive western frontier architecture to the opulent houses of the timber and mining barons of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While the latter styles of buildings don't say much to me about the area (their design influence not really being towards the "working building") the primitive western style speaks volumes to me. It is almost a pure "High Plains Drifter" style - false fronts, board and batten siding, and an overall utilitarian appearance that denotes the harsh economies and climate of the area. Another style of working building here in Idaho is the barn... There are three basic styles of barns seen here, and judging by the condition I see them in, the three styles are essentially defined by their age and/or affluence of the owner...
I have to apologize - I lost all the photos of local architecture when my computer crashed. I will work on re-shooting some of those photos as time permits, and post them within this story as I get them taken... Meanwhile, there are a couple of photos of the styles I am discussing below on Sandpoint.com
The first style to appear, not surprisingly, is a rectangular shaped log building. They often have a lean-to off of one side, supported by columns with knee-braces. A later, more prevalent style is a timber framed square building, often with a lean-to built on the side (similar to a New England salt-box style, though less refined). The third was the classic gambrel-roofed two-story barn, a ubiquitous form across the farmlands of the United States.
Through the entire process I kept returning to a timber-framed saltbox as above. It said something to me... Pictures of an old mill by the river complete with a water wheel - that whole genre of building styles just screams woodworking to me. Plus the style is quite common here, it's as close as I can find to a style that defines the area. So, I put that thought into practice, and designed a timber-framed, North Idaho styled salt-box:
This shop was actually designed to be a true timber-framed structure, and mimicked the style of the aging barns of the area. It also has an entire second level for use as either a storage area, office, or a separate workshop for smaller items. There's a bathroom and plenty of room for a workspace on the main floor. There's a lot of pluses to this design - I could separate out large areas for separate tasks - one area for woodworking, another for metalworking or automotive. A timber frame design is an efficient design, both structurally and space wise. This design had me convinced, it's what I wanted to do. I even went so far as to do a three dimensional model of it, complete with a "walkthrough" which I will post at some point if I find it (my computer that crashed that had that particular file on it - I think I have a backup somewhere, but will have to dig for it). I was ready to bring it into the building department to see about a permit.
A Bit of Refinement
Well - it seems I jumped a bit too fast out of the gate. In my exuberance for this particular design, I neglected to factor in a few things. The first was the permitting process... Because the building's design included a bathroom, there were a few hoops that would need to be jumped through. While I am surrounded by city, our property here is actually not in the incorporated city. As mentioned previously, we have a septic system and drain field - no city sewer is available, at least not yet. This is something the county here is especially sensitive to, especially at this location. The reason? We are smack dab over a major aquifer that supplies water for the entire region. So, one can't fault the county for wanting to be good stewards of such a precious commodity... but it adds a few steps if I want to have water out here.
So - I can't hook into city sewer, as it's not available out here yet. I can't put in a separate drain field, even if it's a small one - the regulations don't permit it. The only recourse I have is to pump all the waste down to my existing septic tank, which is about 130 feet of pipe. A pretty major length - not undoable, but it adds an expense. It also adds some time for the permit to be approved... and it means yet another trench dug across the lawn.
I mentioned cost... I really wanted to build it using that design, but in reality - there was no way I was going to be able to afford it. Some compromises (read - sacrifices) had to be made.
I decided to try and develop the same style in a more economical light. I started by nixing the upper floor and bathroom, lowered the roof pitch, use trusses instead of rafters, and adapting some more of what I learned in it's design into a more standard, stick-framed design. Here's what I came up with:
To try and save costs I made some decisions... In the drawings, I left out any of the interior in the drawings, though I fully intended to put a bathroom in it. The cost for that would be the same, so I could simply use the same figures. The major effort in these drawings was to lower the cost of the shell; to do so, I first disposed of the timber frame idea and priced out trusses over the large area with rafters over the "lean to" area. I nixed the second floor entirely.
Well, I was only going to get a chance to do this once... I decided to forego all of the plumbing in the building, which would mean significant cost savings, at least in the present. But, to make it easier in the future, I planned around building an overhang out back that could eventually be framed in to house all plumbing needs at some point in the future. For a current water supply, I would put a 100-gallon water tank in the building for use as a supply of water, filled with a garden hose.
Gone also would be the cedar board and batten siding, to be replaced by a cheaper alternative to be decided at the lumberyard counter at a later time.
This was the version that I finally brought in for a permit - both a building permit and an electrical permit. Getting a permit wasn't entirely too difficult - but it was also an added expense. It was a few hundred dollars by the time I was done. I was to make a few cosmetic changes after this, but this was it... essentially.
Truth be told - it just didn't turn my crank in this form. It had lost something... it was starting to look like a garage. In my cost cutting, I'd lost most of what I liked in the timber frame design. This wasn't quite going to be the shop. I needed to bring back more of the timber frame design to satisfy myself.
The Final Design
Well, I needed to create a balance. What I decided to do was to allow for some future expansion, but try and achieve the most of what I could as far as the building envelope was concerned.
I raised the pitch of the roof to 8:12 to better simulate the saltbox I designed earlier - but I didn't go any steeper than that so that roofing it would be easier. At 8:12, it's hard enough to put roofing on, more than that would be too much for me to do safely alone. It also keeps the height of the building down, which helps its appearance in context with the house and the residences surrounding.
You'll notice the overhang out the back isn't developed - I wasn't exactly sure how it was going to work, so I left that decision as one to be made when the time came. I also left the board and batten siding on the exterior on the drawings, though as I mentioned I knew that it would still be too much money - but I would figured I would cross that bridge when I got there. This would also be an area I could expand into...
With these changes, I was able to bring it within my budget, but just barely. All of the interior work would have to be done with spare money, as I pretty much blew the whole enchilada getting the exterior of the building to where I wanted it. I could have stayed with the original design and had it all covered quite easily - but that plan just didn't sit well with me - I did like this one. That means the world to me...
I like to work in generalities, rather than specifics - I'm a firm believer in being able to change my mind about something... But there has to be some basic plan to start off with. I laid out what I thought would make the most sense:
It included a finish room at the far back left, a storage room at the far back right (with a second floor above for more storage), a pair of closets to hold the compressor and dust collection system at the top center. The woodworking area would be in the central left area, automotive and metalworking in the large area, and finally an office in the lower left. One last thing was the second floor - I really need the storage space, but there's no way I could afford the second floor - but I could afford a loft... so I figured I could add a loft at the 8-10 feet at the back of the main space when the time comes, if money was there for it.
This is how the plan stayed until I actually had the building up and could walk inside it. I decided to change a few things at that point - after one actually feels the size of the space, it can be a lot different than one's mental picture of that space - and I knew I wouldn't be happy with it as drawn. And I can tell you that the three dimensional aspect of the building did change my perspective, and working in the space while putting it up often gives you pause to consider its final purpose.
But right here it's too early for that discussion and I've probably prattled on much too long already...
More to come!