Small Shop Adventures #2: What was....

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Blog entry by BrockF posted 08-24-2014 03:30 PM 1852 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Small shop adventures. Part 2 of Small Shop Adventures series Part 3: Mud, concrete and sawdust. »

I seem to have started this blog in the middle and I should do the right thing and give you the meat and potatoes of why it is a real small shop adventure. Let me go back to the old garage. It had survived being whacked by tree branches in some pretty big storms, but it was old and literally rotting so anything valuable had to be kept in “dry spots”. The concrete had been put down on what looked like sand and soda ash and in some spots I found chunks of wood thrown in, like they were cheap and tried to fill out the pour with back-fill. Cracked all the way through and separated in a dozen spots. To my knowledge the only thing holding it all together was the rapidly failing roof. Not exactly conducive to creating a real wood shop. Add to this that it was really just a garage, half filled with…garagy stuff. I know, that is not a real word, but it conveys the sense of my frustration in trying to separate woodworking and life clutter. I think this is more than a physical divide for most people. It’s where you begin to develop a sense and a desire for a particular aesthetic to compliment what you want to build. Of course I can only speak for myself, but darkness, endless cardboard boxes stuffed with all sorts of odds and ends and the highly confining low ceiling make me feel depressed.

Last fall, due to unforeseen circumstances and an unfortunate series of events (Like lemony snickets but with massive falling tree limbs) we had to tear it down and rebuild from scratch. We had looked forward to replacing it one day but mother nature just sped up the time table with lightning strikes and a number of very powerful weather events, one of which had us taking shelter and fearing for our lives and twice all the power lines had been destroyed by falling debris.

The pictures below give a sense of what I lived with for 13 years. The Eastern Cottonwood right next to the garage was our pride and joy, tallest tree in the entire neighborhood. Shade, the rustling of leaves and pure awesome size that could easily be seen from space on Google earth. Also being on top of the hill helped too, but it was a terror in high wind. Eastern Cottonwoods are very fast growing and to our knowledge this was about 50 years old…slightly more we think than the garage. Tree guy thought it was around a hundred feet tall, maybe more. If you look above the pic with the tomatoes, you can see where the 18 inch thick branch broke off, and the area of roof that despite numerous fixes was just rotting away.

For those of you who are thinking of a full garage tear down and rebuild, I must warn you it is not for the faint of heart. Besides the cost, it is a test of personal fortitude. And that’s just for a normal garage loaded with…garagy stuff. But thrown in a lot of tools and a 400 pound table saw, a work bench and a whole bunch of lumber and you have a very different beast. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a tight budget that would also have to include renting a large storage locker and finding areas where I could do work on the new garage to bring down the cost. The difference between an electrician installing finished outdoor lights and me doing it is a couple hundred dollars, so my entire storage locker cost could be eaten up in a heart beat. These things aside, it was August in North Eastern Illinois and I didn’t have the luxury of a pick up truck..or a fork lift. But all these things also arrived here minus those luxuries so I decided if I could sweat them here over 13 years, then I would just have to sweat them away in a month. Another word to the wise if I may…choose a storage place as close to home as you can. Ours was less than two minutes drive away. This makes life much easier in every way.

Now where was I? Oh yes, clean out. The secret is decide once and for all what you must keep and what must go. One pile for scrap metal, one pile for the mother of all garage sales. The scrap metal drive eventually consumed me and my Dad helped by bringing over all kinds of junk to chip in. Every extra nut and bolt I could spare, door hardware, wires, metal conduit, fencing….I just piled it up. Something like half a ton. That alone covered a whole month of the storage locker. The garage sale freed us of those items you can’t stand to trash but want a good home for, along with a little cash. Goodbye first small plastic table saw. Goodbye first Ryobi router table.

Did I mention that transporting a 400 pound table saw is challenging? I considered pushing it down the hill and just walking it to the storage place, but it has no brakes and the thought of losing a wheel half way between here and there was frightening. I even called my local police and asked for permission. They went and researched my request because a large road would need to be crossed. Unfortunately even towing it with my lawn tractor was prohibited because the lawn tractor did not qualify as farm equipment. too bad. The police hinted that they would have been glad to escort me if it was legal. So into the back of the Durango it went. Wait, not really. Turns out it’s just way to heavy so we had to take it apart. That was a big let down, as it was all tuned up and just right. But no choice really. Thanks again Dad with all your help. Could not have done it without you.

Up to this point it had been all on me. But all ye readers who are thinking of doing this, beware. From this point forward your control over the situation is almost nill, at least if like most people you are not demoing and rebuilding yourself. I am no weenie and I could have easily torn the whole thing down but it is a matter of practicality. You have to dispose of it all and in the suburbs you just can’t leave a giant pile of debris for weeks in the middle of a neighborhood. And I don’t own a Bob Cat. So you pay trough the nose and then sit back and put it in some else s hands. If you think I am a weenie, so be it. We just don’t all have the luxury of time and skills and equipment. Anyway, enough on what was. Lets get to the good stuff.

Here is the link to Demo day.

1 comment so far

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1 post in 1933 days

#1 posted 08-26-2014 08:01 PM

Thanks for this – it was so very we’ll-written. I rent but have use of the unattached garage. It’s in about the same state as yours and your experience is a great help in my consideration of a fix-it-up project. Your comments on storage, the clean-out, etc. are helpful. I now look forward to reading the rest of the rebuild

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