This is my first foray into blogging about my workshop. Whether or not I keep up the blog is questionable, but I thought it might be interesting (to me at least).
A little bit of history to start with. I did a bit of woodworking as a kid (lo these many years), partly at school in woodshop class, more at home. Problem was that my father had two left hands when it came to tools and my sole power tool was a 1/4” power drill. But I managed to build a pretty cool workbench with vise, electrical power, light. Didn’t build much furniture but lots of projects kids enjoy like go-karts, model planes and the like. I was also an avid slot-racer for several years and built some pretty cool cars and a complete layout. Long ago.
Later, in graduate school I pursued a degree in earth science and ended up in the subarctic, studying hydrology in permafrost terrain. As part of my studies I had to build a ton of instruments, shelters, and the like. I also worked out of a lab in northern Quebec where we built all sorts of lab enclosures, etc. Not fine furniture, but made a lot of sawdust.
Back in the south (Montreal) I had a small shop in our basement and built another workbench and actually had some power tools (small desktop table-saw, router, and the inevitable power-drill with one of those funky make-your-handrill-into-a-drill press. I actually built some furniture though I doubt you could label any of it “fine” but it worked for me.
But after back and forth to the froze north and divorce followed by relocation back to California, my shop and tools were gone. Not much woodworking for many years but always wanted to get back to it, but with lack of space and money (multiple kids in college has a way of nuking one’s budget, eh?) it wasn’t happening. Finally, most of the kids finished college and we were rebuilding the front of house, including the garage, which used to be double, but in the new construction was a large single. Being the SF Bay area, nobody used their garage for cars, so I claimed the garage as “mine” and had the garage fully wired and lighted for woodworking complete with subpanel, 220V in the floor, etc.
Then, just as it was finished but before the machines were bought, and my wife was struggling to find work at her level in California, she was offered a wonderful job in northern Illinois. We dithered then decided my job (software engineering) was portable and we couldn’t pass her chance up. So we sold the house in Palo Alto for a small fortune and moved. Prior to the move my wife looked at 100+ houses near her new place of work. I was bummed at losing my shop so I told her and the real estate agent that MY one criteria was that there be space for a woodworking shop. We eventually settled in Johnsburg, IL in a immense house on a gorgeous lake with a large 4-car garage with 16-foot double doors and 11 foot ceilings.
The garage is divvied up as his and hers. She parks her car with gay abandon on one side, so if I want my car indoors, I’ll have to share my side of the garage with my car. Being northern Illinois, one normally wants the car indoors during winters for comfort, not having to clear the car out of drifts and to keep the driveway clear for the snowplow. I expect my car will spend most of the summer outdoors though.
So I have a space 22 feet long by 19 feet wide and 11 feet high. There are two windows and a row of small windows in the double garage door. Walls and garage door are insulated and the concrete floor has radiant heat.
I have already started the modifications, putting in a 100 AMP subpanel and a mess of outlets (110v and a couple of 220v) along with nine 4 foot fluorescent fixtures. Next step is to run a wall down the middle with a single 32” door. I’ll put more outlets in the new wall. And an air-conditioner to mitigate the hot and humid Illinois summer is a requirement as the garage can get to over 90F in the summer…
Here’s what it looks like now (minus the new wall which is going up soon)
(To be clear, I didn’t do the electrical work or the wall. Simple household electrical I can do – subpanels are out of my scope.)
Meanwhile, I am starting to buy some tools and building some mobile carts etc. The shop is already underway… More on that next time.
-- Ric, Northern Illinois, "Design thrice, measure twice, cut once... slap forehead, start over"