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Hermit House Woodworking - Starting from Scratch #7: Decided on a structure for my temporary shop - A Geodesic Tunnel!

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Blog entry by Ted Ewen posted 08-14-2015 09:22 AM 1994 reads 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: First Major Tool Order! Part 7 of Hermit House Woodworking - Starting from Scratch series Part 8: My First Workshop »

I’ve been scouring the internet for months now, trying to decide what kind of structure to use for my workshop. We have very limited space and some existing outbuildings which, though destined for removal, are now still necessary.

To get me through the coming winter, I’d thought about a large PVC “Party Tent” like this one:

A 3m x 6m tent is only a couple of hundred bucks, but this is Denmark, so a severe winter is not out of the question and constant wind is eternal. I’m not sure it would endure.

Well, last week I stumbled upon http://geo-dome.co.uk/default.asp where a bloke is selling plans and kits for wood based geodesic structures. A dome is out of the question because space, but he has a 3m and 5m version of his Geodesic Tunnel design that seems like it would do the job perfectly.

The plans are quite inexpensive and I bought one for each size.

To my mind this solution has a few significant advantages:
1) Its self-constructed using wood. I did say I want to learn woodworking right? ;)

2) The volume: footprint ratio is quite good.

3) It looks awesome and will certainly attract some positive attention. Never a bad thing when trying to start a local business.

4) She Who Must Be Obeyed has already claimed it as a greenhouse once I have moved out of it.

It also has a couple of scary parts:
1) I am a noob! WTF am I thinking?

2) It’s complex. Even if I weren’t a noob, this’d be scary I think.

3) There is no chance I will have it up before winter arrives.

Which brings me back to the tent. For now.

Any suggestions for a good cheap temp solution for an overwintering shop?

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.



21 comments so far

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

620 posts in 820 days


#1 posted 08-14-2015 11:01 AM

I get the feeling I will soon need to take Dramamine before reading your blog entries. I thought I was was willing to go places no novice has gone before! :D

Just kidding, of course. I like a dose of spirit and extensive shirt-sleeve rolling up. :)

The geodesic dome looks complicated and intricate, but you do have a mighty ‘accurate’ miter saw coming in and plans you are confident you can follow. Not being able to finish by winter would be a major obstacle, unless the tunnel can be constructed in sections, so that you add as you build a new one, keeping the already built sealed up from the weather. Not knowing how the plastic is attached to the framing, I don’t know if that is possible. Is it glued on? Then the working temperature range for the gluing process would be the decider.

If you have a way to truck them in, and a source or sources for them, one option is to scour the countryside for wooden pallets and built a shop with them. YT is filled with ideas on how to do this. The important considerations are not whether it will work or not, but whether you can get enough good ones to fill your need.

I’m tapped out for inexpensive ideas. I look forward to seeing what you and others come up with as you mull over choices.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

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Ted Ewen

187 posts in 527 days


#2 posted 08-14-2015 11:47 AM

I’m considering putting up a “Pallets Wanted” sign. It would be much easier if i drove and had a van/trailer. I do get a fair number in each year though. I’ve a stack awaiting breaking even now. I ordered (yes, i know) a pallet bar from http://www.cargo-cycles.com/ as a lump hammer is not my idea of fun:

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

View Ted Ewen's profile

Ted Ewen

187 posts in 527 days


#3 posted 08-14-2015 11:48 AM


View on YouTube

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

View Ted Ewen's profile

Ted Ewen

187 posts in 527 days


#4 posted 08-14-2015 12:00 PM


I get the feeling I will soon need to take Dramamine before reading your blog entries.
... Not being able to finish by winter would be a major obstacle, unless the tunnel can be constructed in sections, so that you add as you build a new one, keeping the already built sealed up from the weather. Not knowing how the plastic is attached to the framing, I don t know if that is possible. Is it glued on? Then the working temperature range for the gluing process would be the decider.

Yeah, I’m used to making people slightly queasy :P

You are such a clever man, Paul. You’ve reminded me of a line from one of the videos he links as a tutorial. Basically each end of the tunnel is half a dome and can be constructed as such. You can then add tunnel sections (of ~1.6m width) to extend the length. A cookie for you!

The plastic is stapled to the seam sides, but I was thinking of a less temporary cladding material – at least until it needs to be a greenhouse.

The designer is up for 2015 Shed of the Year for this ‘shed’:

View on YouTube

That’d do, wouldn’t it?

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

620 posts in 820 days


#5 posted 08-14-2015 12:06 PM


I m considering putting up a “Pallets Wanted” sign. It would be much easier if i drove and had a van/trailer. I do get a fair number in each year though. I ve a stack awaiting breaking even now.

Putting a sign up could help quite a bit, but getting the word out via freeby weeklies (or whatever is a public selling forum in your area) would do a lot more. I know all too well the limitations when you don’t have a way to get them home. The Chevy Blazer SUV could always hold four or five of them, as long as they were standard dimensions. The trailer I built goes beyond that limitation (my new problem is finding a place to store the pallets I can bring in), and the new truck adds even more capability, especially when winter sets in and using the trailer on snow and ice isn’t a choice.


I ordered (yes, i know) a pallet bar from http://www.cargo-cycles.com/ as a lump hammer is not my idea of fun: – Ted Ewen

No, taking down pallets with hammer and crowbar is far from being fun. I bought a heavy unit that does a good job when there is adequate spacing between the boards for the thick claws. I’m finding that to be less common as I have narrowed my selection to those made of hardwoods. Before buying it I considered the unit you ordered. The cost of shipping it from the U.K. made is cost prohibited for me. Let me know how it works for you.

Getting back to my suggestion, keep in mind that the bulk of the construction with pallets is in using the pallets as they are. Not having to deconstruct them for the lumber makes this a quick and less labor intensive building process. There are plenty of videos that explain what I mean. it might work for you.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View Ted Ewen's profile

Ted Ewen

187 posts in 527 days


#6 posted 08-14-2015 12:10 PM

Here’s a nice little ovewview. Maybe it’s not as scary as we think?


View on YouTube

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

620 posts in 820 days


#7 posted 08-14-2015 12:19 PM


Yeah, I m used to making people slightly queasy :P

I do the same to family, it would seem. >_>


You are such a clever man, Paul. You ve reminded me of a line from one of the videos he links as a tutorial. Basically each end of the tunnel is half a dome and can be constructed as such. You can then add tunnel sections (of ~1.6m width) to extend the length. A cookie for you!

Cookies fuel my thinking process. Keep ‘em coming. :D


The plastic is stapled to the seam sides, but I was thinking of a less temporary cladding material – at least until it needs to be a greenhouse.

I’d like to see your option when you’re ready.


The designer is up for 2015 Shed of the Year for this shed :

That d do, wouldn t it?

- Ted Ewen

Shed? Shed? That’s a freakin’ awesome bachelor’s pad! If it was just myself, I’d build one of those. Of course, my workshop would be at least twice the size bigger. ;)

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

620 posts in 820 days


#8 posted 08-14-2015 12:25 PM


Here s a nice little ovewview. Maybe it s not as scary as we think?

- Ted Ewen

So you only need to get a table saw to add to your tool collection. Even an entry-level unit would do, I would think.

This type of repetitive pattern building means that by the time you have done a few of these done you will be flying through the construction process and they will be accurately built to the “T”.

I can’t wait for you to start. I think I have enough popcorn and drink.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View Ted Ewen's profile

Ted Ewen

187 posts in 527 days


#9 posted 08-14-2015 12:56 PM

Perhaps Solawrap for the roof:
http://store.globalplasticsheeting.com/solawrap-greenhouse-plastic-free-shipping/

SolaWrap Covers: This Greenhouse Plastic Offers:
R-Value 1.7 compared to an R value of 0.85 for 6 mil polyethylene
83% transparency
10 year warranty against UV degradation
up to 83% diffused light (only product on the market with both high transparency and high diffusion)
120 lbs per square foot snow load rating (approx 15 feet of snow)
100 mph wind rating (has survived 135 mph windstorms in Alaska)
Full UV Degradation warranty of 10 years (better warranty than polycarbonate)
Has been shown to last up to 27 years on greenhouses in Europe
Does not yellow or get brittle
Flexible so it can be rolled up inside wall curtains
More cost efficient than polycarbonate
It’s the “ONE AND DONE” film! Put it up once and forget it.

Pricy though.

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

View Ted Ewen's profile

Ted Ewen

187 posts in 527 days


#10 posted 08-14-2015 12:57 PM

Yup, it’s more than ironic to me that the thing I need to make the shed I need to use the saw i got is the saw I said I wasn’t going to need any time soon. The Conservation of Perversity at play, methinks.

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

620 posts in 820 days


#11 posted 08-14-2015 01:08 PM

At a minimum of $2,300 for a roll of SolaWrap, this has to be a one-time purchase. To be fair, if one is looking a this product for its intended use, one is looking at some serious greenhousing, probably for profit.

There has to be a law just for woodworkers. If not, we deserve one.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View Ted Ewen's profile

Ted Ewen

187 posts in 527 days


#12 posted 08-14-2015 01:19 PM


...keep in mind that the bulk of the construction with pallets is in using the pallets as they are. Not having to deconstruct them for the lumber makes this a quick and less labor intensive building process. There are plenty of videos that explain what I mean. it might work for you. – Paul Bucalo

I found this yesterday and was inspired/impressed:

View on YouTube

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

View Ted Ewen's profile

Ted Ewen

187 posts in 527 days


#13 posted 08-14-2015 01:23 PM


At a minimum of $2,300 for a roll of SolaWrap, this has to be a one-time purchase. To be fair, if one is looking a this product for its intended use, one is looking at some serious greenhousing, probably for profit.

There has to be a law just for woodworkers. If not, we deserve one.

- Paul Bucalo

Yeah, but with 10-20+ year life, that’s a lot of resurfacing you will not have to do – you’d (Sorry – I’d) have to break it all the way down to 3 triangle sections to resurface it. I can not imagine solid polycarb (and all the silicon needed to seal it up) would be much less expensive.

Ok, maybe I’m going for solid cladding and a permanent temporary shop…

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

620 posts in 820 days


#14 posted 08-14-2015 05:30 PM

A solid design for an open partitioned shed.

I don’t question the validity of the purchase. It’s an investment I wouldn’t be able to justify in my situation. That takes nothing away from it. It certainly would give you a level of permanence that would allow you to transition to a greenhouse later.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View Ted Ewen's profile

Ted Ewen

187 posts in 527 days


#15 posted 08-14-2015 06:43 PM

No worries, I didn’t take it that way. I was more checking my own assumptions and considerations. As ever, feel free to point it out, BLATANTLY, when you see me being stupid or dangerous or blind or whatever. I’ll not take it amiss, at least not for long :PÅ

-- Show us a man who never makes a mistake and we will show a man who never makes anything. The capacity for occasional blundering is inseparable from the capacity to bring things to pass.

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