|Workshop by Mark A. DeCou||posted 08-17-2006 05:39 PM||8120 reads||3 times favorited||20 comments|
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Welcome to a short tour of my workshop. I spend a lot of hours, from 40-80 per week, in this small building, and the insides are in too much of a mess to photograph today, so I will add that at a later time if anyone is really interested.
Here are some aerial photos of the place, taken during a Hot Air Balloon trip:
A New Perspective on my Business; A Hot Air Balloon Tour of the Kansas Flinthill's
The building in which I work is a 22ft x 32ft old detached garage. When we bought the old farmhouse, this garage was starting to fall down due to neglect and termite damage. I replaced the front wall, adding the walk-in door and the windows.
The floor space is about 1/3 of what I need to walk and work in, with it’s ever growing collection of tools and fixtures and work centers. The concrete floor is cracked and shifting which makes moving tools with mobile bases a chore, as well as walking. One day, I met the a man in town that helped pour the concrete for my shop building in 1962, and I almost strangled him (just kidding about the strangling). He said, he could not remember whether they added any metal screen or rebar to the floor when they poured it. I assured him that he hadn’t put any rebar in the floor then.
I’ve worked in this space for 6 years now, and I go several weeks without twisting my ankle anymore on the uneven spaces of the floor (knock on wood). Whenever I see a photograph of a woodworker from Indonesia or Japan that is sitting on a dirt floor carving wonderful figures in wood with hand tools, I am reminded that I am very grateful for the shop space and tools that I have.
Last Fall I took off the metal roof and installed a vapor barrier sheeting and fiberglass insulation and put the old tin back down. The insulation was given to me, and reusing the old sheet metal saved me about $1000. The insulation was a huge help for storing heat, and allowing me to comfortably work in the winter months. Also, the insulation keeps the building cooler during the summer.
I installed a power roof vent that runs on a thermostat, and once the cool mornings give way to heat in the summer months, the vent turns on, and eventhough I am working in a tight space, the temperature inside never gets warmer than it is outside. Before I added the roof vent, it was not uncommon for me to work in 120 Degree F temperatures in the summer. The insulation I was given has really been a blessing. A neighbor has offered to give me a window A/C unit that they are no longer using, so as soon as I get it installed, I will enjoy a much cooler environment in which to work.
During the winter months, I heat with an air-tight wood stove that I was given a few years ago. Last winter, I was given the solar panel, so now if the sun is shining, at about 10 am, I will get 120 degree F. air from the solar panel blower. Once the solar panel fan kicks on, I quit stoking the woodstove with wood. At about 4:30pm the solar panel blower shuts off, and if I still need to work for a few hours, I will throw a couple of small logs back in the stove and stir up the hot coals. A side joy of the solar panel is that I run the intake fan air through a filter, which means it also doubles as an air-cleaning fan. I have to knock the dust out of the filter about once a week, and I am always amazed at how much dust it catches.
The old limestone and wood barn which is shown in the 3rd and 4th photos, has approx. a 2400 sqft main floor, with a high roof where a second floor loft could be added with some new floor joists for storage. Also, there is the stone basement which would be great for additional storage if I need it.
The main problem to start working in the old barn, actually the only problem, is a lack of funds. To use the old barn I need to do some structural repair to the rock wall foundation, and then I need to pull electrical service to it, and wire the barn for power tools. Then there is new siding and doors. The roof stays dry, but does need some repair also. I have plenty of salvaged windows, so I could make a lovely work space location with about $25,000 USD in repairs. Then, there is the heating of that much space. I was given a 235,000 BTU wood fired furnace with a big blower, so I have that much covered, and I was given some metal louvers to go in the gable peaks, but short of that, all I need is a bunch of money.
I’m hoping for a future someday in the barn. I think I would have enough space then I would have room for a guest reception area and showroom, which right now is the living room of my house.
Anyone visiting the shop eventually comes around to two questions: 1) How do you do so much work in such a tight space? 2) Why don’t you use the old barn for your shop?
Well, here are the answers: 1) I try to be content with whatever space I have to work in. This is the best shop I have ever had, and so I use it to the best of my ability. 2) I don’t borrow money, so when I have the money saved, I will remodel the barn into a shop. Right now the old barn stores my wood and things that don’t fit into the shop or house.
When a woodworker visits me they will always ask how my explosion-proof spray booth works. The short answer is “great.” Last January I sprayed lacquer in the closed up shop with the spray booth going on one end, and my woodstove stoked as hot as it would go on the other end of the shop. I opened windows on the woodstove end, so that the fan make-up air would be drawn from the opposite end of the shop. Since I am still here to tell you about it, you know it worked well.
The last photo is a view out the South end of my shop, a beautiful Kansas Flinthills view. Unfortunately for the nature lovers, the cost of crude oil has brought oil drilling back into the area, so now the top of each hill is capped with an ugly oil-pumper, and my nice quiet days are broken with the chorus of “pop-pop-pop” of all the rig engines running the pumps. Another reason to hope for lower crude oil prices, or alternative energy sources. Another reason I enjoy using my donated solar panel.
I’ll post more photos if there is interest, but I just wanted to get this started.
Mark DeCou – Elmdale, KS
-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com