Revamping and Updating my Old Shop #3: My SPACE in depth: Pictures and Ecology of the Man Cave

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Blog entry by Jim Bertelson posted 10-04-2009 04:02 AM 2836 reads 3 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Situational Awareness - it's about Space and Time Part 3 of Revamping and Updating my Old Shop series Part 4: Tuning up, and a tiny project done, with an outrageous time expenditure......, I'll never learn »

This purpose of this entry is to provide pictorial detail of my workshop space, and a little more personal background information relevant to the SPACE.

My intention is to solicit comments and advice for short term utilization and the eventual long term redesign of the shop.

Anchorage, Alaska. We live in the middle of town, Lowe’s and Home Depot 4 minutes away. The 3 major hospitals and two universities 4 minutes away. BP Alaska headquarters 2 minutes away. We are buried in the middle of the only city of size in Alaska. But the city is not a fortress. The creatures of the wilderness have successfully invaded….they are among us.

Alaska – 656,000 humans, untold number of critters.

Anchorage (Its largest city) – 278,000 people, 1900 moose, 250 beaver, 250 black bears, 60 brown (grizzly) bears, 3.34 trillion mice.

Anchorage is just one big zoo…..if there are other Anchorageites out there, please don’t take offense, I didn’t mean YOU live in a zoo, it’s just that Anchorage is like……..oh well, I think I will always be politically incorrect. So back to the narrative: In the city proper, there are no resident bears, but there are definitely incursions on a regular basis. Every year one or more people are killed or maimed by bears while traversing the trails at the wild edge of the municipality. Wolves accept offerings of pet dogs tied up on the back porch feedlots for a supplemental source of protein. There are 300 year-round resident moose in the city proper, and as many as 1000 moose in the winter. They routinely prune my bushes and birch trees each year in the front yard. They calve in our yards. This is not your average city. The moose are not tame, they are huge, and they have maimed and killed people here in Anchorage while I have lived here. They are like the bears in Yellowstone. They may be accustomed to people, but they will defend their young, and defend themselves if they perceive that they are threatened. One kick and you are down, then with a few stomps you are dead. Definitely not Bambi.

Now why do I mention these critters……..well if I left the garage doors, and thereby my shop open, especially in winter, I suspect a moose might eventually wander in, but it is not likely to happen. However, Daddy long-legs come in routinely and are tolerated…because my wife (Sherie) deems it so (‘cause they eat other insects)… I must pick them up and move them outside if they are in the way. Mice, however, are not welcome, but they arrive uninvited during the winter. Sherie, between shrieks, yells out “there’s a rat in here!!!”. You get the drift. In an otherwise egalitarian, non-genderized household, I am allowed, but only for the moment, to become the “man”, beat my chest, and go on the attack, responsible for maintaining the social integrity of the cave… we do not socialize with mice. Perhaps 3.34 trillion overstates the census slightly, but I guarantee those mice stand in line to become house-mouse in the Anchorage wintertime, there must be trillions. Where are the wolves when we need them? Over the years I have gathered a formidable arsenal for the mouse wars. No weapons of mass destruction says my wife with the only organic lawn and garden in the territory. Hence no d-Con. Until last year. Then her fear of the invidious rodents got the best of her, and now d-Con has rid us of the pestilence. Whew.

So my shop is now inhabited only by me, my wife passing through… with only random effects, (isn’t she cute?), and the occasional Daddy long-legs. I have considered special habitat for the Daddy long-legs, walkways with over and underpasses through the tools, feeding stations, and spas ( they must have quite a time washing under their arms, er, and legs) just to focus their attention away from the busy areas of the shop, but that will have to wait for later. Right now, as long as I step carefully, the ecology of the shop, and…….the ecology of the family, is reasonably managed. I do have to be careful, Sherie seems to have names for all those Daddy long-legs….Twinkle Toes….Daddy-be-good…Big Daddy…Bo-Diddley, Chicken-Legs…………………yes dear, I did pick him up carefully, no, I don’t think it was Twinkle Toes, yes, he walked off normally, unhurt and unafraid, humming a happy tune after I put him down, and yes, he waved goodbye and winked as he slipped under a dandelion…………………………..


First a little description. This is a 20.5 feet by 20.5 feet space. I know it is so. I measured it with my trusty “Craftsman Laser Measuring Tool” I purchased with a gift certificate after the device had been marked down to about 25% of its original price. We all know what that means. But I have actually used it a few times. Now 4 times. Fun.

My SPACE (now talking about floor dimensions) has one totally immovable object imbedded in it, a 96×41 inch stand upon which resides the water heater and two furnaces…I know, but it is just like the cowboys with two pistols instead of one….Another less immovable object is a 31×32 inch freezer. Once we have totally remodeled, and the miscellaneous prepurchased doors and such are gone, that freezer might be moved. About two years from now I think.

Next comes some pictures and endless boring commentary……..I am hoping to learn Sketchup real soon now, and will be able to play doll house with it and show even more boring pictures as I rearrange shop furniture in virtual mode. Bet you can’t wait.

So here from my trusty “Craftsman Professional Shop Camera Model 173”……… nah, it is a slightly outdated Konica – Minolta modestly priced and somewhat abused…

Shop – from the front (near the cars). You can tell by the bottle that I was busy lubricating the saw….........

Shop from the front (near the cars)

Shop – old kitchen cabinets installed as an electronics area in 1985. Also contains the sink. The Xmas lights are from a few years ago when we had the whole kitchen installed down here, even had the ice maker running on the fridge…during a remodel of course. Note the brown lamp at the right. Purchased in 1959 to go to college with. Still has the original bulbs. Either those are the world’s greatest bulbs, or I didn’t study very much….....

Shop – from the rear, looking towards the cars (not in the garage at this time). Notice the 3 project tables I made about 20 years ago with picnic table fold down legs. The tops are loose and replaceable. Nice to be able to fold them away when this space was used during a big remodel for storage. I also use them as outfeed tables, they have adjustable leg heights.

Shop – the main workbench, built in 1971 from 2×10 for top, 4×4 for legs, and 2×4 for the rest. With a 3/4” plywood Watco treated top. Put together with nuts and bolts, and some lag screws. Needs new drawers, but is otherwise, as you would expect, indestructible and works like new. Notice the freezer, central vac, miscellaneous cabinets…........

Shop – back bench. Bunch of small power tools. Note dust collector on the edge at right. I plan to demolish this bench put the tools on movable stands, or other.

Shop – my new radial arm saw table, haven’t put the oak edging on yet (-: Absolutely flat, sandwiched 1/2 inch MDF, couldn’t find anything thicker here. The surface is sanding sealer and two coats of Watco. Wonderful feel. May put one coat of wipe on poly on it.

Shop – RAS sawstop, that I clamp in place with a small vise grip clamp. Accurate to a few thousands of an inch, don’t have to measure crosscuts. I sight along either side of the acrylic top. It is exactly 10 inches long, so I can set for very small cuts off the back end.

Shop – My way of keeping the registration of the fence exact. In the past I used extra 5 1/4 inch floppy labels – wow does that date me, but this one I made with my label maker. Set the fence so that the ruler is exact, then put the label on the fence and push it into the angle with a block of wood. Then cut it at the angle with a box cutter. Can see if the fence is set right at a glance. Or you can put it back precisely if the fence is temporarily removed. Place different labels for different blades. Literally, I make settings within a few thousands of an inch measured with a Wixey digital caliper (boy does that get a lot of use, love it)...........

Well that’s all folks. Next blog entry will state my thoughts about revamping this old multipurpose utilitarian shop to become a real woodworker’s shop. But bring on the suggestions and comments – anything would be appreciated.



-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

11 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117060 posts in 3540 days

#1 posted 10-04-2009 04:22 AM

Great shop super blog

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3127 days

#2 posted 10-04-2009 04:43 AM


Thanks for the comments. Just unwrapped my new Hitachi scroll saw, have to make some push blocks. This shop needs a lot of restructuring to become a woodworkers shop, and remain functional while I do it. Hope to get some input as I go along….....



-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3635 days

#3 posted 10-04-2009 05:07 AM

Nice looking shop.

View dbhost's profile


5705 posts in 3194 days

#4 posted 10-04-2009 05:13 AM

I love it… Good space, good set up!

I particularly like the assembly tables with the folding / telescoping legs. I was hoping to throw together one or two of those, but I have no idea where to get the legs these days…

A suggestion… When you do your remodel, paint the ceiling bright white, that helps with light…

It’s not bears or moose I deal with here in the Houston area, and admittedly the Houston metro area has about 5x the population of your entire state humans wise. We also have gators, white tailed deer, and Coyotes. So it’s not just anchorage that has wildlife wierdness….

Not sure which would be scarier though, running into an irritated moose, or Grizzly… Gators you need to be pretty close to, so not much worry there… I don’t get into the bayou you know…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

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Jim Bertelson

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#5 posted 10-04-2009 03:41 PM

In my younger days, for the first 10 years or so I lived here, I would jog 3 times a week in th morning aroung the neighborhood. In the winter put sheet metal screws in the bottom of my tennis shoes for traction (standard practice around here back then). It would be dark at 0600 hrs, and out I would go. One day I was running along and almost before I could stop I saw nothing but brown fur. Mind you, a grown moose is higer at its back than my eyes, and I am 6 feet tall. But I stopped looked up at the warm soft eyes of mother moose that had turned to head to stare at me. She had been munching on branches overhanging the sidewalk. I was literally 3 feet from the mooses side, now about 2 feet from her nose, she was crossways on the sidewalk while feeding. Fortunately no young-one with her. She was very placid. I think she put me in the category of flies that landed on her back from time to time in the summer. I backed up slowly turned, moved around her back side and continued on my way. The moose went back to feeding. I was so suprised that I didn’t even get scared. But I should have been. Most moose, probably 99 out of 100 are docile, that doesn’t mean you can pet them, just that they won’t attack you.

Here is a picture from my front deck, In the winter I frequently see a female moose and a one or two year old with her when I come home from work. They usually get up and wander off when the garage door starts opening, but not always. By the way, now a days I use an elliptical trainer. Much nicer than jogging in the snow or rain…......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3127 days

#6 posted 10-04-2009 08:41 PM



Re the 20 year old project tables. Used to have rubber feet that disintegrated, so there is an extra piece of wood on the carriage bolt.

They will last forever, are very use flexible, the top is easily removed and easily replaced, in fact you could have specialized alternate tops. With the top off they flip over and fold up extremely easy, and could be hung on the wall.

I use these tables as assembly, finishing, sanding, and outfeed tables (with or without a roller on it) I believe they will hold about 500#, but I have only tried about 300#.

Those are standard picnic table legs. Here is an Amazon link for the same thing, $18.70 or more a pair. Don’t know much about the quality differences. Searched on

amazon folding table legs

Here is the detail of my construction. For the leg picture I lifted the top off and upended the extremely light remaining table (one handed with the camera in my other hand). For the main picture, I remove the top and placed the roller on the internal table framework to illustrate their use as a low resistance outfeed table.

The top just sits on the frame, and doesn’t move horizontally because of the cleats that sit just inside the end of the frame restricting motion except for lifting them off. The weight of the top holds it down. The rest of the construction is pine, screws and glue with dimensions as noted. Each top is 48×24, so you could make 4 tops for them from a 4×8 sheet of whatever material you like. The pine is ideal for its weight strength ratio for the rest of the frame.

The legs are made adjustable by removing the original foot, placing inside the leg a close fitting 4” piece of dowel, mine took a 15/16 I think from measuring, maybe I sanded down 1” dowels, can’t remember. It is held in place with a set screw. I drilled a two inch deep hole to just fit the bolt. I drilled a shallow larger hole to press fit a nut…I probably put a drop of glue in there also.

Leg detail:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View stefang's profile


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#7 posted 10-04-2009 09:52 PM

Looks like a nice shop to work in. I don’t like to brag, but I think my shop blog was a lot more boring than yours. Hope you can take the criticism. Enjoyed the Anchorage description too. Looking forward to seeing your shop evolve and your projects.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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10635 posts in 4209 days

#8 posted 12-16-2009 08:11 PM

Well organized well stocked shop. I like it.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

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Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3127 days

#9 posted 12-17-2009 06:11 AM

Thanks, Mike, for the view. I am trying to comfortably turn this shop into a woodworkers hobbyist shop. It will take me a while. Because I am still working, and not young, it goes kinda slowly. But I am enjoying the process.

Checked out your profile, re the miliatary service. I was active in 1968 – 1970. General medical officer in Taiwan, a good billet. Loved the military, almost stayed. But then went on to specialization in OB-GYN at the University of Wisconsin.

I feel a lot like you do about the military. I feel for the troops. I was solo, this is pretty strange…. 8 days after I entered the military I was the Officer in Charge of the military facility for the southern third of Taiwan, standing there in Kaoshuing Taiwan. Wow. They abbreviated my indoctrination, and sent me on commercial air to Taiwan, no doctor there for 2 weeks. Learned a lot in a hurry. The corpsman and the nurse carried me through the first few months till I learned the ropes. Those corpsman were extraordinary, they had all served in Vietnam. The people were great, and it was one the best experiences of my life.

Sounds like you had some unusual experiences in the military also. Gotta support the troops….....we know what it is like. Take care, hope it is all going well for you…......


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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#10 posted 12-17-2009 12:08 PM

Yea, it sounds like we have both been around. Wow, I read your blog about Anchorage. Sounds like you do live in a zoo, but what an interesting place. One place I’ve always wanted to visit, Alaska. Gorgeous country. I’ve been to the Lake of the Woods in Ontario, back in 68, the Parish Priest, used to take us alter boys up there fishing a couple times a year to pay us for taking care of him and the church grounds, he was in his late 60s early 70s. also bought us school cloths in the fall. I still take care of his gravesite after all these years. Plant flowers in his urn every spring. I have done that since I got out of the Army in 72. Any way I loved the country up there, we lived on an island for 2 weeks. Got a chance to go to Chapleau also back in the 80s fishing with three other fellas from work. Walleye and Lake Trout were the fare. Glad to have you on LJs. m

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

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Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3127 days

#11 posted 12-17-2009 05:22 PM

I grew up in northern Minnesota, and would go fishing a lot with my Dad, usually in the area, but occasionally to Rainy Lake up on the border, and have been to Lake of the Woods a couple of times. Good memories. We caught Walleye and Northern Pike all over that region. I spent of lot of time in the Boundary Waters area of Minnesota and Canada canoeing when I was young also. My brother still lives in Ely Minnesota.

I have never been in your part of Michigin. Been to Upper Michigan, Mackinaw bridge, Detroit, etc. but not that area. Note that is a very small town, has its advantages. Out of the way, but close enough to Lansing and Flint. Well, organizing for work, I work 4 days a week, and every fifth weekend. So this is my Friday. Take care.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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