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Woodworking on a Half-Shoestring #8: The Dungeon: Before Construction of a Woodworking Shop

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Blog entry by Paul Bucalo posted 10-12-2014 02:45 PM 1546 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Marble Pieces for Scary Sharp Sharpening & Cheap Trim Router Fix Part 8 of Woodworking on a Half-Shoestring series Part 9: Bench and Block Planes Purchase »

Our house was built in 1900, as close as the public records will tell. I know many of you are living in homes quite a bit older, especially in the U.K. and Europe, that are in much better shape than ours. The difference is where this home was built and what for. At that time in our local history, Norwich was a sizable hub for railroad traffic. Down at the East end of our street is an embankment that once looked over an large train yard with an engine turn-circle/round house. Across the street is a three-story dwelling that looks somewhat like the Munsters home—not as elaborate, but with similar architectural features. It was designed explicitly to be a boarding home for the railroad community, as was our house. But unlike the boarding home across from us, our home was build fast and with little concern for elegance or quality of construction.

All of this construction near the tracks was the Italian section. The Irish section was across the tracks to the West of us. Back in those days, you didn’t cross the tracks (neighborhood to neighborhood) without repercussions. Use your imagination on what that could entail.

The Italian section of town didn’t have the nicest homes and properties in our community. Those were on the other side of the tracks. You can see this disparity today, especially as the West side occupants have died off and large homes become fodder for slum lords happy to turn them into multiple dwelling rentals.

So that’s a brief history of the house and why it exists. The challenges I face in creating a working woodworking shop are visually obvious. Add to that a minimal amount of funds to invest in the project and you can see I will have to improvise and make due, a lot. You may have noticed the lumber on the floor. That’s what I have reclaimed so far from pallets collected in the community. Because pallet wood tends to be ash in our area, the hardwood lumber will be strong, if not pretty looking. Most of my benches will be made with this wood, using quality lumber for tops and where straightness is critical.

Last thing to mention: the spider webs. I probably should have taken some ceiling shots to show you the extensive network of cobwebs and active arachnids residing in the dungeon. I have only cleaned to the entranceway and half of the main area, to date. This will be the most difficult task for me because I have arachnophobia. That should answer your question on why has it taken so long to get the ambition up to clean up the dungeon. ;)

Here are pictures of The Dungeon. Enter at your own peril:


The outside entrance to the dungeon. This is enclosed within a two-story porch, with the back entrance to my home at my backside as I took this picture.


The foyer pathway to the dungeon. Barely noticeable in this picture is the window to the right. I have a 270 cfm variable speed fan mounted in what use to be a window.


The 270 cfm fan unit. I still have to insert the fan and motor, plus wire up the box (which will be mounted over the small hole on the left) which will house the variable speed switch. I also need to run 14 gauge wiring to the fan.


You are now entering the dungeon. Check your anti-arachnid forcefield!


Just as you walk in you are greeted by this humongous behemoth of old. It probably has been 60 years or more since this house heated with oil. It will stay there. I plan on building a studded all on the two showing sides and use the space and wall for benches and tool storage, respectively.


This is to the left of entering the dungeon. The chest freezer will be relocated to the front side of the dungeon, see in following pictures. The red supports can’t be moved, so the space between them and the coal bin wall will sport a wall lumber rack.


This is at the front end of the house, where I used to have a bike shop long ago. All my bikes (four of my own and one of my wife’s) are stored in the upstairs back porch. I will have to reorganize the this area and weed out the stuff that I really should get rid of. Still have some bikes to build, if only to sell off.

Notice the door? There is a room behind that wall that hasn’t been used in over 20 years! I plan on doing so.


To the left of the previous picture is that space I mentioned that should hold the freezer, get it out of the main work area. The metal cabinet may be kept, but probably I will get rid of it. Pretty rusty and very flimsy.


Turning 180 degrees from the previous picture, this is the view of the opening to a room that is just to the left of when you enter the dungeon. The usable space spans the entire width of the dungeon, but it has a lot of junk in it now. Lots of cleanup, new lighting…lots of work ahead of me.


I will relocate this storage shelf, probably in the room I just pointed to on the left. You can see the old steps that used to go upstairs. A bathroom now sits above it.


Entrance to the old coal bin area, North side. The floor there is bare ground mixed with decades of coal dust. No reclamation possible there. It also sports rods sticking out of the ground. Not a safe place to spend time in.


The South side entrance to the coal bin area. You can just see one of the two services. This used to be a two family dwelling, so it has two 100 amp services. Notice the cob webs? Unfriendlies!


This area is reasonably dry year round, so it will be fine for the chest freezer. If you didn’t notice early on, I have a dehumidifier running, connected to a 5 gallon bucket that I change out daily. Right now the humidity hovers between 45 and 48 percent.

The race against time is to get the table saw onto an enclosed base that will connect to a shop vac for dust collection. I can’t cut anything down there until I have a mobile collection system up, but really that is mostly closing off the bottom of the table saw. Everything else has a collection port I can connect to right now. Today will be a nice day. I will have to hall out the table saw and miter saw, plus some saw horse and portable benches to get the base done today. I hope.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA



12 comments so far

View NDakota's profile

NDakota

68 posts in 1014 days


#1 posted 10-12-2014 03:26 PM

My small shop is entirely set up in old coal bin. The thick wood walls are nice for hanging things anywhere you want. Im guessing that I have more cobwebs than you do, and have never seen a spider in basement! Just take it one spot at a time and it didnt take that long to get shop up and running, enjoy.

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

626 posts in 827 days


#2 posted 10-12-2014 03:37 PM


My small shop is entirely set up in old coal bin. The thick wood walls are nice for hanging things anywhere you want.

The outside wall you see will be used to mount a wall rack for lumber. I can handle that. The floor in the coal bin area is uneven dirt and coal dust. I can stir that stuff up in any way, for obvious reasons, but also because I have hefty allergies that are year round. Then there are the steel rods sticking out of the ground. Maybe I will look at reclaiming that area once the rest of the shop is up and running.


Im guessing that I have more cobwebs than you do, and have never seen a spider in basement!

I should have taken the pictures before I removed the ones you don’t see now. But if you are happy with them, can I send you mine? :) As for the spiders, you have to trust me on this. Many. I mean MANY! It has gotten better since I reduced the humidity. It used to be almost 70% year round.

Just take it one spot at a time and it didnt take that long to get shop up and running, enjoy.

- NDakota

Thanks. Today I will be vacuuming some more and moving stuff around. Later in the afternoon it should be close to 60 out and easier to get some cutting done.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View Bigrock's profile

Bigrock

290 posts in 2430 days


#3 posted 10-12-2014 03:59 PM

It will be great a great place in time. You get a real good dust mask and you will be surprised what you can get done in a weekend. Be careful

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

626 posts in 827 days


#4 posted 10-12-2014 04:01 PM



It will be great a great place in time. You get a real good dust mask and you will be surprised what you can get done in a weekend. Be careful

- Bigrock

Yeah, I know. I’m getting my courage up to face the creepy denizens. I want this shop a little more than I want to avoid the spiders, so I do have something going for me. :)

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View luv2learn's profile

luv2learn

2467 posts in 1770 days


#5 posted 10-12-2014 04:13 PM

You certainly have your work cut out for you and it looks as though it may be a rather long term endeavor. I agree with NDakota, ”Just take it one spot at a time”, you have the skills to turn this into a first class shop.
Please keep us posted on your progress.

-- Lee - Northern idaho~"If the women don't find you handsome, at least they ought to find you handy"~ Red Green

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

626 posts in 827 days


#6 posted 10-12-2014 05:07 PM



You certainly have your work cut out for you and it looks as though it may be a rather long term endeavor. I agree with NDakota, ”Just take it one spot at a time”, you have the skills to turn this into a first class shop.
Please keep us posted on your progress.

- luv2learn

Thanks. I’m heading for the dungeon right now. Time to haul the table and miter saws out onto the driveway to get that saw base cut and hopefully assembled today.

I will add updates on my progress. That’s incentive to get things done.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View Tugboater78's profile

Tugboater78

2450 posts in 1659 days


#7 posted 10-13-2014 04:43 AM

Progression of making a space for a shop is always a task, I started in my basement then my kitchen ( for a time after I demo’d it and rebuilt) then moved out to an 8×10 shed, added a 10×10 onto it, and have framed up another 10×16 beyond that.

One day I’ll just build or have built a 20×24 on the back of my lot made to my specifications. Gotta finish remodeling house first though.

Good luck!

-- "....put that handsaw to work and make it earn its keep. - summerfi" <==< JuStiN >==>=->

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

626 posts in 827 days


#8 posted 10-13-2014 12:14 PM



Progression of making a space for a shop is always a task, I started in my basement then my kitchen ( for a time after I demo d it and rebuilt) then moved out to an 8×10 shed, added a 10×10 onto it, and have framed up another 10×16 beyond that.

One day I ll just build or have built a 20×24 on the back of my lot made to my specifications. Gotta finish remodeling house first though.

Good luck!

- Tugboater78

Thanks, Tug. I know what you mean. Starting out with what you have and growing as time, space and money allow for. I gave thought to building a small shop on the property. I’ve seen some interesting structures using pallet and reclaimed wood. We don’t know where we will be in the next three to five years, with my father’s health changing and his advanced age, so the thought is to get a workable woodshop in the dungeon and that would allow us to make changes throughout the house, and if we decide to, out on the property. I think a second storage shed next Spring is a definite. :)

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View JoeinGa's profile

JoeinGa

7489 posts in 1474 days


#9 posted 10-13-2014 12:52 PM

That old oil tank would make a heck of a BBQ cooker, if you could get it out of there and into your back yard. Basically just cut the top off it where that seam is and have some angle iron welded to the insides to hold some racks.

Plus you’d gain a bit of useable space that your current plans call to wall off.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

626 posts in 827 days


#10 posted 10-13-2014 01:05 PM



That old oil tank would make a heck of a BBQ cooker, if you could get it out of there and into your back yard. Basically just cut the top off it where that seam is and have some angle iron welded to the insides to hold some racks.

Plus you d gain a bit of useable space that your current plans call to wall off.

- JoeinGa

Can’t argue with your logic, Joe. But we don’t cook out enough and there are only the two of us these days. Besides that, I don’t have any friends around the area who could help me get the sucker out. You are welcome to it. I have to wonder, though, if there is a problem personally hauling a fuel tank across state lines.

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

View Fired_Yo_Momma's profile

Fired_Yo_Momma

77 posts in 880 days


#11 posted 10-15-2014 05:04 PM

Thats F’en cool workshop. I go to England about once a year to visit friends in Henley. I would love to own an old school home like that. You should host a haunted house dungeon for Halloween and scare the kids

View Paul Bucalo's profile

Paul Bucalo

626 posts in 827 days


#12 posted 10-15-2014 05:35 PM



Thats F en cool workshop. I go to England about once a year to visit friends in Henley. I would love to own an old school home like that. You should host a haunted house dungeon for Halloween and scare the kids

- FiredYoMomma

Heh. Be careful what you wish for! :)

There are some major structural issues with the home that have us wanting out in the near future. The dungeon is not the best place for a woodshop. The ceilings are low—thankfully, I an a little Sicilian. The overhead boiler pipes are covered in asbestos and the joints between wrappings are friable. I hope to find some way to cover them up with the least amount of exposure. Then there is the crumpling concrete fllor, with chip outs as deep as a couple of inches. Yeah, you can have it. Cheap. ;)

-- -- Paul Bucalo, Norwich NY USA

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