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Forum topic by mcg1990 posted 02-27-2015 04:37 AM 1010 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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158 posts in 716 days

02-27-2015 04:37 AM

My first shop is almost complete, but I feel like if I wait any longer to fully chronicle my journey I’ll have forgotten too many details/lost too many photos. Users of this forum provided me with so much excellent advice and I’m indebted to you all. I hope that this post can in turn answer questions for others and keep the good deeds in good circulation!

About a year ago I found myself building furniture for fun and [very little] profit. My Wife and I had just moved into our first house and it had a roofed slab outside that had been built for use as kennels. The slab measured about 11’ x 22’, and was 8’ high at the front and 7’ at the back. The slab didn’t quite reach the front posts. Suffice it to say this was impractical.. At first I had a mitre box and hand saw and the kreg mini. As interest grew so did my budget, and I picked up a mitre saw, the proper Kreg system and a corded drill. I operated from a pallet on a sawhorse with and used an extension cord for power. Anyway, my Wife finally agreed that if I was going to make a go at a business I needed a proper workspace, so in October last year I got started!

The first step was to get concrete down to bring the slab up to the front posts. Once that was done I could build my stud walls. I knew I wanted a nice wide door (60”) and two windows. I found 2 used windows for a good deal and realized I’d need to build my own doors. The walls were quite complicated as every single stud needed to be cut, not just to the correct height but the tops needed a 5 degree angle on them. It took a long time but actually this was my favorite part of the whole project. I got to use just enough math to feel smart but not enough to actually challenge/humble me.

Concrete delivered ready mixed, laid myself: $250. Stud walls: $200 Running total: $450

Next step was the exterior walls. I knew these would be expensive and I braced myself for $500, working on needing around 20 sheets and around $25 each. Fortunately for me I’m in good with the owner of the local family run lumber yard – he had 18 sheets of masonite/hardieboard type stuff sitting in a warehouse. Some of it in not excellent condition, but who cares? Either the top or bottom needs to be cut anyway, and he gave it to me for $10 a panel. The boards were screwed up and all seems were caulked and then primed twice. Then, again, everything was primed and painted with whatever exterior paint was recommended at the time.

I found one single window, in brand new condition, and got it for $40, and the same local lumber yard had a double window out of box, same style as the first (luckily) for $120. These were installed quite easily: reciprocating saw to cut out the hole and windows nailed in using the flange, caulked around the edges.

Panels: $180, caulk/primer/paint: $70, windows: $160. Running total: $860

I built my own doors and these turned out to be way more expensive than I had planned. The lumber yard had a bunch of Cypress left from when the owner used some for a personal project. He wasn’t in at the time I bought it and the other employees didn’t know the price.. I knew he’d cut me a deal so I threw caution to the wind and bought what I needed. It came as 1×6 tongue and groove boards, 12’ to 14’ in length. This was a problem as it meant I couldn’t get two lengths from each board for the height of my doors, and it ran up the total a lot. The lumber ended up costing $250, though my buddy cut it down to $200. My own fault. Still, I like the doors.. I just wish I was a good enough carpenter to have been able to build them perfectly.

Doors: $200, running total: $1060

So at this point I had good shelter and natural light but no power. This is where the real struggle began. My only previous experience in electrics has been changing outlets, but my Dad’s an engineer so over my life I witnessed enough to feel somewhat confident dabbling. Misplaced confidence in electrical work is dangerous though ( << necessary disclaimer), so I embarked upon a long and tiresome 2 weeks of research. It was especially difficult as I had to battle between 1) local contractors who didn’t want to have to do it to code, 2) father in law who, while knowledgeable and handy with all things in home maintenance, is very country and is happy rigging everything, 3) my own inability to settle with anything less than perfectly futureproof, attractive, affordable and safe.

I ended up choosing 2-2-2-4 Aluminum mobile home feeder run from my main service panel in the house to a subpanel down in the shop. It was cheap ($2/ft, as opposed to $4+ for Cu) and would happily carry 90A. It satisfied my criteria for affordability and future proofing – I speculated as to the highest total draw I would ever have among tools in my shop (saw/jointer/planer + lights + heat/air + dust collection, added 10% to be safe, added 200% to be safe again).

I bought 90 feet, borrowed a trencher from the neighbour who owns a landscaping business and went to town! I wanted to bury it 18” – 24” deep but the trencher would only easily channel out 12”, so that’s where it is, +/- 2”. For inside the crawl space and up to the panel I used flexible conduit, and I bought a 100A starter kit sub panel from Lowes for $70. I used 10/2, 12/2 and 14/2 wire for my 120v, 240v and lights respectively. I probably spent $150 for the interior wiring, boxes and outlets (cheapy ones).

As for grounding I learnt that I ought to keep my ground and neutrals separate, so I did, and have my ground running to 2 8ft ground rods, spaced 6ft apart, just outside of the shop. I have 4 fluorescent shop lights which each carry 2 T8s and these work like a dream. They’re the cheapest ones Lowes had and I love them.

Feeder: $180, interior wiring incl. box, outlets, shop lights: $250, grounding: $40. Quote from local electricians JUST for laying the feeder: $1200. Running total: $1630

Next came insulation. This doesn’t require much explanation.. Lowes, insulation, staple gun, job done.

Insulation: $250, running total: $1880

And then the interior walls. Plywood is so prohibitively expensive so I was forced to use OSB – I went for 1/2” (actual 9/16”). Due to number of cuts I had to make I knew it would look crap. The floor slants at 5 degrees, the roof at 15. Nothing’s square, nothing’s 8ft or 4ft. I think if it would be been a simple matter of standing sheets up next to each other with no gaps then I wouldn’t have bothered painting it.. I actually like the look of OSB at times. But it looked SO crap with all the gaps that I primed it, caulked it, painted it.

24 sheets of OSB guzzled up 4 gallons of Kilz original and 2 gallons of Walmart cheapy latex topcoat. I think another 2 gallons would have it looking decent, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Even with all the paint it’s a drastic saving using the OSB. It’s $7 per sheet as opposed to $25 for the cheapest plywood.

24 sheets OSB: $170, prime, paint, caulk: $115.
Total: ~$2000
Allow 15% extra for hardware, some taxes, errors etc, you’re looking at around $2200 – $2400.

And this is where I am now.

I’ve acquired lots of tools in a short space of time – Craftsman 22124 hybrid, new in box, $440. Grizzly 8” jointer $400, deWalt 734 planer $400 incl. Tax (just ask Lowes for 10%, they always do it on big purchases of just about anything), Harbor Freight 10” mitre saw $90 (never bought the warranty but they let me take 2 saws back anyway, even after a year of having it – fence kept warping. Crap products but great customer service!). Clamps and all that.. It’s impossible to count. Probably another $2k in tools and the next purchase is the HF dust collector – basically the only product they sell considered to be genuinely excellent.

None of this would have been possible without an incredible Wife who believes and trusts in my ability to grow into a carpenter over the years to come. Now I’m just getting used to having walls so I’m building lumber racks and storage shelves to maximize my floor space.

It’s an ongoing process but I’m very proud. My electrics all check out, the walls are sound and my clients love their tables/beds/whathaveyou.

I hope this serves to benefit someone in some way. I haven’t included every last detail so if you’d like to know any specifics just shout and I’ll answer as best I can.

Thank you to anyone and everyone who contributed in my many frantic, desperate and demanding posts. This wasn’t possible without you, either.


8 replies so far

View CoachSchroeder's profile


97 posts in 1028 days

#1 posted 02-27-2015 05:12 AM

Awesome. Thanks for sharing!

-- -Sam, in Wisconsin

View MrUnix's profile (online now)


4049 posts in 1623 days

#2 posted 02-27-2015 05:44 AM

Having an extra slab is a wonderful thing :)


-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

View helluvawreck's profile


22707 posts in 2290 days

#3 posted 02-27-2015 02:58 PM

This will make you a nice shop. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View klassenl's profile


169 posts in 2083 days

#4 posted 02-28-2015 04:21 AM

Good job of using what you have and hunting down bargains. I’m hoping to build around 700 sq ft a starting a year from now and I’ll likely spend 10 times what you did.

-- When questioned about using glue on a garbage bin I responded, "Wood working is about good technique and lots of glue........I have the glue part down."

View mcg1990's profile


158 posts in 716 days

#5 posted 03-02-2015 03:35 PM

I’m finding that it’s all about networking. I’m new to this country as of 18 months ago but luckily through being loyal to local businesses I’ve been able to find these good deals.

In the future I may attempt to extend the shop to the left (when viewing from the yard), but that’ll be a nuisance due to wiring through the studs. It’s not impossible to work around, though, and I could really use an extra little room for finishing completed pieces.

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 2567 days

#6 posted 03-02-2015 04:26 PM

mcg, when you insulated, did you run the paper over the studs? It’s hard to tell in the pictures, but to clarify to anyone reading this that may want to do something similar, the paper gets folded to the side of the studs. This way you can easily locate the studs for drywall, osb, ply, etc.

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View mcg1990's profile


158 posts in 716 days

#7 posted 03-02-2015 07:58 PM

My paper edges just got stapled to the front edge of the studs – I didn’t know any better at the time. I didn’t find that I had any issues locating them when hanging my walls, but that method would have helped in the ceiling.

View klassenl's profile


169 posts in 2083 days

#8 posted 03-04-2015 03:04 AM

I m finding that it s all about networking. I m new to this country as of 18 months ago but luckily through being loyal to local businesses I ve been able to find these good deals.

- mcg1990

This is absolutely true. I happen to be in the construction industry and try to do this every day.

My early estimates are about $20000 for building from scratch, doing much of the labour myself and knowing where to beg and borrow. It was suggested to me on the weekend at a trade show that if I got someone else to do the work it would be more like $30000

-- When questioned about using glue on a garbage bin I responded, "Wood working is about good technique and lots of glue........I have the glue part down."

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