"The Shop"

I have always wanted a shop, a place to get away from it all, a place to build whatever pathetic little thing I wanted. In 2001 I finally decided to bite the bullet and go for it. I initially thought I could complete the building in 6 weeks ... it ended up taking over 3 months to finish the outside of the building.

My shop is placed about 80 feet behind my house, and about 200 feet from the closest dumping location. This made hauling sand one of the most difficult jobs of the project. I started on April 1 so the ground was quite wet when I began moving the sand with a wheel barrow. After about a dozen loads my arms felt like they would fall off and I realized that I wouldn't finish until October at the rate I was

So I decided to rent the "buggy" that you see in this next picture.

  I'm smiling in the top picture, but moments later I got the stupid buggy stuck in the hole. With a lot of sweat I finally got it out, and started back at it ... only to get it really stuck on the second load! As the day wore on, I recruited my father, my neighbor, and his tractor to help. Finally, after about 7 hours and four dump truck loads later, I got the sand in. After compacting, and placing the wire mesh in, I was ready to pour the concrete floor.

I made the forms myself with plywood made from my old high school friend Kevin Cunningham's mill. (I also used this for the upstairs floor and the inside walls ... great stuff.)  It was my first time using the "uni-floor" design where the walls and floor are all poured at the same time. (I did this to minimize the number of times I'd require a pump truck.) My big mistake was not fully appreciating how much force would be put on the walls. As you can see from the bottom picture, I braced my forms from the side ... big mistake. Next time, I'll brace them from behind.

The pour took place on a perfect April day. I had been watching the weather reports for days and was shocked to wake up to a changed forcast of rain. I quickly built a frame with boards and rope to throw a tarp over, but as it turned out the weather was perfect: dry but overcast.

I had two of my friends (Dave and Vern) over to give me a hand. In the top picture, my form has just broken from my misplaced brace, and both Dave and Vern are looking on. Dave is thinking "what kind of person would ever build a form like this!". Vern, always the optimist, is saying "well, you could put a Bay window here". Meanwhile, I'm in my academic mode trying to think up explanations for why anyone would brace a form from the side. It was a terrible moment, and one where I wanted to pack the whole project in. As it turned out, once the building was put up, you can barely tell where the floor swells. A few shrubs down the road will all but eliminate the memory of the awful moment.

In the bottom picture you can see big Dave trying to get the concrete out of the hose once we had finished.  That hose weighs about 200 pounds, and  Vern is a little angry at me at this point because just moments before the two of us had tried the same thing. I tripped though and left him holding the entire tube, which immediately crushed him. That's why you have friends over for the pour.  After the concrete sat for a couple of hours I wrapped it in burlap, watered it down, wrapped it in plastic, and then let it sit for 11 days. This allows the concrete to cure from inside and makes it extremely hard. As of this writing I still do not have a crack in the floor, which is unusual for a slab of that size.

On to the framing. Framing is one of those fast jobs that impresses your kids. "Wow dad, you're almost finished" was Emily's reaction after the third wall went up. Of the three kids, she was the one who showed the most interest in the project.

The top picture is with my dad and Emily. Note the six pack on Ems. Most people think this comes from her 18 hours every week training in the gym, but the real reason is genetic ... paternal side.  It is hard to tell from the photo, but I've made the shop completely open on the main floor. This allows for lots of room inside, and I don't have to worry about posts when I'm swinging a sheet of plywood around. It also means I have 20 foot beams in the ceiling, and putting them up by myself was no easy task.

On to the rafters.

I almost didn't include this picture because of my fat stomach hanging out, but it's the only early rafter shot I have. Originally I was going to put a simple gable roof on my shop, and use the attic for storage. I caved in to peer pressure, however, and put a hip roof on. The hip roof not only gives a large room upstairs, it also
makes a very strong roof. The trick to making it look right is to i) have a 2-1 pitch on the bottom and a 1-2 pitch on the top, and ii) make sure the bottom is longer than the top. I drew up several designs with my father's help before I settled on this one. If I had to do it
all over again, I'd make one minor change ... but I've got to get over that. That's my wife's friend Barb giving me a hand. She wanted to try some nailing and spent about 15 minutes putting one of the gussets on. I think she doesn't choke up on the hammer enough.

Once the rafters were up I put the strapping on. I used rough 1x8 Douglas Fir because it was so cheap. Unfortunately it was also very heavy. I think I lost 10 pounds lifting them up on the roof.


Next came the facia boards, by far the scariest part of the job since the rafters were still quite wobbly and you have to hang out over the building. Then came the tin, the most expensive part of the job. I was going to put shakes on, but after my experience with falling off my earlier shed roof, and with the steeper hip roof construction, I opted for the easier tin. It looks ok, and will last much longer. Speaking of falling, you'd think from the picture below I must have fallen many times; however, I only fell once and that was after the roof was completed.

I still can't believe how stupid I was to fall. It rained one night for the first time since the roof was on, and so in the morning I rushed out
to see if there were any leaks. I was shocked when I found a small leak near the center of the floor. I ran outside and saw that I had
simply missed a screw in one of my predrilled holes. (Hint: when drilling the holes, have all of the sheets stacked on top of each other. This puts the holes in the same place for each sheet and makes a nice neat row of screws on the roof. It's also faster.) Without thinking, I grabbed a screw and ladder, and scrambled up the roof. I had enough momentum and enough grib on the small screw heads to get me
to the second bend in the roof line. As soon as I placed the screw in the hole two thoughts came to mind: "I forgot my drill" and "I'm about to fall." I instantly slid down the wet tin thinking "this is going to hurt". As I went off the end of the roof I tried hitting the ladder with my feet. Unfortunately, one foot went between the rungs, the other missed the ladder completely ... ouch. I continued to fall and landed on a piece of big-O pipe in the grass ... the ladder landing on me moments later. It hurt, I cut my hand, and my left leg now goes to sleep much faster, but all things considered I came out "not half bad".

The hip roof also makes my shop look like a barn. Perhaps that's why my friend Zane gave me this beautiful rooster clock. (note the scaffolding I acquired after the fall!)

As with my shed out front, I used the vertical board and baton siding. This is not only a cheap form of siding, I think it also looks great on an out-building.

Here are some pictures of the building at lock-up.

Front (notice all the custom doors!).

Back. Eventually I'll put a set of stairs on this back side.

And finally, here's a sad excuse for an artistic look at the building:

In 2017, I decided to put an addition to the good ol' shop. I wanted an office where I could keep my plans and other things away from the sawdust.

I also wanted a place to store wood, outside of the building zone. My wife thought that if I'd just keep my shop clean, I could have both. She

was probably right, but that's not as much fun.  Here is the finished product.

The sign says "whatever happens in the batcave, stays in the batcave."
  The inside of this office will never be so clean.  Most of the wood here is from trees I milled from the property.

Another artistic attempt: