View Full Version : A real shop out of doors?

David Powell
07-20-2014, 07:02 PM
I live near Toronto Canada. My workshop is in my basement. I build and repair live steam models and run them a lot in my garden. Walking up and downstairs 50 times or more a day is getting harder. I love being outside when weather permits. I have lots of tools.I do not want to build a shed in the garden for an upstairs shop. I wonder whether anyone has successfully run a virtually outdoor workshop. I envisage having a lathe , small mill, and store cupboard of all the most used tools sitting on a concrete pad, or paving stones, with an easily removable protective box over and around them. For the winter time they would be drenched in lps 3 or similar and the whole lot tarped up. Have any of you ever done anything similar? Did the scheme work? Regards David Powell.

A.K. Boomer
07-20-2014, 07:13 PM
I think Grizzly Adams had a mill didn't he? was an induma or something like that, then Ben tipped it over and cracked the head,,, don't know was along time ago...

07-20-2014, 08:06 PM
While I was on the Fire Department performing pre-fire inspections one day we came across what I would consider an outdoor machine shop. It was a shed roof open on three sides with nothing but compacted dirt for a floor. It contained a lathe a couple of milling machines, drill presses, welding equipment, hydraulic press, etc. No idea whether they leveled the lathe, if the bed was twisted or if it just stayed straight due to it's inherent rigidity (it was pretty big machine). They did heavy truck repairs. Of course this was in S. FL not in Canada, where I assume winter temperatures would prevent working outside. The shop I mention was a dirty place, truck driving by on a dirt road outside often, sand, dirt, dust everywhere, it couldn't have been good for the machines, but then again maybe they weren't expecting much precision. When hurricanes came they just left the shop open to the elements, came back after the storm cleaned up and life went on.

07-20-2014, 08:06 PM
The Soviets just sat mills and lathes on pallets in muddy fields when they started pulling their manufacturing back behind the Urals. They didn't even bother trying to keep them level.

The main problem you'll have is dew condensing on them every evening and morning. Even a tarp won't stop it; if anything, it'll make it worse.

The Soviets worked outside because they had to, but those machines were probably toast not long after.

Weston Bye
07-20-2014, 08:20 PM
Just plow the cosmolene out of the way for the operation you need to perform and then trowel it back in afterward.

Bob Fisher
07-20-2014, 08:23 PM
Doesn't sound like a good plan to me, being in Toronto, the "warm" season is not too long. How do you plan to prevent rust when you are using the equipment ?What about rain, dew point, etc? Otherwise, I sympathize since my shop is also in the basement, but i don't do live steam trains. How do you get them out of the basement? Good luck. Bob.

Old Hat
07-20-2014, 09:22 PM
I saw a "lean to" shop in north central Missouri when I was around 16 or 17.
The Farmer bought the next door farm from the family of a Blacksmith.
The Farmer said the Blacksmith would work nearly year-round by tarping the east or west ends or both as needed.
Said he never saw the south face closed off, and even now will work indoors if it's not worth working with an open south face.

I beleive the lean~to roof was sloped no more than five degrees to the south, and maybe 8 feet at the eave's trough
and 9 feet where it fascened to the main shop-building now house~ing a combine when I saw it.
He had a cone-head lathe, one forge was still there two heavy benches and an Iron worker that ran off a gass engine.

He told me that tarping machinery is only to fend off rain or the dew.
And that any-time in the spring or fall when the machinery might be cold and the weather warm
he would use heat-tape? or something like you use to keep a fuel-oil line warm on the lathe
and an infra-red light inside the iron worker.

OH! He said tarping should be loose and removed when not needed.
One tarp was from the Blacksmith. It looked like very coarse canviss that had been soaked in oil, tar
or some kind of waxy gunk. Wasn't much left of it, but cool looking.

Old Hat
07-20-2014, 09:57 PM
Thanks! Now ya got me wanting to build a lean to. That memory had settled quietly
into the cobwebs of my mind. Now I can picture it so vividly I googled one up.

Kinda like this but the ground was flatter and no closed end.

07-20-2014, 10:24 PM
A very small shed, just large enough to house the lathe and mill back to back, or inline depending on what you have. Two side doors on each side (if back to back) with a 'flap' hinged to the roof as wide as the doorway, lift top section,(could be canvas on a frame for low wight) open sides and rest the top on the doors to form a roof and sides. Build doors strongly enough and use stout hinges to build storage into them for lightweight items.

Gary Paine
07-20-2014, 10:52 PM
I put in a Bilco door for a walk out/up basement. The lid gets pretty heavy with snow in the winter, but the machines stay dry and warm and it's only a few steps up and out into the back yard.

Frank Ford
07-20-2014, 11:00 PM
One small bit of alleged wisdom - CONSIDER THE LIGHTING.

One fine Ohio spring day my pal, Dan, decided that it was time to get out into the sunshine after working all winter in his basement. He spent half a day moving his workbench outside, along with appropriate tools and supplies.

Dan said he lasted only a couple of minutes before he figured he'd go blind working out there. . .

07-21-2014, 12:02 AM
I'll admit to bring rather dense and looking for examples of work shops made out of old doors..

Paul Alciatore
07-21-2014, 04:28 AM
The more you go up and down those stairs, the longer you will live. And it is cheaper than a gym membership.

07-21-2014, 04:42 AM
I have an outside shop, i cant get in for the hoarded junk so end up working outside half the time, im so sad the missus wont let me use the house

The Artful Bodger
07-21-2014, 06:07 AM
What about a mobile workshop? There are plenty of examples to get inspiration from and you can move it easily enough (depending on size of course) if required. I am thinking of something (trailer?) about 8 feet wide and 12 feet long with fold out and up side and end panels. The machines would be mounted on a bench on the trailer and you lift up the side where the machine is you need to work on and the lifted side would protect from rain and sun. Close it down for the winter. That would be the 'big' version where all work would be done from outside otherwise you could go for the 'small' version which would be totally enclosed and a small workspace between internal benches.

You can also get a reasonable home shop workshop in to a shipping container...

07-21-2014, 08:03 AM
My lathe stood outside under a tarp for 3 months during the UK winter.

I painted it in a mixture of 80% way oil and 20% ACF 50 rust inhibitor

Plenty of moisture built up on it.. but not a single sign of rust.


Just mop up the moisture....use the lathe ..then a quick recoat and back on with the tarp.

J Tiers
07-21-2014, 08:54 AM
I'd bet you'd have found thousands of "lean-to" shops in the time up to maybe 1930. And a lot more where the building may as well have been one, since you could see through between the boards of the walls.

Lots of shops grew up out of blacksmith operations, and what blacksmith had a 4 wall building in those days? He generally had a heat problem, not a cold problem....