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Thread: New Workshop Ideas wanted

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Somerset, NJ


    "Stuff expands to fill the available space."

    This is a corollary of Parkinson's Law.

    Parkinson’s Law:
    Formula invented by the English political analyst Cyril Northcote Parkinson, which states that ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’.

    [This message has been edited by fixxit (edited 10-05-2004).]

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    kamloops bc canada

    Cool New Workshop Ideas wanted

    I'm very lucky. I'll soon be moving and have the opportunity to build a new free standing heated workshop from the ground up. Regardless of how much thought I put into this, I'm worrying already about the things that I'll forget to put in.

    If you lucky like me and were to do it again, that is build yourself another shop, what would be the most important things not to forget or "must have" items???

    As a guideline, I'm thinking of a 40ft x 100ft shop. The machine shop to be on one end to include lathes, milling, tooling, bench space material and office area. The main area would be metal fab with welders and plasma, and one area with extra high ceiling for larger vehicles.

    I have no firm plans as yet, with building design or floor layout or roof trusses..., so any suggestions would be truly appreciated.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Southern Oregon


    first construct the building so that snow will shed to the side and not in front of the doors(that is if you are is snow country). Next try to put plugins every four ft. no more that 6 ft apart along the walls and have them about 4.5 ft. off the floor. Get a good oil heater with an auto thermostat. (On at 0700 off at 1600) it will be warm when you get to the shop and will be warm when you leave at 5) Oil may not be so good any more.
    Lots of lights on different circuits. Than you can turn off any light not being used.

    Lay out the floor plan to scale and cut out wood blocks that will represent your machines to scale. Decide where the machines would set and be the most convienuet to use that wire a circute to that machine.

    Have a washbasin and a way to get a bucket of water for the machine sumps.

    Some of this will add some cost to the building but is will be worth it in the future, as what you plan for now may/will change in the future.
    Hope this has given you some food for thought.
    P.S. Also lots of shelves.

    [This message has been edited by charlie coghill (edited 09-29-2004).]
    Don\'t ask me to do a dam thing, I\'m retired.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Surrey, British Columbia


    Figure out what amp service you will need, and then double it!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2004



    I had a similar opportunity a couple of years ago moving in to a new house with an over-sized garage. I laid out all the machines on the floor with tape (if you are building, the model is a good idea) to make sure all would fit. Before we moved in I painted the floor with light gray epoxy and installed plenty of lighting. The floor reflects the light and greatly enhances the lighting. Also installed quad electrical at each machine station(220 for the lathe and Mill 110 for the rest) and ran black pipe for air lines from the air compressor to each work station. The last thing was installation of central heat and air with its own unit and thermostat. The whole installation and unit was just under $2100. I then insulated the floor of the attic (ceiling of the garage) and put sealing strips on the garage door to seal any leaks around the edges, top and bottom when the door is closed. Also put sealing strips around the attic door, as well. By adding the heat and air, the garage becomes useable year round at 72 degrees evene when temps hit 100 in summer and below freezing in winter. The best part is that the area cools and heats so rapidly that the utility cost appears minimal.

    The shop is equipped with 13 x 40 lathe, Vertical Mill with Knee, Drill Press, Horizontal and vertical band saws, 60 gal compressor, acetylene and mig welders, 6 foot work bench, grinder, polisher and disc/belt sander. Took some doing, but with a little pre-planning I was able to arrange all this around the walls, put both cars in and still have room to work. (It has a storage closet where all the tooling and hand tools are kept so I don't have any shelving on the floor)

    Sounds like your shop will be every man's dream. Two things are a must-- lots of light, lots of electrical. Good luck


  6. #6


    My shop has a some very key features for me:

    *) Every 6 feet around the perimeter, I have a quad 120v outlet. This is true around the entire shop. Cost me about $600 extra, worth every penny.

    *) I don't know what area of the country you in, but I have in floor radiant heat. Love it. The slab is nice and warm, the machines are warm. A good thing.

    *) In the machinery area, make sure the slab is at least 8" thick, if not a foot.

    *) Don't skimp on your office size. Also, don't forget a bathroom. I wish I had put a urinal in mine. Also, don't forget a sink in the shop itself.

    *) I really wish I had put in a paint booth area with ventilation. Many metal projects require finishing that is not pleasant to do outdoors.

    *) Plumb for air. Put the compressor outside if you can.

    *) Floor drains

    *) A spot for a phone every 25'. A 100' dash for the phone isn't fun in a shop. Might as well put cat-5 wire for computer network and a cable TV outlet in the same spot.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    New Zealand


    Whoopee! Open cheque book time.

    Trying to think of the building and basic facilities only. Lots of other things can be done later if needed.

    High stud whole area, steel frame construction for maximum usable hight under roof trusses. (any area not needing height can have mezzanene above)

    Some Laserlite polycarbonate sheets in the roof for natural light.

    Solid level concreate floor, at least 8" plus steel at least with good foundation underneeth.

    Office & facility area one end with mezzanene above.

    Perhaps a large full height door at the end were you can get some extra height up in the gable area.

    3 phase power, as Charlie says figure what you think you need and at least double it.

    Phew! That was fun.

    Yep all these things will add to the cost, so if that is a problem. None of the above.

    [This message has been edited by zl1byz (edited 09-29-2004).]

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Chilliwack, B.C.


    Figure out what service you'll need then double it. I agree with that, also have lots of outlets, and separate circuits. A shop sink with hot and cold runnung water is also a good idea, and have a first aid cabinet easy to reach. I would include some flush mounted threaded anchor points in the floor where you would be likely to want a flat table. You can put a coupling nut halfway on one of these anchors, and plug the top with a short bolt and washer, so you can embed it in the concrete flush with the floor surface. If you don't use them, they aren't in the way. Using these, you can adjust a framework to be absolutely flat, good for an assembly table, etc. Consider an area for a forge or heat treat oven, and build in suitable ventilation. In this regard, build in a floor level ventilation system for heavier than air solvents, etc, and maybe have a spray booth area, a clean room. You could use a heat exchanger in the vent system to minimize heat loss if that's potentially a problem.
    Does it make any sense for you to have some kind of gantry from the ceiling to move heavy items around? That would influence your choice of roof structure.
    Consider wiring in a loop of multi-conductor wire, useful for a number of systems. You may want to have an intercom system, and possibly a panic system. Some easy to reach buttons to alert someone in the house or wherever, in case of accident. Some lights in various spots to alert you to someone needing you.
    If the air compressor is to be inside, build a room for it, to keep noise down. You might need a drain in that room.
    A good humidity controlled cabinet for the myriad tooling that you want to keep rust-free.
    You may find that the office should be large enough for a bit of a kitchenette. Handy to have a fridge and a microwave.

    [This message has been edited by darryl (edited 09-29-2004).]
    I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

  9. #9


    Once you have determined where you machines will be consider running power to them thru the floor, If you have a dust collection system that can also run thru the floor.

    Paul G.
    Paul G.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    In my subterrainean lair, okay, it's a basement.


    Eyewash stations: They are cheap enough that it makes it worthwhile. C&H sells the plastic bottle ones for less than fifty dollars. They even make one that goes on a sink faucet.

    Fire extinguishers: as many as you can afford, more if your doing welding - you will have a fire at somepoint...

    First aid kit: cheap insurance against the inevitable burns and cuts

    Insulation: If your doing "stick" framing, build using 2X6's or larger and fill it with fiberglass batt, then put a double layer of 2" polyisocyanurate foam board on the outside and roof. This will give at least an R45 wall and roof. I would use the new tile backing board they sell in Homedepot for the interior walls, it's some kinda fiberglass and is therefore more fire resistant than plywood or sheetrock. If your doing concrete block construction, the foam board is still an option for exterior insulation.

    Heating: forget oil or gas, think geothermal - with a well insulated building the monthly heating costs would be miniscule and you can use it for airconditioning as well. A typical R19 3000sf house would have a yearly heating/cooling bill of something like $900. It will cost you more up front but you'll thank me when the temp hit's 95 and you can't afford to make it cool enough for comfort. I would also suggest a small(8KW) emergency genset to keep the building from being a meat locker if the power fails in January for a week.

    Floors: I would put down a 6 or better yet an 8" thick wire reinforced concrete floor, more than that is a waste of money. The only time you see floors a foot thick in commercial machine shops is when they have machines that are so big, they're brought in in sections... I also would pour the floor in 20 foot square sections to make it easier to replace when the inevitable floor damage shows up. Radiant underfloor heating is nice, but it makes jackhammering up and replacing a damaged floor an additional headache. Hydronic baseboard is a better idea. Epoxy is fantastic for surfacses, light grey is about ideal for color. A perimeter drain is a must, with a sump and pump. keep in mind what is going to wind up in their is not going to be just water - a holding tank might be necessary.

    Power, Air: instead of putting quad boxes for the 110 household every couple of feet, why not use a reel with 50 feet of extension on it? this way the power can be had anywhere and you don't have to deal with extension cords. Ditto for non machine dedicated air taps. I would plan on having at least 100amps 3phase in the shop, more if you plan on a decent size Mig/tig/plasma cutter. These things are power hogs. A Syncrowave 250 draws 90+ amps, single phase at max output. As for piping the air, I would use plain ole' solder copper tubing - it's good to over 200 PSI, and it's easy to install. Figure on using one inch diameter. I wouldn't put an aircompressor outside, I would put it inside within a small sound insulated space. Why? Because I've seen enough crapped up air compressors that have been put in a shed because of the noise to know that it's just a bad idea. The elements aren't very kind to them. If your going to buy a compressor, may I suggest a screw air? a refurbished 10 horse will set you back about the same as a new piston of the same size. but the screw airs are quieter and put much less water in the tank.

    Lighting: Don't skimp on it. Go to Homedepot the next time they have a sale on generic 8 foot twin tube florecent stips. Buy and install a lot of them. and paint the walls and ceiling MATTE white. You'll find that the gloss finish is blinding under the bulbs. Try to use daylight bulbs, too

    Communications. forget running phone lines every where. Put a "station" in your office and put one or two hard line phones in the shop. Here's the trick - with the "station" cordless phones, you can buy additional handsets for something like $50-60. Just put them and their charging stand whereever it's convienant. They work surpisingly well in the Rf nightmare that a machine shop generates. If the static is too much you can always switch to one of the hard lines in the shop. I would also suggest getting one or more of the "shop ringers" that Northern tool sells. Your not going to hear a normal ring over the buzz of machine tools. You may even want to add a visual indicator in the form of a rotating beacon. Cat 5E and now Cat6 are a good idea to run, but don't get crazy if you don't need it. A better idea is to setup a cable "runway" that you can add individual port lines as you need them.

    Misc: Plan on having high ceilings, 14 foot is a pretty good height for a home shop in it's own building. Why? Because now that you have space your going to start to look at things from a different view. Suddenly that deal on a big boring mill is going to look pretty good, plus the height comes in handy when welding big projects. It also helps with my next suggestion - get a forklift. They go fairly cheap at auction, just try to get something that runs on propane with a sideshift from a known "name" (Clark, Toyota, etc) I know it sounds like a waste of money, but for two or three grand, you'll never want to move things the hard way again. Also build a big door, at least 9' by 9'. It makes moving things alot easier than thru the regular size garage door particularly if your using the forklift. Think pallet racks for storage of big stuff and metal cabinets for small stuff. You might also want to get a refridgerator for the shop - gotta keep your beer cold. I would also suggest that any "dirty" processes(spray painting, electrochemical finishing, sandblasting, casting) be done in a seperate small building if possible. The minutia they generate isn't good for precision machine tools. If you need a cheap place to keep your good stuff clean and dry, consider using an old refridgerator with the light wired to always be on(no your not going to be using the refrigeration system) With a small bulb to generate a little heat and the fridge being airtight, you'll never have a rust problem with your tools


    P.S. Almost forgot - Lindsay Technical Books sells a book on building small barns and outbuildings, although aimed at agriculture, it still has a lot of good ideas

    [This message has been edited by HTRN (edited 09-30-2004).]
    EGO partum , proinde EGO sum

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