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Over the last 8 years (shocked that it's already been that long) I've worked out of and visited somewhere in the range of 30 shops in all manner of buildings and scale, from the basement welding room that I started in to the likes of Baltimore Knife & Sword in MD and Jim and Jeff's shop out in Oakland. Since then I have a fairly good idea of what I want out of a workshop, but there are a few questions I have for the hivemind. Before getting into that, I want to share the plan that I currently have going, evolved from plans I started drafting a few years ago. The ultimate motivation behind the design in creating a space that inspires further creation. Although a bit nebulous to try and describe, it is a combination of aesthetic, function, and the culmination of design choices that establish the basis for inspired design. The shop I currently work out of, in historic Old Town State Park, a recreation of a Californian colonial era blacksmith and wood shop, does a fantastic job at portraying what I am after for the sheer fact of the weight contained in its history and the contribution of smiths for the better part of 150 years. However, the things that fill the space do not replace certain design pieces when applied to the space itself. What I currently have the general design worked out for is a 9 sided building dedicated to hotwork and other metalworking apparatus, a clean room attached to one end, and a woodshop above it and looking down into the metal shop. In and around the forge area will be a stone hearth for the obvious fire prevention reasons, as well as a contained portion where the quench tank will be. Ideally, I'd like to segregate the tools based on function, having a power hammer and press near the forge but not against the wall, allowing them to be accessed from a wider variety of angles. Underneath a slight overhang from the woodshop floor would be the grinding area, the thought being that extra bit of coverage would help contain the inevitable dust that comes from it, although with a few additional containment measures and fire-proofing in place. In the metalworking shop, having a large welding table in the middle of the room for layout, welding, etc. provides a valuable hot-metal-resistant surface to work on, while also allowing it to be used from other areas around the shop unhindered. Along another of the walls will (eventually) be a lathe, mill, and drill press. That leaves, accounting for doors and whatnot, two additional walls open for workbenches and storage. I won't go into too much detail on the wood shop and clean room, although the layout for those is reasonably organized at this point. Once I am able to upload a few cad drawings of what I am talking about, it will probably make a little more sense. The questions I have are this: For anyone who has recently built a shop or is in the process of building a shop, how did you decide on the overall square footage? Is it based on what tools you currently have with room for projected growth? Layout for tools is always open for change, but how did you account for any future acquisitions? On the logistics side of things, did you do anything to certify the plans for the space prior to building? I know building code varies considerably depending on where you are located and proximity to urban environments (what can be built as a 'barn' with no strings attached vice having to get special permits to put up a 10x5 garden shed) but what sort of complications did you encounter that you wish you would have been better prepared for prior to commencing the build? For anyone who is currently well established, what things work well in your shop that cannot be fixed by a simple rearrangement of equipment? Any issues with utilities (distribution of power, ventilation, lighting, etc...) that a little more planning could have solved? The building of a workshop that stands on its own as a place of craftsmanship is something that I have been putting a considerable amount of thought into lately, and, although constructing it almost entirely by hand (including the tools to build it) will take a tremendous amount of time, I am nearing the phase of developing a final set of plans for construction. I have a few imminent opportunities for substantial changes in life direction, this being the forefront of them. I'd love to hear from the collective experience represented here and draw from anything that can contribute to the success of it. I intend to keep using this thread as a long term exploration and documentation of the process, from now in the design phase, until the ultimate completion of the space. As always, thanks for reading John
In 2005 I was lucky enough to visit Don when he lived in Alabama. He had a shop behind his house that was small and very well organized. He did his forging, grinding and heat treating outside. Leaning against the tool box behind Don are two shivs and a larger blade. Bill