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Finally. A Dedicated Workshop!


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Today I met with a contractor to begin the design of a dedicated workshop for my blade work.

 

As some of you know, I work out of my garage at the moment. I've run out of room for new tools, and I'm quite tired of fighting with the wife about hogging up all the garage space. (The woman wants to put vehicles in the garage! Preposterous I say.)

 

This is going to be a pretty ambitious and expensive project, as I live on a steep hill. Therefore the shop will either be built on a foundation supported by a very large retaining wall, or on stilts/pilings . . . perhaps a combination of both. The downside of this is, of course, the expense. The upside is that my shop will have amazing views. The back wall will literally be up among the mid branches of birch trees on my property, with views of Mount Mckinley. Almost like a big, grown up tree fort.

 

So, I request your help, advice, tips and opinions during this design phase! I've been asked to sketch out my basic concept so we can give it to the architect/engineer to draw up real plans that actually meet Anchorage's surprisingly picky building codes. I've been using a free on-line tool to put together a rough floorplan. It actually works fairly well.

 

Here are the broad strokes of the plan:

 

1: It will be based on a detached two-car garage plan. The idea being that if I ever sold the house it would be easier to market a house with a two car garage and a detached two car garage, rather than a house with a garage and a knife shop.

 

2: It will have a one bedroom apartment upstairs. I have plans on putting bunks in up there and holding small hammer-ins during the Alaskan Summer. Working vacation anyone?

 

3: Functional area layout: This is where I'd like most advice. I've got in mind the following areas:

 

-- "Dust Work" Area: In a separate room with a lot of air filters, window fans, etc. place all the major dust culprits (belt grinder, surface grinder, vice/angle grinder for removing scale on billets, etc.)

-- "Hot Work" Area: Forges, rolling mill, press, anvil, etc.

-- "Wet Work" Area: Sink, etching tubs, bluing tubs, etc.

-- "Machining" Area: Milling machine, drill press, bandsaw, etc.

-- "Finishing" Area: Finishing bench with foredom, files, shop rolls, needle files, etc.

 

4: I'm going to put a back deck on it with a sliding glass door for access. I may even put a small bench/vice out there for finishing work in the summer. Given the view it will have, it would be a shame to not take advantage of it.

 

5: Radiant floor heat + woodstove: I hate the noisy forced air furnace in my garage. It destroys my calm when I want to do quiet finishing work with hand tools.

 

6: Aesthetically Pleasing: Another area on which I'd like advice! I want my shop to look cool as well as be functional. For example, I was thinking at one point of putting in one of those large hoods over my forge and building up a facade of river rock around the base and hood to resemble an old school forge. Or, wood paneling on the walls maybe. Tongue and groove cedar? A buddy told me today of an epoxy coating you can put on a concrete floor that does a fair job of approximating the look of a wooden floor. Maybe I'll cajole/bribe/kidnap David Delagardelle to come up after it's built, get him a case of beer and let him sketch on all the walls . . .

 

So, thoughts? Suggestions for different arrangement of areas? Different grouping of tools/functions? Cool aesthetic ideas?

 

I'm pretty excited about this. A dedicated knife shop I can actually design myself has been a life-long dream.

 

We won't be able to get started with the actual foundation laying, etc. until the ground thaws in mid May of next year, so the Winter will just be for planning and dreaming. But, approximately a year from now I should be in my own shop.

 

Here's my first sketch. Dimension are approximately 40' wide by 20' deep.

 

Looking forward to your thoughts on alternate layouts, cool additions, etc.

 

Cheers!

 

--Dave

labelled floorplan.jpg

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Hi Dave,

Congrats on living the dream !!!

The layout looks like it will work fine to me.

I have a pole shed and I still like to do most of my billet cleanup outside

so I don't have to deal with the scale dust and grit that seems to get everywhere.

 

When I was 30 years younger I made a living pouring foundations.

We did a great number of " Walk-out " type foundations on hillsides and they really were nice.

It gives you 2 floors and 2 nice views.

The only trouble I could see with the walk-out design is you will need to pour a structural floor

if you plan on being able to parking vehicles on it at anytime in the future.

 

If you pour a concrete floor you can install radiant heat tubing and recover heat from your forge.

I doubt if passive solar is much of an option in Alaska but I built a passive solar home in Illinois that uses 1/2 the propane as normal

Everyone I know who has radiant floor heat love it and they say their feet never get cold.

Good luck

Steve

Edited by bronzetools
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Hi Dave,

Congrats on living the dream !!!

The layout looks like it will work fine to me.

I have a pole shed and I still like to do most of my billet cleanup outside

so I don't have to deal with the scale dust and grit that seems to get everywhere.

 

When I was 30 years younger I made a living pouring foundations.

We did a great number of " Walk-out " type foundations on hillsides and they really were nice.

It gives you 2 floors and 2 nice views.

The only trouble I could see with the walk-out design is you will need to pour a structural floor

if you plan on being able to parking vehicles on it at anytime in the future.

 

If you pour a concrete floor you can install radiant heat tubing and recover heat from your forge.

I doubt if passive solar is much of an option in Alaska but I built a passive solar home in Illinois that uses 1/2 the propane as normal

Everyone I know who has radiant floor heat love it and they say their feet never get cold.

Good luck

Steve

 

 

Steve,

 

I thought a lot about doing a walk out design on the shop, but as you say, this essentially turns the garage into the second floor. It makes engineering a lot more interesting (i.e. expensive).

 

I'm definitely doing radiant floor heat. My dad built all of the homes he and my mom have lived in, and the last one had in-floor heat. It's really nice. I never thought of capturing the heat from the forge to help the in-floor heat. I guess it wouldn't be too tough. You'd just have to put a loop of copper coils above the forge and tie it into the floor zones with gate valves. Could do the same thing with the wood stove. Interesting thought!

 

Cheers,

 

Dave

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Dave - put one relatively cheap but powerful grinder right in the "hot" shop. You will want to quickly grind cold shuts, shape points, knock scale off for pattern welding, and a million other things right next to the forge.

 

Only advice I can give, since it is the only real benefit of my shop, which is confined to ONE BAY of our two car garage. I choose to dig my car out and deal with cold so I can have that much of a shop!!!!!

 

Wifey gets other bay....

 

congrats for you. This will be great. Maybe I can occupy your loft some time when its done, and we can make swords!

 

I want to mention that I both love and hate you at the same time!

kc

Edited by Kevin (The Professor)
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Dave,

 

Thinking safety here: 1) Some method of summoning help, in case of accident, if you work alone could save your life. 2) A door chime or some other method of alerting you that the shop has been entered would not hurt. I get quite irritated when my kids sneak up on me when I'm at the grinder, especially when they startle me and I gouge the knife or nick my knuckles. They mean well but, have no comprehension of how badly things could go wrong and how sucked into my work and out of touch with anything else I am. 3) First Aid station, Burn Kit, Spill Kits, Mirror and running water to rinse eyes, Carbon Monoxide detectors, etc.. This hobby can be quite dangerous when you think about some of the forces we work with. My dream shop has a shower, so I can leave the mess in the shop instead of tracking it into the house. A fireproof, lockable, cabinet for chemical and solvent storage is nice.

 

Thinking tools here. What about Salt Pots for heat treatment? Sharpening station? Leatherworking? I tend to break down everything that goes into building a knife and try to have a space for each step of the process. Another thing to consider is storage. Where are you going to keep your steel? What about exotic handle materials or things like welding rod that need climate controlled storage? Do you have enough storage for jigs, fixtures, grinder belts, etc. Is there adequate power for the tools you have now and, the ones you want? I mean if you are going to spend the money, then make sure ALL your needs are met

 

~Bruce~.

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No bathroom? Can't always wait 'till dark... And a means of delivering a lot of water in a hurry in case of fire or other mishap... and if you go with the concrete floor, texture it to have traction when wet. Lots of things are more fun than waiting to heal.

Brian

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what... no powerhammer area ? ;) teasin

 

well i can say what would be nice is tall ceilings ... trust me, if you work in a shop with a tall ceiling it has many nice features...

takes the sound down abit, that really fine floaty grinding dust isn't as much a bother (thats despite a dust collection system...they all work, just never good enough )

- storage..with tall walls you can put shelves up high.. this gives you more floor space as you can work close to the walls

- room for smoke and heat to rise... instead of sittin low around where you work

- and put a barn fan at the top.. to blow air out the building

 

plus you never know what you'll be doing with forging... maybe even some blacksmithing ... and if you do some gates or trellis, having room would be nice

- having the height, you could use one of those rolling gantry's .. that is my dream, then you'd have no prob moving around a knee mill, shaper, big lathe, surface grinder etc

- on that note... make sure the cement pad out the door is of nice size... then you could just roll the gantry out the door, pick the 1800lbs mill off the truck trailer and roll it in the shop.. ( i've been thinkin on that one for a long time . :(

 

oh and a nice rack for your steel rod,flatstock etc ...nice to have all the raw stuff in one area

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Great advice everyone! Thanks for all the tips.

 

The upstairs apartment will have a full bathroom with shower as well as a small kitchen area with a fridge. Not sure where the stairs up will go. Maybe inside, maybe on the outside.

 

Tall ceilings are a must. I have really tall ceilings in my garage now (14 foot), so we'll be building this to the same height.

 

Brian: Good point on the fire thing. I may look at installing a halon fire supression system above the forge area. They make self contained units that look like big fire extinguishers with sprinkler heads on them that you can bolt to the ceiling. We use them in the engine rooms of boats.

 

Bruce: Good idea on the dedicated eye wash/first aid area.

 

Thanks again guys.

 

--Dave

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Dave,

 

Figure out how much space you think you need, and then increase it by 50%

or as much as you can afford. There's never enough room! B)

 

Bill

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Dave,

 

I can't wait to see it! No matter what you build, it will never be big enough, so build as much as you can. If you have the head space you might think about an overhead lift or crane, for moving equipment, or moving old equipment out, I wish I had one.

 

If you can separate the finish area from everything else, that is a plus. The hot shop and the grinder shop and the machine shop produce so much cruft that they might as well be in the same space. A vacuum system is great, but remember the fire hazard and that you have to be able to empty it, and the stuff in the system is going to be heavy so short runs will work better.

 

Light, as much as you can, and more than that in the finish area :lol: .

 

I'm working in about 2000 Sqft, and it's not as much as I would like, but I just suffer along :(:lol: .

 

Let us know how the design work goes.

 

Geoff

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Cars? In the garage? In a cold snowy climate? Pshaw! ;)

 

Speaking of cold climates, I'd put the sink on an internal wall so it's less likely to freeze up, and put the woodstove where you have the sink, but that's just me. I want to eventually build a separate hot shop myself, as mine's in a decent enough basement / garage level space, but lacks several things. My office / design space, for example, is upstairs in the house, and it can be distracting to segue between worlds. I want to put design / office upstairs from the working space, but in a separate building without daily life intruding between floors. I like your office / dirty room separations, and internal windows are a great idea. That way you'll always feel guilty when you're procrastin- I mean, networking and researching on the interwebs. ;)

 

I now have a moveable curtain that divides my space in half- jewelry and woodworking on one side and smithing and grinding on the other.

 

The only thing I *really* need to add to my current workspace is a tap on the wall for the homebrew.

 

I hope you have a nice view for the back deck!

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You know more than anyone the local conditions and the tools you use. If anything I would say try to have a roll up door on your grinder and or forging room. Something like a motorcycle door, four ft. or so on one side and window on the other so you can cross vent and sweep out easy. I like to use a fan to blow the grinds, fumes, and scales out but I typically work in a tropical environment. Anyway I have always been impressed with your projects, their conclusions, cant wait to see what you come up with.

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Hi Dave

 

A Hand peened copper hood would be cool over a stone base for the forge and the copper will age with the new shop. You might want to check out a product call skim stone for the floor. As a profession I build very high end custom homes of the old world style. We have started using skim stone and I am very happy with the results. Check it out it takes the place of acid wash. Good luck it sound like you may soon be in your happy place.

 

Kip

Edited by Kip Kaiser
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Looks like a great concept! Personally, I would swap the hot work area with the machining area, and have a grinding room enclosed between the two. Then you can have a larger office, or office + bathroom downstairs. In-Floor radiant heat is so ridiculously awesome and I love it, I have it, and I recommend it hands down. For aesthetics, I would say the shop will take on a life of its own once you get things positioned and start working in the space. I kept my shop simple, and cheap, with OSB boarding, painted white, which helps reflect light and gives you a brighter working area. I also used the smooth side to minimize surface texture which catches dust and dirt.

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Dave,

First, Congratulation on the dedicated shop. Every knife makers dream. I would just like to suggest that you don't put the surface grinder in the room with your other grinders. From what I hear, it's not good to put anything with a sliding table with ways near your grinders as the dust and grit will get in the ways and mess things up pretty bad. Maybe outside that room with a good dust collector. Just like you wouldn't put a mill in the grinding room for the same reason. I know this complicates things a bit, but I would hate for you to ruin your surface grinder.

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Great advice everyone! Thanks for all the tips.

 

The upstairs apartment will have a full bathroom with shower as well as a small kitchen area with a fridge. Not sure where the stairs up will go. Maybe inside, maybe on the outside.

 

Tall ceilings are a must. I have really tall ceilings in my garage now (14 foot), so we'll be building this to the same height.

 

Brian: Good point on the fire thing. I may look at installing a halon fire supression system above the forge area. They make self contained units that look like big fire extinguishers with sprinkler heads on them that you can bolt to the ceiling. We use them in the engine rooms of boats.

 

Bruce: Good idea on the dedicated eye wash/first aid area.

 

Thanks again guys.

 

--Dave

 

I think I would prefer water or dry chem or both available independently. Halon displaces oxygen and, if memory hasn't failed completely, will pool at ground level which is where you might be if there is a fire. Ask the Fire Department for their suggestions (unless bureaucracy is an issue). Remember the addendum to Murphy's Law- "Murphy was an optimist"

Brian

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I highly recommend an overhead hoist that rides back and forth on a small I-beam.

 

What a great idea. Especially as you put a little age on your bones. I want one.

 

Bruce mentioned leatherwork. If you do your own leatherwork you know that leather must be stored where it won't get contaminated by metal or grit of any kind. One little speck of metal will turn the spot it hits black. It can't be stored in plastic or it will mildew.

 

-Art

Edited by Art Lawrence
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Who needs a bathroom with a back deck like that? B)

 

 

 

Thanks for sharing this. I don't have much to add, but I am trying to get prepared to build one of my own. This exchange of ideas is very helpful.

 

The only advice I would offer is to not let your first ideas dictate your design. Try to envision what you might do or what changes you might want to eventually make and allow for them up front. The plumbing and the partition walls are the only things that won't be moved (without major pain), so figure in enough outlets (110 & 220) and lights to accomodate reconfiguration later.

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