Workshop FengShui

Moving into the new shop space slowly.  I’m almost able to actually start building again. The new space is immense. I’m coming from a one-car garage that was 10 x 20′-ish to a full-on separate shop.  The shop space is, well, bigger than some people’s houses (30×50′-ish).   I may not see another person way out here in the woods now that I have the shop of a lifetime.  I know that this sounds stupid, but just like with small shop spaces, it’s hard to figure out where to put stuff.  More space means more walking to do stuff and more space to clean up. But really…i’m trying to talk down what is by far the most over-the-top shop I’ve ever seen (in a good way).  I’ll fill it in once I upsize to a bigger milling machine and find a 10-12″ swing lathe, but for now I’m feeling guilty. The one thing this shop is missing is a window — it has no natural light.  The roll up garage door can be open on warm days though.  But it’s been raining since we got here (almost literally).

Chuck is the man. He created the house and shop from scratch 25 years ago upon his retirement.  In this post, I’ll just ramble on some thoughts I had while setting up this space, as well as show a couple of things I ‘inherited’ from Chuck now that he’s moved.   He left a very old brown steel table and orange Reed vise.  These date back to WW2 and Chuck picked them up in a Vallejo, CA shipyard that worked on stuff during the war. I’m not sure how long he’s had it, but that’s where it came from.  It’s so freaking heavy that I can’t budge it without an appliance dolly scooting one end at a time.  The orange Reed vise is…old, and very worn. Sadly, I separated the vise and table in order to put on my relatively small Wilton 5″ Tradesman on the bench corner for easy access. The action on the old vise is just slow and way overkill for framebuilding.  I think it’s made for holding and bending boat anchors (joke).  The coolest thing about this table is that it’s so heavy that I can actually cold-set on my alignment plate and it will not move a millimeter.  Also, the vise will not move at all when sawing, filing, bending, etc. It’s so nice having such a solid foundation!

I pondered a bunch about where to put stuff.  Rody from Groovy had some great ideas on his blog, and I ran across a good shop-space arrangement thread on Velocipede Salon (and another one on mtbr too) that had a ton of ideas.  My previous small-shop experience taught me the rest and I came up with a good start on what I hope will work. This is what works for me and I’m a self-acknowledged OCD type A personality…so read at your own risk.

Shop feng shui:

  • You don’t want to walk too far to get to different ‘stations’ around the workshop.  For example, if your mill or vise is too far from your frame fixture, you’ll curse when you are fitting tubes. It’s nice to have the frame fixture nearby so you can just turn around and fit the tube in the fixture. Turn to your left and there’s the vise for some clean-up filing. Basically, I treated myself as the center of the shop and made it so the tools I use are within reach as much as possible, and as few steps away as possible.
  • This idea came from Drew at Engin: if you have the space and/or rooms for it, keep the clean and dirty areas separated.  Abrasive saw, disc sander, bench grinder, and other dust producing machines are on a separate side of the shop than my welder and alignment plate.  I couldn’t separate the vise/filing area from the alignment plate though so I’ll slap on a cover for the plate to keep it clean and protected.  This is obviously not possible for most garage or smaller space shops but it is something to consider if you can manage it even at a smaller scale IMO. Even just pointing the sander or abrasive saw in another direction so that it doesn’t muck up the places you want to keep clean helps.  This is not super important for steel work, but it is for Ti and that’s down the line for me.
  • The frame fixture on wheels helps a ton when moving from the dirty area to the clean area (milling machine and files/vise to the TIG welder or oxy/acetylene tanks for tacking or brazing).  I can’t imagine not having my fixture on wheels now that I’ve done it.
  • Shelves on the right side (I’m right-handed) and near the milling machine where you can access all your hole saws, end mills, calculator, calipers, edge-finder, etc.  The shelf that came with this shop is nice because it also fits boxes of tubes to the right of all that other stuff.
  • Files very close to the vise. This is pretty obvious, but worth stating. Right now they’re split between the lesser used ones on top of the red toolbox just to the right of the vise and the angle iron vise holder I made my first week of setting up shop for framebuilding over 2 years ago. I need to make a better file holder for this table so they’re right there when I need them and easy to access.

More later probably, but I’m all out of thoughts for the night.

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