Shop Tour #1
by Pete Stanaitis
I hope this can be the first of a large number of articles about
personal metalsmithing shops. I'll tell you a few things about my shop
here and I hope many of you will write about your shops in future issues
of the Metalsmith.
I'm proud of my new shop, but I'll probably never have one that is
big enough. Over the years that I dreamed about it, I kept looking for
articles and advice on how to get the best efficiency in a shop. As a
hobbyist, I knew I'd never be able to financially JUSTIFY a large shop,
so I'd have to simply build as much as I could afford and then have to
live with it for a long time.
First I'll tell you what my shop is like and then I'll tell you what
I would do differently now. I'll also offer some general hints that I
My shop is 20 by 24 feet in size. I think it is rather unique in that
it is built within a 40 by 64 foot pole building with 12 foot high
sidewalls that also houses a 20 by 20 foot gas heated utility room with
200 amp service, complete bathroom, clothes washing facilities and
telephone. See figure 1. The rest of the building is one very large
garage (about 40 by 40 feet) with 16 foot wide by 11 1/2 foot tall doors
that allow one to drive in one side and out the other. All this is
connected to our house via a five foot long heated passageway.
Above the ceiling of the shop and utility rooms is a walk-up attic of
over 800 square feet. One shop wall opens INTO the large building via a
home-made garage door. This door is 9 feet wide and a full 8 feet high.
With some shuffling of portable equipment, I can drive my largest
tractor into the shop without removing its exhaust stack. This door is
insulated to R24.
The floor of the shop is 6 inch thick reinforced "6 Bag" concrete,
except in the area of the forge and 50 pound power hammer. There, the
floor is 18 inches thick. The concrete floor is protected from the
elements by 2" urethane foam board buried vertically 2 feet down all
around, including the cold sides inside the larger building.
Its walls are 10 inches thick; a combination of 8 inches of
fiberglass and 2 inches of urethane foam. The ceiling consists of 6
inches of fiberglass and one inch of foam. The two walk doors that exit
to the outside are steel, foam core doors with magnetic seals.
We used 1/2" sheetrock to cover the walls and took the time to put
black mopboard all the way around. After checking with industrial
painters to see what the most popular color is, we painted the shop an
antique white to maximize the lighting and minimize shadows.
There is no heater in the shop. We simply leave the door to the
utility room open. The coldest the shop has ever gotten, with 30 below
zero outside, was 56 degrees F.
Okay, that sets the stage for the shop itself. To begin with, it has
its own 100 amp electrical service with 220 volts (4 wire) at 30 Amps on
every wall. There is also a 220 volt receptacle out in the main garage
for my buzz box welder. The shop uses 10 120 volt circuits. 3 of
them power 6 foot Plugmold strips that have receptacles every 6 inches.
There are duplex receptacles at many other "strategically placed"
locations. All 120 volt wiring is 12 gage, 3 wire.
There is a central air compressor supplying air at 140 PSI to every
wall of the shop, one outlet in the utility room and one in the main
As you can see from figure 2, the shop is roughly a metal shop on the
south side and a wood shop to the north. The blacksmithing area is to
the southwest corner.
My forge has a brand new 6" deep 5/8" thick firepot and a brand new
hood sending its heat into a double wall chimney. The outer wall is 14"
in diameter and the smokepipe itself is 12". the draft is so good that
it'll even keep coke glowing nicely with the blower off! I had been
using a 125# anvil but have just switched to one weighing 185#. It was
manufactured in 1831 and rebuilt recently by Ollie Juaire
I planned and built the shop building just as I was getting into
Blacksmithing so I didn't realize how cramped I would soon be in the
blacksmithing area. The 50# hammer and the treadle hammer were the two
tools that I hadn't planned on. This makes access to the forge a little
tight, but I don't mind it too much.
One thing I learned, was to put all my benches on wheels. That way,
I can put together an efficient workstation or make way for vehicles or
4x8 foot sheets of whatever in just a few seconds. This is the way they
do it in light industry.
I am cheating a little because I am still in the process of moving
OUT of the utility room next door. I have my electronic bench in there
and several storage cabinets. They may never make it into this shop.
The placement of cabinets on the walls will come next. Until then,
I'll do a lot of running back and forth for hand held power tools, etc.
-Watch out for doors. My shop has lost too much wall space to
doorways and doors. My own requirement that I have a full sized garage
door only contributes to the problem. Doors eliminate the possibility of
hanging something on the wall or of putting something permanently in
place in the floor space directly in front of it.
-Somebody gave me an old fashioned carpet sweeper some years ago. It
is great for quick clean up with no cords and no noise.
-Locating the radial arm saw, the planer and the jointer are real
tough problems in this shop. You need to allow for at least an eight
foot long board to be run through. My setup just barely allows this for
the saw and the planer, but I have to move the jointer (the lightest
tool) for pieces longer than about 4 feet.
-If you pour a concrete slab, spend the few extra bucks to have the
floor treated to resist stains. This treatment keeps oil and coal dust
from getting into the pores of the concrete. This is no big deal if
your shop is used only for blacksmithing, but you don't want to be
kicking up dust forever when you are doing woodworking projects.
That about covers my shop, some of the things that are super about it
and some things I'd like to do differently. I hope I'll hear about YOUR
shop in a future issue.