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 have learned.

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.
Shop Floor plan
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 garage.

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. Hints: -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.