The View Up Here

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Location, Location, Location

Posted by Tom Benedict on 11/06/2011

One of the real pitfalls with having a home shop is that it needs to go somewhere. Typically it doesn’t wind up in a place that is ideal for the shop. Most times it’s a compromise, though at times the compromise is such that the shop is nigh unusable.

I’ve had a home shop since 1999.  My first machine tool was a Taig lathe, followed closely by an inexpensive Delta drill press and a bench grinder. Other tools followed, and by 2002 I had a CNC mill, a Foredom flex shaft, a Lewis shaper, and all the associated tooling to make them do their stuff. My shop started life on a bench on one side of an outdoor shed. Eventually it took over the entire shed. This was one of the most productive locations my shop has ever had. I could close the door on it at the end of a day, open it the next morning, and it was exactly the way I’d left it. Everything in the shed was shop, so there was no reason for anyone but me to be inthere.

When the opportunity arose, I moved my shop indoors. I thought this would be a good move, but honestly it caused me more grief than happiness. Shops make messes, and having the shop indoors meant there were times when I couldn’t run certain tools because of noise, or because of flying chips. The shop was located in a larger room that had carpet at one side, and it was made clear from the get-go I wasn’t allowed to expand my shop to take up all available space. Between the restrictive hours and the directive not to spread chips or cutting oil, I eventually had to quit using it altogether. It broke my heart.

After moving to Hawaii my shop took up residence in the garage. It’s attached to the house, which is nice, but it’s isolated enough I don’t run into the issues with noise or cleanliness I had when it was located inside my house. All in all it looked like a good compromise. Unfortunately it’s worse than both. With the shed and with the indoor location, the shop space was entirely mine. No one else even walked in there, much less had a claim on it. But this is the garage on a house. I share the space with the laundry machines, the storage shelves, the garbage, the recycling, all of it. There are times when I can’t use my shop, not because of something I did or because of noise and mess, but because of household clutter. And with the laundry machines running, the humidity in the garage goes up high enough that rust becomes a problem.

We have family coming on island in the next couple of weeks. I’ve been using this as an excuse to clean house and to take on some real reorganization projects. The shop is high on the list. I know there’s only so much I can do. The laundry machines will still be there, the trash and recycling will still be there. But if I can clean things and separate them to the point where the bleed-over is minimal, I might get my shop back. At least a little.

– Tom


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