Part three by David Carpenter

Now let’s get down to a workshop.

If you’re well off and have space, send for your builder chappy and have him put you up a 30ft x 15 brick built shop with underfloor heating and lots of natural and electric lighting. And a leather armchair and Bang & Olufsen sound unit at one end. Oh, well! We can but dream.

For most of us something smaller will have to suffice. At one time people used to advocate a spare room in the house. That does not seem a great idea these days, unless you live alone in the middle of nowhere. You would tread swarf all through the house, which will reverberate to the sound of electric motors. That sort of thing doesn’t go down with either the domestic authorities or your semi-detached neighbours. Although I do remember one friend whose ‘workshop’ was the space under the stairs of a suburban semi that was just big enough for a Myford. At the other extreme, one of our top model engineers today has a large three-roomed basement, which is marvellous.

If indoors is tricky an outbuilding can be perfect. As long as it is more than a few feet wide and does not have some in-use white ceramic equipment at one end. But remember old outbuildings can be damp and in need of some repairs.

Damp is the enemy.

For most of us the word ‘workshop’ is synonymous with ‘shed’ apart from those lucky enough to have available garage space. Don’t be tempted to buy a cheapie shed from the local DIY emporium. You are probably going to finish up with some hundreds or, more likely, thousands of pounds/euros/dollars worth of machines, tooling and metals not to mention a model that has taken thousands of hours. A flimsy garden shed may be OK for the mower but not for our gear. If you have to put down a new concrete base for the shed, make sure it has a damp course, paint it with oil proof paint, and use it as the floor as that will be much better to stand machines on than a wooden floor.

You have two choices of workshop material – wood or concrete. Forget metal or plastic. Concrete sheds slot together like Lego and the result is substantial – sort of an instant outhouse. There is one drawback, they are prone to condensation. However, good lining and insulation plus some background heating should see to that, plus a de-humidifier (good investment in any workshop). Its quite a bit of work – but you should probably give a wooden shed the same treatment even tho’ its less likely to have such a  problem with condensation. Concrete workshops also offer greater security – they are much more resistant to a sharply delivered size 10 (US 10.5, Euro 44).

However, the wooden shed really does have a lot going for it. It needs to have substantial frame timbers (good shed makers usually offer an alternative to those used on standard garden sheds). The cladding should offer good protection and the roof and floor should not be chipboard; tongue and grooved boarding is the minimum, and thick floorboards desirable.

How big? Size is everything. If you’re just starting it will probably need to be 50% larger than you think. And be warned, everybody runs out of space eventually!

A few thoughts on size. In days of yore all you needed was a bench and Myford ML7, and you really could do pretty well everything with that, fitted neatly into a 7 x 5ft shed with some storage, maybe a small bench drill, and an off-hand grinder. If you are planning to make small models or clocks, that’s still all you need today.

However, if you are planning larger or more complex things you will need something much larger. Even a small milling machine might need a footprint of 4x4ft plus space to stand in front of it, access all round, and somewhere for all the accessories. Then there’s the power saw, shaper, 5/8in capacity drilling machine, sheet metal forming equipment, surface grinder, bandsaw, linisher, arbor press, and countless small items. So, much planning is called for.

When planning, make a good allowance for somewhere for you to stand in front of every machine and bench. Have fun trying to lay out your machines on squared paper. You’ll find that a 7ft wide shed will allow you to fit in much more than anything smaller. And if you’re building locos or traction engines, remember that they take up a lot of room on their own although I do know of one workshop just 8x5ft which has been used to produce some wonderful locomotives in 3 1/2in gauge. Some say he builds them vertically!

Having decided the size and type of shed, and erected it, there is still some work to do. Even a T&G floor will need a substantial layer of top, say 3/4in ply or MDF. The walls and ceiling will need to be lined with MDF or ply and the space between filled with some insulation from the local DIY shop. Mark where the shed frames are located for fixing heavy shelves. Paint the inside white. Install LED lighting and power points (lots at above bench height), and heating. If you do this yourself you must have it passed by a qualified electrician in the UK. Make sure the door fits well and is draft free. Put in whatever security is appropriate – alarms, locks, Rottweilers (meet Mischa).

Finally, check your insurance.

That’s it.

Next time we’ll look at what to put in it.

Meanwhile, enjoy your shed.

Part one here. Part two here Part three Part four part five Part six Part seven