Thursday, December 15, 2011

Project Hal - Part 2: Space

This is the second post (the first post was the introduction and announcement, here) in my series on setting up the shop for Crispin Arms and Crispin Fabrication (an endeavor that I have decided to call Project Hal; a Shakespearean pun).

The first step in setting up any shop, is acquiring, and readying, your shop space. Depending on where you live, this can actually be a difficult, and potentially expensive; proposition.

Thankfully, when we chose our home here in north Idaho, we were thinking ahead. We chose a home in an area that is zoned multi-use (residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural use are all allowed in my zoning area; within certain, fairly loose, limits). Not only that, but we chose a home with fairly large pre-existing shop space.

On the lower right of this picture, is my house. On the upper left, my shop:

My office/mancave/hobby/electronics/fine work/computer work space is about 3/4 of the bottom floor of the house by the way (the main living floor of the house is the second row of sliding glass doors, with the elevated deck running around two sides).
I've got about 800 square feet of space down there (under 8 foot suspended ceilings. Convenient for the wiring). My wife has her own 256sq foot craft room, with a bunch of worktable and storage space; separate from my workspace.
My main space is split into about half workspace, with desks, benches, bookcases and shelving, a water cooler, and a beverage fridge; about half "lounge" area, with a large "8 person" sectional sleeper sofa/double recliner, coffee tables, big screen TV, stereo, PS3 etc... I've also got a private 3/4 bath, a kitchenette (microwave, toaster oven, small flattop griddle, hot plate, small food fridge, electric tea kettle, and a french press) and a 64sq ft "secure" gun room. Honestly, the only reason to go into the rest of my house, is to be with my family.
At 28 foot wide by 32 foot deep (interior floor space),  the shop is a pretty decent overall size of just about 900sq feet; but it has some... eccentricities...

As you can see from the picture, it has an extra-wide (24 foot x 8 foot) garage door on the main floor. There are also a decent sized windows on each wall (large windows on the side walls, small windows upstairs and down, on the back walls), and a side entry door on the left side of the building.

Oddly, on the second floor, there's a sliding glass door opening out onto 10 feet of air. It was intended to allow for large items to be passed in (reminiscent of the classic hay loft door for a barn), as well as to provide a lot of natural light (the original owner used the space as a painting studio).

Out of that 28x32, it only has a 26x26 fully clear square. There's a 36" wide stairway, with a 36"x36" 90 degree landing at 36" off the floor; descending to a 36"x72"x12" concrete footing/concrete steps in the back right corner; taking up about 1/4 of the width of the back wall, to 72" depth (and restricting the height of another 1/4).  There are also built in 2 foot deep workbenches and cabinets along the full length of the left wall; and it's got 9 foot ceilings (8 foot clear of the garage door hardware and lights).

Basically, it's not quite a 3 car garage, but it's a lot bigger than a standard two car garage.
A note: This "two car garage" thing is actually a small point of irritation for me.
The American standard 2 car garage has a "minimum" size of 18x20 (by home appraisal standards); but in the age of the SUV, 24x24 has become the convention. There is no standard for a 3 car garage, but by convention, it would have around 36 feet of clear interior width. 

At 28 feet wide, my shop would technically be wide enough (though a bit of a squeeze by conventional standards) for a 3 car garage; with only 26 feet of clear width though, it would be a bit tight.  
Why do I say that though, when most cars are less than 6 feet wide? Or, put another way, why has the convention become 24x24 for a two car garage?

Even my bigger than full size pickup (Dodge megacab 2500), including the mirrors, is only 79.4" wide (6 feet 7.4 inches) unless I unfold the built in towing mirrors at which point it expands to 96" wide (8 feet). Its also one of the longest production vehicles in the world at just over 22 feet (including the stinger on the receiver hitch), and one of the tallest at almost 7 feet tall (It's 8" taller than a "standard" half ton pickup. That includes a 2" factory lift for being a 2500 with the heavy duty towing package; 4" more for being a 4x4; and a 1.5" lift from upgrading to 35" tires)
I personally don't think my HUGE truck should be what the "standard" is based on; but even if it were, my truck is longer and wider than any SUV currently sold, and you could still fit three of them in a 24x24 "standard" 2 car garage. A Chevy suburban is 19 feet long and 6'7" wide, and the same three would fit in the "standard" garage.
My actual passenger car (a Cadillac STS) is only 72.4" (6'0.4") wide and 196.3" (16'4") long; and it's a bigger than "average" car.
In fact, of the top 20 best selling passenger cars in America, the Chevy Impala is both the longest at 200" and the widest at 73" (The Camry is 190" long and 71" wide. The Accord is 195" long and also 73" wide). So ALL of the best selling passenger cars are under 17 feet long (and all but one is under 16 feet long), and all but two are 6 feet wide or under.
At 28x32 I could fit 8 "average" cars  in my floor space. Even in my 26x26 clear square space, or in the 24x24 American "standard" 2 car garage; you could still fit six "average" cars. 
Of course, no-one would be able to park, get out of, and unload a car, without a few feet of clearance to the sides and rear; but the idea that a two car garage needs to be 24x24 is ridiculous. You don't need six feet of space between two cars, three feet to either side of the two cars, and 8 feet behind their trunks.
My personal opinion, is that the two car garage "standard" should be a clear floor space of about 22x22; which still gives plenty of clear space between and around your vehicles, and room for cabinets and wall hanging storage. I think you could comfortably get away with 18x20 and still have more space than you do parking at the mall. The three car garage "standard" should be a clear floor space of about 32x22, and you could get away with 26x20.

What the "standard" really reflects, is that our garages aren't used for vehicles. Mostly, they're used for workshops and storage space; and the vehicles are an afterthought...

Frankly, even in cold states, most people I know with a "two car garage", don't use their garage for cars at all. Most of the time, if there's a vehicle in the garage, its a motorcycle or a quad.
The shop also has about half the main floors usable space (with 6 foot or higher ceilings) on the second floor, with  a very large amount of storage space under the rafters (behind the six foot walls).

Really, it was never built as a garage, and was always intended to be a shop, and office/work space on the second floor. As I noted above, the original owners even built in cabinets and work tables along one wall; and they deliberately built the stairs very wide, with a wide landing and clear entry zone, to allow for large items to be brought up and down.

Even with the eccentricities though, I've got enough space for all my shop tools, workflow and walkaround room, materials storage etc... Particularly since all my shop tools are on mobile bases.  I can just reconfigure things as I need, for the project that I am working on.

It's not ideal; but ideally I'd have 10000sqft of climate controlled space, with 24 foot ceilings (to fit a tall tail on a plane) a 48 foot hangar door (to fit wings), and my own landing strip.

Ideally, I'd also have an unlimited budget. This shop is included in my house payment. It'll do.

The bigger issue, was that, by the time I actually started this project; we'd had over 18 months of crap accumulating in the shop.

I started cleaning it out a couple months back; but up 'til a few days before the announcement, about half the clear floor space was taken up with "crap".

A few weeks ago, this is what the shop looked like:

It's not clear from this angle, but basically, there's about 200 square feet, piled a solid 5 foot high (some spots 7 foot), of nothing but (mostly flattened) cardboard boxes:

This was MOST OF the first load (we closed the tailgate and packed some more in):

And what was still left after the first load... probably two more loads:

Again, it's not really clear from the pic, but that pile is STILL 5 foot or more high, 10 foot deep, and probably 14ft wide.

That would be most of the boxes we moved with, plus most of the MANY MANY boxes we get from mail order (probably 1/2 our monthly shopping comes from Amazon. Thank god for Prime); and of course, a large percentage of the boxes from all the tools bought for the shop.

I'mna leave you hangin here though; because I'm not going to be showing pics of the whole shop, until I'm ready for some of the tool and storage posts.