Saturday, November 23, 2019

How I constructed my workshop

 I suppose we all wish for a purpose built workshop for our hobby. I developed shed-envy after visiting a fellow modeller and admiring his rather well-appointed and laid-out workshop. I didn't expect I would be able to follow suit until a series of circumstances enabled me to do so. Firstly, the sale of our old trailer tent leading to the demolition of its purpose-built shelter and then the dismantling of the adjacent shed to which the shelter was attached.

Since the first sod of the Peckforton Light Railway was cut in 2004, I have been using our conservatory as my workshop. At first, this was simply a workbench (made from a redundant dressing table), in one corner. Gradually over the years, the workbench was extended and shelves, a filing cabinet a table and a cupboard were added. By this year, there was no space left for anything which wasn't railway related and, to be honest, it was a bit of a mess!

I am very fortunate that my lifetime partner has been extremely tolerant. In fact, she has been very supportive and encouraging. When I sold our old trailer tent and dismantled its purpose built shelter and also the neighbouring shed in the corner of the garden, I mooted the idea of building myself a workshop in the available space.

My partner was initially quite happy for me to continue using the conservatory as a workshop but now she has seen the results of my labours and how much usable space has been created in the conservatory, she agrees it was a wise move.

So, how did I create my new workspace?

I started off by trawling the internet for suitable off the shelf sheds, but none of them, to my mind, made the most of the 11' x 14' available space.  I drew up a list of criteria:
  • A large insulated workshop area with a large window and a secure door
  • A smaller garden shed area for tools and lawnmower
  • Tall enough to stand up inside comfortably but not taller at the rear than my neighbour's fence
  • Mains electricity laid on
  • Robust and reasonably attractive in design.
My searches came up with a few possibilities, but mostly these were either well outside my budget and/or didn't meet all my design criteria. So I drew up a few sketches, calculated the amount of timber needed and contacted suppliers.

Before long, what seems like vast quantities of timber started arriving and I could start work.

I measured out the foundations and started placing the concrete 'breeze' blocks on which the floor timbers would be placed. I took a fair amount of time tamping down the base beneath each block and ensuring the blocks were level.

Next came a framework of 4" x 2" timbers with 2' 6" spacing between them. These would act as the sub-base for the floor joists.

The 3" x 2" floor joists were then fixed at 16" intervals on top of these. To ensure the structure was square, the diagonals were measured to check they were identical.

The flooring was 18mm thick OSB (Oriented Strand Board). I had considered using tongue and groove planking and plywood, but these were outside my budget. I decided that, provided the shed was weatherproof, OSB would suffice.

For the garden-shed side of the workshop, I re-used the tongue and groove flooring from the original garden shed. Even though it was around 25 years old, it was still in good condition. 

I then started screwing together the 3"x 2" battens for the walls. The verticals were at roughly 2' intervals, though this varied to accommodate the spaces for the windows and doors.

The secondhand double glazed window and door for the workshop were acquired through eBay. Their dimensions dictated the height of the walls. As can be seen, the wall on the right was angled to give just enough clearance for the window. The height of the rear wall was determined by ensuring it was lower the the neighbour's fence. Although, in the UK, planning permission is not required for outbuildings less than 4m in height, I felt it was in the interests of good neighbourliness not to encroach unnecessarily on their right to light as my workshop is to the South of their garden. This seems to have been appreciated as my neighbour loaned me his chop-saw and volunteered to help with construction if needed.

Once the wall frames were complete, they were fixed into position.

The doors were then fixed into place. The double-glazed workshop door came with a frame but the cottage door for the garde shed (£4.99 on eBay) needed to have a frame constructed from 3" x 2" timber.

Keeping the building square and true at this stage was very important. I found that a couple of the concrete blocks in the corners had 'settled' by a centimetre or two and so the timbers they supported needed to be packed with pieces of tile. 

Breathable waterproof membrane was then stapled (with stainless steel staples) to the uprights for the workshop walls, starting from the bottom and working upwards with a generous overlap.

Once the membrane was in place, 38mm X 18mm treated battens were screwed to the vertical frame supports before each exterior wall was clad with feather-edge planking, starting from the bottom and working upwards with a 40mm overlap. An off-cut of feather-edge with 40mm removed from its height was used as a measuring spacer when screwing the planks into place. I decided to use stainless steel screws rather than nails should I ever decide to remodel the building.

Cutting each plank to fit its position on the walls was quite time-consuming. Although there was some regularity to the lengths, these needed to vary to ensure that the vertical joints between planks were staggered up the walls.

Once three of the walls were clad to within a few planks of the roof, the 4" x 2" roofing rafters were screwed into place at around 20" intervals.

The fourth wall was clad and then the 11mm thick OSB roof panels were trimmed and screwed into place. This was when another pair of hands proved to be very useful as manoeuvring 8' x 4' sheets of OSB onto the roof is not an easy one-man job.

One the roof panels were in place, 3" x 2" edging was fixed to them and heavy-duty roofing felt was laid, with felt adhesive being used to join one strip to the next.

The excess felt was then trimmed off and the final few upper planks of the walls were fixed into place.

The interior could now be fitted-out. Firstly, a frame of 1mm square stripwood was tacked inside each section of the framework to ensure there would be an air-gap between the insulation and the membrane.

The 50mm thick Celotex insulation sheeting was trimmed with a cheap bread-knife to fit into each aperture.

 The sheets were fixed in place with self adhesive aluminium foil tape.

 The wiring was next fixed into place - 2.5mm twin and earth for the sockets and 1.5mm twin and earth for the lighting.

9mm OSB was then screwed in place over the insulation, with holes drilled appropriately for the wiring.

Surface-mounted pattresses were then fixed in place for the sockets and light switches and everything wired-up, following the guidance produced by the IEE for outbuildings.

Apart from the furniture and fittings, the main structure of the building was now complete. 

There is still a bit more organising to do, but I have now transferred the shelving and workbench from the conservatory and have also been able to create some additional storage.

I have taken the opportunity to re-organise my storage regime and am beginning to rationalise what goes where. Though this will probably change as I start making more use of the workshop.

One advantage of the workshop over the conservatory is that there is now more wall-space and so I have been able to install a tool rack instead of having a drawer full of miscellaneous tools. This certainly makes life a lot easier.

The main disadvantage of  the workshop in relation to the conservatory is the reduction in natural light. Although I have positioned the workbench in front of the window, I am finding it necessary to use the LED spotlights which I Installed over the bench during some of these dull Autumn days.

The workshop does seem quite snug. I have a 2kw fan heater which warms it up quite quickly and I'm finding I can usually turn it down to 1kw after half and hour or so.

Looks like I now have no excuse not to resume model-making.

A short timelapse video of the main construction process can be viewed here: