Preparing the Workshop

My garage before the "workshop" conversion.

Having recently moved into my townhome, the garage was fairly empty to begin with, so I didn’t have to store, sell, or otherwise throw out a bunch of stuff, which was nice. It was also sheet-rocked and insulated which saved even more time. The below photo is my before shot (click on the photo for a larger image). I’ve managed to misplace my after shots, but when they turn up I’ll be sure to upload them.

The first thing I did was to remove all the miscellaneous shelving that the previous owner had installed and patch up all the holes in the sheet rock. Then I primed and painted the walls and ceiling white, which took way longer than I imagined. Good thing I didn’t choose painting as a career. Next I installed (4) 4 foot fluorescent light fixtures on the ceiling so that I’d have plenty of light. There were two incandescent light fixtures in the ceiling already, so I didn’t have to do any electrical work other than swapping the fixtures for power outlets.

I wasn’t going to get off scott-free (what does that mean, anyway?) with all electrical work, however. I planned on purchasing an air compressor, and most of the larger ones I looked at ran on 240 volts AC, and my garage didn’t have a 240V outlet. I discovered that there was 240V wiring running over to my dryer, but since the dryer was gas, it was not energized. All I needed was to install a 20 amp circuit breaker in my panel, splice into this wiring, run it out to the garage, and install a NEMA 6-20 outlet. Once again, this took longer than expected, but the finished product looks pretty professional in my opinion.

What workshop would be complete without a good work bench? I thought about this for a long time, and went to Home Depot a bunch of times trying to figure the best work surface that didn’t cost a fortune. One day I was talking to a coworker about this, and he mentioned that his neighbor had some bowling alley lanes, cut up, in his yard. Sounded like a good future work bench to me, so he managed to cut off a 44″ by 8′ section for me. I had a friend with a truck help me move it… good thing, as it weighs a ton (not literally). Another friend helped me build a support frame out of 4x4s, then lift, mount, and fasten the surface to the frame. It all worked out great, and the total cost was only about $50.

In between all these projects, I was buying tools. Below is the minimum required tool list from the SQ2000 construction manual. I have obtained nearly all of these tools at this point, as well as a 6.5 HP Craftsman air compressor and a host of pneumatic tools. The compressor is a great asset, and I would encourage any would-be builders to make the investment. Regardless of the ability to run pneumatic tools, just having the air gun is a great asset for removing dust and such. The only drawback is noise–not that it bothers me, but since I live in a townhouse I worry about disturbing my neighbors.

It was June, 1998 now, and the workshop was basically complete. I bought another free-standing storage unit and put up some more shelves, including one over the work bench with a rod to hold one roll of fiberglass. I considered building an enclosure to hold several rolls of fiberglass, but decided it would be better to keep the idle rolls inside the house. I only use one weave at a time during layups (generally) and keeping the other rolls in the house will keep them dust- and moisture-free.

Soon the kit would arrive and I could focus my efforts on building a plane, instead of building a workshop…

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