|workshop, to have or not to have||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (staniforcs.ucdavis.edu)|
|Date: Wed, 22 Jun 94 14:44 CDT|
Yesterday, Monica Stumpf wrote: > The Monterey group is facing the decision whether or how large a workshop > to have. People are lined up all along the contiuum from a large (2 car > garage size) to nothing at all. The latter one(s) are concerned about > insurance cost. > What's the experience of the groups who are up and running? What did you > do and what do you wish you had done different? Any advice on what kinds > of tools to have? I should speak to this. I run the workshop here at N St. We have a one car garage, equipped as a shop with, fairly exclusively, a woodworking focus. There are other kinds of shop of course (auto repair, metalwork, ceramics), but I'll confine my comments to wood. We have a fairly comprehensive set of tools (radial arm saw, band saw, table saw, drill press, jointer, planer, routers, biscuit jointer, other sundry hand and power tools). Most of them are either mine, or are cheap ones we begged and borrowed from friends of the community. The shop sees regular use, but about 60-70% of that use is by me. I see a woodshop as having three functions in a cohousing community: #1) Supporting rough carpentry on exterior community projects (eg, compost boxes, chicken houses). #2) Supporting interior finish carpentry for community projects (new bulletin boards, mailboxes). #3) Supporting the woodworking hobby and/or furniture building projects of community members. We have really gotten a lot of mileage out of use 1). We have built various fences, play structures, compost boxes etc. There's not much doubt that having a few tools and a place to work have been a big asset in doing that. We have dabbled a little bit in 2). Currently, though, we are debating building new tables and chairs for our common house, which would involve heavy workshop use in this category. We have a fair amount of #3 going on, mainly me, but also three or four other community members at various times. So, I definitely advocate a community having some kind of workshop, but how much? There's the rub. Your first task is how much of each kind of use you see. Not much guidance I can give here, knowing nothing about your group. One thing I would say is be cautious in evaluating people's claims about how much #2 and #3 will happen. If folks claim they will build all the community's kitchen counters, recognize that this is a many-weekend project if done by a small group of amateur enthusiasts. Ask whether that kind of time commitment is credible. (If some of the group have professional experience doing finish carpentry, that makes a big difference of course). Similarly, if people say, "I might be interested in building some furniture for myself if we had a workshop," it's probably safe to ignore them. Significant, sustained use of the shop will almost always come from people who are burning to do it, not just interested. Evidence of serious commitment is: the workshop is the main reason they're moving in, they already build furniture in their garage and have lots of tools. Etc. You get the picture - just that it's important to plan for the likely eventualities, and not the fantasies. Now, if the main use is #1 with small amounts of #2 and #3, then I would say a one car garage or a little bit smaller is about right. A workshop is fairly useless (for general carpentry) unless it's at least a certain size. You need to get a few stationary tools and a workbench in there, and still lay a 4x8 sheet of plywood on the ground and have room to work around it. For big tools, you want a table saw and a radial-arm saw or compound-miter saw, maybe just one of the above, though both are much nicer. Used cheap versions of these can be had for around $100 each. New, cheap versions cost of order $500 each. Good quality American made equipment costs $1000 and up per machine. My opinion is that used cheap equipment is more than adequate to support occasional community project use - don't be sold on the argument that you need multiple thousand dollar equipment because it will last forever; it may, but your cheap equipment will last plenty long enough under occasional use, and will be cheap to replace with more of the same when it does die. Small equipment that's useful is an electric drill or two, a hand-held reciprocating saw, a hand-held circular saw, and the usual assortment of framing squares, hammers, staple guns etc. Optional is a drill press, a router, a belt sander. If there's going to be a significant amount of #3 going on, then you will want to buy better equipment, and perhaps have more space. My personal view is that if the main motive for having better gear is so that hobbyists can do better work and have more fun, then those hobbyists should be shouldering some of the extra financial burden (with luck, they'll already own the tools and just need a place for them). Personally, (and this may be controversial), I don't think it's fair for a small set of woodworkers to expect the community at large to shell out $10,000 for filling the brand new shop with Delta equipment. The only justification for this is a significant component of #2 use. And as to that, caveat emptor. Workshop design. There are several books on this subject. (eg. a good one is by Scott Landis. I forget the title.) The main point is designing so you can handle the main cutting operations on 4x8 panels and 12' long boards. Think about how to get materials in the door, and from there to wherever the temporary wood storage area is. A note specific to cohousing is that when holding a workday, it's really nice to be able to drag all the tools out into the yard and spread them out so lots of people can work at the same time. Cheap machines drag easily, expensive quality ones require mobile bases to support this. Doors should be wide enough to make this convenient. If the workshop will support multiple uses, make absolutely certain you have enough separation between them. Everything in an active woodshop gets covered in sawdust all the time. If "everything" includes partially disassembled carburetors and green pottery which is drying, it's not a good scene. My personal view is that you will need actual walls between the different activities. Similarly, in a much used workshop, there needs to be a separate painting/finishing area with good ventilation and freedom from dust. (We don't have this, but I wish we did). You'll need plenty of storage for materials, extra tools that appear over time, jigs, scrap wood etc. Another thing we have (in a separate place) is a storage area for re-used wood. Every so often we acquire a bunch of old 2x4s or such like from somebody, and store them. Then when we need to do a project, we have materials on hand and can do it cheaply. (Of course, most projects around here get built from 1x8 redwood, because that's what all the fences we've taken down were made from :-) ). Policy issues. Power woodworking tools are incredibly dangerous. Insurance cover is certainly a good idea; we don't have it because we don't have insurance for anything (very shallow pockets). We do make everyone sign a liability form. It says in essence that if you cut off your hand, it's your own dumb fault and don't sue us. I think it's important, both because it might well stand up in court (according to my law student wife), but also because it serves as a ritual to make new workshop users take the safety issue more seriously. I copied our boilerplate from our University Craft Center's version. I can mail it to anyone interested. We also have a policy of absolutely no children under age 12 in the workshop. I'm real rigid about enforcing this; I have had several community members wanting to work in the shop with their young child there at the same time. I think they're crazy. For one, there's so many ways in a workshop for a three-year-old to injure themselves while Daddy has his back turned, and for two, while Daddy is ripping a piece of lumber with his hand three inches from the table saw blade, Daddy needs to concentrate absolutely on that blade, his hand, and the piece of wood. He does not need his daughter nagging him about how she wants to play outside now. Children often don't understand this kind of thing well enough - they're just kids; it's not their fault, but I don't think it should be allowed in a workshop. Children over twelve can use the shop with adult supervision. So far no-one's expressed interest (we've had very few kids in that age range). If we did, we might have to refine the policy - I'm not totally sanguine about a twelve-year-old using a jointer, even with adult supervision. Enough. I've spent too much time on this already. Hope it's useful. Stuart stanifor [at] cs.ucdavis.edu <---- note changed mail addreass N St. Cohousing, Davis, CA.
- workshop, to have or not to have School of Mathematics, U of MN, June 21 1994
- RE: workshop, to have or not to have Rob Sandelin, June 22 1994
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