Designing the Primitive Workshop

by Jamie Hall on May 17, 2010

My Future Workshop

The photos show my outbuildings, from the outside (right) and the inside of one of the rooms (below). I want to turn it into a primitive workshop for studying medieval jewellery techniques, which will require quite a bit of work. Within the next few weeks I’ll be getting a quote from my friend Steve for converting it.There are two rooms, each measuring approximately 1.7m by 1.5m; the height at the lowest point of the roof is 1.8m. Each room has a door, but there are no windows.

After the dividing wall is removed, and the outbuilding made into one unit, the plan is to put in a skylight and a window; we might use glass bricks at bench height for the latter, rather than go to the trouble of putting in a windowframe. The roof and the doorframes will need to be properly sealed against the elements, and it may be best to block up one of the doors, which would give more internal wallspace. Steve has also suggested extending the wall and roof by a few feet, to give me a covered area outdoors.

One of the rooms

The outbuilding is attached to our house at one end, which means that it would be possible to install water, electric and gas, but this will be avoided if possible due to cost and hassle. Those three provide most of the needs of the modern workshop – power for tools, heat, light..etc, but I’ll be getting my heatsource from charcoal, my light from the sun, and my power from my body. When I absolutely do need electricity, I can run a cable from the kitchen window, and my water will be supplied by a collecter attached to the roof. This isn’t so much an effort for authenticity as it is for practicality and cost.

If I do have a covered outdoor area, it might make sense to build my hearth outside – I’d be more at the mercy of the wind, but ventilation would be significantly easier. Otherwise, the hearth will be built inside, probably in a corner. In that case, it will need a chimney. Fuel will be burnt intermittently and in small quantities; I’m not worried about having a tall vent outside because it will be no worse than I get from the neighbours already. My main concern is my own safety. Openable skylight or windows would be best, but otherwise extra vents can be put it. If I have electricity, I can run an extractor fan.

The rooms are currently occupied by cardboard boxes and gardening eqipment. I can take the cardboard to the recyling center, but the gardening tools have to stay. There aren’t many of them, and if they were tidy (they’re not) they’d only use up one wall of the building, which I shall have to sacrifice. That leaves me two walls to work with, 3m and 1.7m. If I can get the wood, I’ll build a heavy duty bench along the length of the long wall, with a jewellers bench cut into one end of it. Although this workshop is nominally for jewellery, it will be useful for doing up the house and garden, so a long bench for woodworking is a must. My dad suggested putting a hinged lid on the jewellers’ bench, which would maximise the workspace. I’ll need a space for putting a stump and anvil – if it’s light enough, I should be able to drag it outside when I need it, otherwise I’ll have to have a shorter bench

Lastly, I’ll need to store tools, equipment and chemicals. Under the benches and on the walls is where I’ll keep most things, and a locked cabinet will have to go in for any chemicals; even if they seem harmless, I’d like to know they are safetly locked away. I’m not going to be doing a lot of high-value work there, so I’m not worried about security too much – the door will need a lock, and I won’t advertise what I’m doing there, which should reduce the risk considerably. I’ll do another post when I’ve got a quote from Steve – we’ll find out if my dreams survive impact with reality…

{ 1 comment }

suzannecronin May 24, 2010 at 14:37

Wow! I feel like I’ll be working in the lap of luxury in my laundry. I can see why you’ve been curious about my progress: Workshop attached to the back of your house, having to knock a wall out, putting in a window, building a bench etc. The similarities end there though as I had an exhaust fan, power, lights and a sink before I did a thing. I think I’ll freeze in Winter but the Australian Winter hardly compares to what you’ll experience!

Are your plans having similar knock-on effects to other aspects of your life like mine seems to be having?

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