Tag Archives: workshop

Plans in Hands

The workshopThursday was a pretty good day. First off, I managed to get down to the workshop and finish cleaning up. I remodeled the shop about a month a go and have been moving everything back in ever since. Because it is such a small space it has taken a lot longer than I had hoped it would to get everything organized and stowed. There are still a few containers that need some sorting, and I need to add a couple more of those small-parts bins, but all-in-all it is a usable space once again.

When I did the remodel I included an internet connection for parts look-ups, ordering, reference materials, and to have some audio visual stuff available. One thing I haven’t gotten around to just yet has been the installation of ventilation fans. It is a really small space and it gets hot in there really fast. Besides, if I am going to use any resins, do any soldering, blah blah blah, it would be a good idea if I had some air-flow.

A package? For me?On Tuesday I placed an order with Aircraft Spruce for some stickers, a patch, and… my set of Volksplane VP-I plans. My wife and I had something going on Thursday night which just happened to be when I was expecting Mr. UPS Man to come by with my package containing the plans. I was hoping that he would come early so I could take the plans with me, but time was growing short and we were about to head out. I was writing a note to authorize my son to accept the package for me when low and behold, who should appear? Mr. UPS Man! Package in hand, we were out the door in a couple of minutes.

My wife and I run a group called Grave Mistake. The group participates in the annual “Thrill The World” world-wide simultaneous Thriller dance event. My wife teaches the Thriller dance and I take care of the audio as well as manage the web and back office stuff for the group. So while she was teaching Thursday’s dance workshop, I was reading; well flipping through. I perused my way through the “VP-I Volksplane Plans and Pilot’s Handbook” and the “Evans Lightplane Designer’s Handbook” before the workshop ended.

VP-I plans and HandbookThe plans are on 8.5″ x 11″ sheets in a comb-bound volume. Everything is there but a lot of it is crowded on to the sheets and doesn’t seem to be organized in what I would consider a logical order. Looking at the plans a little closer now that I am home, I am thinking I need to make some copies and lay everything out so I can look at it all with my Big Picture eyes. I might need to do some blow-up prints too. I will definitely need a couple of working copies to make notes on.

While my wife and I were driving to the dance workshop I was talking with her about possibly building a 1:4 or 1:8 scale model using veneer sheets and pine. At 1:4 scale I might be able to build it from one (1) or two (2) sheets, and two (2) or three (3) pine 2″ x 4″s. Looking at the plans, I’m thinking it might be a really good idea. If nothing else it will be a good way get really familiar with the plans, and if I screw something up it wont cost me hundreds of dollars. Another good thing about building the model is that it will give me a better idea what materials will be needed for jigs, fixtures, and tooling. By building a model I should be able to prevent time and money consuming problems, and I will have a better understanding of the airplane over all. I will also end up with a really cool scale model to boot!

Looks like I have some planning and shop-office stuff to get done. I need to come up with a task list and sub-budget for the model. I think I might need to build a bench-top frame for my RotoZip tool to use it as a router/cutter for the model. I have some 1/4 and 1/2 particle board, some cheap 1/4 plywood, and some Masonite available, and lots miscellaneous hardware. That should get me started. The next two weeks are really full, but I will find some time to get some work done and report back to you.

Until next time, blue skies and tail winds.


When you are a builder/fixer one of the difficulties of apartment living, or living in a small space in general is finding a place for a workshop. In my case, I have semi-public spaces I can work in, I just can’t leave anything lying out overnight to dry or set. I do have an actual shop space though. It’s about 7.5′ x 8.5′ but how much can you really do with a 65 square foot workshop?

The WorkshopFor all intents and purposes the shop is laid out as follows. The door is in the middle of one of the short sides. From the door, the bench is to the left, it is 8 feet long and 24 inches deep. Under the bench on the left side, closest to the door, is a small compressor, a 5 gallon waste bucket, a 5 gallon dirty rag bucket, a shop stool, and a bench-top drill press. Under the bench on the right side are large tools, mostly bench-top stuff. On top of the bench are 4 small-parts organizers and a 12 drawer tool chest. At the end of the bench is a 6 inch space between the bench and the back wall for storing small materials. There is a 4 foot wide center isle that runs the length of the space. A ladder and a rolling cart are up against the back wall. To the right of the door are two 6 foot tall storage shelves that are 3 feet wide and 18 inches deep each. On the shelve are tools, consumables, supplies, and shop miscellanea, all stowed and containerized. At the far end of the shelves is a rolling tool chest.

The space fills up rather quickly when you have a small shop. For my work needs, the space I have is adequate. For tool repair and small craft, electronic, jewelry, and other hobby projects the space works reasonably well. One of the things I am working on is putting in some ventilation. This is a must for any workshop that you will be sitting down and actually working on stuff. A small shop will heat up really fast without proper air flow, of course there is the removal of hazardous vapors and gases to consider as well. Soldering, working with adhesives, paints, or any other items in a long list of potentially dangerous substances necessitates good ventilation, and not just adequate ventilation.

A major consideration for my shop remodel this year was the new project I have been planning. A project like this normally requires more space, but by building the small sub-assemblies first and storing them until needed in the final assembly, I can complete a large project in a small workshop. The key is to be able to schedule your work around the available space. At least this all works in theory, putting it into practice is always the real test. In the past I have been able to complete a number of large projects with limited space, but this one is going to stretch my scheduling abilities to the max.

What’s the project? Building an airplane. Building an airplane is one of those projects a builder thinks about for a long time before jumping in and actually do it. A lot goes into a project like this. There are a lot of parts I can manufacture and small sub-assemblies that I can build before needing more space. I am prepared to build 80% of the airplane with the space available right now, and I do have some less-than-optimum fall backs in case I am not able to swing a larger space when the time comes. I wouldn’t start a project like this without having things planned out throughly including back-up plans. There has to be some flexibility built into the schedule of any large project. Regular re-evaluation of plans and back-up plans is also a really good idea.

The reason I bring this up is to remind you that you can take on big projects with a small workshop. I know boat builders who use a 10′ x 10′ Tuff-Shed in the back yard for tools and small materials, putting large lumber under a tarp while they build their boat. I’m not talking about a four-man row boat here ether. I know one guy who built a 32 foot sail boat that he had to lift over his house with a crane to get it onto the trailer when he was done. He sold the house and sailed his home-built boat around the world… twice.

Sure, that’s an extreme case, but with careful, detailed planing you can build motorcycles, cars, boats, airplanes, or just about anything you want in a small workshop. All you have to do is put your mind to it, and let your dreams take flight.