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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

And Then, When It Was All Done, He Made A Spice Rack, And Then Moved

Neat video. Neat project. Pleasant people. Lots to like about it. But.

This video is bound to get people who don’t know any better oohing and aahing over it. It’s an iShop. It has the kind of vibe a Genius Bar denizen might like, with some Incredibles style points. There’s only one problem I noticed with it: It cost a lot to make the same sort of workspace that people usually just put up with. It’s like when funky people started living in abandoned loft spaces in moribund manufacturing buildings in cities, and after a while, people started building them that way from scratch.  It only made sense when it was better than nothing. Paying top dollar for faux repurposed industrial space is nutty.

I don’t know where this shop is located. Its location might have overriding factors I don’t know about, but there appear to be many things wrong with the approach they used. It’s foolish to work below ground if you don’t have to. Vapor barrier or not, it’s damp and cool below ground. Furniture work doesn’t like damp and cool. Dehumidification costs more than heat. And a concrete floor is dreadful to work on. Bad for your bones. Casting dust collection into a slab is ill-advised. You’ll want to change the arrangement of tools someday (trust me) and you’re stuck. They should have skipped the slab, put grade beams down, framed a wood floor in there, and run ducts and power in the floor joist bays. You could move them around in the future if you had to, and the floor would have a bit of spring in it for your joints. You could easily affix things to a wood floor, too.

Why does the clerestory face west? If it faced south, you’d get early sun, and heat up the place when it was cool, and it would be cooler in the late afternoon. An egregious error only an architect could make. An average person that had been dropped on their head frequently as a child wouldn’t be that dumb. Six years of architecture school is necessary to be that confused. Why so few windows? All that available natural light, and you build a semi-subterranean bunker. Is Albert Speer your architect? Expecting the Russians?

I spent many years making things on a concrete slab in a dark, damp hole in the ground. Only an undertaker will get me in one again.

11 Responses

  1. when i built my shop i didn't add a clerestory (thanks for the new work btw) mostly out of concerns about security. and i did make it a solid cement slab but that was mainly so i could drive into it. which to me seems a design flaw as big or bigger than any you mentioned. maybe the way his lumber is delivered it always gets dumped on the ground but you would still have to lift out finished pieces. my shop is in many ways similar to his although that is coincidental as it seems since he was driven by aesthetics where as i was constrained by budget, my lot and zoning…which i even managed to bend somewhat to my will.

  2. Over at Gagdad's place, he's been reading a book by an architect, Christopher Alexander. Yesterday somebody brought up a debate he did with another architect back in the 80s, and darn if this Alexander guy doesn't remind me of you, Sipp. Anyway, I thought you might appreciate this bit at the end:

    "I can't, as a maker of things, I just can't understand it. I do not have a concept of things in which I can even talk about making something in the frame of mind you [the postmodernist architect he's debating] are describing. I mean, to take a simple example, when I make a table I say to myself: "All right, I'm going to make a table, and I'm going to try to make a good table". And of course, then from there on I go to the ultimate resources I have and what I know, how well I can make it. But for me to then introduce some kind of little edge, which starts trying to be a literary comment, and then somehow the table is supposed to be at the same time a good table, but it also is supposed to be I don't know what; a comment on nuclear warfare, making a little joke, doing various other things … I'm practically naive; it doesn't make sense to me."

  3. Could not make it through the video – one of the people speaking (the woman, maybe?) sounded like Janis Joplin, only rougher. Learn to speak, woman – unless you have been punched in the larynx, there is no excuse for that growl.

    I am thinking of putting a small addition on my shop, specifically to hold the D/C system and give me a few more square feet of lead-in for my table saw. But that will have to wait for another day. Today, I better make some stuff.

  4. If you want to put something in the floor PUT HEAT in the floor. I can not describe what it's like to come in from a foot of snow onto a floor that's 65 degrees. No air blowing around; no standing under a radiator soaking up heat for another dash across the cold shop to do something; just a constant feeling of warmth.

    Brad Ervin

  5. Hi Leon- Yes, the fellow demo'ed a swimming pool, and then built another one and stood in it. If you have a slab on grade, at least you can lump materials and goods in and out easily.

    Hi Julie- I went to architecture school for a few minutes in the 70s. I wanted to build traditional houses. They told me to buzz off. I started working on houses, and learned mot everything by observation and by hitting my thumb. Later on, I discovered Alexander's books, which so resembled my own thoughts on the subject that I thought I wrote them myself while I was drunk but didn't remember it. Those books were available when I was in school, but never mentioned. Grrrr. One of the first essays I ever wrote, even before I had a blog, maybe 2004 or so, was about A Pattern Language. Alexander's a dreadful hippie, of course, so he arrives at the right answer for the wrong reasons occasionally, but there's a ton of sense in his books.

    I adore Gagdad Bob. I have been ill and working a lot, and don't read a lot elsewhere. I must visit soon.

    Hi Sixty Grit- I put the dust collector one floor below my shop. Quiet! And the mess is in the basement.

    Hi anon- I used to work on very expensive houses. Many of them had heated garage floors. We sometimes set up shop in the garages and worked on the house from in there. We noticed one bad thing about it. We all got athlete's foot, real bad. Heated floors are nice if you're in socks, though, but the socks got soggy when we went outside.

    P kerit- Dear lord, that's magnificent. The fellow is to be commended. After all, it's totally original. As original as a scuba suit made from steaks.

  6. I'd love to read that essay, should you ever have occasion to post it. And I forgot to say earlier, I hope you are feeling much better!

  7. I don't get it. It's tons of concrete and lots of slab and concrete and footer and concrete, and the rest of it is particle board crap. Maybe they should specialize in concrete work…

    My motto is: I'm not gonna build a structure to build a structure.

    Maybe if the spice rack was made of concrete?


  8. Portland, Ore. area

    I had one of those those exact model De Walt radial arm saws once but I gave it to my neighbor

    A performance references its intended audience. Workshops, furniture, and music videos are performances.
    And so are blog comments


  9. I think the shed was designed primarily with how it would match someone's idea of how the back yard should look. As someone who is starting to get old in the knees, I'll add one more reason not to build below grade: you need to walk up and down steps to get in and out, thereby losing whatever you were supposed to gain by having the wood delivered at bench height.

    Anyhoo, I am in love with that thread p kerit recommended.

    On Monday, my son is going to try to get permission to shoot a documentary in a shop that I think most of you would enjoy seeing.

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