Saturday, July 28, 2012

The big leap

Pretty soon after I had settled into the new routine I realized there was something missing. Personal projects are frowned on at my new employment digs. I realized I needed to put my own personal shop together. I made an attempt at the house we were living in at the time. Word to the wise, never buy a house without a garage if your a metalworker or gear head. All we had was a pathetic carport. Fortunately there was enough land to build something. Working with a local builder we had plans drawn up for a super garage workshop addition. The carport would go bye bye and we planned to add around 1200 square feet of garage to be used as a workshop/studio. The deeper we got into the planning the higher the cost crept. Its the old get a little contract and then wait for the additions or change orders to bloat the job out.

My spidey sense tingled and said wait a minute right before we went down the rabbit hole and started building something. The housing market was making some scary rumbling noises so I decided to hang onto my hat for a while. Good frickin thing. Well you all know what happened next. Houses went in the tank and so did my big garage plans.

I still had a problem. I still needed a shop for a creative hands on outlet. I built a large shed in the backyard as a stopgap measure. The shed was not my dream shop but it was better than nothing. I went along like that for a while before I really decided I had really had enough of the wimpy shop.

My wife and me don't really entertain or give much of a hoot about the house we live in. Its just a sleeping and eating box you use to get from one project to the next. We were paying a lot of money to live in a box with a great view we didn't care for and more importantly didn't suit our needs.

I guess I should tell you a little about my wife. She is a metalworker also. Her passion is fine art and printmaking, but it you have ever met an artist you know their interests cross over into many mediums. We met at a welding school we used to teach at back in the 80's. Its gone now along with many vocational education programs but were still here humming along.

Between the two of us we decided and most importantly committed to changing the situation. Its was pretty cool when both of us were focused on the same goal and had a very similar picture of what we wanted in a shop studio space. We started looking at live work properties.

We looked at all kinds of stuff that might work. In all I think it took us maybe six months before we found a couple of decent spots with the right combination of space, electricity, living quarters and the right price. We totally lucked out and landed what I call an eight out of a possible ten points. The only thing needed to boost it to a true ten would be the ability to walk to work.
 It was pretty rough on the living end. We had to do a lot of work to even bring it up to our not fussy standards. We saw that it had the makings of a dream shop. So we bit the bullet and jumped. In the process we turned our lives upside down and then shook the container. We dumped the boat anchor house and like they say "We picked up and moved to Beverly" Hillbillies that is.
The first priority was getting the living situation squared away. The shop could wait a little longer and we knew if we didn't fix the living space now we most likely wouldn't once we got going on shop projects.
The first wave of the attack was the kitchen. Here is a before shop of the rat hole kitchen area.
If it wasn't for Craigslist I don't know how I would have pulled off these renovations. You can not believe what people offer for sale there. We would hop in our little truck and drive all over the bay area to find the stuff we needed. There was no shortage of things to work on. We had some dodgy electrical and plumbing to rip out and replace.
One nice thing about being in the trades is you tend to make friends that also work with their hands. My Buddy Tom owns an electrical company which put up the lights in the shop area for me. I was not looking forward to working off a ladder with sixteen foot ceilings stringing lights and running conduit. Check him out if you need any commercial electrical work done. Diablo Electric

More soon.

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