Setting Up Shop

Setting Up Shop

Setting Up Shop

Free Flight Duration

By Louis Joyner | [email protected]

As seen in the June 2024 issue of Model Aviation.

I BUILT MY FIRST Free Flight model when I was 7 years old on our front porch. The model was a 10¢ Comet Phantom Flash. All I needed was glue and a razor blade. It flew! I was hooked for life.

Throughout the next 70 years, I have built models when and where I could. I soon found out that the dining room table was not the best place for building models.

Building a model airplane can be messy and smelly. You really need a workshop isolated from the rest of the house and its other inhabitants. One solution is to have two workshops: a clean workshop inside and a dirty workshop away from the house.

Approximately 20 years ago, I built two 10 × 10-foot outbuildings in our backyard. One was a dirty workshop for me, and the other was an art studio for my wife. The buildings were patterned after the outbuildings that we had seen at Colonial Williamsburg. The buildings were arranged with the doors facing each other and a wide stone terrace in between. My wife’s building got the Mitsubishi air conditioner and heater. Mine got the table saw and drill press.

All of the dirty work took place in my shed. Dust, noise, and smells didn’t get into the house; however, getting to and from the workshop in bad weather was less than pleasant.

Our next house had an existing shop adjoining a two-car garage. The shop was long and narrow, with doors opening to the garage and into a small courtyard. There was no heating or air conditioning, so I had a Mitsubishi installed.

The previous owner had put in several workbenches and wall-mounted cabinets. I added a few more. Because of the room’s length, there was a clean end for assembly and covering and a dirty end for sanding and other dust-generating activities.

A few years ago, we moved into town to be closer to our grandchildren. The house has all of the things that we wanted: a master bedroom on the main level, a pool, and a 320-sq. ft. freestanding shop. Now, I can make all of the messes that I want without bothering anybody. A Mitsubishi was added to keep the shop warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Setting Up Shop

The existing workshop was approximately 30 years old but in good condition. The location is roughly 30 feet from the back door of the author’s house.

The original owner must have been a woodworker. One wall has a 16-foot long workbench with drawers, shelves, and a woodworker’s vice. I’ve added four upper cabinets and two base cabinets. The base cabinets support a 30- × 60-inch work surface. The cabinets that I’ve used in all of the shops are the standard, unfinished kitchen cabinets available at Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Two base cabinets and an upper wall-mounted cabinet were added to create a work area along the front wall. Base cabinets were spaced slightly apart to allow access to a low-mounted wall outlet.

Two base cabinets and an upper wall-mounted cabinet were added to create a work area along the front wall. Base cabinets were spaced slightly apart to allow access to a low-mounted wall outlet.

Additional upper cabinets were added for the storage of drill press and lathe accessories. The existing workbench offers plenty of additional storage.

Additional upper cabinets were added for the storage of drill press and lathe accessories. The existing workbench offers plenty of additional storage.

Metal shelves store model boxes and other items. The office desk in the foreground provides yet another workstation.

Metal shelves store model boxes and other items. The office desk in the foreground provides yet another workstation.

The existing ceiling light fixtures were replaced with four LED tube lights. A butcher block table from the previous house was centered in the room to allow access from all sides for covering. Four shelf units were moved from the previous house to provide open storage for model boxes and other large items.

I also added a small drafting table in the shop, but there really wasn’t enough room for it there. The drafting table was moved to my second-floor office in the main house, which gave me space to work inside when it was raining or snowing and I didn’t want to get soaked going to the shop.

Setting up your own workshop will depend on the space required. Building Hand-Launched Gliders takes up a lot less space than building 6-foot wingspan gas airplanes. Do you have an existing space that could be used? Could part of a garage be walled off to create a shop? Other alternatives include building an outbuilding or purchasing a prefabricated outdoor shed.

Make sure that this is allowed in your locality, and check whether a building permit is required. Note that many of the prefabricated buildings are intended for storing lawn equipment and have a low roof, so check for head clearance. Allow for the cost of having electricity run from the house to the shop. This might also require a permit. Depending on your weather, you might want to heat and air-condition the space. Running water to an outbuilding might be expensive and not really necessary.

The ideal shop should be linked to the main house for easy access in all weather. This could be a covered walkway connected to an existing back door.

The shop should be large enough to build and store the biggest models that you intend to build. It should also be big enough to allow for easy movement in the main work area. Clean work areas should be separated from dirty work areas by a door. A well-ventilated space for doping and painting will keep smells out of the clean work area and the main house.

Storage areas for tools, supplies, and models are a necessity. I’ve found out that the alternative is a big mess. Tools are hard to find and time is wasted clearing off work surfaces so that you can actually work.

I’ve also found that it is helpful to have multiple workstations. In my shop, the butcher block table is used for larger jobs, such as wing or fuselage assembly and covering. The smaller worktable is for cutting ribs, assembling stabilizers, and other small tasks. There is an upper cabinet and two base cabinets at the smaller worktable for the storage of tools, glue, and sandpaper. Multiple workstations need duplicate sets of tools, so this keeps them where they are needed and eliminates a bit of walking.

Take advantage of dead space for storing items that are infrequently used. For example, the space under the butcher block table is filled with model boxes and other large items. I used to use cardboard boxes for storage; lately, I’ve been switching those out for clear, plastic storage boxes. The plastic containers keep out moisture better than the cardboard boxes and you can find things easier in them.

SOURCES:

National Free Flight Society

www.freeflight.org

Home Depot

(800) 466-3337

www.homedepot.com

Lowe’s

(800) 445-6937

www.lowes.com

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