The Shop
This Old New House

text This is the shop. It's about 21'x24'. I would have liked something a little bigger, but it's still bigger than any shop area I've had before. text Naturally it's sort of a dumping place for tools and materials while the rehab is going on. text This is a view from the driveway through the translucent doors.

text This is the old breaker panel; an FPE box that I needed to replace for a variety of reasons. text I installed a new Square-D QO load center. I tried to do a neat wiring job. text Next to it I installed a geek box which will be the nerve center of phone/data/video distribution in the house.

I have lots of work left to do in the shop, however I feel the higher priority is to get the rest of the house in order so that now that we're moved in we can get settled in. Right now that largely means finish the pantry and get carpet down.

I'm able to use my tools for the most part, but it sure will be nice when I can get some wall covering on and get the tools arranged and everything else in order. I sneak some organizing time in now and again.

Work has begun on the shop. I've installed the subpanel and pulled most of the wires for the shop circuits. I'm now covering the east wall. Once I had installed the electrical boxes, I put R-13 fiberglass insulation in the stud bays, then covered the wall with 2" styrofoam panels, finally covering with 58" drywall. Trimming out the electrical (both 120V and 240V receptacles on this wall are on their own circuits) and mudding and taping will complete the wall covering.

text Here's the panel and subpanel next to it. Wires neatly dressed and labeled. text This shows the progression of wall treatment on the east wall. (now ready for paint) text This shot shows the progression on the north wall—no 2" foam here.

Well, well, well. I'm not sure how long it’s been since I got something noteworthy done about the shop. The last update code on the page (hidden) shows 3 September 2006 but I’m not sure whether that was just housekeeping or getting around to something that had actually been accomplished at the time. Apparently, I did the sink addition in 2006, but never chronicled it. Nevertheless, it’s been quite a while since I did anything else major in the shop and the air project below has been worth waiting for.

shop sink Just a garden variety utility sink, but it saves having to clean brushes in the kitchen sink. faucet detail A detail of the faucet installation.    

My notes indicate I did this next step in 2009. Seems like yesterday, but I have had it done for two years, now (as I wrote the update following, which was apparently ≈2011).

In the Illinois shop, I had run galvanized pipe to three filter/regulators, plus a line out to the garage to another filter/regulator. That way I was able to keep the compressor at a location which was convenient (and quiet) yet still have air where I needed it. I had found, for example, that air in the garage was important for bicycle tires and air tools for the car, but compressor motors don’t crank well at -10°.

Also, I theorized that the pipe itself serves as something of a manifold, thus providing more reserve air for those demanding sanding jobs I anticipated. Well, never mind all of that, in Florida I was tired of having a long hose permantently laying on the shop floor and wanted to be able to more easily vary the pressure (the brad nailer uses less pressure than the bicycle tires, for example).

Say hello to copper! I used copper this time mostly because in Illinois I had access to a Ridgid threading set which made the galvanized practical. Also, I had perfected my copper sweating skills earlier in the remodel, which is reflected in the fact that I’m only losing a little bit of air, and that almost certainly in one of the regulators (not my fault). And how I wish I had bought my copper pipe about four years ago before the price spiked. Anyway, here are some shots of the result:

east wall manifold and pipe The location of the compressor (out of view below the tool chest) and the principal manifold on the east wall. detail of main manifold Closeup of the principal manifold. Shut off valve isolates the system from the compressor (attached by “whip”). second regulator/filter at west end of shop Detail of the secondary manifold on the west wall.

main trunk near compressor The main trunk line goes up in the south east corner… line along ceiling of shop—note pitch …across the length of the shop (note the 1" in 4' pitch)… trunk and drop at west end of shop …and drops down to the west regulator/filter.

I pitched the pipe because compressed air is naturally wet, and any condensate that develops will be able to flow to the far end. You'll note the drain fittings at either end of the system near the regulators.

The additional pipe works out to ≈ ½ gallon extra capacity, which isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but given that it’s ¾" should permit pretty good flow on the west end, >30' from the compressor. That’ll accommodate my spraying, although I don’t know how much sanding I’ll do there. The big deal is being able to easily reach car tires—especially without having to stumble over a hose reaching all the way back to the compressor—and being able to regulate pressure out at the drop, also without having to go all the way back to the compressor.

Good project. Now on to some bookcases for the computer room. Then I can get back to the shop and get serious about organizing.

Update: Over the intervening years, the small leak got continually less small, and by Summer of ’17, the compressor was coming on every 45 minutes or so. I didn’t pursue it at the time because I had previously exhausted all the likely suspects—I thought. But a few days ago, I had turned the compressor on because I needed to blow out my angle grinder from the brick cutting I had done. When I came back in, I noticed a rather significant hissing, and it didn’t take much hand work to recognize it was coming from one end of the whip.

Close inspection revealed the hose was bursting (in slow motion). So, off to the internet I went and two days later I had a new FlexZilla whip in hand. I got it installed, fired up the compressor, and…no noise. None. 36 hours later the compressor has not yet fired up to reload the system, and all the pointers in the gauges are still standing straight up. I guess all my sweating figuratively and actually worked out after all.

November 2011. Bookcases finished and chronicledelsewhere. Now for some lighting (now? finally?). I’m not going to make you go back to theshop tourI posted elsewhere to see what I had for lighting (not even sure how much of it showed up—second pic, as it turns out—two 8s and two 4s). Suffice to say, I took it all down when we prepared the house for sale, stored the fixtures in North Carolina, and stored them for a while in a facility here, before finally getting them to the shop—and stored. The tally was six 96" two tube commercial fixtures (refugees from a store razing), and six 48" two tube, homeowner fixtures.

As I planned the installation, I got out one, then two, then three of the fixtures to test out how they were going to work. I wound up with only one working, and it flickered and hummed awfully. I agonized over whether to replace the ballasts with modern electronic ballasts or just buy new fixtures. I agonized over whether to convert to T8 lights or stay with the T12.

The second answer came easily, as I have about two dozen brand new T12 tubes I copped in Illinois at closeout prices. The first one was a little harder. Finally, I went to the local big box and took a look at new fixtures. I could get them for about $38. New ballasts were about $38. What to do? An associate helped me out by pointing out that the old fixtures were probably heavier steel than the new. And even if I had to replace a tombstone or two (tombstones are the sockets for the tubes—when you see the pic below, you’ll get it), it was still really a wash.

I knew I would have to rewire the tombstones anyway (and I had already figured out the connections were basically back stab), so the old steel/new ballasts won out. I’m actually happy not to have to send the otherwise servicable steel to the landfill, the 8 or 9 pound ballasts were bad enough. Go green!

text This is one of the original ballasts, dating back to Edison, probably. They eventually go bad—and did. text Here’s a modern replacement. Instant on, no flicker, no hum—about ½ the size and ¼ the weight. text See? Tombstones. What else would you call them?

To install the first fixture (with the one functioning old ballast) I did some ladder work to find out where I could strike solid wood to support the fixtures. The roofing system in this house is trusses on 24" centers with furring strips perpendicular underneath on 16" centers. I managed to find good wood and fashioned two temporary cradles with wire and drywall screws with a washer for reinforcement. I installed them and slid the first fixture (far one in the pics below) into general position. The idea was to have the junction at the halfway mark across the ceiling, have them perpendicular to the near and far walls (easier to measure), and be coplanar with each other. I could manage two out of three with the first one.

No point in agonizing over the several small bumps in the road getting the first one installed and running, but run it did—as I said above, flickering and humming. Knowing I’d replace the ballast eventually, I picked up one new one (remember, $38 a pop) and prepared to install it in the second fixture.

First, however, I had to strip out the old ballast, wiring, and tombstone assemblies (each assembly is two tombstones on a steel holder). And because the electronic ballast is shorter than the OEM by several inches, I had to figure the attachment. Fortunately, there’s a punchout, conveniently located, which will accommodate the new ballast. Unfortunately, I had to scavenge bolts and nuts from the other fixtures. Once the ballast was in, I routed the wires to the appropriate ends and inserted the wire ends into the appropriate tombstone. It was simple enough, although it looked a little daunting at first.

I hung the second fixture like I did the first and after a little tweaking got them as straight and square as would satisfy me. The result was dramatic, as you may discern below. But the difference between the fixture with the new, electronic ballast and the one with the old ballast was also dramatic—so much so that I made another trip to the big box, got a second one, and installed it that night. Wow.

text These are the first two 8 footers I put up. They replaced the original incandescents from when the house was built and are on the original garage circuit. text Lights on! This is without the camera flash and it doesn’t capture how much better the light is than it was. text Lights on with flash. The flash just sort of fills in light for the camera and gives a better sense of what the lighting really looks like.

It’s going to be even greater when I get some more up. In the right hand picture, you can sort of see the garage door opener. Another pair of 8 footers will go in front of that. The third pair will probably go to the right at the end of the shop.

I don’t know whether I’ll install any of the 4 footers. Maybe toward the garage door, as there isn’t enough headspace above the door to clear any 8 footers. And even at that, I might just use them for zone lights left and right of the door footprint—lathe lighting on one side, jointer lighting on the other.

Below are pics of the inside after the new main door was installed in January 2013. The signficance is that the old door was a Fiberglas™ door—single skin—and quite translucent. There was usable light in there throughout the daylight hours, just from that door. The new door is a steel sandwich with foam insulation between the steel panels.

text This shot shows the rear entry as the only source of light midday. Before the new door, there was a lot of light in here. text Here the shop is lit solely by flash—albeit on low intensity setting. text And here’s the shop with the twin row of dual tube fluorescants on. I mainly included this to show how I had to clump all my stuff together so the installer could work inside. That all will get fixed.

Last updated: 14 December 2017

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