Working Without a Workshop




Introduction: Working Without a Workshop

About: Middle Aged Maker of various fun but useless objects, including but not limited to: Blank books, wooden swords, magic wands, water color paintings, paracord paraphernalia, sling shots, foam rubber helmets, c...

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No room for a workshop? Here's how I get by without one.

Step 1: Do What You Can, Where You Are.

I live in a condo with one bedroom, two closets, a kitchen/dining room, and a front room. None of these really screams "Make me a workspace!" There is, however, a small area at the end of a hallway, that is between my bedroom and closet. I assume it is for a vanity, as I am a non makeup wearer, I put in a counter and a set of drawers. A small office chair rounds out the set, and voila! A small work area perfect for small art/electronics projects, and small woodworking projects.

Step 2: So What's the Problem?

The problem comes in when you want to work on something BIG. I have wanted to try smithing/casting metal for a long time, but living in a cement box makes for bad ventilation, and according to my association "setting the neighbors porch on fire" is a violation of the bylaws. Also, having to break down and drag in my equipment anytime I want to use another large tool, or leave the house is a pain in the butt.

Step 3: So What Do You Do?

I wanted to do stuff, but didn't have the space to work, much less store large equipment. It was time to find a solution.

The answer presented itself to me when a buddy of mine bought a house with a garage. He was a friend with a huge garage just sitting there, full of the junk the previous owner left behind. He needed to make the place useable, and I needed access to a work space.

After a hot, dirty afternoon of cleaning someone else's garage, it was time to make my move.

Step 4: Securing Access.

I had just spent a day cleaning out a garage that wasn't mine. I had an immense amount of "payback" coming my way. Instead of making my friend help me move, or paint my place, I asked if I could work in his garage once in a while on projects. He gave me a key and said "Don't leave a mess."


Step 5: Compromise

So there are a couple of issues with this method, even though I have made it work. One of the problems is timing. It can be hard to get into someones garage when they have a family and a job, and a busy schedule. Sometimes you can get a key or a pass code to a keypad. Sometimes you call your brother and tell him you're coming over and to leave the back door to the garage open before he leaves. Sometimes you just don't get to work on your project at all.

Another issue with this method is storing your project. I drive a sedan, so I don't have much storage capacity in my vehicle. If I had a truck or SUV I wight be able to keep stuff there. Sometimes your friends/family members are cool with you leaving some stuff at their place, as long as it isn't too large, or can be kept outside. Sometimes your project IS too large, and then you have to make arrangements to get it moved back and forth.

The last problem with this method is usability. I have access to three different shops all with different tools in various states of completeness and accessibility. One friend has his table saw and router set up, another has a band saw and a compound miter saw, and a third has all his tools put away and a nice empty space to work.

All these factors can make it difficult to make things and complete projects, but having friends and family around when you work on stuff is a definite benefit as well.

My brother and I work on stuff together all the time, like the forge, and we go Dumpster Diving together whenever we can. My buddy John and I have built and prototyped numerous projects in his garage, as well as grilling and smoking a variety of delicious treats in his yard.

Step 6: In Conclusion...

Some compromise is necessary to access other peoples work spaces, and use their equipment. But it is also an opportunity to get involved in some fun new things with people. One of my favorite things I have done in a friends shop is refurbish a bad saw that we got from a coworker for free. We went to my buddy's garage, tore it apart, cleaned and lubricated all the moving parts, put everything back together and tested it out. Several hours of work and a very nice, functional piece of equipment to add to the growing list of resources I have available. I hope this instructable was interesting, and if you have any comments or questions please let me know in the comments!



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11 Discussions

You may also want to consider looking around your local area for a hackerspace, Makerspace, or hacklab with a decent workshop. The membership dues are usually worth the cost to gain access to the workshop and tools. Plus, you will learn a ton from the knowledge and experience of the other members. If you help others with their projects, they will usually return the favor and help you with yours. I have also found a benefit to having access to material scraps that often work for my own projects.

1 reply

I have a few in the city I live in but they are all over 45 minutes away. I do go for a few of their workshops, but it isn't really convenient for working on stuff. Thanks for checking my instructable, and for the advice!

Food for thought....

I'm using an old run-down garage without electricity... while it's owned by family, cutting grass and shovelling snow makes for good payment terms... the more run down and neglected, easier to negotiate....

So, not my property and no utilities.... no problem.

I saved up for the Harbor Freight solar panel kit ($139 when on best sale every few months). Then I scrounged up some old car batteries for free (co-workers, auto shops). Now I've got a way to generate electricity. I've improved the conditions over time, but 3 12V batteries was enough to store enough charge to run the lights included with the solar panel kit for about 10 hours, plus I could plug in my battery charger for my power tools and keep a spare battery topped off ready to swap out while working.

Now I have 3 newer batteries and got a 1000 Watt continuous inverter. In addition to lighting and power tool battery charging, I can even run a 7-amp angle grinder. 3-amp and less bandsaw and drill press should be no problem once I can afford them.

So the run-down, unused and unpowered garage ends up being quite suitable for just some yardwork in return.

3 replies

In time, you might be able to afford a small generator, if you found a good deal on one. Or, increase the size of your solar panels. Either one would be good to have in an emergency.

That sounds like a pretty hard core way to get things done, but on the plus side, You can work even when the power is out in the neighborhood. Way to make it work for you, man. I'm impressed :)

Thanks! I was just sharing that for some more ideas for you. I enjoyed your 'Ible. I like how you made the process of finding a workspace into a planned out project in itself.... a project so you can work on projects. ;)

Nice! reminds me of the good old days when my living room table was a table saw and my alarm clock was neatly next to my bed on a bandsaw.

Dammm it looks just like my own workshop!!

Almost fully organized... almost...:D

1 reply

It seems like no matter how long I spend organizing my stuff there is always something that isnt where it belongs...

Its a problem at work, too. My bench there is covered in random parts, fasteners catalogs and manuls...

I cleaned it once and my boss took a picture to commemorate the event. :)

This was a really fun Instructable to read. Thanks for sharing! I'm glad you are making the time and space for working on projects and these tips are really helpful and empowering for people who feel like they need their own giant workshop with all the fanciest tools before they get started on making.

1 reply

Thanks! I try to write with a bit of humor, although I think it doesn't always come across. It's always fun to work on stuff with others, as well, even if what you are doing isn't for yourself. Thanks for checking out my instructable!