Height does matter

I built this temporary work bench on top of a 6’ folding table. I plan on starting from scratch at some point and adding drawers and other storage. Perhaps some integral tools as well.

This morning I raised the surface to be 40” off the ground. What a difference! I was actually surprised by how much better it felt to lean on it and use it. Plus, my shop stool fits underneath it.

Why the modification? Well, I plan to purchase a small 2’x4’ welding table from Weldtables and the kit comes with legs that put it at a 40” height. I wanted everything to be at the same level so I can use anything as a support or out feed table.


I had the opportunity to attend a course at Lincoln Electric’s Welding Technology & Training Center on GTAW, or TIG welding. I recently purchased a TIG welder, and although I had a good idea of how to use it, you get so much more from hands on instruction from someone qualified to teach.

One of the many rows of student booths.

The facility itself is impressive enough. The classrooms were very clean, integrated technology well and were stocked with snacks, water and soda. Our instructors, Lance and Karl really knew their stuff. Not only did we learn a lot about GTAW (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding), but they taught us a lot about the metallurgy involved.

I also picked up some new books on welding that I will be able to refer to from time t time as reference material. “Metals and How to Weld Them” was written in the 50s and 60s and is still very relevant today.

I’m looking forward to getting some scrap steel and aluminum and practicing more and more.

New Compressor Project

A good friend of mine, Andy, had this 60 gallon/175 psi air compressor for about 10 years when he bought it used. 5 years ago, he rebuilt the pump because it wasn’t delivering air at the expected rate. Its seen some heavy use and is running a bit tired again, so he ended up buying a new one and asked me if I would want to have the old one as a project.

Of course! I enjoy working on things like this. So later today, I plan on running some tests and calculate the pumps SCFM to see just how far it is off at its rated capacity.

I had just finished rebuilding this much older 30 gallon / 125 psi compressor. It still has a very small air leak, that I can hear, I just haven’t found it yet.

I have a few thoughts on what I might do with these. I have considered just piping the two tanks together and run them off the smaller, working, pump. That would give me 90 gallons of air at 125 psi. I do, however, worry about how much the old pump can really keep up and if that would put too much of a strain on the motor.

Once I figure out just how bad the old pump is, and what it will take to fix it, I’ll know what my options could be. Maybe I’ll just turn it into a 60 gallon smoker!

New TIG Machine

I’ve been wanting a TIG/Stick welding machine for some time. Not because I need one, but because I want to learn how to TIG weld. I looked at a number of options, trying to stay budget friendly. I ended up getting this TIG 225X machine from Primeweld.

It’s been getting pretty good reviews, especially from some welders that are fairly critical of inexpensive chinese imports.

What sold me on it was not just the price at $775, but that it does pulse as well as AC welding – which means I can weld aluminum!

It came with a CK Worldwide torch and an upgraded foot pedal. I picked up a bottle of argon from a local welding suppliers, as well as some filler rod and stick electrodes from Harbor Freight.

It’ll take a while to learn how to do all of this with some degree of acceptability, but it’s going to be a lot of fun!

Found an old welding cart on Facebook for $20. Cleaned it up and painted it. Perfect fit!

Makes my Hobart 175 amp MIG welder look so tiny!

Compressor Update

I finally have the compressor put back together. Replaced the failed gasket and torqued the head bolts down to 35 foot pounds. Had to replace the regulator valve – I cracked it trying to put the original back on.

There’s still a small leak somewhere that I haven’t been able to find. I’ll have to mix up some more soapy water and get it into all the spots and see if I can figure it out. But it’s such a slow leak, that it won’t matter that much.

It fills up extremely fast and keep up with 7.5 cfm at 125psi.


I rearranged the workshop for the winter months and pulled the Jeep in for the first time. It fits as closely as I expected.

I’m thinking of removing the spare tire to make it easier to get to the other side of the Jeep. I still have to put it up on jack stands to keep the tires from developing a flat spot.

Is the workshop done yet?

I thought the shop was ready for the final inspection, at least as it pertains to the original building permit. The inspector came and said code requires the wall separating a garage from the living space must be covered in at least 1/2″ drywall.

Apparently, the garage between my shop and the living space does not suffice.

I have the inspector coming back to see if this is good enough. Drywall from floor to roof sheathing.

UPDATE: Inspector liked it. All inspections passed and approved.

Birthday Wheeling Trip ’19

It has seemingly become a tradition that a number of us with October birthdays plan a weekend trip to go off road. This year, we continued that tradition. 🙂

Mike, Chris and I rented a lake house via AirBnb that was near Windrock Off Road Park. Windrock is close to Oakridge, Tennessee, a key piece of the Manhattan Project.

Windrock has 73,000 acres and over 300 miles of trails. I’ve been there a couple times before. We covered 50 miles in two days.

We also took a side trip Saturday night to Nemo Tunnel, a since abandoned railroad tunnel. It’s a little less than a half mile long. When you’re in the middle of it, and you turn off all the lights in the Jeep, you can’t see anything. It is pitch black. There’s no light at all for your eyes to even adjust to. Worth the 30 minute trip to get there.

Nemo Tunnel 24 Entrance

According to the GPS, we spent 16 hours, over 2 days, covering 50 miles of trails. Nothing was overly difficult. Trail 16 was a lot harder when I did this 2 years ago. It’s been dug out a bit and the ledges don’t seem as steep.

The only issue we had was Mike’s passenger side front shock started making noise. We figure out what the problem was and took care of it. One of the things for which a Hi-Lift jack is useful! We needed to relieve the pressure the Jeep was putting on the shock. By jacking up the body and letting the axle droop, it was a simple fix.

Looking forward to wherever our birthdays take us next year! Although I am not looking forward to cleaning my Jeep.

How to build a workshop

How to build a workshop in 10 simple steps.

Step 1. Design the shop

I started with SketchUp – a free online 3D modeling program. I first created the house and garage, the figure out how big I wanted the shop. I took these to an architect that created plans and drawings I used to get the building permit.

Step 2. Dig and pour the foundation

In some ways, this was the hardest part. I called multiple concrete contractors and couldn’t get a call back from most of them. I found this Amish man through another contact. He used his excavator to dig a 12″ wide trench footer, 36″ deep. He also set the foundation blocks.

Step 3. Deconstruction

I had to remove part of the back of the garage to be ready for the carpenters.

Step 4. Frame the main structure

I ordered all of the building materials from Menard’s and had it delivered. I’m a big fan of that store. Everything I bought, I made sure to wait until they had an 11% rebate sale going on. The lumber alone netted me $455 in rebates.

I used an Amish construction crew to frame the main structure. I have never seen a more efficiently working group of people before. All of the framing, sheathing and roofing was done in two and a half days by 3 men.

Step 5. Pour the pad

The Amish man that poured the footer came back and poured and finished the interior pad. Because it was so cold at this point, we needed the structure built in order to have some containment of heat for the pad concrete. I also ran a diesel torpedo heater over the weekend to keep it warm in the shop.

Step 6. Install doors

I installed the overhead garage door and the two walk doors with the help of a friend. The overhead door is insulated (R-12.9) and has a carriage door design. After all the rebates, it was practically free.

Step 7. Soffit and fascia

The carpenters left me with the rafter tails and the sub fascia. I needed to install the lookouts for the soffits, the soffit material and the fascia. For the soffits, I used Allura fiber cement vented soffit board. For the fascia and the overhead door trim, I used MiraTEC engineered wood. I love the wood grain look.

Step 8. Siding

The existing house is sided in 3/4″ cedar clapboards, with an 8″ exposure. Although I would have loved to use the same material, it was just cost prohibitive. I opted to use Allura fiber cement siding. It comes in a 9 1/4″ wide board, 12′ long. It’s fire rated and has a 50 year warranty. Plus, it’s about 1/2 the cost as cedar. Once I got the first course on with some help, I was able to finish the rest of it myself.

Step 9. Electrical

I rented a trencher to dig about 70′ of trench, 30″ deep to bury the feeder wire for the shop. There’s no way to get anything from inside the house to the shop. I wanted to have ample capacity, so I buried 2-2-2-4 aluminum which will be good up to 100 amps.

I also buried some 1/2″ conduit for a data line and a 1-1/2″ empty run of schedule 40 for a later run of a gas line for heat.

Step 10. Paint and gutters

The last thing to do was to paint the siding and trim and install the gutters. I used a roller for the soffit and fascia, brush painted the trim, but used an airless sprayer to paint the main body.

The finished project

I started the project in January and it’s now the end of September. I could have hired a contractor and let them coordinate everything for me, but I would have spent at least 50% more than I did by doing it myself. I wasn’t in a rush. I’ve been using the shop since the doors were put in, but I am happy now that it’s done.

Next year, we’ll get some landscape design done. I also plan to do the electrical work inside, insulate it and put 3/4″ plywood on the walls. I am thinking about using a corrugated tin for the ceiling, or maybe interior barn siding. Still a lot to do, but it feels really good to see it like this.

Paint and gutters

Now that the siding is complete (finished that off after the electric service was finished) it’s now time to paint.

I used paint from Sherwin Williams that matched what was on the rest of the house. When the house was last remodeled and painted, the remaining paint was left in the basement. This helped, since I felt I could get the most accurate paint match.

I started with the trim, soffit and fascia. I rolled it on for the soffit and fascia, and then brushed in the cut in and the trim. Two coats later and it looks great.

After that dried for about a day, I did the cut in for the main color.

I also painted above the doors and windows. There’s only about 550 square feet of wall, but an airless sprayer will make this a lot smoother and even coat. I had picked up one of these cheap ones from Harbor Freight a number of years ago and it has worked perfectly before.

This time was no exception. I got the first coat done in less than 2 hours, including setup and clean up.

I did manage to get a little overspray on the soffit. That cleaned up easy enough with some touch up paint.

I waited a couple days to put on the second coat and remove the plastic and tape. Second coat took about an hour and a half, including cleanup. I did need to do a little touch up on the white where there was some overspray, but that only took about 30 minutes. The feed for the electrical service seems to disappear. Once we get this landscaped, you’ll never notice it.

The last thing I need to do is install the gutters. Again, I bought all of the components from Menard’s. The gutters came in 10′ sections and was just a matter of snapping an appropriate slope line, using some seam sealer and screwing it into the fascia.

The downspouts run into an underground drainage system that comes out in the yard, keeping the majority of the water away from the building.

I can finally take a break from working on the shop. I am done until next year when I figure out all the electrical requirements.