Friday, March 09, 2012

Lots of Shop Changes A Foot.

Wondering why there have been no blog posts in a while?  Let me tell you.  To say things have been busy around here is an understatement.  We've taken it upon ourselves to completely re-work our mechanic area of the shop this spring.

To start this work we acquired some pretty special wood.  Sourced through a cousin of mine, we were able to procure three, eight and a half foot long sections of reclaimed, solid maple, bowling alley floors!  These are made up of 2.5" thick strips of maple that are a bit over a half inch thick.  Laminated and screwed together, these bulk sections were so heavy that Curtis and I could barely slide them into the shop.  These we split down to appropriate widths to form the bases for all new counter tops throughout the shop.

Rather than try and work through the nearly 3mm thick lane surface we chose to refinish the underside of the lanes.  You can see in the photo above how uneven this side was.  Once split down to manageable widths these were run through a huge stationary belt sander with 36, and then 80 grit sandpaper.  As you can see below, this yielded some pretty amazing results.  This wood will be the backbone on which all of the shop is rebuilt.  It's simply gorgeous.

Our old set up was less than ideal for a number of reasons.  The old shop was set up along the long side of the shop and had only two benches.  This meant three mechanics could not work well in the space at the same time.  A number of tools were also shared between work stations, which made working a bit of a nightmare sometimes.  When using all three stands the old shop also spilled out into the waling path into the shop from the back door.  This made it feel as if you were walking through our shop to get into the store, which was not ideal.  With space being a premium, this often lead to narrow walkways through crowded repair bikes and parts piles.

The new set up will not only look phenomenally better, it will vastly improve work flow.  This layout puts in place three galley style work stations set perpendicular to the long wall.  All stations will have three complete sets of tools, including vices and truing stands.  All the tools will be displayed on dedicated tool walls, and will be very easy to look at and keep organized.  In addition to this the new layout is much more compact.  It achieves all of these improvements in a smaller foot print than the old layout did.  Nothing of the shop will stick out past the seven foot long benches.  This will make using the back door hugely more comfortable and easy.

Here's a shot of the middle bench.  This bench is divided by a foot and a half tall tool wall, and is about feet deep and seven feet wide.  This ample work space will be great to work in and look at.  It's a huge step forward.  Hanging above these central work stations is a shelving unit that will house complete sets of cable housing and cables as well as small parts.  Basically anything you'll need for normal bike repairs will be accessible at arms reach.

Here's a shot final sanded and tool wall painted.  Trim will be added once the polyurethane on the bench tops finishes drying.

The wood finished with polyurethane drying is simply gorgeous.  There's some nice pieces of wood in these.  I can't wait to have them all finished.  Trim will come soon to wrap it all up.  The sunlight really brings out the character of the wood.

Speaking of sunlight, we are opening a previously boarded up window in the back of the shop.  Last year we replaced our old solid back door with a full glass one.  The change this made by adding natural light to the shop was amazing.  It's one of the biggest positive changes I've ever made here.  For comparison sake, the window in the back door is about 2' by 5'.  The window we will be opening up measures 3' by 10.5'!  I can't fully imagine what this will do to that back of the store.  Both from the inside looking out, and from the outside looking in it will drastically change the feel of the store.  What you see in the photo below is only half of the window.  It extends another full pane above the lower one!  The new window has been ordered, and is on the way.  It should be installed in about 2 weeks.

Phew!  Man there's a lot to all of this.  It's been a dream for a long time now, and it's almost there.  I simply can't wait to be able to work in a shop like this.  It's been what I've wanted for years now, and it feels great to be nearly there.

There are three other major projects we are working on in addition to these.  Along with the new benches we'll be building a new checkout counter.  This will also be a butcher block maple top with a custom pedestal to hold all of our peripherals, printers, and office stuff.  This too will be much smaller and more refined than what we have now.  The second project to finish up will be our fit/training station.  This will get finish trim installed, and will have it's own set of sizing stems and tools.  Third, and in my opinion most exciting, is we will finally have a deck put on the back of the shop!  This has also been a goal for years, and it'll happen in a month of so.

All of this is going to be a great reason to throw a party!  We'll be picking a date in late April soon.  This is all enormously exciting for us.  I'm excited to show it to you all soon!


Tim H said...

Very cool Ben! Must be particularly satisfying to pull something like this together. I might have to take the trip down there for your grand re-opening party!

Guitar Ted said...

Hmm....I have a sneaking suspicion you are going to have this party on Trans Iowa weekend. Dang it! I hope I am wrong about that.

Anyway, I didn't know this was old bowling alley wood. You know, I have an 8ft section just sitting in my garage now and another 8ft section I made into my shop table in my basement. They are SUPER HEAVY!! I know just what you mean there.

At any rate, my congratulations to you and Curtis. This looks fantastic.

Ben said...

Tim, it is hugely satisfying to see all of this happening. It's been a dream for a long time now. I can't wait to fully use it and appreciate the finished space.

Mark, no worries. I'll schedule accordingly! You'll probably have to bring your wife too. ;)

Thank you both for the kind words.

Guitar Ted said...

Well, if you are scheduling around T.I., I'll have to come up, and of course, Phyllis would love to be there as well.

Looking forward to it Sir!