I’ve gotten a few questions about my shop setup, so here it is.
I’m doing this project in a space that’s about 18 feet by 26 feet – sortof. I don’t really have that much space available to me, because there are all sorts of things other than growing airplanes vying for it, such as the family van, a car, our elliptical machine, a file cabinet, bikes, etc. That little space at the end (about a third of my total space) is what I’m starting with. We’ll see how long I can stay in that area without disturbing everything else. I’ve worked hard to keep my footprint to a minimum, so it might work for a few years…
It’s cold in Minnesota for a good five months a year, and VERY cold for a couple of months (January/February), so the garage is fully insulated (walls/doors/ceiling), and I’ve got a hung electric heater in the corner that keeps things toasty. I had the same heater in my garage in North Dakota, and my dad has the same one in his way-bigger garage in North Dakota. The thing just works. Funny thing is, you can’t find these units in the big box stores. You have to go shopping at places like Farm and Home or Fleet Farm to find them. Don’t know why Home Depot or Menards don’t stock them. They’re either selling the big propane heaters (I am NOT interested in plumbing for one of those) or little electric space heaters. Anyway…
I saw that a number of builders had constructed cloth cabinets to keep their fiberglass clean and organized, so I decided to do the same thing. You can see it closed up in the photo up top, and then you can see it open in this photo. Both this cabinet and the hotbox (below) hang on pair of opposite-notched 2×4′s – one is screwed into the wall (runs the length of the wall – you can’t see it in the photo), and one is screwed into the back of the closet. So it’s easy to just take the thing down if I need to, or move it down the wall. I used leftover siding from my kids’ playhouse that went up last summer, along with some 2×2 stiffeners I made out of 2x-something I had lying around. It’s 4 feet by 4 feet by 12 inches deep, has a hinged front cover held closed with cheapo hooks, and the cover folds down onto the front part of my workbench (I haven’t had time to put legs on it yet – might not ever – we’ll see) forming a cutting table that I surfaced with some reject shower siding I managed to pay the folks at Menards very little for. You really need that, because the glass will get all messed up on the plywood, unless you have perfectly surfaced stuff, which I’m too cheap to buy, obviously Some of the folks who are building Cozies spent a ton of time and treasure creating fantastic workshops, and my hat’s off to them, but I figure I’ll be more picky about spending money on my workshop so I can spend more money on the plane. Yep. Anyway, this thing works great. I originally thought I’d need one of those self-healing mats so I could use a rotary tool to cut my glass, but now that I’m using the Dritz scissors (or whatever they’re called now), I just need something smooth that the glass won’t catch on. Swinging the front down on the table requires me to keep things clean. I may get frustrated with that eventually, but for now, all’s well.
One of the things that got drilled into my head after reading the first few chapters of the plans and watching the Rutan composite video about twenty times (I swear if I hear Burt Rutan or Mike Melvill say, “Now, this is PURE E-PO-XY” one more time I’ll throw something at the screen. Info excellent and necessary. Producer BAD. I still can’t believe that the people who made the video actually put their intro sequence on it. If you haven’t watched it, it’s just part of hazing required to do these projects correctly.) is that this whole deal is about temperature control. If your room is at the right temp, your materials are at the right temp, and your epoxy is at the right temp, it’s hard to mess up the layup. I’ve done a ton of reading on other people’s sites, and from what I can tell, you just can’t get away from temperature control. You’re either going to have to redundantly control temp for two things (space and epoxy), or you’re going to have to spin the wheel every time you get to your shop and figure out what new temperature variable got plopped into your process and make up for it with space heaters, strategically-placed plastic, hair dryers, fans, etc. I’m going at this with the theory that if my shop is right, and my epoxy is right, the layup will be in the ballpark. So I built an epoxy hotbox much the same way I built my cloth cabinet, with a baseboard thermostat hooked up to a 65-watt light bulb inside, and foam insulation all around. The thermostat is factory-set to only go to 85 degrees, but I just snipped off the guard with my handy-dandy Fein Multimaster tool (yet another indispensable find), and now we’re keeping that hotbox consistently between 92 and 98 degrees. Perfect.
My bench is a little small. (No snide comments please.) It’s about 3 feet by 6.5 feet, and it’s topped with a solid-core door that I bought from Bauer Brothers Salvage for about $20. I actually bought two, since I’ll likely need ‘em both before I’m done. (That place is amazing, in the “I should really be wearing a fireproof suit when I go inside” sense. If you know what you’re looking for, it’s like a big treasure hunt. Otherwise, it’s just, well, amazing, like I said…) I figure I’ll need more length as the project progresses, but for right now this is perfect. It’s got a shelf underneath, so I don’t really have dust protection under there, but I do have plenty of space for hardware/tools/etc. I used 4×4′s that used to hold up a fence that went around our property when we moved in a few years back, so my el-cheapo North Dakota roots are showing through there as well. I wired it for electricity, which has turned out to be seriously handy. I would do that again, for sure. No more extension cords – power is always right where you need it. I just wired a male plug into the near end of the circuit, and I plug that into the wall outlet with an extension cord. Done. I can leave my stuff plugged into the table, and just unplug from the wall one time when I’m done for the day. I also took one builder’s advice (can’t remember who anymore – I’m sure it wasn’t unique) and put threaded “feet” on the bottom of the legs so I could level the table when I needed to without having to shim.