Getting it built.

Coulter's Smithing Home

It sure was fun helping (mostly watching) the new building go up. Here are some pictures and comments on the process. For some other pics, go to the C-Lab site, which is where we were at the time. We hope this information helps anyone else contemplating a similar project. And, hey, Doug gets to play proud papa.

building materials You have to start somewhere. Here's the stack of stuff they delivered from Home Depot to make a building out of. Doesn't look like enough until you realize that for example, those wrapped up blocks are essentially solid wood. It's all there except the couple of pallets of cinder blocks I bought to become the pilings, the nails and the paint.
foundation Here is one of the builders showing me how to set up the foundation, which is the customer's responsibility. He helped me anyway, so thank you! I went back and added quite a few pilings, and an extra row under the lathe side of the building since I knew that's where the big weight would be. So, as a bonus, we get something of a basement or crawl space with this. The building is sited so as to face due south, since the solar panels will go up on the roof. Sadly, this is eating some of my very fertile garden plot, but this is also the best building site on this side of the creek. The other side is hard to get to, and we wanted to keep the buildings all on the same side for now to allow them to support one another with water, electricity and other things.
first wall goes up As I said, these guys are fast. This is happening around noon on the first day a full crew came. It sounded like a battlefield with all those nail guns going full blast.
first wall goes up Here we are at quitting time of the first day of full crew. For the first couple of days, only the supervisors came out, to consult on details and sort of help me get the foundation together. They weren't supposed to do that, but are nice guys. Thanks! But once the real workers came, things happened very quickly. Not bad for a day's work, eh?
first wall goes up Here we are at day two sometime. They've already put in the second floor joists and the roof rafters, which they built on–site. What a team! The main workers were a guy from Poland, and a guy from Georgia, not the one in the USA. Their supervisors called them Mexicans to rag on them. We think we were very lucky to have these guys on the job. They knew their stuff and really worked hard and smart. Ok, the Polish guy did shoot himself in the arm with his nailgun...but kept on working anyway. No, we didn't make any Polish jokes. This cat deserved all the respect we could give him.
first wall goes up It started raining, so the guys got real motivated to get some roofing on. It didn't help much, as it just funneled the water to the cracks between the boards. But they did move right along on this part. Supervisors don't like getting wet. It didn't bother the other guys.
first wall goes up Looks like these guys are going home early on day 3. It only took this fellow a few hours to put all the shingles on with one helper, the Gypsy, feeding him shingles and nails. They are all straight, and they don't leak. What more can one ask? They left us a few packages of leftovers so we can make repairs later if needed. We did ding a couple getting the solar panels up there.

The guys from Classic Manor Builders worked so fast we didn't get many pictures of the building in progress.

first floor ceiling joists For example, the roof rafters, boards, and shingles all went on in less than one day. Doug helped by adding extra cinder–block pilings under the first floor where we knew the heavy stuff was going to go. They did a very nice job on the basic shell. Strangely, the major structural pieces were mostly imported wood, from Sweden of all places. It sure was hard to drill holes in for the wiring – this is some of the tougher wood we've seen. We burned out one Milwaukee angle drill on this stuff, and almost burned out a second one before going to an auger bit with a hand–ground hex end and an air ratchet wrench. Note to Milwaukee: One reason the Japanese are eating your lunch is that they are smart enough to not use a threaded–in chuck on a reversable drill, and they DO usually have thermal protection. After all that hard work to put in the wiring, I wimped out on the compressed air plumbing, which just runs along the joist bottoms. You can see why we dropped initial plans to paint this white for better lighting. It's just too pretty to hide. All the first floor wiring is run around the periphery at ceiling level. Every so often there is a 4 outlet box between the rafters. From these are dropped normal hardware store power strips to have outlets in handy places. One feature of this method is that there are no breaches of the vapor barrier. This place is TIGHT. The walls are insulated with the normal fiberglass, then there is a layer of "space" blanket, aluminized mylar, over that, glued at the seams. Then the interior wall. This approach wouldn't work for in–between the joists, so there we used a couple of layers of R-Max and caulk. There are a couple of holes in the floor to let electricity and compressed air in. There are no holes in the walls. In winter, we blow warm dry air down into the "basement" to dry out the dirt floor, in summer we will turn the fan around the other way. Here is what the walls looked like before the drywall was put in. Note that the studs are really 8 foot, so combined with the floor and ceiling sills, we have a little over 8 foot ceiling on the ground floor. This is nice when you have long things to carry around.
space blanketed wall We then put on a layer of drywall, which turned out to be fairly expensive in labor costs. We might not do it that way again, and did do the second floor differently. On top of the drywall, we put whiteboard. Finally, enough scribble space! The real reason for that is to have walls that are easy to clean in a place where everything from oil to chips and sawdust goes flying. The whiteboard is pretty inexpensive, and the main problem was getting it screwed in well so it didn't buckle. We tried contact cement first, but that was more or less a complete failure. Luckily, we marked where the wall studs were on the sill plate and floor before doing the drywall. We used Armstrong tile for the flooring. Wow, that adhesive will really act on your nervous system – even with open windows. This worked out well, but we should have put down a good layer of wax or something before doing anything else, as it is possible to stain this stuff.

drywall and added windows Here's a wall after drywalling it, but before putting up the whiteboard. Note some tools have already crept in, as that is the fun part. The cool looking reflection is from a piece of left over space blanket. You can see what the whiteboard looks like in various other pictures of the shop. We added some windows we found at the dumpster, the universal recyling location around these parts. If it's good, you leave it outside the dumpsters for someone else...
unfinished upstairs Here is the unfinished upstairs after Doug added a skylight. I always wanted one of these, and this gives roof access without going up a long ladder outside. Turned out to be very nice when it came time to scrape snow off the solar panels in winter. Doug then built a drop down ladder to this out of some very nice 100+ year old oak flooring that Paul planed and dadoed for him. It doesn't leak, by the way. I did have to add latches to it so the wind won't blow it open, though.
finished upstairs Here is is mostly finished upstairs. After the somewhat negative experience with drywalling (the labor cost was just too high) I decided to use particle board upstairs, with just whiteboard for the ceiling. I don't like the effect of painting it white, so didn't finish doing the whole room. In this picture you can see the plating bench with insulated tanks built in, and some of the upstairs compressed air plumbing. How did I ever get along without that? The fat black wires at the top are from the solar panels. We have since added a "Frankenstein looking " knife switch so we can "float" these during thunderstorms, even though we also have lightning rods that go 20 feet above the roof peak at each end. That's just too much money to put at risk, and if there's no good current path to ground, lightning ought to take another way – we hope! We don't know, as lightning hasn't hit the place yet, but it will, it has hit the lower place behind us several times. In the meanwhile, one of the lightning rods can also be floated off ground, and makes a dandy vertical antenna. Upstairs we had 6" studs, so we used thicker insulation. We put in a passive turbine vent and made some other slight mods, like blocking air intake from the north side, and adding a fan to the turbine for those really hot days. There's a trapdoor to where the turbine opens in, so we can use it to exhaust the room, or just behind the insulation only. Nice on those super hot days. But even on the hottest days, this place never gets as hot as a mobile home that's partly in the shade. Nice!

So, that's the story of getting this place built. Thanks to Classic Manor, and the guys who helped finish it, Frankie Dalton, Earl Dalton, Mark Thomas, WildMan (don't ask) and Joe Cox. Doug's wife, Marlene, helped with carrying some stuff (she is the muscle of the outfit) and some cleaning. Total cost hasn't been added up, but is on the order of $22k. Then we put the tools in here. This place is exceptionally tight. We can air condition it with a 7k BTU air conditioner, and any woodstove is too much heat -- we heated the first winter with kerosine, but eschew that at today's prices. Once its warm, it stays warm for hours after the fire goes out, even in 20 degree temps and high winds, unless we open windows. When there is a fire in the stove, the windows are mostly open, so we have the best of fresh air and warmth together. Great place to work!

Coulter's Smithing Home

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