I keep thinking about shop space lately and of course I think back on Dad’s shop.  When I was 10 years old he decided to make himself a proper shop.  Like everybody in small-town southern Arkansas, we had a large yard.  I have no idea how large – I’ve never tried to estimate acreage but it was no big deal at all to lay out a building that was about 2.5 cars in width.  Both my grandfathers had been in the building trades and so Dad just knew how to put up a building and did it without saying much about it.  I helped him but all a kid could do was go fetch the cinderblocks that he used to make the walls. The worst part though was when he bought 15 cubic yards of clay gravel (one dump truck full) and had me spread it around to level out the lot.  With one shovel.  That sucked.

The shop had two garage doors in a drive through configuration but that’s only because somebody gave him two garage doors and he incorporated them.  He said later that he wished that he hadn’t done that since it kept him from ever really using that space since he occasionally parked his car in there (usually when it was going to be particularly cold and the car would be hard to start in the morning.  Ahh… the days before electronic engine control.)

I often think back to the good times I had being down there with him watching him make stuff. He was into everything and so had both wood and metal working tools.  He even had a forge that he used to melt metal and cast his own parts.  Years later, Mom told me that he once mentioned that some of his favorite times to remember were those times when I was down there following him around so it all seems to have worked out nicely.  I made the occasional thing but the stuff he was into was much more involved and so was more interesting to be a part of.  My hobbies centered around model building and so I used his space often for my work.

That was southern Arkansas and although it was good for shop space since we had plenty of property, I hated it in general.  It was out in the middle of nowhere and we had to drive an hour and a half to get to any store at all that wasn’t a Wal-Mart or Piggly Wiggly.  It was hard to get anything that was at all specialized or unusual.  Then there were the hot, humid summers.  I guess I’m just a wimp that way – it never seemed to stop anybody else from going outside and doing stuff.  People always talk about Houston being humid and indeed it is but they’ve got nothing on southern Arkansas.

I live in the city now and that’s where my job is and Tulsa is where the kids call home.  We live in Broken Arrow actually but the city lots are all about the same size.  It’s no problem to move outside town a short distance and come up with a 1 or 2 acre lot so that has a certain appeal.  I kind of prefer the homes up in town where the lots are barely larger than the house but if things work out, I could easily put some shop space in conjunction with the garage.  One of my coworkers has done that and it seems pretty nice.  It’s small but he can work in there easily enough to build guitars.

Of course I blame Dad for infecting me with this woodworking bug but then my oldest brother has no such inclinations.  Neither does my sister but my other brother and I share the affliction.  He is old enough to remember my maternal grandfather who was more of a cabinet maker and had a large set of wooden molding planes that he would use to create whatever moldings he needed.  He used to stop at Grandpa’s shop after school and watch him make furniture out of raw materials.  Actually, I guess that’s not entirely true – apparently he would buy junk at yard sales and such and would cannibalize old furniture to get material and parts for whatever he was building.  Anyway, he did make a lot of his own moldings.  I imagine that my brother was less of a spectator than a participant.  I can’t imagine a man not taking advantage of a kid standing around to help him hold something.

So I’m thinking that if I get rid of some of my large power tools, I can easily make use of a one car garage sized space.  That could either be an actual bay in a three car garage, a separate building, or an extension onto the side or back of an existing garage on a small lot.  The lot we live on now does not lend itself to any of these options at present since I live on an outside corner and my lot is pie-shaped.  The front yard is nice and large but the back yard narrows down to a space that would be awkward to put a shop on although I guess it’s possible.  The view out of the bedroom window would be a bit ugly but perhaps not if the shop were built well and not simply a typical barn that you’d buy off the Home Depot parking lot.  If it had a “pretty” front door with a small porch, it might work out pretty well. If I would bit the bullet and take out the large oak tree, that might alter the layout of the yard enough to make this all work out and not look too cluttered.  One way or another that sumbitch is having an air conditioner and heater.

I have two really nice oak trees but one of them is too close to the fence and one of them is too close to the house.  People really should not plant their own trees without first consulting an expert but it’s too late for that now. But I digress.  One thing leads to another whenever you talk of making substantive changes to your house or property.  At least I can say that I didn’t do it – that was the guy who built the house.

So it seems that I’d really like to move but not really to a larger house; just one that is better suited to my hobby; perhaps one that is on a level lot and not on a hillside like my current house.  Now that I lay it all out like this, it seems less daunting than before.  I need not necessarily have to buy three acres nor build a two car garage to support my addiction.

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