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Sheds

The thing about car/engineering pub discussions, leastways the ones we have in our pub, is they tend to be very taciturn by their nature. It's a bit like going to a shrink (so they say). The guys don't give you answers, they just let you talk and so long as you're not talking complete bollocks it's generally OK. A few ideas may be bandied about, a little left field thinking just to test the hypothesis but mostly the act of thinking aloud somehow puts stuff straight in your own head. The discussions as a rule relate to whatever the latest project is, when it comes to the actual space you do your spannering in we all just make do with whatever we have, discussions on this subject are simply not relevant, opportunities to create that dream space don't exist so why torture yourselves. Leastways that had always been the case in the past. No I have not won the lottery but I have been presented with an opportunity that should not to be lightly passed over. One of creating my own half decent workshop and to be honest it feels a little odd but I don't know why; I think this needs some loud thinking.

Workshops, sheds, garages (I am going to lump these together as places where stuff gets fixed, modified, made and generally fiddled with). It's not just a British thing but different nationalities seem to have different mind sets. Take our American friends; is it me or does every picture you see on some forum or other of a Yanks clinically clean workshop have a full Snap On kit a lathe and a milling machine in the background. No with the exception of the Ron Dennis's of this world I believe we Brits tend to a more rustic approach. Perhaps it's our upbringing. Granddads wooden shed, the whiff of creosote, jam jars full of rusty nails screwed to a beam via their lids, an antique vice and perhaps an old shoemakers last stuffed under a oil soaked bench; great places to be and one wonders if their decline due to urban crowding etc etc goes some way to explaining the reducing interest in making stuff for yourself (sorry but every so often the old fart in me sticks its head over the parapet).

We are good at it though, look at all the engineering going on in this countries sheds; even now if you are a car guy and I'm guessing you are, I bet you know of a few machining workshops not that different from granddads shed with bits of engine littering every surface populated by oily old blokes with knowledge, skills and abilities that make you feel so stupid it really pisses you off. Enzo Ferrari famously called us 'garagistes' I believe it was meant as an insult, but those 'garage' built cars went and beat him and I would be surprised if the insult was even recognised as one at the time. We like our sheds.

You do have to serve your time though. Early days under some wreck on the drive, a wet Sunday in February freezing your nads off, your mum bollocking you for spilling old oil, working with crap tools trying to make your only form of transport half roadworthy so you didn't have to use the bus on Monday morning and face the piss taking of your mates..

Then your first garage, probably a precast concrete affair, no power and draughty as hell but you can fix all of that. All the odds and sods stowed in the rafters (lengths of stick old cable conduit a broken fluorescent tube, all that really useful stuff) now you can squeak in a project. You will be unable to get any meaningful heat into the place and you will eventually chip the door against the nasty concrete, but it's your space and it feels good. Alternatively yours may have a couple of mountain bikes with flat tyres and a knackered cross trainer in it, if this is the case you have probably picked up the wrong magazine.

All this is considered good learning by those who were forced to endure it but times move on. You see in my old age I have acquired a property the boundaries of which include an old farm barn. The seller probably didn't consider it a hardship when he threw it in at the price; it was after all completely buggered, but still a barn, big as well. Ok it's taken a bit of sorting out but now I am at the stage of planning my new workshop tucked away at one end and I am firmly of the belief that such pleasures should be not be treated lightly.

I won't bore you with the structural bit, suffice to say I picked up some cheap B grade ally clad insulated roofing panels that will create a great easily heated space once nailed to a bit of timber framing, its the fixtures and fittings that are of concern here.

It is critical to get the right vibe. For me (and as previously alluded too I have been around for a bit) It has to have a bit of that old shed feel. Functional of course but an elements of cosy charm here and there, I fully understand that some may see all this as rather twee, I don't care, I've done years in plain blockwork workshops and am now going to personalise.

There are a lot of dangers though. The back of some of those posher magazine you don't read are littered with adverts: Stuff to give you instant old world charm at a price, reproduction Wurlitzer juke boxes, a very nicely made aluminium model for a few hundred pounds or would sir like a pair of genuine new 1940's goggles to hang casually in the corner. I know the price of original stuff has gotten silly but this sort of irrelevant bought in repro is out of order, Chris Evans with a row of white Ferraris and a white piano I am not, so let's think about this.

The outside is important; it puts you into the correct frame of mind on the approach, a bit of old timber boarding, timber doors and a window reclaimed from an old summer house then. For decoration I do have a couple of original old garage signs, defiantly permitted.

That was easy however the inside is fraught with danger. Yes this is first and foremost a workshop so the usual workshop stuff is a given, lots of light, lots of bench space, lots of storage, compressor (once you have used air tools there's no going back) its the rest of it. Also this is a space for like minded types to chill and shoot the breeze over projects and problems, so a sitting around drinking tea, coffee, beer (delete as appropriate) area is needed. An old leather sofa would be good, oily marks easily wiped off, second hand 50 quid .Table defiantly not an old F1 tyre jobby. A mate who specialises in making zinc and pewter bar tops for fancy restaurants has donated one of his early experimental zinc coffee tables, perfect... An old bookcase for your collection of car literature (including all those coffee table books from discount book shops that everyone gives you for your birthday because you're interested in cars and they have no imagination). A white board for sketching stuff, a pin board for pinning stuff and so to art.

Now we're on dangerous ground. First off I don't think workshop art is corny, it just has to be done right. Nope a couple of old Pirelli calendar shots will not do (trying too hard and genuine ones are way off the price scale). So what are the rules, simple, it must be relevant and or inspirational? Just Google 'car art'. My god there's some stuff out there; but I am not just going out and buying art. Over the years every time I found something that really presses my buttons that was affordable or free I stashed it away. Bob Freemans line and watercolour washes of engines, properly done photography of properly done engineering, good photos of projects similar to your current one; these exude good karma.

No's are things like cartoon art of modern hatchbacks with grossly oversize wheels, in fact most cartoons, except maybe Stan Mott, any bad photography unless it's an old one of you trying to look cool leaning on an early project, then being bad is de rigueur. Personally I am not keen on family photos, sorry but your kids are not relevant or inspirational in any car kind of way. A Ducati 916 on the wall is a big no (why in all that is holy is it not on the road). You getting where I'm coming from man.

On to some peripheral stuff. A dart board, no stay with me, we all have those moments of total frustration when a task just won't go right, you know walking away and coming back later is a good idea but you don't do you. Cue the dart board. Throw something sharp at a target; refocus the mind, you with me now.

Music soothes the savage beast, well possibly not 'Ace of Spades' (how come 'Ace of Spades' is always voted as best driving song in those top 10 things when it is patently Steppenwolf - Born To Be Wild or possibly the Stones 'Gimee Shelter'), but whatever your bag is I guess will do, Led Zeppelin does it for me, so some sort of music equipment is needed (not a repro Wurlitzer remember)

Hell I'm nearly there. A phone extension so you can blow your plastic into space ordering things you have to have so much it hurts. A computer would be a distraction for me but I can see how some would find one useful.

All this is very personal. I know guys who prefer concrete block walls and silence, I guess those environments represent work to me and what I am finally being able to create is a play area.

All that's now needed is to push the project in, but that's another story.

Thinking aloud done, thanks for your input.


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