Tell me about your shop space

I’m in my periodic frustration with my tiny work area at home…which leads me to dream about one day having my own dedicated work space. Tell me about your shop space – how did you find it, how big/small is it, how much does it cost (are you breaking even on it), how do you have it organized, and what would you do differently?

Thanks!
-Jim G

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Once upon a time I was in a 4k shop space near South/Central LA. I got to share a lot of auto fab tools along with 2 16x40 lathes, a bridgeport and a few other rad thing that ran on 3phase. When I wasn’t building, i was learning a bit about repairing/restoring cars and automotive painting.

Then local gangbangers decided to roll-up on my shop mate (apparently they thought we were growing cannabis). They ended up in the hospital and we ended up quickly closing everything up and moving (retaliation is real). Shop mate moved to Vegas. I moved into half of a garage (9 x 16’).

Power is supplied by a 220v and a 110v extension cord. Can’t move in machinery b/c the driveway is too steep, narrow and long. This was supposed to be temporary but then 2020 happened.

The upside is that I don’t pay additional rent on this space. A 300 sq space near me was going for $5/foot recently and the days of getting 4k for $0.70 - $1/foot are long gone (cannabis changed a lot in LA). I made friends with the local welding shop and they’ll deliver tanks even though they’re not supposed to and I can always have larger order dropped at my work’s warehouse.

It’s frustrating but I remind myself that both of us got out of a messed up situation alive, uninjured and with no lasting legal issues.

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I’m in a ~15x20’-ish space in a shared shop with a few other folks. I found it by asking literally everyone I met if they knew of space when I moved to Pittsburgh. I got lucky and a friend of someone I met at a gravel race was looking for a tenant! Rent is $250/mo which is pretty easy to break even on for me. At this point, I’d take a bit more space for more cash.

To say I have it organized would be a bit of a stretch. Everything is always overflowing into everything else, but I make it work! I have two 3x3’ welding tables on one side, a 3x4’ wooden work bench in the middle, a Bridgeport in one corner, and the rest is storage for tubes, frames, tools, parts, etc.

Here’s an accurate view of what it looks like when I haven’t cleaned up recently :grimacing:

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I’m in the back 10x10 of my garage. I don’t braze or have big machines which helps. Keeping clean and organized is what makes it work, clutter can clog up the whole space really quick.

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I’m super lucky that I can occupy a bit more than half of the double garage at the shared house I live in with 5 more people (and a dog…), everyone is fine with me stuffing the space with obscure machinery

It’s about 4,5x3,5m (don’t ask me what that translates to in freedom units…) and it’s included in the shared rent I pay. Best thing is probably that the garage is its own structure, and in between the garage and the house there’s a swimming pool. Soaking the brazed frames in there might raise a few eyebrows though…

Oh, there is also 3phase power in there so it’s brilliant. Of course I could do with more space, but then again I would only use that to acquire more stuff. I think I’m well equipped for some frame building already, although I sometimes convince myself otherwise… That I definitely need this jigging and that workholding sorted out before I can start building stuff :wink:

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Wow – 15x20’ at $250 works out to $1.20 per square foot — that seems super cheap! Is that typical of Pittsburgh? I was once told that in Oakland, CA the going rate was about $2 per square foot, but I’m guessing it’s more these days.

Thanks!
-Jim G

I pay $1.50 per square foot in Marin county for 1500 sq ft which is pretty standard.

Here in Austin shops space is $1.50 - $3.00 per sqft plus triple net in most cases.

We are lucky to pay $1.00 per sqft with no triple net for 3k sqft

@Luniz82 That’s a proper work space! Having the garage doors is such an asset.

My workshop takes up about 300 ft^2 (28 m^2) in my basement. The basement has some narrow stairs with a tight turn at the bottom that prevents me from owning nice big machines. The upside is the room stays cool year round.

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That’s Rust Belt prices for ya! Cheap square footage, cheap housing, and cheap machine tools. I moved here from Seattle where I was paying 3x as much for half the space.

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I just moved in my 3th shop space in about 4 yrs. Started in an old school,s gymnastic class corner 18m2 for 75 euro a month.
Than moved to a welder his workshop. I had a bench there, and my fixture at a set place and machinery scattered around the shop. Deal was we could use each other,s tools and materials. For 150 a month.
Recently moved to a friends(bike shop owner) workshop space. For 150 a month. Feels more like it’s my little corner of the world




The hassle of moving heavy stuff

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That’s a nice table!!

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OH MY GAWD! I have to move!

Don’t be so quick to pack your things, the cost of housing makes up for how cheap commercial space is if you can find any.

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I’m jealous of all of your spaces! I have been waiting on multiple lists for 2 years now. I currently work out of my spare bedroom. Coming from 1 bedroom flats with barely enough room for me and my partner I feel really fortunate to even have this space.

I have to be very careful with dust and noise and I can’t have any large machine tools or loud compressors. But the small space encourages me to be really clean with my workflow. Having one workbench means I don’t have any spare horizontal space to dump things so every took and jig can be packed down and has a space to be put away.

Here’s some pictures from when it was clean. I have rearranged a bit since.






I have a small cupboard where I store a lot of frames and compnonents. When I paint I set up a tomato growing greenhouse and try to keep everything contained.

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That’s impressive to be honest. If it was my space those curtains would have scorch marks all up them…or completely burned by now,

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I am so utterly impressed by this!

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I work out of an 18’x24’ Detached garage at my home. I was fortunate enough to purchase the home while I was still a full time software engineer and interest rates were crazy low.

It currently is only half insulated so its hot, and its cold, but that should change soon enough. I only have 110V out there right now, but thats the next big project, going to bring 220 over from the house and insulate the rest in the process.

It houses a Huang Fung bridgeport clone, powered by an american rotary phase converter.
A Burke #4 Horizontal Mill 110v
And a Standard Engineering Co (pawtucket RI) 110v






On your way out…

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Hey Jim -

You commented on an Instagram post of mine, and it reminded me that you’d asked about shops. Here’s a better look at my space:

We bought our current home several years ago and then spent a couple of years renovating. During that time, I added this shed-style building behind the house. While I can’t speak for others, I know my work (bike or otherwise) really reflects the space it comes out of… I definitely feed off the environment I’m in. I’ve never been able to focus in messy or dark shop spaces. So I set about to make something unique, kinda between a shop and an art studio. Hence the glass, drywall, SHOP PLANTS (!), etc. Not the most practical choices for a metal-working space, but I long to be out here all day long. It’s my happy spot, without a doubt.

Anyway, the shed was completed in 2021, but it sat empty while I was busy getting Simple Bicycle Co. up and running with Oscar. I left Simple about a year ago, and spent last winter finally finishing this space off… Building the shelves and cabinets, moving in and wiring the machines, etc. It’s a work in progress, but getting there. Points of note:

20’x20’ (6m x 6m)
220v and 110v single phase (residential Portland)
3-phase via a small American Rotary converter
1985 Bridgeport Variable Speed Mill
1988 Hardinge HLV-EM (English/Metric threading)

My only real regret is that I didn’t cover the little concrete pad outside. It’d be nice to keep the abrasive stuff out of the shop and be able to work outside in the 7-months of rain we get here in Portland. I also should’ve added a mechanical closet to house an air compressor and the phase converter. As it is, I don’t have air, and the converter sits inside, humming away. Those things are on my to-do list… Meh, maybe next year.

Good luck in your quest!

-Chris

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Thank you! THIS. IS. AMAZING!!! And, to top it all off, you have one of my favorite lathes, too! And motorcycles! :smiley:

-Jim G

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