Work Shop

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The Motivational Picture Right out side My Work Shop


Anyone who has seen 2004’s Aviator the story of Howard Hughes may recognize the quote.

in the Seen beyond Katharine Hepburn, the rest of her family did not understand or could even comprehend the world of Aviation that he was involved in. They where living in a highly disconnected idle wealthy life style only plugged into trivial matters, Howard could feel the time zipping by and his frustrations growing. The above was his exit remark.

There is work life balance and could say “hobby” family balance, however if you find your self in a similar situation you may have some “Airplane Guff” to attend to as well.

I do Admire HH’s many Aviation Accomplishments Just not his OCD, a little bit of “get-er-done” can go a long way.


For anyone Building or Restoring an Aircraft, boat or car for that matter the Work Shop is the goose that lays the golden egg! Speaking to many builders my self included a bad work shop situation is a nearly undetected but very large factor in lack of progress  on a project that the builder can make a change in if it becomes the top priority.


If you have to pull out the car keys to get from where you sleep to your shop its too far for 95% of the build!

Many people starting out think that if your going to build an Airplane you have to build it in a Hanger. Lets take a Sonex project being built at our very own local North County Airport F45. The Airframe kit where you will be spending almost all your time is currently going for around $16,500 single occupant hangers at F45 are going for around $600 / Mo with no climate control and only basic electricity. Say an aircraft like the Sonex takes around 3 years to build or 36 months, $600 X 36 =$ 21,600 well beyond the cost of the kit just for a place to work on your project this is all not to mention that the FAA has clamped down on early to mid level (time line) aircraft construction at Airfields that revive government funding & with no thru the fence operations.

Go to the other extreme, someone who has lived in a covenant controlled community for quite some time, gets an aircraft project, the neighbors start noticing strange crates showing up, things starting to go on in the Garage, then comes the sounds of Power Tools oh my, then they get a friendly cease and desist letter outlining how there activities are against the HOA guide lines.

In my case my home buying search a usable work shop where I could build my plane, test fit in the drive way and even fire up the engine if I had to was Goal 1 that irrefutably could not be backed down from. It took most of 2010 but it did happen. The 2006 – 09 time frame was spent putting on 400 miles every weekend where I could use my Dads garage, making small layups in quad plex rental court yards to cutting ply kits & hot wiring foam  in my Apartment. In the end all of this was very costly & a huge amount of effort, not to mention all the miles on my cars = more money!

some parts of the country this is a no brainier, however in South Florida (where the engineering jobs are in the state that pay more than sunshine) the usable work shop search can be a bigger challenge then the aircraft build.


Shop motivation:

Your shop needs to be a strong hold of Motivation & Efficiency. One of the best motivators I have is my Amazon Fire TV, a small flat screen & some good PC speakers


Here is my setup next to My Smithy Granite Late & Mill.

for a small foot print it allows you to do 2 important things Stream Internet Radio while Playing back your own cloud photos. why is this important. in almost any situation similar to a personal aircraft build like fabrication shop, construction site, yard care services what is the common theme there listening to music that gets them in the zone and gives them a work like hell attitude! with internet radio you can closely stay to the music you want to hear, get some variety and find some new bands with minimal distracting commercials. the 2nd part of the puzzle and what’s unique to the Amazon Box while streaming music you can back out to the main menu and go into your cloud photos. Why is this important what’s more motivating than a slide show running thru showing pictures the final product tempting you along with “finish this thing & join us” or could even be construction photos of your own plane. Best part of all of this is after you buy the box that’s it, your paying for internet anyway Right? Pandora & I Heart Radio are free.


Protect your investment:

If your work shop is at your home there are additional benefits you can get.

Documented items you can have on your home owners policy.

Your time is not split between 2 destinations / eyes on property.


Living thru some break-ins growing up, I listened to what the Cops had to say + things Ive learned living all over the US.

Video Surveillance Systems, now days these are more common, the coverage of what’s going on plus it being a formidable item in the home security arsenal is worth it.


The Samsung Systems from Sams Club are good, software is easy to use, good clear picture, Night Vision is clear, can upload to the cloud / mobile access, standard BNC +12VDC connections. Would recommend going to higher camera counts then lower, a minor over lapping coverage layout, high mounting with internal structure or armored routing of power / signal connections. For the Basic coverage layout: windows, doors & car parking is the minimum on the list.

The Samsung units have HDMI & PC VGA outputs. To send the signal thru out the house the PC VGA cable can go into a VGA to RCA (yellow, red, white) converter box, from there this can go into an RF modulator that converts the RCA signal into Coax. Why do all this? the signal quality does drop slightly between the 2 conversions but after that Coax for the applications of home or small business can be split multiple times and have cable runs in the hundreds of feet with out issue.  Coax is also the lowest cost cable option / highest durability in humid environments (I’m in Florida this is a factor).



All power to the video & monitor systems should be run thru a PC desk top grade Battery Backup to filter the power & provide some coverage during blackouts. most of the time its just running the DVR box so the power consumption is quite low.



In conjunction with the Video system, motion sensor lighting is also highly recommended. its very low cost and can make for more clear videos.



Dogs, either have them or have neighbors who do, I lucked out all the neighbors around me have very attentive dogs. don’t be shy about the signage for Cujo as well. on the flip side if you do have a dog door, have it go only into a small room with the next door being full coverage & heavy duty. Many home invasions happen with a small kid that goes thru the dog door to unlock it for his buddies. better choice is a dedicated out building for the dogs and have the entry into / out of your home controlled by you.



Locks, may home invasions & theft from auto the root cause is an un-locked door.

Beyond the Disk style of padlock, Master offers higher security locks with Boron-Carbide shackles = a royal Pain in the A$$ to cut thru.



Keep the Garage door Shut! only open to bring something big in or bring something big out. there are other methods for venting / a view.

Unless you share the space with Car parking Unplug or power off the garage door opener and use heavy duty padlocks to secure the door.



Be aware of your surroundings, know what vehicles are the usual ones, service companies etc. vs. ones that don’t quite seem right (guy in the van parked on the side of the street for the past hour…). if in doubt, drive past, get a plate # and write it down. plan to have the time to drive out & drive back a few minutes later.



Over all message is: there are bad guys out there, unless your dealing with a bond villain they don’t want a challenge they want an easy deal with a low chance of being caught so don’t make it easy!. Be Informed, Be Vigilant, Be Prepared



Electrical limitations & Safety be aware of the electrical capability of your shop vs. how much power you are pulling, Circuit breakers offer the first line of defense, abuse of the shops electrical supply can lead to fire or electrocution risk. In general beyond the basic small TV / radio running only run one power tool on one circuit at one time. GFIC is also recommended and is usually Code in most modern Garages.

Shop Tools:

Building a plane from scratch plus years of RC stuff  & growing up in the Construction industry you tend to get a lot of tools. its an assortment from multiple brands and stores. Some items you need to spend the money to make it worth while, others surprisingly lower cost options can hold up well, it all depends on what it is.

Have a good handle on how much space you have for all this stuff, Growing up in Colorado & spending a decent amount of time in Texas want a huge garage or barn not a problem, Living in South Florida (only part of the state where they pay more then just sunshine) housing, garage and barn space is bought by the square inch not the square foot. I’m at the end of a 300 mile long peninsula with the out skirts of the Everglades one side, extreme track housing & condo congestion & the Atlantic on the other so build a plane at your house options are limited. Many larger tools can offer multiple functions in one tool  saving valuable floor space.

delta-band-saw   delta-drill-press

delta-SA180    Delta-SA350K-Spindle-Sander

delta table saw   delta-chop-box

most of the common stationary tools like Band Saws, small drill presses, Sanders etc are all Delta, the quality and longevity has been great, Above are stock images of the basic ones I have. The box stores stopped carrying them a few years ago, quite sad, but many Delta tools can be bought on line. Some of the new ones from Home Depot & Lowes should work out well for aircraft construction / prototypes. I’m also impressed with the Ridged brand thru Home Depot


Cordless Drills the 18V NiCd Dewalt is likely my favorite, good balance, power, durability & longevity. this one item where the extra money will get you somewhere. The big / heavy base on the battery is real good for stability just setting it down on a table, makes it easy to grab. I’m also used to heavy tools growing up in the construction industry. some smaller voltages / lithium powered drills can tend to be more top heavy.


Socket drives, wrenches, screw drivers, odds & ends Harbor Fright stuff actually holds up quite well despite the stereo types and I use and abuse these items. remember Home Depot & Lowes send a big chunk of there money to Chairman Mao as well.

Other big items that are useful:


Sand Blast Cabinet, they do take up some space, very useful for post operation work on machined parts to blend down the tool mark patterns / welded itmes, all to get parts ready for paint. The Big HFT unit is well constructed and has served well.



30″ Shear / Press & Roll is also a very useful specialty tool



By far the thing I get the most use out of is my Smithy Granite 1340 Max, its a combined 13″ swing x 40″ long lathe with a extended reach heavy duty mill head on it. 120V power w/ variable speed so noting special needed on the electrical side. all interfaces are standard. R-8 Mill Colet, D1-4 Lathe camlock, MT3 tail stock.


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