Building a Model Railroad – Part 4: Setting up the workshop.

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We’re in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic as I write this.  My wife and I are healthy and almost completely isolated at home.  We’re fortunate to be able to work remotely and so far haven’t experienced the financial worries that so many others are faced with.  In other words, we’re doing fine.  For the moment.

I sincerely hope you’re all well and able to get by.  If you happen to be a first responder, or working in a hospital, or employed at some other “essential” task (like say, driving a delivery truck full of toilet paper), you have my undying gratitude.

Anyway, as promised, here’s the next installment in my layout build saga.  Still no actual layout but the prep work continues apace.  This month I’ll go over the fitting out of my new workshop.  It has turned into a terrific space that I’m really happy with.  As you can see from the photo above, it’s a big improvement over what I had before.

Having mostly finished the space by this point, it was time to start in on the details.  One issue with being in the basement is that the WiFi reception isn’t quite as good as it is upstairs.  Plus, our town has residential fiber and it seemed a crime to waste those speeds.  So first thing I did was run some CAT 6 to the spot where my computer would go.

With that done, I put up some shelving.

Brackets were installed directly to the plywood framing inside each panel.
Then I went to Home Depot and bought the cheapest pine boards I could find.
This was not the best strategy as the cup in that upper shelf shows quite plainly.
So I resorted to forcing everything flat with these braces.
The upper shelf is 11″ wide and the bottom one is 7″ they were sized this way to fit my various storage drawer boxes.
A 4″ hole was drilled in each shelf to accommodate the vent pipe for my spray booth.
This section of the upper shelf is where the spray booth vent makes a 90 degree bend and runs horizontally to the window.  I built a frame to support paint racks in front of the pipe so as not to lose valuable storage space.
Notches were cut for the electrical and ethernet conduit then glue and pocket screws were used to attach the back stop to each shelf.  The side stops were screwed from the bottom.  All holes were plugged and sanded flush
The assembled shelves were then primed, sanded and painted with two coats of semi gloss paint. The longest bottom shelf is nearly 10′ long and extends another 4′ at the corner.  I built it in two pieces to make installation a bit easier.
The completed shelves.  Maybe not the nicest bit of carpentry, but I’m happy with how they turned out.
With the shelves complete I moved on to my workbenches.  I have four tables and each one consists of an I-beam box frame as pictured here (this is the same system I’m using for my layout benchwork).  To neaten things up a bit I covered the outer side of each I-beam with strips of hard board that once upon a time made up the lighting valance on my old layout.
Next I primed and painted anything that was going to be visible.
The legs are L-shaped and fit on the inside corner of each bench frame.  Here the various parts are being prepped for assembly.
I made a little jig to make it a bit easier to glue and screw the two sides of each leg.  The pocket screws tend to push out the piece they’re going through which messes up the joint.
The brackets that connect the top of each leg to the inner side of each I-beam went on next.
Then I plugged all the screw holes.
And sawed and sanded them flush
Some filler, primer and paint went down next.  Looks like I forgot a void in that front one 😦
The legs are leveled with adjustable feet.  Here’s the bracket for one being attached.
Here’s a completed foot.  Once the height is set properly the nut can be tightened up to the bottom of the bracket to lock everything in place.
The two main tables assembled. These are 30″ x 84″ and provide a huge surface area to spread projects out on. The big black thing hanging down supports my computer, keeping it off the ground in the event we ever get water in the basement.
The last task for each table was to seal the natural wood edges.
The two main tables in place. I’m also starting to mock up the spray booth vent in this photo.
These smaller benches occupy the opposite corner and are destined to hold machine tools eventually.

With the shelves and work tables complete, it was time to vent the spray booth.

The plan was to vent the booth out one side of the nearest basement slider. So I popped out that pane and used it as a pattern to size a piece of plywood to act as an insert that I can mount the vent to.
I built up the panel with some scrap wood and foam insulation and backed it (on the inside) with leftover hardboard.  This made it the same thickness as the window.
Test fitting.  Looks good!
I painted the window panel and gathered up all the other parts I would need.
Here’s the modified dryer vent I’m using.  The force of the air pushes the three louvers open and they close automatically to prevent drafts.
I attached the vent to the panel and caulked everything.
Including the inside.
Then I ran some foam weatherstripping around the panel everywhere that it would press up against another surface.
Now I was ready to build the pipe.  This is just cheap 4″ dryer pipe cut to length with an adjustable elbow.
I also removed the latch from the window pane and attached it to the vent panel.  Now I can lock it easily and still remove it.
Here’s the finished system.  All joints are taped and support was added where necessary.
I was a bit concerned that the little fan in my spray booth wouldn’t be powerful enough to push the louvers out but it seems to do just fine. There’s also room for the screen to slide over which will keep insects away.

Since this workshop will also be where my computer lives, I wanted to get that set up next so I could listen to music while I finished building everything else. This also proved to be a good decision as having a nice workstation has been pretty clutch for working remotely.

I’ve had some HobbyZone organizers for a long time and find them to be really useful.  The lower shelf was specifically sized for them but I didn’t have nearly enough, so I ordered quite a few more.

The floor around the workbenches is particularly bad.  Since I had to get some new, taller chairs anyway, I took the opportunity to purchase these rubber roller blade wheels.  They make it a lot easier to roll over the bumps and undulations in the concrete. They also won’t scrape the floor paint.

With that, all I had left to do was move everything downstairs and organize it appropriately.  This took a couple of weeks but I’m happy with how it turned out.  Everything is within arms reach and I still have plenty of room to accumulate more stuff.

This is the main work area.  I’m finally able to use the giant cutting mat I purchases years ago and I can have multiple projects on the go without things getting too crowded.
Here’s a closeup of the spraybooth.  The paint racks do a great job of hiding the vent pipe and provide easy access to all my paint.  I hate digging through drawers only to discover I’m out of the color I need.
Here’s the machine tool side of the shop.  There’s still a lot to do here, not least of which is actually buy more of the tools I need.  At least the mill is here though.  I need to build a base for it and buy some cutters but it will be up and running soon.  The Photon 3D printer will probably live somewhere else eventually.  When it’s in use it will need to sit inside my spray booth so that the resin fumes get vented out of the house.  The shelving carts hold parts and material and ongoing projects.

There you have it. I’ve been using this space for a number of weeks now and it’s been great. I’m already making progress on a number of modeling projects.  There aren’t many places I’d rather be isolated away at.

Now that I’m home 24/7 and have been able to wrap up a few other house projects I’m planning to go all-out on the rest of the basement through April and into the first part of May.  Hanging the backdrop and doing one or two other things will require assistance from some friends.  As soon as social distancing recommendations are lifted I want to be ready to proceed.

Until next month, be safe and happy modeling!



3 Replies to “Building a Model Railroad – Part 4: Setting up the workshop.”

  1. Absolutely stunnig transformation! I really enjoyed reading this and learning great ideas and techniques. The separate area for mill and other big tools is really a great idea. You can never have enough counter space. You have inspired me to upgrade my workbench from a construction door to laminate table tops. The rollable rollable storage racks are a nice touch too. Thank you for taking the time to document the process.

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