<The Factory>

So far, and I hope it stays this way, the construction of my RV-7 has spanned two houses (shops) therefore I have broken this page into sections for each Shop, and a more general section for those items applicable to both. Enjoy.

 Shop Sections
Shop 1.0 (Old House)
Shop 2.0 (New House)
Work Tables, Creature Comforts and Other Shop Stuff

Shop 1.0 (Old House)

A few months ago, I remember telling my wife, "Dear, I made up my mind; I am going to sell the airplane (Citabria) and build a new one!" Her response was something like, "What do you mean build?" To which I said, "It comes as a kit, you know, like a giant model." She then said, "And just where are you going to, ummm, build it?" I fired back, "In the garage of course!"

To the garage I went to survey the current situation. It was not good; dim lighting, no 220V outlet for a large compressor, and a car parked in the middle. Our house has a two-car garage, but several years ago, the prior owners decided to build a laundry room into the garage, thereby consuming a large part of the available floor space. The good news for me is, with the laundry room, the garage is to small (short) for my wife's car to fit, so only I park in the garage. Why is this good news? Well, because my wife already parks in the driveway, I am not kicking her car out of the garage by putting in a workshop. 8^)

After moving my car to the driveway and finding a better spot for our bikes and garden tools, I concluded that I would need to upgrade the electrical power before I could turn the garage into a workshop. Fortunately, I am pretty handy, and feel pretty comfortable doing home improvement projects, so off to Home Depot/OSH/Lowe's I went!

I had power problems… my current electrical configuration did not allow me to add a 220V receptacle for a compressor, and the entire garage was sharing a circuit with the house. I certainly didn't want to trip a circuit-breaker every time I ran a drill press or band saw, and knew I wanted to install improved lighting and more outlets, all of which weren't going to be possible without making some changes.

I realized quickly that there was only one way to solve the electrical issues for the workshop... more power! I caught a break here; when the prior owners put a pool in about 5 years ago, the electrical service to the house was upgraded. The panel on the outside of the house is a 200-amp panel that had a 100-amp circuit feeding the house (and garage) and 30-amp circuit feeding the pool. The plan was simple, add a 100-amp feed to a sub-panel in the garage (I mean workshop), and relocate the 30-amp pool circuit to the new sub-panel. This helped a lot... It allowed me to install a 220V compressor circuit, and move the garage power (outlets) to the new sub-panel, thereby providing plenty of power for the workshop while removing the load from the house circuits.

Off I went to city hall, told them my plans, gave them a check, and in return they gave me a permit for my work. This was major electrical work, and if done wrong, it could have created quite a safety/fire hazard. I wanted to be sure the work was done right, up to code, and I didn't want any problems caused by un-permitted electrical upgrades if we were to sell the house.

After many nights and a few weekends worth of work, I ended up with what I think was a great workshop. Not only did I have the power I needed, I installed new drywall and painted the walls bright white for a nice clean look. I think it came out great, but you see for yourself…

Feed from main panel to new 100 amp garage panel.

New wiring and receptacles going in.

The drywall has started... what a pain in the butt... I hate drywall!

Ahhh... Finally starting to look like a workshop. Can you beleive it's the same corner of the garage as the picture above?

Shop 2.0 (New House)

During construction of the wings, we bought and moved into a new house. Unfortunately for me, only about a year after completing Shop 1.0, I had to start work on Shop 2.0.

The garage in the new house came from the builder with sheetrock installed and the seams taped, but the walls weren’t finished. While not necessary, I wanted the garage finished. I wanted nice white walls (to reflect light) that were someone easy to clean. Since I was in a bit of a time crunch and had lots going on, I hired a guy to come in and finish the garage with texture and paint. In the end I wish I had done this myself as he turned out to be a liar and a crook (long story). He did a lousy job, but it is done, and with stuff against the walls you don’t really notice the quality of his work. Live and learn.

Our old garage had an exposed ceiling with plywood platforms for storage. It was a great set-up and I didn’t realize how much stuff was stored up there until we moved. The new garage has an attic but with lots of structural members and sprinkler pipes in the way (remember it’s earthquake country here) it really isn’t built for storage. Similar to the old house, I decided to install overhead storage platforms. I could have made my own, but I found these great metal HyLoft racks at Lowe’s. They are each about 4’ square and are rated for 200# each, so they should be able to hold plenty of stuff like Christmas ornaments and camping gear. I installed them above the garage door so that they, and all the stuff they would hold, would be out of the way. Scratch one more thing off the list, and I am one step closer to being back in the airplane building business.

With the walls and storage shelves done, it was time to survey the electrical situation. Much like the old house, the power in the garage was inadequate with only one 20A circuit feeding the entire garage. I upgraded the power in the old house, so upgrading it at the new house should be a piece of cake. The only major issue with running more power in the new house was that the garage was detached and about 120’ away from the main panel. Lucky for me our landscaping hadn’t been installed yet, and I was able to get our landscaper to dig the trench for the underground conduit. Thank goodness, because it would have been back breaking work.

After the landscapers dug me a trench, and with the help of my friend Steve, I ran 1-1/4” conduit with three #4 copper main conductors and a #6 ground wire from the main panel around the back of the house to the garage. The city inspector came out and gave it a thumbs up, which meant the landscapers could cover it up and get to work installing our landscaping.

While the landscaping was in the works, I turned my attention to wiring the garage with the new circuits. Much like the old house, I decided to bring in 100A of power for the new shop. I didn’t need 100A, but if you are doing this, you might as well give yourself some room to grow. I installed a 15A 220V circuit for my compressor and two 20A 110V circuits for tools and lighting. Once all the interior (garage) wiring was done, it was time to make the connection at the main panel. Much like the old house, I put a new 100A double-pole breaker into the main panel to feed the garage sub-panel. Everything powered up and a few days later I passed my final inspection with flying colors. It’s time to get back to airplane building!!!

In the end I am very happy with the way everything turned out (I have even learned to deal with the crappy texture and paint). I had to rework my wing fixtures a little in the new garage, but since it was somewhat airplane related I didn’t mind. I just hope my wife and I decide to stay in this house long enough for me to finish the airplane… I really don’t want to have to add Shop 3.0 to this page. ;-)

The dreaded trench. From where I was standing, it is about 40' to the garage and another 60' to the main electical panel (off picture to the right).

100-plus feet of conduit and three lines of #4 copper, plus a ground wire... what a pain in the butt!

All my new circuits were wired and it was time to make the connection at the main panel.

These are the Hyloft racks I installed about the gargage door. I don't know where all this stuff would have gone without them. There is a matching set of racks off picture to the right.

I set up the new shop almost identical to the old shop (Shop 1.0).

Work Tables, Creature Comforts and Other Shop Stuff

Edit: While the information below was put together during the construction of Shop 1.0, it still applys to Shop 2.0.

Skins, ribs, rivets, compressors, dimpling frame, rivet guns, drill press, primer, where was it all going to go? Once all the electrical/drywall work was done, it was time to start the fun stuff.

I started by laying out the shop for what I thought would be optimal building enjoyment. I decided on a large center worktable, a tool bench (for power tools) along the wall, and a desk in the corner. For the worktable and tool bench I decided to use the EAA 1000 Standardized Worktables plans as a basis for my design. For the worktable I decided to go with a single 8' x 3' table with a center supports for increased strength, casters for portability, and a 36" table top height for my 6'3" body. I also chose to mount the lower braces and shelf lower, than the EAA 1000 tables, to maximize the storage space. I decided on a similar set-up for the tool bench but with slightly smaller dimensions, and a thincker top to take the vibration created by the power tools.

For the desk I picked up a piece of ½" laminated pine, some shelf brackets and a sheet of plexiglass. After securing the shelf brackets and desk surface to the wall, I used the plexiglass as a top for the desk. This protects the soft pine underneath, gives a good surface for writing, and I can slip cheat-sheets (e.g. drill size tables, phone number lists) under it (the plexiglass) for easy viewing.

I then added some creature comforts such as a phone, tv/vcr, stereo, and computer to the workshop. I use the tv/vcr to watch construction videos and I use the computer to access the internet, with its' wealth of RV related knowledge, all without having to go into the house.

The new worktable. 8' x 3' and on casters with plenty of storage space underneath.

The workbench along the wall with a wall mounted vac system and my compressor and hose reel.

My desk with tv, phone and computer. You can also see some of the lighting fixtures I installed... it's nice and bright in here.