Power I needed 240 volts to run the heater and
welder, and 120-volt receptacles placed at frequent
intervals along all walls on two separate 20-amp,
GFI-protected circuits. This ensures a plentiful, safe
supply of electrical power to all tools.
Building the Barrage Garage
My first task was to site the structure. Where should
the workshop go?
Initially I considered placing the shop in my basement. Possible, but this would involve far too many
compromises. The basement is a low-ceilinged space
with marginal access via a narrow stairway. The
thought of carrying tools and materials up and down,
turning corners, and so forth quickly dissuaded me.
Instead I turned to the nearly forgotten space
along the alley in back of my home. Separated from
the rest of my yard by a chain-link fence, it was
covered with 25-year-old lilac bushes. I loved those
fragrant, beautiful spring blossoms, but the space
those lilacs grew upon was workshop-perfect: it had
room, privacy, and access. So, goodbye lilacs.
City ordinances allowed me a maximum of 240
square feet for the shop. With the city building
permit obtained, it was time to push some dirt.
It all starts with a level floor. Every workshop, atelier,
pole barn, or garage must have a level floor if great
things are to be made in it. It has always been this
way. Four thousand years ago, in the reign of the
great Egyptian pyramid builders, construction
techniques were rudimentary. Imhotep, legendary
architect of the pharaohs, had only knotted measuring ropes stretched taut between stakes, plumb
bobs, and sighting sticks.
But Imhotep gave the pharaohs the tools to build
monuments capable of withstanding 50 centuries
of desert sandstorms. He did that by starting with a
perfectly level floor. It’s believed that the Egyptians
leveled the area under a pyramid by cutting a shallow grid of trenches into the bedrock, then filling
them with water. Knowing that the height of water
within connected trenches would be at exactly the
same level, the workers hacked out the intervening
islands of stone and sand with hoes and stone drills.
The Barrage Garage has a flat floor as well, but my
excavators used a 75-horsepower backhoe and
modern surveying tools including transits and lasers.
My end result is pretty much the same as Imhotep’s:
a perfectly level slab placed in exactly the right spot.
34 Make: Volume 12