A Workshop in an SF Studio

By Gerrit Coetzee

“I should just build a floor on my floor!” I joked to my friend. “Yea, I could just put some plywood on top of the carpet. Then it would be safe from metal shavings and other workshop mess.”

We laughed at the ridiculous idea.

However, my subconscious wasn’t laughing. “build a floor on my floor…. build a floor on my floor” it echoed in the depths. It waited.

A long weekend. 

I was puzzling out how I should enjoy a long weekend. I could call up my friends and see what they’re up to. I could go enjoy the great American outdoors. Or… I could build a floor on my floor.

It didn’t occur to me how much my subconscious was in control as I took out my trusty laser distance finder and started measuring the space I would soon carve out for my new workshop.

I know that in San Francisco all things are fleeting. The grand start-up today could be a whisper tomorrow. So I decided to design the work space so that it could one day move into a garage. Maybe it could move into a larger room. Mostly likely it could easily move into a storage container for safe keeping while I slept, unemployed, in my car; waiting for the glacial hiring processes in the area to run their course.

You might be wondering what plans by a mind such as mine look like. What does raw unadulterated genius look like on paper? Maybe the answer is out there, but my scribbles looked like this:

Even if it’s a bad plan, you should still have one.

I had a wish list:

  1. It needs a surface that an office chair could roll on.
  2. It needs surface that was cleanable and repairable.
  3. It shouldn’t look like total garbage (on Instagram, in person is fine).
  4. It should be rock solid (no one likes a wobbly work desk)
  5. It should be easy to disassemble.
  6. It needs a small standing work area for fine/assembly work.

It was enough to run to the Home Despot and buy some materials.

Next I laid out my prizes in their future location. For the first time the floor floor was taking definite shape. The madness within was bleeding into reality and I was too enthralled and unaware to question or stop it.

Hey… The measurements for the floor floor even lined up!

Since I have zero space and live in an overpriced shoe box with a window, I had but one choice. Paint the parts on the floor floor indoors. It was a nearly perfect plan, except that I had to sleep with all my windows open to avoid death from the fumes. I also went ahead and painted the expensive metal brackets I would use to hold the wood together.

Despite my best efforts, it all went well. I didn’t even permanently stain my apartment’s carpet. My deposit was safe.

Assembly came next. This part was a decent amount of fun, which surprised me. I’ve had experience working on projects with myself and I usually have to schedule in some self-loathing at this stage for some tedious mistake.

Next came the most rewarding part. The completion of the floor.

“The math checks out, trust me.” – A guy who didn’t do any math.

I used two strips of extra wide gorilla tape to hold the boards together, it’s been about three months and this is going strong. Since the joins will pretty much only ever see shear forces I don’t expect this to fail. Also note the 3D printed spacers on the edge that touches the wall. This has multiple purposes. One is simply to keep the wood from scuffing the baseboard. The other is one of ventilation. The only way I can see this whole project going sideways is to trap moisture underneath the floor floor and have to pay for replacing a moldy square of disappointment. This gives the floor underneath a better chance of survival.

Then came a really enjoyable hour of tiling. I had no idea using peel and stick tiles would be a relaxing activity, but they were. This not only covered all my mistakes, but it makes for a really nice desk surface. Plus if I ever burn the top with my soldering iron or otherwise ruin it. I can just peel up those tiles and place new. Great!

Looking fancy!

Of course I wasn’t done yet. I had more problems to solve. Seating was taken care of by getting an absolute steal of a deal on a Herman Miller chair. Storage was taken care of with a few trips to amazon and some surrounding box stores. I also had lighting to think of. I’m definitely a day creature and require surgical lighting to work under. I guess vampires are out of fashion anyway. I eventually solved it with some very bright LED bulbs from the Despot of Homes. It’s even controllable through my internet of home surveillance assistant.

So, the final result?

Aww yea, look at that quality work space.

Of course, there’s still a few items on my todo list:

  1. Organization: I have too many things. I need to throw some away. I’m also working on an over engineered custom inventory system, but that’s a story for another day.
  2. Wires. Too many dang wires. I don’t like how messy it is when you sit in my “living room”. I also want to move my laptop under the desk when it’s docked. I’m working on a nifty swing out table that lives under my desk for that. Watch out for it in a future episode of me solving the problems I made for myself.
  3. Robot vacuum can’t work here. I have an adorable robotic assistant named Cliston which refuses to learn the trick of climbing up a 3/4″ gap. I’m thinking of 3D printing him a ramp which I can place along the perimeter.

Any way, here’s a tour of some of the features:

“How much space do I have left in my apartment for anything else you ask?” That’s a great question!

Thanks for reading!