Instrument Maker's Live/Work Community

The place to chat with your fellow MIMForum members about whatever you want that doesn't relate to instruments, or isn't specific to one instrument family. Pull up a chair, grab a cold one out of the virtual 'fridge, and tell your friends what's on your mind.
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John Alberti
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Instrument Maker's Live/Work Community

Post by John Alberti »

So... Here is an interesting question that we are trying to get a handle on: Some architect friends of mine want to design and build one sort or another of live/work spaces on a property that we own in Corvallis, Oregon and, as I have a serious interest in instrument making as well as other craftwork/industrial professions, I would like to get feedback as to your thoughts about tailoring this toward instrument making and related endeavors. The complex would be composed of some freestanding workshops with attached housing, say an average of 1200 sq. ft. of workshop to 800-1500 feet of living space, but would also include clustered artist loft type units. Probably a total of 20 to 30 residences, or a few more if we can include a neighbor's property. This will be industrial in nature, 3 phase power, high bay delivery doors, etc., and intended primarily for small businesses of under 3 employees plus principle operators. It will certainly include a machine shop or two and that sort of thing to make sure there is a good mix of use, and there is an existing large industrial building that could have some community space for meetings, etc. The focus of the design will be eco-friendly buildings and sustainability, with much thought to community space, garden plantings and that sort of thing. But, not the sort of thing for those who want a large yard or small farm, this is a place for those who want to produce things. Could enough people be attracted to this to make it viable? New construction is not cheap but, if done right, the quality of the spaces could be superb. What are your thoughts?

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Instrument Maker's Live/Work Community

Post by Bob Gramann »

Why not market the concept as you describe and then get your your first clients to help you in the design discussions according to their perceptions of what they need? Build for the folks that will actually buy it. Although our shops may look somewhat similar and each of us can adapt to the spaces we must use, I think that each of us would have a different idea of what an ideal space would be. I got to build what I thought at the time would be close to my ideal shop (although from the start I knew I couldn’t have high ceilings (it had to be in the basement)). Within two years, I wished I had built it twice as big. My lesson from that is to include room for expansion in the design.

Remember that luthiers will need to be able to control the humidity in the shop space.

Sounds like an interesting dream. Please keep us posted as it develops. I’d love to see the movie about the project from conception to completion.

John Alberti
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Re: Instrument Maker's Live/Work Community

Post by John Alberti »

Thanks for the comments and insights Bob. If there is any interest and this sort of thing is attractive to a particular community, like instrument builders, we would want as much input as we can get. I run both a figurine manufacturing business, as well as one that makes tools for luthiers and other woodwork, but it all started in the family garage making candles fifty years ago, then into a first rented space of 1600 sq ft and other buildings up to 35,000 sq ft with every sort of production processes and machinery imaginable over the years, so I understand a lot of what should go into the design of the spaces. However, everybody has a different experience set and approach to work flow, so I think you are right on point, and I have only made a few, but not manufactured instruments. Accommodation for fume and dust collection, humidity control, lighting, ceiling heights, noise control, etc. would be foremost in the workshop design criteria.

What would really be helpful is knowing exactly what size spaces, floor space and height you all have worked in and what you feel would be the ideals for a small shop. My initial models of the site and live/work units have shop spaces in the 1200' to 1800' range with 12' clear ceilings and some additional flex space for living/office/storage that would be 8' to 9' ceilings. Other parts of the project might have work spaces from 600' to 800' or so. What size space did you end up with Bob? Do you make instruments commercially?

Getting the space and environment right does make a difference. In the last building we leased in North Hollywood we even installed huge blowers with something like 800 lbs of activated charcoal in the filter units to pressurize the building, which had twenty paint booths plus dust collection systems running all day that we had to overcome. This filtered out the smog, and we dramatically increased efficiency of production.

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Instrument Maker's Live/Work Community

Post by Bob Gramann »

4B028DCE-73CA-4D1C-9B46-FFCC53416C97.jpeg
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I make and sell 5-8 instruments a year out of a basement shop in my home. When we added a large addition to the house, I staked out a 15x30 workshop (with an 8 foot ceiling). Ot, course, I should have made it twice that size. It would be nice to have more clear floor space around the large tools than I have in this shop. Usually, it’s just me working there although sometimes I have a student. We built it totally self-contained with baseboard heat. It doesn’t share the house HVAC both for humidity control and to keep dust out of the house. I built it with three 20 amp circuits feeding outlets halfway up the wall three feet apart—of course, four circuits would have been better. It now has two additional 220 volt circuits. It has a utility sink which is very convenient and a floor drain for the dehumidifier. I have three full windows plus windows on the double door entrance from the outside. Air conditioning in the summer has not been usually necessary (in Virginia) but there have been a couple of summers when I stuck in a window unit. Obviously, the shop is big enough for my needs. If I could have anything without regard to conscience for waste, it would be three times bigger with at least 10 foot ceilings. I would love to be able to hang completed work and work in progress above out of harm’s way. I would also use the upper space for materials storage.

Here are a couple of photos from each end of the shop. I purposely place things so that I have to walk around. That keeps me from getting too stiff as I work.

John Alberti
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Re: Instrument Maker's Live/Work Community

Post by John Alberti »

Bob- Thanks this is really helpful. Looks like you are well organized and have enough room, but I can see where 700 to 900 sq ft would be welcome. As you pointed out, instruments can be hung up while in process, and I hadn't thought about that. Very nice pictures, so the lighting must be pretty bright and even. It could well be that workshop space in the range of 800 to 1200 sq ft might be enough with some flex space as well. I hope others will chime in here and share their thoughts.

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Peter Wilcox
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Re: Instrument Maker's Live/Work Community

Post by Peter Wilcox »

I'm just a hobbyist making 3 or 4 instruments a year. My shop is 16x20 feet, 9 foot ceiling, which would be large enough except for storage space. Unfortunately I'm a guy who can't throw stuff away because you never know when you'll need it (pretty much never as it turns out.) For me it would be ideal to have two rooms, one for work and one just adjacent to it to hold all the wood and other stuff I buy, scrounge or can't get rid of. I suppose a much larger shop would work, until stuff started piling up in the work area. :lol:
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it

John Alberti
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Re: Instrument Maker's Live/Work Community

Post by John Alberti »

Hi Peter,
Thanks for the input on this. I am not sure what I have regretted more, throwing things out that later could be useful, or keeping all the crap that is taking up space, and of which we have more than you might imagine. If I was more sane, it would probably be the latter, but I have too little experience with the former to know for sure.

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Peter Wilcox
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Re: Instrument Maker's Live/Work Community

Post by Peter Wilcox »

I was also thinking that if there were a large enough space, it could be separated into two spaces with a wall, on both sides of which could be hung shelves, cabinets, racks and tools, thus increasing the storage capability. Also, the storage side could more easily be kept clean and sawdust free.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it

John Alberti
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Joined: Sun Aug 15, 2021 5:27 pm

Re: Instrument Maker's Live/Work Community

Post by John Alberti »

Thanks Peter. In our businesses I try to keep most things as mobile and repositionable as possible, so we tend toward trying to get everything on a palletjackable base, or wheels, and that doesn't lend itself to working well with walls. But, we do also have space that is more isolated for some of our precision metalworking machines, so I can see both sides of that. We have been dividing off space with large metal storage cabinets on the pallet jack bases to make movable walls. We also have dust or fume extraction on all the machines or work areas that need it. A movable wall system that is integrated into the building system itself might be ideal.

Wood storage is always a problem and we are about to convert from flat to vertical storage for plywood to save space, but what about the wood that you guys use? I have wheeled shelf carts stuffed with good hardwood, some on end leaning against a wall, and more piled on pallets with caster dollies under them. Really hard to pick through unless it is standing on end, but that does require a wall or other good support. I wonder if there is any elegant solution to that problem. Maybe some kind of vertical storage carousel that can be put in a corner?

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