Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Shed Begins

No, The Shed didn't hitchhike to the Himalayas and get some stonking-good ninja moves from a creepy guy who used to be a Jedi but this time turns out to be evil.  It began the way everything normally does.  As a thought.  First an idea, then a decision.  Everything around you that you can see, feel, taste, smell or hear started out as a thought in someones brain.

Obviously I had to do a bit more than think The Shed into existence, though I'd estimate that's about 98% of the work.  It's the other 2% that takes all the time, money, blood and sweat.  Thinking contributes to every step of the way, too.

Any divorced dads out there?  You can probably understand the frustration of trying to maintain contact with your kids when you don't have anywhere for them to stay for a weekend.  When I did get to spend a weekend with my son, circumstances were such that there were so many rules I had to enforce and so much problematic behavior that needed to be "managed" that my son and I virtually had no relationship at all.  No relaxing times, no happy moments.  Our contact times were mired in stress and conflict, as though by some design.

That's what finally motivated me to build The Shed after considering doing something like this for some time.  In addition to other things, it would be a place where a boy and his dad can just be themselves without female interference, rules or conflict. A place where a new father-son relationship could be built. 
Building means doing some foundational work first.  For that, a local chap from Bindoon brought in his bobcat and a couple loads of compacting sand. Once the ground was flat and hard, forms for the cement work were put in and holes dug for the footings where the main steel supports would be located.  I at least had the foresight to specify additional concrete "aprons" where the doors were going to be.
After curing to full strength for 30 days (hey - you can't rush these things), the pad was ready for the steel to be delivered.  The cement was 14 meters by 7 meters (nearly 100 square meters or 1055 sq. feet) in area, and the shed would be 14 feet high at the apex of the roof.  That didn't seem like much on paper, but standing on that empty slab I thought, "I must have been out of my mind!  This is going to be HUGE!"

When the steel was delivered, my first thought was, "Where's the rest of it?"   But according to a four-page detailed bill of materials, everything was there for the assembly a complete shed.  Everything except for a clue as to how to do it.

Right. Which screw goes where?
The Shed, prior to assembly.
As a child growing up in the USA I owned an Erector set.  In the UK and Australia they call these things "Meccano" sets because the word "erector" causes most boys and some grown men to giggle uncontrollably. Basically it consists of miniature steel girders, beams, plates and itty bitty screws that you can use to make all sorts of stuff out of.  LEGO is kind of a "cartoon" version of Meccano. 

Geoff and I, risking our necks on top of  ladders.
Notice how bricks come in surprisingly handy.

That was time well-spent in my youth, because now I had an enormous life-sized Erector/Meccano set to deal with.  Plus, I had a set of instructions which I swear were written to actively hinder and misdirect me.  But with a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering, all that time spent playing with Erector as a kid, and a 70-year-old neighbor named Geoff who had done this sort of thing a few times before, that unimpressive little pile  of steel eventually transformed into The Shed.

Siding is a one-man job, if that man happens to own
some neodymium rare-earth supermagnets,
and if he knows how to use them properly.
The building permit specifies that the structure is non-habitable, in other words I can't legally "live" there.  However, classed as "workshop/storage," I can legally be inside the shed for purposes of working.  But if I get tired from working, I might sit down on a chair that just happens to be stored there.  

That chair might even be a sofa.  And if I am really tired, working in my workshop late into the night, I might lay down on the sofa and accidentally fall asleep. And, if as a favor to my neighbor I happen to store some old beds for him in return for his help putting up the shed, those beds might get sat or lain upon, but only for short (8-hour) naps in between working in my "workshop."

Also, what's to stop me from "storing" a few cans of beans and what-not in the shed and using a gas flame (such as is commonly found in many workshops) to heat one up for a snack?  Shouldn't a well-equipped workshop also have a parts washing trough?  Many of my "parts" happen to be shaped exactly like dishes and spoons.  No, this is NOT a kitchen sink, because such things would not be permissible in a non-habitable structure.
NOT the kitchen area.

That was the plan, anyway.  When my son and I tried staying there for a weekend, we learned something new about "non-habitable" steel buildings.  In the Winter, they are colder inside than outside, and in the Summer they are much hotter inside than outside. My numerous university courses in Thermodynamics did not fully prepare me for that; nevertheless it is true.  It even has a really boring scientific explanation.  

In time, therefore, certain improvements were made to The Shed.  Unfortunately in time, my son also relocated overseas with his mother.   For a long time after that the only visitor to The Shed was the Grieving Man.  

I"ll reveal some of those improvements in a future post.  Also, I'll reveal what a life-sized court-appointed psychologist who was not made out of LEGO had to say about The Shed in his official report.

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