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Converting brick outhouse to (very small) workshop...

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Andy Chancer14/03/2022 21:50:09
14 forum posts

Evening all,at the back of my house there’s no scope to build a workshop,there is however an old brick outbuilding.At roughly 2.6x1.6 it’s not by any means blessed with space but it’s probably my only chance of doing anything anytime soon with building something out the front of the house (much more space) bringing a hell of a lot of expense and time which I don’t exactly have at the moment,well more the money side of things for that!

Am I being unrealistic with any hope of achieving something in that sort of sized space? The construction is single brick,concrete floor with a gable and pitched tiled roof-obviously some kind of insulation would be needed but is this possible without eating into the already tight space?

I’d be wanting solid shelves up too,inside would be things like a bench and a mini lathe,possibly a small pillar/bench top drill.

Apologies for a long post and any help or advice is always appreciated.

Andrew Johnston14/03/2022 22:05:18
6602 forum posts
701 photos

Anything is better than nothing. When I was a kid, and a member of the Bedford Model Engineering Society, one of the members had a small workshop in the back of his greengrocers shop. It was tiny, can't have been much more than 4 or 5 feet square. But it didn't stop him building models.


David-Clark 114/03/2022 22:22:20
220 forum posts

Hi Andy, width is a little thin but length is fine A Myford sized lathe would be fine depending on the door position with a small mill at the far end and maybe a pillar drill too. A workbench might not be essential, you might be able to mount an engineers small vice on the drill or mill table. I had a 10 x 6 foot brick outhouse in Scotland and never suffered with rust. It reached zero degrees twice in 4 years.

I suggest you don’t do tool grinding in the workshop, carry the grinder outside to bring tools. Don’t do what I did, store the grinder on the floor.

I went in to get a hammer, turned round and tripped over the grinder.

I broke my hip and was taken to hospital 105 miles away.

John Paton 114/03/2022 22:54:34
324 forum posts
20 photos

Hi Andy, been there and know the challenge. Obviously space will be an issue and you will need to prioritise what you have in there but it is surprising what you can shoehorn in with carefully arranged storage.

If you have a decent vice and bench you could store a small lathe under the bench and lift it into place when needing to use it. I run a Unimat SL on the kitchen table - it is pretty the much the same footprint (and power) as a sewing machine, just the ‘trimmings’ are rather dirtier.

In a space that small I would not worry about a great thickness of insulation and would try using a dehumidifier as that will give a degree of background heat as a by product while controlling condensation (which is your real enemy)

Could you apply some insulation externally?


MikeK14/03/2022 23:06:25
226 forum posts
17 photos

My basement workshop is 3m x 1.4m and has plenty of room for my 7x14 mini-lathe, mini-mill, and a drawer unit next to the lathe. It'll be even better when I build a new stand for the mill to include multiple drawers instead of the current single shelf. Some tasks get done outside, of course, but like Andrew said...better than nothing!

Andy Chancer15/03/2022 06:15:38
14 forum posts

Thanks for the replies,some good help and inspiration there.I think I might well give this a go now,there’s a few tins of paint and a couple of bikes to relocate but I think I’ve a place for those.I suppose in this situation utilising what space there is will be carefully thinking of where drawers/shelving can go etc..

Hopefully I can make this happen then!

Speedy Builder515/03/2022 06:17:24
2613 forum posts
212 photos

I started off converting my Wendy house at the age of about 10. just a bench and a small vise , no power but a hand drill.

A mini lathe can be used as your drilling machine by having suitable tools to put into the tailstock to push the component against a drill bit held in the chuck.

Your biggest problem may be damp and keeping the rust at bay.

Good luck


Mark Davies 415/03/2022 06:19:26
11 forum posts

Hi Andy,

i have an outhouse in my back yard tiny bit smaller, and only just enough space width wise for an SC3 lathe, leaving about 6-7 inch to do change gear swapping. I also have a small bench drill in there.

i have made 2 small stationary engines on mine, so there is hope for you. You just have to be imaginative, and use wall space under bench space etc.

dont drop anything tiny cos bending down searching aint fun

good luck


Jon Lawes15/03/2022 06:24:51
927 forum posts

My first workshop was a lean-to on the side of my house, it was barely wide enough for the worktop and me, but it had enough space for my lathe and pillar drill. It's where I built my first stationary engine and started my Britannia. Something is better than nothing.

Paul Lousick15/03/2022 06:36:01
2043 forum posts
722 photos

When you said "outhouse", I had visions of one of these with not enough room to swing a cat, let alone a lathe.dunny.jpg

You will have to carefully plan what you put in it to make use of the available space.

You can do milling operations on a lathe with a vertical slide but they are also available with a proper milling head attachment. This can also be used for drilling operations.

lathe mill.jpg The workshop is never big enough to store everything.

I have suspended an old ladder from the ceiling and use this to hang things from for extra storage.

Hopper15/03/2022 07:50:29
6404 forum posts
334 photos

One trick is to put all your shelving up high, attached to the walls and don't bring it down to floor level. Save all your floor space for machines and benches, with all space below benches and machines also used for shelves/drawers etc.

I keep one 8" bench grinder/belt linisher and a welding vice on a stand permanently set up outside the workshop door, covered in plastic to protect from rain when not in use. Saves both space and mess inside. Both were cheap garage sale purchases so not particularly treasured.

Another good tip is BEFORE you fill the shed with tools and benches and shelves etc, go in and paint the walls and ceiling white and the concrete floor a light grey or cream in durable concrete paint. Makes the small space look bigger, tidies it up no end and helps tremendously with light if you don't have large windows etc. Makes a huge difference. But you will never do it once the shed is full of stuff.

AdrianR15/03/2022 07:52:20
583 forum posts
36 photos

Hi Andy,

As others have said, watch out for dampness, if you can paint the outside. If you decide to insulate put a plastic sheet on the warm/inside of the insulation. Insulating and draft proofing the door and roof mIght be the quickest wins but remember some ventilation too.

If you use a dehumidifier get a desiccant type as they will work at low temperatures.

To help keep thieves out, at least board over windows and strengthen the door. In my old workshop, I replaced all the hinge and hasp screws with bolts and used lock nuts on the inside.


Ron Laden15/03/2022 08:07:19
2300 forum posts
452 photos

Andy my shop is 2.0 x 2.0 (6.5ft x 6.5ft) it's all I have but its surprising what you can fit in if well laid out. I have a lathe and mill plus 6ft x 2 ft of clear bench space for building. I put shelves up on the walls and fitted a shelf under the benches and below that I store the saw, grinder and other stuff.

I insulated mine with 50mm polystyrene sheet from Wickes which works really well. The thing that a small shop does make you do is to keep it clean and tidy if it becomes a mess with stuff lying about everywhere it wouldn't be pleasant to work in.


Go for it you won't regret it.



Edited By Ron Laden on 15/03/2022 08:07:49

Edited By Ron Laden on 15/03/2022 08:14:37

Howard Lewis15/03/2022 09:10:39
6113 forum posts
14 photos

Space is never sufficient! But i know someone who has a Myford ML7 across the corner of a small lobby by his back door!

My shop, the largest yet, is 2.7 x 1.7, and having no windows, is filled with shelves, above and below the benches, and door,. Into this are crammed a large (By M E standars ) lathe and a bench milling machine.

It may be like living in Rubiks Cube, but allows a wide range of work to be done.


Ron Laden15/03/2022 09:22:49
2300 forum posts
452 photos

Andy, A picture of my shop below just to give some idea. I have a 15 inch deep bench to the right where the mill sits, a 24 inch bench to the left plus a 24 inch bench at the far end with the lathe. If you went with something similar having a 15 inch and 20 inch deep bench you would have a working space between of 27 inches, cosy but quite workable. Or you could go with 2 x 17-18 inch benches, if you go with a mini lathe a 12 inch bench will house it as I had mine on that size of bench when I started. Depends on what machines and bench size you need lots of options.


Derek Lane15/03/2022 10:21:18
762 forum posts
171 photos

Like any workshop the bench on which to place any machines is a great place to start as long as you know what machines that you want to aid in size and location. under bench storage is a must for many bits and pieces try to incorporate shallow draws which go full depth of the bench as less used item can be placed at the back and the most common items at the front. I say shallow draws as this will save having to dig to the bottom of a draw for parts and tools(Yes I do have draws like that) you do need shelves under the bench for larger bits and pieces On mine I have doors stops rubbish from falling onto them.

High up shelves(within easy reach) are ideal especially for those items always being used on the machines. I keep my clamping set for the mill on mine as well as other easy to grab items.

I know I have only just started in model engineering but have had a workshop for many years doing woodwork and woodturning and the principle of storage is very much the same(Istill do both of these activities)

Bazyle15/03/2022 19:24:46
6324 forum posts
222 photos

Get your priorities right. Make your outhouse a bedroom and use your bedroom as a workshop. If you have a partner make bunk beds The space is after all bigger than a camper van. Apart from kings and lords the separate bedroom is a recent invention of the affluent.

Andy Chancer15/03/2022 20:54:48
14 forum posts

Some excellent ideas and suggestions here,thank you to all for taking the time to reply with tips and advice.

David-Clark 115/03/2022 22:27:54
220 forum posts

Hi Bazyle

I have just got my priorities right.

My wife left me a month ago and stayed with the next door neighbour until she got rehoused. She finally moved out today. Hurrah! Because I no longer need a front room, my son is decorating it and is using it as his bedroom.

His bedroom will become my computer room and workshop.

Not that I use my computer much, everything is now done on an iPad Pro.

I have not got a workshop at the moment, just a wooden shed with a few tools in boxes piled in with other junk. Some of them might be ok but might have been attacked by the rust worm.

I was bidding on EBay for a Unimat 3 with lots of equip,ent but was outbid and it sold for £1,100.

I found a larger lathe, a bit bigger than what I really wanted but it was too good a bargain to miss.

It was a brand new Myford Ml10 that has never been used. I hit it for £1,000 and negotiated £100 for delivery.

So it is going in the spare room.

The front room has laminated flooring do that is coming up and being replaced with carpet.

The laminate will be put into the bedroom/workshop. I hope to just lay it over the existing carpet but have not researched it yet. The laminate is to stop any dwarf dticking to my wheelchair wheels.

So, I have got my priorities right as you suggest. A workshop whereas before I could not get to my shed and my (ex) wife would not let me go into a workshop for over 5 years.

Bill Phinn15/03/2022 23:00:23
755 forum posts
113 photos
Posted by David-Clark 1 on 15/03/2022 22:27:54:

The laminate will be put into the bedroom/workshop. I hope to just lay it over the existing carpet but have not researched it yet.

A 6mm plywood base layer would be preferable.

EtA: after removing the carpet, I mean.

Edited By Bill Phinn on 15/03/2022 23:01:26

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