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The Function + Frugality Shop


From flooring to drawer pulls, Larry Hesch relied on his keen bargain-hunting skills to outfit his showplace shop at minimal cost. For example, the workbench peppered with dogholes started out as a high school’s peg climbing board, and rests on bench legs rescued from the school’s science lab. And Larry saved a bundle by purchasing a discontinued 6" jointer at a farm-supply store. 

Larry’s shop lies just 25 steps from the back door of his home. The wraparound deck serves as an outdoor entertainment area.

The summer after retiring as a school principal, Larry recruited family members to help him build his dream shop. During construction, Larry bought wisely, but, he says, “Functionality outweighs frugality. I didn’t cut corners on the design and construction. For example, I really wanted a tray ceiling with an extra 12" of clearance above my tablesaw. I didn’t want to worry about flipping 8'-long stock and damaging my ceiling. And besides, the ceiling and all of the windows just make this shop look better.”

Angled slots provide easy access to sandpaper sheets and make efficient use of drawer space. Labels along each edge help Larry find the right grit quickly.

Even in Midwest winters, Larry reports that he rarely turns on the furnace (salvaged from a local home). “We loaded the 2×6 walls with insulation and packed the ceiling with 18 inches of insulation. Through the winter, it’s easy to maintain 50 degrees overnight. When I walk in and turn up the thermostat, it doesn’t take long to get to a comfortable 60 degrees.”

A 15'-long slate countertop, salvaged from a school science lab, tops shop-made cabinets. The raised panels on the doors were reclaimed from interior entry doors.

And now that the shop is built, family members gather here for Easter brunch. Larry and his wife, Ione, just push the power tools to the side and fill up the shop floor with tables and chairs for a sit-down dinner for 38 family members. An easy-to-maintain slate countertop, above, makes a perfect place for the buffet line.

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