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Vintage Garage: The Extended Edition

Inside Dan Swanson's shop.
Reclaimed flooring and a corrugated metal ceiling reduced construction costs while adding a nostalgic, industrial feel to the workshop.

Floor plan of Dam Swanson's house.
Living in a 1920s-vintage neighborhood in the city means garages are small, if they exist at all. So Dan Swanson considered the two-car garage on his midtown Memphis city lot a luxury. 

Front view of Dan Swanson's shop
Originally a two-car garage with an attached cottage, Dan extended the garage structure to its 37×19' footprint while keeping the guest cottage intact.

Inside Swanson shop, showing comfy corner.
Dan tucked a rest haven into one corner. He and his wife often take breaks and relax in this cozy spot.

Even at that, Dan realized the garage was too small to meet his requirements for a workshop. So, he poured a slab in front of the garage, built an addition, and used a laminated beam to span the original opening. Traditional construction calls for wood collar ties across the top plates of opposing walls to prevent them from bowing out. However, Dan was after a more open feel, so he had a local metal shop fabricate steel rods and turnbuckles to tie the walls together.

Dan covered the floor of the shop with a moisture barrier, two inches of rigid foam insulation, then a layer of 34 " plywood subfloor with reclaimed oak flooring.

Showing wooden boards with tools on.
Clamshell-style cabinets Dan built for his tools double the storage space while keeping items readily accessible.

Inside of shop with two workbenches.
To maximize wall space Dan opted to not install additional windows. Four skylights and several daylight LED warehouse fixtures provide plenty of illumination.

He sprayed foam on the interior walls and ceiling, then covered the walls with painted T1-11 sheathing. That means he doesn’t have to always find a stud when mounting cabinets and tool racks, though he still tries to screw into wall studs where possible. Recycled steel corrugated panels line the vaulted ceiling. Dan was pleasantly surprised that the metal didn’t amplify the noise level in the shop. 

A 100-amp subpanel from the 200-amp main panel in the house provides electricity. Dan mounted most of the receptacles 4' above the floor for convenience. An Amana 15,000-BTU heat pump takes care of heating and cooling the shop.

Walking through the double doors, you face Dan’s tablesaw. He included storage underneath the large outfeed table and tucked his router table behind the tablesaw, next to the outfeed table. Dan made an air-filtration system using an old furnace blower. It resides in a cabinet that doubles as a tablesaw wing extension. 

Shelves with plans, chisels and hand tools on it.
Dan built this well-organized till to provide easy access to his hand tools. He says he wants to learn how to use them more often in his woodworking projects.

Cabinet with bulletin board above it.
A salvaged base cabinet from an old church serves as a handy worksurface. Wall space above gives Dan plenty of real estate for more storage.

Press deeper into the shop and you’ll find a pair of traditional woodworking benches: one he built, and another he completed from a benchtop his father made. Dan built a mobile, dedicated sharpening and buffing station in addition to a cart to house the hot-dog-style air compressor, hoses, and accessories.

Dan included his father’s shop-built scrollsaw in his collection of tools. In one corner he keeps a collection of books and magazines next to a desk made by a friend. 

In another corner, next to the entrance to the shop, Dan created a seating area. His wife often brings out a beverage and a cheese tray on Saturday afternoons. “That’s my cue to quit,” he says. In nice weather, they open the double doors and “enjoy the waning day.”

Dan Swanson inside his shop.

After working behind a desk as an attorney, Dan Swanson likes to unwind in his spacious workshop.

Inside Dan Swanson's shop.
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