Monday, 7 July 2014

Man Cave (aka axLab)

So... progress on the laser cutter, and a number of other projects, has stalled in recent months due to two major issues:

  1. We have a 3rd baby on the way, so I need to evict myself from my office and the dining room :)
  2. The dining table is not stable enough for the laser cutter, so it needs a strong trolley to stand on
The solution to number 1 is to finally get on and build a good size workshop (man cave) at the end of the garden.  Number 2 will be solved by building and installing a trolley in the new man cave.  Simples.

Latest progress:

Man Cave Requirements

My choices in design, materials and approach will probably make more sense if you know I've always been fascinated by architecture, nearly went into a career as an architect, am addicted to DIY and plan one day to build my own house.  As it happens, I've been sketching designs for a work-shop/garden studio for years (nearly 10), but the deadline imposed by point 1 above has forced me to finally settle on something.  This has also been the first year where we could actually afford to build it!

So, top-line requirements:
  • As big as I can get away with - subject to permitted development, building regs and my wife
  • Split into a "clean" area (home office, electronics) and a "dirty" area (everything else)
  • As close to maintenance free as possible
  • Visually appealing (inside and out)
  • Solid concrete floor
  • Fairly well insulated walls, whilst keeping the total wall thickness to <150mm and cost to minimum
  • Include a decking area for patio set, bbq, etc
  • Budget of £6k

Exterior Design

Given the dimensions of our garden (18m long x 9m wide), plus the substantial hedgerows down both sides, I settled on a width of 6.5m.  Permitted development caps the roof height at 2.5m.  Wife, building regs and convenient timber lengths set the depth at 2.5m.    Although I've tried to keep the design as simple as possible, I just couldn't bring myself to build a plain box - so I opted for a sloping and gently curved facade.

Quick specs (happy to provide more info if anyone is interested):
  • Foundation: 250mm hardcore, 50mm sand blinding, DPM, 120mm concrete slab
  • 2-course dwarf perimeter wall from concrete blocks
  • Timber studwork walls (2"x4" framing, 16 inch centres) with 12mm OSB outer sheeting and 12mm plasterboard inner skin.  Insulated with 80mm rockwool.
  • The whole building is wrapped in Tyvek building paper, then the roof, back and sides are clad in industrial steel siding (in a rather fetching Forest Green).
  • Front cladding, window frames and stable door are handmade in oak.  
  • Deck - There will be a 5.5m x 2m deck along the front of the building.  Am keeping it simple with a floating foundation (80mm of gravel), then pressure treated framing in 2"x2", covered in oak boards.


I have a minor obsession with oak...  it's an awesome material.  For this project, I managed to find a great source of 30mm kiln dried oak boards (100 - 200mm width, random lengths) for approx £850/m3.  Given the great price, I've elected to use this same material for cladding, windows, doors and decking.  However, this has meant profiling a LOT of boards to make the cladding - a table saw is pretty much essential for this job!  Fortunately, the money I saved in sourcing cheaper oak meant I could afford to buy a table saw (at last) - a tool that has been on my wish list for years.  


The interior will be divided into two areas, with a partition wall just to the right of the main door.  The smaller right hand space (1.5m x 2.3m) will be the clean office area.  The remaining space will be the workshop.  The surface of the concrete slab got a bit ruined by a downpour just as I was finishing laying the slab, so I added a thin screed to improve the floor finish.  Walls and ceiling will be plastered shortly, then I can start installing work benches, etc.  I've not yet settled on an interior layout - so more to come as that evolves.

Current Status

As of last night, I've finished the stable door, so the building is secure for the first time.  The double glazed units are due to arrive later this week, ready for me to finish the windows.  Jobs for the next week or so:
  • Finish the cladding
  • Build partition wall and pocket sliding door
  • Build deck
Once the office space is functional, I can relocate from the house and then my old office needs to be converted to a bedroom for my son.  T-minus 16 wks to baby no. 3....   plenty still to do!

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