Mike Callihan's Dream Shop

Building the shop of a lifetime

SHOP OWNER: Mike Callihan
LOCATION: Asheville, NC

    [EDITOR'S NOTE: This photo essay about Mike Callihan's new shop will be updated as construction continues. Bookmark this page so you can check up on progress.]

I have always been a tinkerer and a hobbyist. As a result, I have spent a good portion of my life holed away in one basement or another. As I got closer to retirement a started thinking about having a shop that was actually above ground.
    About 10 years ago my wife and I moved to the Milwaukee, WI area where I started a new business. Budget and time constraints kept us from building any dream homes or shops. The second winter we were here, there was a 8" blizzard the first week in May. That was enough to convince us that a warmer climate needed to be part of our retirement plans--where, we didn't know. We still wanted three seasons, but the winters had to be milder and warmer.
Pearly Gates

    One of my many hobbies over the years was pottery. About six years ago, I enrolled in a two-week pottery course--my wife referred to it as "clay camp"--at Penland Craft College. Penland is located about one hour north of Asheville, NC, in the heart of the Blue Ridge mountains. After spending two weeks in this little piece of heaven on earth, I knew where I wanted to retire, too. I told my wife about the area, and I said that I hoped she would consider joining me.
    After several trips from Milwaukee to the area, we found just what we were looking for. A piece of land that was scenic and remote enough to offer privacy, while still being accessible to a reasonable-sized city. We called it "Callihan's mountain."
Goin' up?

    Since we had a livable home on the property, we decided that my dream shop would come first. The grand plan is that I will retire July 1, 2000. The shop needs to be completed prior to that so that I can clean the tools and wood out of the basement of our current home before putting it on the market. Suffice to say, prospective buyers might feel like the basement is a trifle cluttered today.
More studs and such

    Since this was to be my dream shop and I knew there would be no second chance, I approached the design phase of this project with more than a little bit of trepidation. I wanted a building that would:

    1920 sq. ft. (48' X 40') was arbitrarily decided upon as the footprint, from that I developed the elevations. I have always liked the appearance of carriage barns: The elevated center section provided an opportunity for windows to let in additional natural lighting; the side sections were natural dividers for breaking up the interior space; and a 24' clear-span center section was ideal for the main shop area. So, a carriage barn design it would be.
    After I completed the elevations, I proceeded to lay out the available floor space, adding windows (32 in all) and doors as I progressed. I took time to create icons for each piece of major machinery I needed to find a home for. I also added to the icons the required clearance space around each piece of equipment for material handling. Thank God for AutoCAD. Without it, I have no idea how I could have created the design for this building.
    After completion of the initial layout, I e-mailed the design to a number of my woodworking friends for critique and general comments. It was very fortunate that I did, I had worked on it for so long that I had lost sight of some very basic principles of workflow and logistics. Oh well, back to the drawing boards. A couple of weeks later a much better layout emerged. After a quick blessing by my friends, the construction began.
Another View

    Since I had little actual construction experience, I contracted with a couple of friends and neighbors to build the shop in my absence. I was however fortunate to be able take the month of July off and work with them during the initial construction phase.
    Building in a rural mountainous area has its challenges, the top of Callihan's mountain had no power, water, waste disposal or fuel source. These were all solvable problems, but they required attention. Since a number of my machines are 3 phase, I was very fortunate to have 3 phase power available about a quarter of a mile away. Not having to deal with phase converters will be a huge blessing.
    I wish I could move the project along more rapidly, but since my friends hold full time jobs, this project is being built in their spare time. My timetable is to have the building ready for wiring during Thanksgiving week. I hope to do most of that myself, then have it insulated and ready for finishing the interior the week after Christmas. The bottom line is that the building must be heated and ready to receive my equipment in February, 2000. I will keep you posted.

. . . Mike Callihan




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