Studio In a Box


So this is a project I’ve been working away on designing for a while now, as a way to solve a lack of accessible studio space, and the need to stay at home during Covid social-distancing.

It’s a trifold-door cabinet, with internal power supply, that will be installed in my carport, between the secondary entrance (left) and laundry (right) doors of my home. It’s designed so that all the equipment stacks inside it – at the rear is workbench space, including a drill-press station, then the UV-blocking welding screens go in front of that, and finally the welders on a trolley, and a fold-up welding table.

All the equipment within is on wheels, so it can be rolled out and the space configured, with no lifting required. All it requires me to do is move my car forward a couple of metres, but the cabinet is narrow enough that my car can fit beside it when closed.

There’s a long, narrow workbench for my drill-press and bench-grinder, as well as storage, and a table for my metal-cutting bandsaw (a quiet alternative to a drop-grinder), that sits over the Air-Compressor. The compressor is an interesting piece of kit – it’s a silenced model, that uses two small motors, rather than one large one. You can easily hold a conversation at normal speaking volume, while standing next to it.

The power supply, which will sit roughly in the middle of the cabinet, is already installed – a pair of 15 amp, and a pair of 10 amp plugs, on a 32 amp line, so I can drive both the air compressor (10) and the welder’s plasma cutter (15) at the same time. Or, I can keep both my TIG and MIG welders powered up at the same time, and alternate between them, using  MIG to tack things in place, then TIG for the finished welds.

All in all, it should be a super adaptable, and quick setup / packdown low-effort workspace.

2020 – Week 43

Monday, picked up my new air-grinders. Wednesday had a fun diversion as the Noosa Temple of Satan (a secular organisation trying to make a point about the privilege enjoyed by religious organisations, by availing themselves of said privileges) flew a banner around the town.

The rest of the week was spent on admin stuff, doing a bit of tidying up around my storage space, and futzing around with my computer.

2020 – Week 42

Ordered a couple of Air-grinders, and the new tyres for my bike arrived.

Finally managed to solve a problem with my new display refusing to play nicely with my other displays – plugging it in via HDMI instead of Displayport.

We had an overnight power outage at one point, which made my workstation think it had lost a RAM socket. Lots of troubleshooting followed, including disassembling and swapping RAM chips about.

But, I managed to solve it, with a Realtime Clock reset.

Kinda tempted to try to buy another one (or two) stock original versions of this machine to provide donor organs.

2020 – Week 41

It’s been a quiet week – most of it spent on research trying to figure out ideas for some custom applications I want to have developed.

2020 – Week 40

Quiet start to the week, dealing with some of the washup of my twitter issues, and replying to emails related to it.

Ended up returning the Air Grinder, as I couldn’t get the cap for the air line undone, and then I realised the activation switch has no safety catch, to prevent it firing up if it falls on the ground, which is very dangerous.

 

2020 – Week 39

First trial of the new welding helmet, just doing grinding, and it’s fantastic. The cooling air supply keeps you focussed, and the huge bubble grinding shiels provides a view of work that safety goggles can’t approach.

Problematically, the tarp I had over my steel stockpile in the courtyard seems to have trapped moisture under it, so my steel got saturated and has suffered some surface rust. So, I moved it all under an awning, so it would be out of the weather. That was a whole day process – picking up each piece of steel, towel-drying , then cooking the moisture out with a heat gun, before placing it in the new location.

…But it wasn’t out of the weather, the weather came in under the awning, so Wednesday was spent moving the steel a second time – indoors. Now my steel stockpile sits in the loungeroom, on the tile floor. Another day spent towelling down each piece, then heat drying.

Thursday, the org handling my Arts Qld grant got in touch, to say they wanted me to acquit my grant now, rather than waiting for the project to be finished.

Friday, I acquitted my grant, but woke up to a tweet storm, after something I had written a couple of nights earlier reached a critical audience, and suddenly had been retweeted 700+ times.

The weekend was spent working through the washup of all the twitter stuff, and generally taking things easy.

2020 – Week 38, stART Week 5

Monday

  • Contacted the stART grant folks to let them know about the issues I’ve had getting the project finished. It’s been difficult, but to my credit, the problems have been things I couldn’t predict, and the solutions have been fairly straightforward.

Tuesday

  • Admin stuff

Wednesday

  • Working on Comics stuff, while I wait for news about my welding helmet. According to the supplier, it will be in tomorrow.

Thursaday

  • Picked up & began setting up the welding helmet. I look like a spaceman.

Friday

  • Tidying and admin, with some Q&A over a couple of aspects of the new welding helmet setup.

Saturday

  • Rest day.

Sunday

  • Stripped my workstation down to its major components, and took each down to the air compressor to blow all the dust out. Pulled both processors, and the Northbridge heat sink, and reapplied thermal grease to all three. The result? Significantly reduced temperatures in all parts of the machine, and most importantly a reduction in the difference between the Northbridge, and its heat sink – so it’s getting more heat out of the chip and into itself. This has been the biggest disassembly I’ve done on this machine so far, and it all seems to have gone to plan. Each time, it gets a little easier.

2020 – Week 37, stART Week 4

Monday

  • Set up the welder, and tried some test welds. The going was difficult.

Tuesday

  • Second attempt at welding, and I think I’ve managed to get the settings sorted, or at least I’m getting close.

Wednesday

  • Welding Issue:
    • I’m feeling drymouthed & scratchy and I think it’s from ozone exposure during welding. It’s not a huge problem for some people, but it’s a concern to me. Notably, welding fumes have been classified as a carcinogen since I was last doing any significant amount of welding.
    • Most of the day was spent researching respirator options (masks being incompatible with beards), and I think that lacking a fume extractor, the final solution will have to be a Positive Air Pressure Respirator (PAPR) welding helmet. It’s similar to my existing helmet, except it has a (beard-compatible) seal under the neck, and a beltpack that drives air into the helmet, to prevent vapour ingress. It also has a flip-up welding lens, over a clear grinding shield, which should mean a big efficiency gain over switching PPE sets going back and forth between grinding tips for the TIG welder, and welding.
    • It’s not cheap at around $2500, but compared to losing lung function, it’s not even a question. It also means I’ll then have a second helmet (my existing one) for anyone assisting or observing me while I work.
    • It does put a bit of a dent in my schedule though – with less than a week left, I haven’t been able to start on final construction, but I can’t stress about that. The process of setting up, and packing down, of having to lift and move multiple 20kg+ pieces of equipment, is really exhausting me a lot faster than I had expected. This is literally the thing the Studio-In-A-Box project is designed to eliminate.
  • Picked up a pair of heavy duty 90degree welding clamps – these things weigh a bunch, but will speed up setting out the joins in my piece. Also, accuracy should be easier.

Thursday

  • Had a call from 3M to ask me about my welding helmet requirements – they make you supply contact details in order to download the product brochure. But, the conversation was enlightening, and they forwarded my contact details to their local distributor near me, who has given me a $500 discount on the helmet, since I was directed to them by 3M. So that was fun. The downside, is it’s going to be Tuesday next week before the local distributor has it in stock.

Friday

  • Drove down to the local 3M distributor to try on the welding helmet. Seems pretty much the same as my existing one, so that’s all good. Really looking forward to getting back to work.

Saturday

  • Down time. Managed to achieve something pretty amazing with my new displays, and that’s creating virtual scaled resolutions for the side-screens. The result is that objects on secondary screens are the same size as they are on the main screen.

Sunday

  • Down time. It’s important to take these days off to recuperate, but I’m managing to get some online research and testing in.

2020 – Week 36, stART Week 3

Monday

  • Called my machinery supplier to try to figure out the bandsaw, as I broke another blade. It really seems like my problems are due to the guide adjustments, which aren’t actually documented anywhere in the owner’s manual.

Tuesday

  • Productive day. The saw worked flawlessly, and cut through the steel like a hot knife through butter. It really seems like the saw works better dry for this gauge of pipe. Had fun interlude as a pair of amorous bluetongue lizards pursued each other around my workspace.

Wednesday

  • Discovered I had actually finished all my cutting yesterday, so ordered some new cover shields for my welding helmet’s window, and grabbed some odds & ends at bunnings.
  • Also, picked up some HDMI cables in preparation for the new display that’s arriving tomorrow.

Thursday

  • New display arrived, and a loooong day of rewiring my entire computer for a three display setup.

Friday

  • Troubleshooting new screen setup. Its not as easy and troublefree as it should be, but it seems to have settled in ok, once I figured out that the physical ports on the graphics card do in fact have to be used in a certain order for things to work correctly.

Saturday

  • Fired up the air compressor for the first time – everything works great. A little disconcerting that the red zone on the pressure gauges is the normal operating pressure, but that aside, it’s quiet enough to chat next to while running.

Sunday

  • Down day, but the computer seems stable.

2020 – Week 35, stART Week 2

Monday:

  • Bandsaw blades picked up from Brisbane.
  • Mountainbiking shorts ordered from Victoria (which involved confirming a sizing guide has mistakenly listed inches as centimetres).
  • Spoke to my welder supplier in NSW and sorted out the plumbing for all the hoses supplied with the machine and regulator.
  • Spent a bunch of time researching mountain bike tyres.

Tuesday:

  • Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut. The new saw blade went onto the saw nice and easily, and I was able to get through 7 more lengths.

Wednesday:

  • Cutting continued, with 11 more lengths processed. Some real issues came up with the saw, however. Another blade snapped, and it seems to refuse to stay on the drive wheel, slowly working its way off, until it starts cutting into the cover. Each time you need to stop to figure out what’s going on, it requires removing the rear cover, which is 6 screws etc.

Thursday:

  • Partial rest day. Got the last couple of lengths processed, the saw seems to be behaving itself. Got about a third of the chopped pieces labelled with their unique identifiers.

Friday:

  • Finished labelling the cut sections, and started the process of adding the 45 degree ends to the interior fitout sections. Ran into problems with yet another saw blade breaking. Really not sure if this saw is viable in the long term.

Saturday:

  • Sat by the pool and read a book for a while to get some sun exposure – I think I’ve spent too much time indoors the past couple of weeks. Then went to do battle with the bandsaw. Found a bunch of adjustments that aren’t mentioned in the user manual, and might have gotten it a bit more under control.

Sunday:

  • Sat by the river, ate some takoyaki.

2020 – Week 34, stART Week 1

This week saw the beginning of my stART Grant, and it’s been preparation – getting a handyman over to install vertical bike racks in order to get the bikes out of the way, and free up space.

Thursday was a trip up to Gympie, ~40 minutes north, to visit the large Bunnings store which has all sorts of stock my local one lacks. I managed to pick up a plastic trestle table, which I’ll use as a temporary workbench, as well as some lifting feet, which I can use to level the whole cabinet once it’s done.

Friday was a day off(ish) to rest my back, but a significant discovery was made – mirror-effect spray paint. This is a huge deal because one of the materials I work with sculpturally is a mirrored type of glass, that isn’t normally used as a mirror, and it seems that custom mirroring of glass isn’t done anywhere in Qld. The afternoon was spent filing bevels on the steel for my welding cart.

Saturday some serious cutting got underway, until my bandsaw blade snapped, and then the replacement snapped, so I was out of bandsaw blades. Replacements will need to be ordered from Brisbane.