What kinda work in the room?
January 11, 2011 11:07 AM   Subscribe

My new house has a workroom. Sweet! Uh, except, I don't really know what kind of work I should be doing in the workroom. Please suggest some projects, hobbies or crafts to fill up my space (and time).

In my previous house, my tools were confined to their toolbox. Now in our workroom, my tools have room to spread out and relax. There is a 2.5' x 11' workbench with a bench grinder affixed to it. I have a basic assortment of tools and I am willing to obtain more. But I would really like to put the workroom to good use and create a space in which I can tinker on projects in my spare time.

I have been messing around with circuit bending an old toy keyboard. It's been fun but not especially motivating. I enjoyed messing around with the soldering iron and the switches. But when I started to read more about electronics...zzzzzzz.

I guess I am more interested in the physical nature of building and constructing things (projects that keep my hands busy) and less interested in hobbies that require studying and homework. I'm not against learning new things, but I think initially I'd be more interested in projects that don't have steep learning curves or high barriers for entry. Model building might be the right speed for me, but I am not especially interested in cars or planes or typical model fare.

I'm fairly handy and I'm willing to entertain almost any idea. Just please don't suggest knitting.
posted by gnutron to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on how big the room is, I suggest a small plywood boat.
posted by rancidchickn at 11:16 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, what do you want that's way more awesome when you make it yourself? My (many!) hobbies have nearly all sprung out of being unsatisfied with the purchasable version of thing X, and wanting to make a better one.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:22 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe 2x4 furniture?
posted by KathrynT at 11:22 AM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The answer is a cigar box guitar. You can throw one together in a couple of hours, or you can spend weeks building a really nice one. You can be as precise as you want/are able to be. You get to do some basic woodworking, you get to do some basic math (laying out the frets and whatnot) and you can even add a piezo pickup if you want to tinker with some simple electronics.

You can use the bench grinder when you make a tailpiece.

Low to no cost if you use salvaged materials. If you don't have a local source for cigar boxes you can buy 'em easily enough on eBay. Tons of plans and other info on the 'net.

There is nothing like tinkering in your basement for a couple of hours and then actually plugging in a guitar that you built yourself and pretending you're B.B. Motherfucking King.

Other than that, I might build a model trebuchet or catapult.
posted by bondcliff at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'd suggest making sure that you have a good setup first. Which will, of course, have more to do with what you decide to do, but there are certainly things you can start on.

--Pegboard, a la Julia Child (complete with outlines around where things go :P)

--Are there certain things that might require a separate space? Could be neat to partition off a smaller area (permanently or more temporarily) so you have a dedicated area to, say, sand or stain things and not have them be in the way. If you can close it off, that would confine the area you need to clean up as well as prevent other things from getting in there.

--Storage for wood, etc.?

--When I was doing art metal, I looooved the flexible shaft (huh-huh). Having a setup for that would be neat.

--Having an area to set up a computer would be awesome for watching videos, looking things up, etc.

All of these things would lend themselves to a bunch of different kinds of crafts. You might try going to a place like the John C. Campbell Folk School to try some different things and see if you like them, then bring them back and putter around. They have a great assortment of old and modern, small and large, simple and detailed things so you can see if certain styles tickle your fancy.

I'm really jealous :) Have fun!
posted by Madamina at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2011

Best answer: Ana White has a website FULL of stuff you can build.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:37 AM on January 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Cigar box guitar is a cool idea. I forgot to mention that I'm also a musician, so music-related project ideas get a bonus ++.
posted by gnutron at 11:38 AM on January 11, 2011

Make some bird houses. They can be as easy or difficult as you like and don't require much in the way of tools at all.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2011

I've spent a lot of really enjoyable time refinishing furniture. Not a lot of cost and a high instant gratification factor.Use chemical strippers outside, make sure you have lots of ventilation and dust control, and make ugly things pretty again.
posted by disclaimer at 11:48 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

For some reason this site is down, but she has tons of knock-off furniture projects with VERY easy to follow plans, with the difficulty degree noted. She bases her designs off Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, West Elm type furniture with good results. If you have any kids in your life, she has cute ideas for little markets, play kitchens, forts, etc.
posted by barnone at 12:09 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would totally put a sink in there if there isn't one now. You won't be sorry.
posted by jgirl at 12:27 PM on January 11, 2011

How about home machining? Home size machine tools are affordable and there's a large online community that will help become a machinist. And you can use your tools and equipment to make or fix all kinds of things.
posted by 14580 at 12:41 PM on January 11, 2011

My friend just got a new workroom as well. He is collecting and trying to restore old phono stereos and jukeboxes that he finds at estate sales and flea markets.

If I had one I'd use it for custom framing and matting.
posted by patrad at 12:53 PM on January 11, 2011

Check out various projects in magazines and websites. Build a few. See what kinds of projects you like. Repeat.
Make: magazine
Popular Mechanics
posted by bartleby at 2:21 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Find someone local to you who needs a workspace and has the sort of projects you'd like to learn how to do. Trade. Learn about the hands on side of things from someone else who is already past the learning curve and studying.

Aside from that, making mbiras looks like a lot of fun.

I'm going to suggest knitting models of star wars toys holding guitars out of old magnetic tape and circuit bending a tape player to run over them and make sounds. Because I'm snarky like that.
posted by yohko at 2:32 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Instructables is a great site for both inspiration and, well, the how-to's for the projects. The Popular Mechanics website has lots of projects and stuff too.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 2:47 PM on January 11, 2011

I like bartleby's suggestion to try different projects from magazines and websites. The idea is to keep making things. Whatever it is. You'll hit on what you like. And if it turns out that making wooden nose rings is what floats your boat you can be sure they'll be dozens of websites devoted to wooden nose ring making.

One word of caution. Be sure you actually like doing something before making large expenditures for equipment. I know a few people that have thousand of dollars of woodworking tools that gather dust.
posted by PaulBGoode at 2:56 PM on January 11, 2011

Best answer: mebbe a little amp to go with them there 'lectric ceegarbox geetar?
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 3:05 PM on January 11, 2011

a model railroad layout. lots of different skills involved. never done always fun!
posted by patnok at 4:30 PM on January 11, 2011

Mediation and composing Zen Poetry. Other projects may follow.
posted by ovvl at 4:45 PM on January 11, 2011

All those power tools are gonna need power, right? So the first thing you need to make is a wind turbine generator. There are lots of plans online, and some kits too; this is just the first link that popped up.
posted by Quietgal at 7:59 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

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