A Difference of Scale

“Can I build a barn on the Museum grounds?” A simple enough question that I expected to be answered with a resounding “Yes”. What Museum wouldn’t want to have a resident blacksmith/woodworker that is willing to do period style demonstrations for free? To make that happen I needed a workspace and was even willing to build it in timber frame style, IF I could get a grant for the materials. Since I was even willing to write the grant I figured this would be a slam dunk, maybe a presentation to the museum board but that would only be a formality once I had the director on board.

The answer was not what I expected. The reason the Museum has not expanded into the open lot is because the previous director was told they couldn’t build on the land without also building a retention pond. Really? The bay is less than 100 yards in two cardinal directions and the soil is nothing but sand! Well if I wanted to pursue the project I was informed that my first stop was to call the building inspector and ask if the need for a retention pond was valid.

Fortunately the building inspector and I know each other, he likes my work and has inspected my timber framing on other projects. I’m the only builder in this area that does heavy timber work in the old style that has a system to meet hurricane codes. By using timberlocs in strategic locations to cinch the through tenons and the rafters in place we more than meet the code (I have done the math to prove it). Covering the timberlocs with 1 inch oak plugs means we also meet aesthetics.

“Build a barn? No Problem, and when you get it up and running I might want to take one of your blacksmith courses.”

Well, that was easy. Time to start drafting. The Museum is closed so I’ll call with the good news in the morning. Let’s see, barn plans on the internet, stock barns, horse barns, equipment barns, party barns … What? Some of those party barns are really nice and the Museum has to rent a tent almost anytime they have a function. Plus every year when they hold their “Saturday in the Park” fund raiser they have to rent a big tent. If we make the central hall 40 x 60 feet we can put a stage at the end, run the loft to only 1/3, add ADA compliant toilets, Wood working on one side and Iron working on the other. Let’s make this a full blown Makerspace! Arduino programing classroom upstairs, room for the CNC carver in the wood shop, plasma cutting next to the forge … We’ll need at least 5,000 sq feet. Boy this will require a big grant but if we can land it this barn can solve a whole host of problems for the museum and build a super resource for the community.

Next morning excitement is starting to build. Who’s going to teach what classes? Do we need office space in the barn? We could then use the current meeting room for more displays and hold all meetings out there if we add air conditioning. Oops, I need to take this call from the building inspector.

“Dave, you are planning to build the barn yourself right?”

“Yeah. Well I am going to lead a team. You can’t lift a timber frame bent by yourself.”

“Oh good, your license limits the building to 200 sq feet plus decking. I was worried they might try to build something big out there and we’d have to work retention pond issues.”

SIGH, back to the drawing board.


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