The 1st May 2016 was a normal bank holiday here in the UK, with people heading to the beach, out shopping with friends, or just spending time with family. But for us that day, and the previous 2 days, were a little different. That bank holiday weekend was spent down in Southend-on-Sea with Paul Baisden, a metal artisan who had just finished welding up a Pitts S-1-11B fuselage that we would soon to be loading into a van and bringing back to the shire!
To reach that point though, a lot of work had to be put in behind the scenes to make any of this possible. Mostly the question of "where are we going to build this thing?!". In our garage at home was one option, but this is your normal single width car garage that is full to the top and no place to build an aircraft. Renting a workshop for the duration of the build would be very expensive, and not very practical as it wouldn't be very close to us - turning a quick "lets just check this" into a 1 hour round trip.
The garage is the only option we realistically had, and so we had to make it work ... somehow. So after convincing my parents, what followed was many months of work towards the end of 2015 and into early 2016 to convert our little garage into a proper workshop, which was no small feat given the state of it:
It was your typical garage full of stuff that had accumulated over the years, with hardly any room to work in. It needed to be completely cleaned out and transformed into a proper workshop. Cleaning it out was the easy part...
We needed to extend the garage to provide us with more room, which involved digging the garden up to make way for an 8ft extension on the back! The original flat roof would be torn off and replaced with a new pitched roof, leaving the original beams in place which will provide us with extra storage in the roof. Finally, we would replace the old up-and-over door with a new, sealed, barn door style, helping to keep leaves and the wind out.
We felt it was important to make this workshop a comfortable place to work in, as we'll be spending a lot of hours in here, so this meant no flickering orange/yellow tube lighting, no hard flooring, and definitely not cold.
LED tube lighting with a cool white temperature was chosen, which looks far more natural than a standard fluorescent tube and casts very few shadows in the arrangement we have them. As for the flooring, anti-fatigue EVA mats are used which are not only comfortable to walk on, but they also help keep the place warm, are easily cleanable, and if one gets damaged too much we can simply replace that one mat. The new extension and pitched roof are totally insulated, which strangely keeps it at a perfect temperature - never too hot and never too cold.
This garage, workshop, hangar ... whatever you want to call it, really is a great place to work in. With the kitchen next door a proper cup of tea and a slice of cake is never far away. It is still quite surreal to walk out of the kitchen and see our cats walking around the aircraft, or sometimes even sitting in it, and our neighbours too are very supportive of what we are doing. Although one did nearly drive up the curb and into a bush after taking a double look when the fuselage was on the driveway once!
And so here we are, with our Pitts S-1-11B fuselage sitting in its new home for the next few years: