In February 2006, our dream of moving to a rural village was finally a reality. We found an old stone built miners cottage in the heart of Bodmin Moor, part of Cornwall’s historical mining district. The cottage, built in 1820, was in need of repair and modernization. Fixing the cottage up to our own tastes made the property all the more appealing. The only outbuilding that could eventually be used for a workshop was a derelict old pig shed, or piggery, as it is so named in this part of Cornwall.
The original structure was built at the same time as the cottage. It measured 20’ long by 4’ wide. The rear wall measured 9’ high, and the front wall 5’ high. The dividing pens had long since rotted away, and the granite cobble floor was covered with decades of earth and debris. The potential was there, and I could envision the completed project. It would have to wait until summer, though, as the house improvements were priority.
The time had finally come by early summer. There were still many projects I wanted to get underway for the house, but I needed a workshop in order to complete them. The first step was to remove the greenhouse and rusted tin roof. Now I could get a better look at the job ahead of me. There was no access for a mini digger, and the site too removed from the road to have ready mix concrete delivered. The removal of earth and stone, and the mixing of concrete would all have to be done by hand.
The front stone-and-earth wall was leaning at a precarious angle. A simple two-man push made the wall collapse. The granite cobble floor was excavated along with 18 inches of subsoil to level the ground.
I had to dig below the foundation stones to level the ground. This presented a potential structural weakness, so the wall had to be underpinned before pouring a 6” concrete ring and 2-foot high retainer.
A new breeze block wall was then constructed to tie into the existing stonework. This was built on the extended foundation, which increased from 4’ to 10’ wide. Stone from the original leaning wall was reused to build a secondary external wall against the breeze blocks.
The three walls needed to be tied together with a 6” deep concrete ring beam. This would level the rear wall and also provide support for the slate tile roof. The exposed stone wall was washed of loose mortar, which is a mixture of mud, lime and horse hair. This allowed a deep key for a new lime render.
Now that there were four structurally sound walls, construction of the roof began. Joists were installed and then a pine-board ceiling. Insulation was packed in between the joists before being clad with old Cornish slates to retain an aged appearance.
It was time to begin the inside woodwork. The window frames and door were constructed from oak. An insulated sub-floor was put down before being clad with tongue and groove oak floorboards.
The leftover floorboards were used for the main workbench top. The worktops under the windows were made from a solid piece of white cedar, the outer edge left natural and curvy.
There was still much work to do. The remaining jobs included painting, electrics and lights, shelves, and sealing all the wood with a special wax oil. Once all the wood was dry, it was finally time to move in. First in was the lathe, then the buffing machine, band-saw, dust extraction and sandblasting machine.
The winds had turned cold and brought the rain. The dark days of winter were upon us, and my priority turned back to the house. There were many wood working projects to complete inside the house. I like to make furniture, and I spent the winter making nice things for the house. Pipes were growing strong on my mind, and I was looking forward to spring to begin creating new pipes.
It has been over ten years since building the workshop. It has seen numerous changes over the years. The workstations have been enclosed with oak and lined with shelves. The shelves on the long workbench have expanded right up to the ceiling. The bandsaw and buffing machine have been upgraded to 3 phase motors to allow for variable speed. An extension was built to house a rotary screw compressor and an industrial scale cyclone dust extractor to keep the noise to a minimum inside the workshop.
The workshop is more than a place to build things or make pipes. It is an extension of myself. Sometimes I will spend hours in my space, and sometimes no more than a few minutes to puff on a pipe. It is where I go when I’m contemplating a problem or want to get away from the world. When I’m feeling blue, I will sit at my workstation and look out the window towards the house. I think how happy I am to have a wife, a son, and a home. I think how wonderful it is to be a pipe maker. These thoughts always make me feel better.
Thank you for visiting my workshop. – Paul Hubartt