From the Shop: Making it Work

Fall seems to have come on quickly in New Hampshire this year.  The maples around the shop and along the rivers are turning fiery yellows and reds.  There’s a chill in the air and the fall rains have returned.  The rivers a coming up a bit.  And I’m thinking forward to winter and trying to prepare for it.

Signs of Fall

I’ve written before about my need for more space.  In the past two years, I’ve added the Ion and Condor to the line up, and with minimum quantities on each boat, I’m basically now carrying twice as many boats in inventory as I was two years ago.  It turns out these things take up a lot of space, and I need somewhere to put them.  And I’ve got more thwarts and pieces of foam and jigs and templates laying around the shop for each boat too.  My current shop just isn’t big enough, it’s not working.

Or… maybe I’ve been looking at it wrong.  When I started all this nonsense (going on nine years ago!), I didn’t look at problems from the perspective of “Does this work?” Instead, I tried to ask “How do I make this work?”  I liken it to running a hard rapid in a canoe.  Many times, you have to look for a line that no one else is taking to make it work.  It might not be the prettiest or smoothest or most styley line, but you can make it work.


It’s not working!

The reality has set in that I’m not going to have a bigger shop before the snow starts flying this year, and in all likelihood, not until after the snow melts in the spring.  So, the question becomes how do I move forward using the current space and resources I have.  Now to be perfectly honest, the Blackfly shop is a disorganized mess right now.  To be really honest, it’s ALWAYS a disorganized mess.  I’m a bit embarrassed by it, and it’s frequently a cause of frustration and self-loathing for myself, but that’s the reality of it (do you really want to see how the sausage gets made?).  I’ve realized I need to do better and be more efficient with how I use the space, so this Fall I’m embarking on a series of projects to make it work.

Step 1 was foam storage.  I have a boat shed that’s 10 ft at the walls and 15ft to the peak of the roof so I can stand up Condors inside.  Standing up a 6’9″ Ion leaves a lot of space above it.  It made sense to build what is either a really overbuilt shelf or a really underbuilt floor above them to store foam while it’s waiting to be turned into saddles.  I can’t store an entire shipment of foam there at once, but it goes a long way to free up the space the foam was taking up inside the shop

Foam over Ions

With space freed up in the shop, I was able to add two more rows of boat racks.  I bumped them out farther than the existing racks, so each will hold 7 boats.  All of a sudden, I had space for 14 more boats!   After some more shuffling, I’ll add two more boats to each of the existing racks for another 8 boats.  That should give me plenty of space to build out inventory through the winter.  To make room for that, I’ll need to cut down the big table in the shop, which has taken on the role of being home for things that don’t otherwise have a home in the shop.

More boat racks!

So now I need to make homes for everything that currently doesn’t have a home.  I used to pile up foam outfitting bits in front of the stack of sheets of foam, but that’s gone now, and it wasn’t very efficient anyway.  And I haven’t kept up with adding thwart storage as I’ve added thwarts.  So again, I started utilizing space upward, making a saddle shelf above the work bench, sidewall foam cubbies to use up a foot-wide space, and a new thwart rack.

The Blackfly Home for Itinerant Canoe Parts

At the same time, I also relocated a lot of what i use to build boats from “somewhere under everything else on the table.”  They now have their own homes on the cart where I, you know, ACTUALLY BUILD THE BOATS.

Nuts and bolts and screws and trim templates and airbag lacing, all right where I need it.

I can’t help but wonder why I haven’t done a lot of this long ago, and you’re wondering the same.  It’s mostly just basic organization, right?  I guess part of it is I didn’t need to, and a part is that it got this way slowly over a long period of time. “Those just kind of go over there,” was fine. Over time there are now three times as many of “those” and they don’t really fit “kind of over there” any more.  And part of it is the momentum of other projects kept it from getting addressed.  I hate the idea of doing something because “that’s how I’ve always done it,” but it’s difficult to motivate to do things differently if it’s working.  It gets to a point where it stops working or it becomes obvious that there needs to be a better way; it’s time to ask “How do I make this work?”

Now it’s time for me to get back to cleaning the shop…

…after I go to the river.