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One man's dream workshop, for under $100.

Some years ago I got tired of sawdust and disorder in our two-car garage. What I needed was a workshop. With all the recycling effort I could master I chose pole barn construction. Poles can be found along the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay for only the effort needed to get them home. Most of these poles are pilings, many appear new and most are heavily treated with preservative. Using poles for the beams also gives me a good solid attachment for hoisting heavy loads.

To start this project, I went to some 60-year-old books on carpentry and construction methods. There I learned of "cant hooks, peaveys, 2-man log tongs, gin poles and davits." At the time I had a 1965 Ford 1/2-ton pickup and a chainsaw. Within a few months I found most of the equipment I needed to move poles from the beach to our property. From a neighbor I got 100 feet of 5/16-inch cable with hooks at each end that made pulling the logs from the beach work that my pickup could handle. Once the poles were pulled up to the road they were raised on one end by a welded pipe davit that I mounted to a rear comer of the truck. The davit came from a friend's pier and had not been used for years. I bolted a hand crank winch and pulley to the pipe davit to raise the poles to the truck bed. Once one end was on the bed, I moved the chain position from the close end of the pole to the middle of the log. Cranking the winch again the pole moved onto the truck with very little effort. Once in a while I found a friend willing to help. The two of us could lift and push faster than the davit and winch. We were careful not to injure our backs, hands, feet, etc.

The workshop of 20 ft. by 20 ft. required six 13-ft. poles for uprights and three 26-ft. poles for beams. I dug 16-inch diameter holes four feet deep to set the upright poles in. Most of the poles had been in the water for some time and probably weighed at least 500 pounds each. They were up to 16-inches in diameter. The poles were slid off the truck bed with one end in the hole. The other poles were set the same way; however, a chain around the base of the first pole was used to aid unloading the five poles. All the upright poles were cut to provide a flat roof that sloped four inches in the 26-ft. width for drainage.

Next came the roof beams. I built a rack for the bed of the truck to hold three 30-ft. long poles. (I might add that by this time I had upgraded to a 3/4 ton truck.) The rack had 4 by 4's (A) as uprights in the corners of the truck bed 12-inches higher than the cab and tailgate. These were tied together by 2 by 6's (B) in the 8-ft. direction and 2 by 12's (C) tied them together across the truck bed. With the tailgate up, the rear 2 by 12 was about 1-inch higher than the top of the tailgate. At the front of the truck bed, the 2 by 12 was about 1-inch higher than the cab roof. This allowed the poles to extend several feet forward of the truck bed. In fact, a 30-ft. pole on an 18-ft. truck extended 7-ft. behind the truck and 5-ft. beyond the front bumper.

To finish the rack I nailed a 2 by 12 (D) flat on the left side on top of the front and rear cross bed 2 by 12's. On this I bolted a hand crank winch (E) up near the truck cab. That completes the rack on the truck.

To get the poles to the top of the tail gate I used an 8-ft. long 2 by 12 with a 12-inch piece of 2 by 2 (F) angle iron bolted across one end that would hook over the tailgate preventing the 8-ft.2 by 12 (G) from falling with the pole weight and movement. This 2 by 12 served as a ramp for the poles to slide up on the rack. By relocating a chain around the pole further down the pole as the pole moved up the ramp and on the rack, the winch easily pulled the 30-ft. poles onto the truck. The first pole on the rack was rolled to the right side of the truck so that the ramp could be used for the second and third poles. The truck, with 3000 pounds of poles chained tightly to the rack and truck bed drove smoothly home. If I had planned better I should have cut the poles to 26-ft. long as that ended up providing the over-hang that was needed and could have saved at least 500 pounds of weight.

Off loading the poles was easy. Chain an end to one of the upright poles and drive out from under, slowly at first, then gas it so the free end falls without crushing the rear bumper.

Now the challenging part. First the poles were notched to sit flat on the upright. Then with only two come-alongs, chain and gin poles, the poles were raised to the top of the 9-ft. above the ground uprights. The gin poles were 4 by 4's chained to the uprights, top and bottom, that were about 4-ft. taller than the upright poles. The gin poles were also fastened securely near the top of the upright poles with 2 by 4 stops nailed to the pole on each side of the 4 by 4 so they wouldn't slip under the chain. To the top of the gin pole the hook of a come-along was chained securely through a large hole in the 4 by 4. A second chain around the pole near one of the notches provided the other come-along attachment. With come-alongs at each upright pole the beams were slowly raised.

A ladder was necessary to reach the come-along levers as the pole was raised higher. Having the first beam notch slipped into place without anyone getting hurt was exciting.

Once both notches were in place I bored a one-inch vertical hole through the beam into the middle of the top of the supporting upright pole. A 1/2-inch ID (7/8-inch OD) water pipe 24-inches long was pounded down into the upright pole with a 10-pound sledge. This pipe holds the beams on the upright poles. Two by six roof joists nailed to the beams tie the three beams together and supplement the 1/2-inch water pipe pin retainer.

Once the three beams and six uprights were in place the job of finding enough used lumber to make a flat roof began. The used lumber for the roof was again picked up on the beaches around the Bay and from dismantled buildings. The surface of the roof was made from dismantled pallet lumber.

Lastly, the expensive part. Nails and roll tar paper for the roof cost about $100 (not counting electricity hookup, although most electrical parts were scrounged too).

The completed pole workshop, open on two sides with dirt floor, has worked well even through the winter months. Most years lately the dirt floor doesn't get wet. Some day I'll pour cement as the floor is getting more and more uneven. Unfortunately, the work shop is so full of equipment and materials that motivation to move it all to pour cement gets replaced with procrastination.

The wind side of the workshop is loosely closed by part of the roof meeting a dirt bank. The front, also a wind side, has corrugated aluminum from a neighbor's patio roof attached to some welded frames of one-inch conduit pipe providing two folding doors with a full 20-ft. opening for most of the summer.

The finished workshop has been referred to by a friend as "hog heaven."

As a side issue, over the years I have brought home an estimated 65,000 pounds of poles for retaining walls for the sloping parts of our lot. Gardening on the level is great! I got dirt delivered free when a neighbor down the street had a swimming pool put in. The dirt and pole retaining walls have given me almost a one level garden. Some might be interested to know that the workshop and retaining walls held up in the 1989 Loma Pietra earthquake. Both my bandsaw and drill press fell over though.


Peavey: A stout lever like a cant hook, but with a sharp spiked end.

Cant hook: A stout wooden lever used for handling logs, usually with a blunt metal-clad end and a movable metal arm with a sharp spike.

Davit: A crane that projects over the side, usually of a ship, used to hoist small boats, anchors, or cargo.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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