Pardon Our Dust (Part 1)

“The road to success is always under construction.”   Lily Tomlin

print studio under construction

A “before” picture of the unfinished room.

My wife and I live in a house with two levels. The lower level is partly underground—commonly called a “walk-out basement”. Most of this is finished living space, including a bedroom, bathroom, TV/entertainment area, etc. This level also has an unfinished room; bare cement floor, wood stud walls with exposed fiberglass insulation, and bare fluorescent ceiling lights. When we designed the house in 2004, this was intended as a third bedroom, but we knew we'd never use it as such, so we left it unfinished. In the years since we've considered several uses for the space, but when I got my first large-format printer in 2007, it became clear these machines and the essentials required to run them needed space. We began planning to accommodate my printing endeavors. At the top of this page you can see snippets from a couple of the design drawings by High Country Designs. We've made a few changes, but the general plan is pretty close to the drawings.

print studio under construction

Another “before” picture, showing the window and the opening into the crawl (storage) space.

The room is 13 x 15 feet (4 x 4.5 m), with a large walk-in closet (which as yet has no door). When I telecommuted in the tech industry, the room was my office and “lab”, filled with computers and support equipment, along with the products on which I worked. Since I no longer do that, my wife has taken over a corner of the space for her office (desk, computer, files, phone, bookshelves, etc.), while the rest of the room contains my Epson Stylus Pro 7900 printer, printing paper, and all my printing and framing materials and supplies. The printer is networked, so it doesn't require close proximity to my Mac Pro, which is located in another room. The space is reasonably functional, if not very efficient or inviting.

The Time Has Come

We've decided it's finally time to finish the room. I've spent the last two weeks installing the wiring and switches for the lighting, moving some power outlets, installing additional insulation (mainly for sound-proofing, as this room is under the kitchen, and adjacent to our TV/hi-fi room), and of course, moving everything out of the room. As usual, this turned out to be a lot more stuff than I could have imagined. A contractor came a few days ago and built an additional closet, to be filled top to bottom with shelving. Much of this space will be consumed by boxes of slides, the result of my first 30-plus years of dabbling in photography. Today a crew begins hanging sheetrock (aka “drywall”).

So Much Stuff

how not to set up your large-format printer

The 7900, crammed into a tiny space. There's also a lot of other stuff here that had to be moved out of the room under construction.

The printer had to be moved, and while its 220-plus pound (100 kg) bulk moves easily on its casters, the larger problem was finding a place for it. In addition to printing my own work, I regularly print for a small collection of clients. I don't use the printer every day; sometimes a week or more will pass when I don't print. But without doubt, sometime during the construction job the printer will be needed, so it must be powered, connected to my network, and physically accessible. The best I could do was move it into the adjacent room. This area includes my network/audio/video/telephone wiring “closet” and my file servers, the circuit breaker panel for the lower level of the house, and other "mechanical" systems for the house, including the central vacuum unit and a 50-gallon hot water heater. It's my main storage area for framed prints. I'm also temporarily storing in this space quite a lot of what had been in the room under construction. It's a small room, so it's going to be pretty cramped for a while. There's barely room to stand in front of the printer, but it'll do for a couple of weeks.

After some rearranging to make room in the new location, I unplugged the printer's UPS from the wall outlet, but left the printer connected to the UPS. This kept the printer, which is in “standby” mode, powered up during the move. It also made the UPS beep at regular intervals, by design a maddening sound. This was incentive to move quickly! While the printer rolls easily on the cement floor, I had to negotiate a tight corner across carpet. This proved to be easier than I expected. I had the printer in place and its UPS plugged in to power in just a few minutes.

The Sheetrockers Rock

sheetrock at the end of day one

Sheetrock hung, taped, and mudded.

As I sit at the kitchen table typing this, the sheetrockers (Dave Barry would say this is a great name for a band) are at work downstairs. Their tools make some remarkable noises, remarkably loudly. Think gigantic paper cutter, and a dentist's drill on steroids. Our cat is not happy. But most of the noisy work will wrap up today, with the final mudding and sanding to start next week. When that's finished the walls will be painted, and then finishing trim will be added. After the carpenter has finished his work I'll install the lighting.

By mid-April I'll be able to move the printer back to the newly-finished room. Later this year I'll install a floor (perhaps bamboo—TBD) over the concrete, build some cabinets for storage, and a large work surface for framing and matting. I'll hang a large steel panel under a track with dim-able, color-corrected bulbs in track fixtures. I'll be able to hang prints on the panel with magnets, making this area a viewing booth of sorts.

Stay Tuned…

I'm really looking forward to a nice working space, good lighting, a viewing booth, and new wall surfaces for hanging artwork; a working print studio to which I won't be embarrassed to bring clients. Part 2 of this article will come later this year, after I've built storage cabinets and work surfaces, and installed the flooring.

March, 2012