Thursday, 5 August 2010

My digital darkroom/mancave/shed

I live in a house full of women, including a very demanding 4 year old daughter. Even the three budgies are female and extremely noisy.
Sometimes I can't hear myself think, so I decided to convert my 
8ft x 8ft shed into a mancave...a place where I can edit and study in peace.

Less than 12 months ago, it was dark, dingy, cold, wet and so full of junk, I’d abandoned even trying to enter it and considered putting a ‘Condemned’ sign on the door. The apex of the roof was letting in copious amounts of water every time it rained.

My first step was to re-felt the roof and let the shed dry out thoroughly. The second step was several trips to the local refuse centre to clear years of junk.

I carried out internal and external repairs to the woodwork then sealed evey joint with silicon sealant (walls, ceiling and floor). I then lined the ceiling and walls with 2 inches of recycled plastic insulation.


The floor was lined with two layers of foam cored aluminium insulation. I covered the floor with thin plywood and the walls with MDF board.

The next stage was left to the professionals.
I called in a qualified electrician to run power out to the shed.
This stage was a real headache, as we had to run power from a new 30 amp circuit breaker at the fuse box located at the front of the house, under all the floors and out through the rear kitchen wall.
We hit obstacles (literally) at every step of the way and had to lift carpets and cut access holes at various points to get the armoured/weatherproof cable through the floor joists.
We eventually got the cable underground and out to the shed and installed a fusebox with ELCB breakers for sockets and lights.
We installed ample double power sockets and two fluorescent tubes.


The next challenge was internet/network access.

My wireless network was a non starter as the signal was too weak.
A little research pointed me to Ethernet over Power adapters. One is installed in the house and hard wired into a switch, the other plugged into the shed switch.
The adapter set cost around £60GBP and have worked flawlessly since install.

I bought a refurbished PC which has a reasonable spec for the price and runs on Windows 7 Ultimate.

I set up RDP connections between the house and shed which is surpringly fast on Windows 7. I can sit at the house PC and RDP into the shed PC as if I were sat in front of it. I have direct links to my backup drives from the shed.

The next priority was heating.
It gets very cold in the North East of Scotland and we have just endured the coldest and most prolonged cold snap for 30 years. A halogen heating system actually made the shed more comfortable than the house!

I built a number of work units and worktops which have a dual purpose.
The shed looks to all intents and purpose like an office, but the work units hide all the normal shed type junk…tins of paint, tools, DIY stuff etc.
The last stage was to add a few creature comforts like a midi stereo system and more subdued lighting, and finally a 100db alarm system and bolt cutter proof padlocks to the door.
The compromise was the colour scheme (I would have preferred a neutral grey to prevent colour casts when editing)


My wife also won over one wall of the shed with a freezer and fridge. I stole the fridge back and it now serves as a mini-bar. I can stick my head in the freezer in the summer months when it gets too hot.


I now have a peaceful/quiet cave to edit images in peace and I plan to return to another abandoned project (due to noise issues) of creating video tutorials. I may even be able to lay down some bass grooves.
Maybe I should add a red ‘Recording’ light to the outside of the door?

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