I wish they had woodworking rental places

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Our local community college has some weekend non-credit classes where the students get to work on their own projects in the school's shop. Why not check if a school in your area has a similar program?
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-- Steve

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I actually looked into this with someone that was thinking it was time to do it. He has money, is a great businessman with two companies going now. He clicked on the idea when he found out what was needed to outfit a shop according to our local "experts".
The space wasn't a problem, but getting the sufficient electrical service was, as was getting it wired correctly. The necessary A/C for today's woodworker was enormous, as was the cost of designing and implementing a good DC system. No hoses on the floor to trip over in a classroom environment!
Found out a couple of distributors will sell direct if you are buying three table saws, three drill presses, two industrial dust collectors, a floor model board planer, a couple of jointers, 6 "high school" type maple topped work tables with lockers underneath for peronal stuff, about 40 sturdy metal stools for the tables, a couple of stationery sanders, a couple of medium sized lathes, a couple of mini lathes, about $3500 worth of clamps (don't snort... it isn't that many!), a finishing booth with the correct VOC evacuation equipment, and on and on and on. Came out to about $350,000 for all of it, including space prep, tools, freight and shipping, and some incidentals.
Still didn't scare my buddy off.
Here's what did.
I took him to Woodcraft where they have a lot of his setup for teaching, but not for walk in rentals, where they would need more of everything in our local Woodcraft shop. We talked to the franchise owner and the manager(s) which I know well. (I have my next class to teach there scheduled for Dec. 1st) They gave him the skinny: it is hard to fill a class with 5 -6 openings for an all day class with a qualified instructor for a $150 fee which would allow them to use pretty much all the tools. We talked about just renting shop time, and our local Woodcraft never found that alone to be profitable. They had to go to "classroom" format for insurance purposes so that their carriers could be assured that a someone from Woodcraft would be present at all times.
After that, I took him to our woodturning club, where we have some fantastic turners. Everyone was enthusiastic, and we have thrown the idea around of getting a really nice "club lathe" that would turn something larger than most folks can on their lathes. No one in the club wanted to spend the club money on it, even if it meant they could schedule time on it and use it FREE. He was horrified. Everyone was enthusiastic in lip service, but when the rubber met the road they simply weren't that committed.
Then I told him that I had invited some of my old friends over to work in my shop whenever they wanted, just bring the doughnuts or BBQ, depending on what time and what day you come. In twenty two years of having this shop... no takers. I have had folks come over with stuff for me to fix while they watched and drank coffee, but no one has ever come over and started a project from scratch and completed it. Not even something little. He was seeing that attendance and interest don't seem work out the same in the WW world.
The capper was the insurance. We found a carrier that could get us going for a $25K up front premium, and depending on shop hours and number of folks using equipment they would assess the second premium in six months. For talking points, their rep said that we should plan on about a $30K premium to cover instructors, overseers, and students. Instructors would need formal training certification from a school, college, or something that they could show the insurance guys that they were qualified to operate and instuct on the machines in the shop. They would not allow an experienced woodworker to baby sit. Qualified personnel only.
In our investigations, we took my favorite corporate atty to lunch to run this by him. He laughed his ass off at the idea of a signed, notarized waiver protecting anyone from being sued. Literally laughed. All the plaintiff has to do he said, was prove negligence of some sort, or neglect of any type.
His example: An idiot cuts a cord on a tool and doesn't want to pay for it so he quietly shuts the machine off and goes to work on something else. No one sees it since it is at the end of the rental day. So the next day, bright and early someone walks to that machine and turns it on and shocks the crap out of himself. Whose fault is it? Well, yours of course. You didn't check out each machine for readiness before the start of the business day.
A person is using a miter saw to cut small pieces. He wants to save on wood, so he is cutting one that is really small, and he launches the small piece into the guy working across the shop, giving him a ding that requires a few stitches. Whose fault is that? Well yours of course. You probably didn't tell the saw operator that it was unsafe to cut small pieces of unsupported wood with a 10 amp saw. Even if you managed to get this out in your miter saw speech, did he remember it? Was he clear on this point? Did he understand what the ramifications were if he actually did that? Would he admit it if it meant he had some culpability?
And did the guy that got dinged know he was at risk from other users? Did he know he was exposing himself to dangerous situations at the hands of others? Did you explain to him when he signed up that he might get hurt due to someone else's misuse or even an honest mistake when using some of the tools?
As a contractor, I am used to this. Guys sue thinking that if they win, and for them it is like hitting the lottery if they do. He was not used to this and was on another track altogether. He was thinking a group of like minded individuals could get together, talk, share tips and techniques and work on their projects in harmony and fellowship. He figured he wouldn't get it all right up front, but he would work on improvement every day the doors were open.
And all the rivers would run with chocolate, and the trees were made from candy canes.
As it was, he was literally nauseous, and couldn't get his near disaster out of his mind. It was my idea to meet with the attorney as he didn't feel it was necessary. He felt like he just barely dodged a bullet. And in this hugely sue-happy, "it wasn't my fault someone has to pay" society, he probably did.
If you have an old shop rental organization that is set up and working and is grandfathered in on some insurance, you are very lucky. I would love something like that around here, but there is nothing like it. And at the cost of starting something like that from scratch without a track record for insurers to look at, I doubt there ever will.
Robert
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Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing your experience. You are right about a sue happy jackpot society we live in. I wish congress would pass some kind of tort reform, but with a building full of lawyers, I doubt it would ever happen.
Jeff
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The place where I'll be moving to is pretty remote, so I doubt there is stuff there. Besides, I should have the means now to get a decent setup. 10 years ago struggling with a cheap contractor saw it would have been a nice option.
I was just thinking out loud in terms of what would be a neat business to run.
Jeff
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If you live anywhere near a military base you can check there. Don't know if you are eligible if you are not in the military, but some bases have very nive shops. Worth a phone call if there is one in the area.
Homer
On 16 Nov 2005 14:56:16 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net wrote:

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I had an idea along similar llines. In this case, I'd convert an old warehouse or something like that into workshops. Sort of like indoor storage units, but with light and power outlets. A variety of sizes too. You rent a workshop on a lease basis, and fill it with your own tools.
Of course, the logistics would have been a nightmare...the variety of rooms, the electrical and heating for each shop, access, security, safety (flammable chemicals, welders, etc.). Talk about a nightmare!
John
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Military only. The best shops are in other countries.

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We have a better model here in town. The park district and the high school have a joint agreement where the public can use the high school shop equipment. It's publicly subsidized, so it's cheap, and they're very flexible about hours. A commercial venture might have better equipment but would be far more expensive.
snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net wrote:

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Where is this located?
Mike Berger wrote:

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Joseph Connors
The New Golden Rule:
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My high school shop had incredible equipment! I think it was pretty much all Northfield, but I don't recall seeing any nameplates. Northfield's plant is 40 miles away, so that would make sense.
The school had a 16" tablesaw, 20" planer, 8" or 12" jointer, at least 20" bandsaw, and a big shaper. The RAS was a 14" or 16" Delta. They also had a number of Delta lathes. There was a 14" Rockwell or Delta bandsaw. The nicest thing they had was the huge Timesavers wide belt sander.
The only problem was no money to fix the machines if they broke. The RAS was unusable for most of a semester due to a bearing that needed to be replaced.
This was back in the late 80s. I'm not sure the high school even has a woodshop today. The high school was expanded and remodeled top to bottom a few years ago and I wouldn't be suprised if the shop was removed.
Brian Elfert
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Some company starting doing something similar here with cooking equipment. They provide the space, recipes, and ingredients, all chopped, sifted, minced, etc, and you prepare a week's worth of meals at a time.
Was very popular for a while, but I understand it's struggling now. I suspect the novelty wore off for the interested, and the market was shallow to begin with.
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Well guys, here is what I did. I moved to The Villages Florida. There is a Villages Woodworking Club that has an 8,000 sq ft shop. Just loaded with top notch equipment. Four tablesaws, six lathes, jointers, planers, etc. Everything that one could ask for. Membership is open to Villages residents only. Onetime innitiation fee of $100 and $25 a year threafter (no other charges). The shop is open 6 days a week for those with the urge to make sawdust. The club is incorporated and is non profit. There is a shop monitor and an office monitor on duty when ever the shop is open. Lumber is available from the club or members can bring their own wood in for projects. The members do a lot of volunteer work for Village residents such as furniture repairs or small projects. The club is also very active in building toys for local childrens organizations. Over 400 members now and still growing. Obviously everyone can't use the shop at the same time but it seems to work itself out so everyone gets a chance.
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On 16 Nov 2005 14:56:16 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net wrote:

Yes. In my town (pop. 28,000) there is a business called "Your WoodShop" where you pay a monthly fee to use shop space. They have all the basic (large) tools. I'm fortunate that I have my own shop, but I can imagine a rented shop is a huge liability concern.
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