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Make: Projects

Raise a CNC’ed Makerspace Shed

Build a big, customizable, stand-alone workshop with CNC-cut trusses for about $1,000.

CNC_Workshop_1H2A1939

This article appeared in Make: Vol. 40.

This article appeared in Make: Vol. 40.

One of my big projects this year was to open a Makerspace for kids in a low income area of San Jose, California (washingtonmakerworkshop.org). There was a small garage on the property, but we needed a larger structure where the classes could meet. We figured a 14-by-16-foot space (224 square feet) would be about ideal.

I researched a number of quick-build designs but didn’t really find one to meet my needs, so I ran the idea by my friend Lendy Dunaway, who’s involved in the Young Makers program (youngmakers.org) and is an expert fabricator. In Lendy’s shop, his signature piece of equipment is an industrial-size CNC router with a 5-by-10-foot cutting bed. He offered to design an inexpensive structure using custom-made trusses with very little scrap wood left over.

Here the results of our design and building process: the CNC Makerspace Shed. The shed is big enough to seat 16 people comfortably at worktables, and it can accommodate a huge 8-foot-high roll-up door. While we use it for a makerspace, with a transparent roof to admit natural light, it can easily be customized into something that works for you — and whatever your needs or weather conditions may require.

Steps

Step #1: Cut the truss parts (CNC option)

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  • First, download the zipped folder of all the plans and drawings from this link.
  • Open the DXF drawing osb-contours.dxf and transform it to toolpaths using your favorite CAM software.
  • Then cut the truss parts out of 10 sheets of 7/16" OSB using a CNC router. Each sheet, along with four 2×4s, makes one truss.

Step #2: Cut the truss parts (hand option)

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  • NOTE: If you don’t have access to a CNC router, you can cut the OSB truss parts with a circular saw or even a handsaw.
  • Assuming that you're not worried about which side is facing out, the 2 largest parts are exactly the same. Cut a sheet of plywood down the middle, fold the second half over onto the first half, and secure with 3 screws.
  • Follow hand-cutting diagrams 1–5 in the plans you downloaded, measure and cut the 2 stopped cuts that form the inside angle of the large corner pieces. Then measure and cut the remaining upper triangles off to form the outside angle of the corner pieces.
  • Repeat with a second sheet. Now you've got 4 large corner pieces and 8 drops (4 right triangles and 4 long trapezoids).
  • Assemble the 8 drops into 4 matching pairs using 2 screws each. Follow hand-cutting diagrams 6–13 to measure and cut the 4 remaining parts, each from the correct pair of drops. Now you have the skins for 2 halves of a complete truss.

Step #3: Build the trusses

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  • Cut the 2×4s according to the cut diagram 2x4 Dimensions 2.jpg.
  • Glue and screw the trusses together with the 2×4s sandwiched in between as shown here, using 1-5/8" screws and following the screw pattern in the DXF drawing.
  • Rout the edges of the trusses for a neat finished look.

Step #4: Build the brackets

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  • Find some large scrap “angle iron” at a metal yard and cut it into 40 pieces 6" long. Anything bigger than 2-1/2" on each side will work. We found some nice aluminum angles that were 2-1/2"×3". Cutting your own should save a good deal of money.
  • Measure, mark, and drill a pair of 11/32" or 3/8" holes through each side of each bracket as shown, centered to (roughly) match the spacing shown on the DXF drawing. (Your angle iron may vary.) All holes should be “mirror-images” so that the brackets will line up with one another, no matter which way you install them.

Step #5: Build the floor structure

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  • Place 12 piers on the ground in the locations designated on the plans and level them. A laser level can be really handy. Dig out or add shims where needed to get them all nice and level.
  • Frame your floor structure on top of the piers as shown in the diagrams, using 2×6 joists and joist hanger brackets.
  • TIP: A “positive placement” nail gun is helpful for installing the joist hangers (the nail tip protrudes so you can see exactly where you’re driving it), but it’s not required.

Step #6: Lay the flooring

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  • Cut 4 of the 23/32" OSB panels down to 5' 10- 5/8" long.
  • Then screw down all the 23/32" panels to the floor joists in the pattern shown here, using 15/8" screws.

Step #7: Raise the trusses

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  • Screw the angle brackets into the floor joists in the locations shown, using 3" lag screws with washers. I built a little jig the width of the trusses to make sure the brackets were the right distance apart.
  • Mark the 16' ridge beam to match the spacing of the angle brackets on the floor, so that the trusses will line up correctly from the beam to the floor. Then bolt the remaining angle brackets to the beam using 3-1/2" bolts, nuts, and a washer on each side (2 washers per bolt).
  • NOTE: Having a ridge beam that's not warped helps a lot in getting things lined up!

Step #8: Raise the trusses (cont'd)

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  • Mark and drill all trusses with slightly oversize holes to line up with your bracket holes, Now raise, hold, and bolt the trusses into place through the top brackets and bottom brackets, using 3-1/2" bolts (or 2-1/2" bolts for the trusses at the ends of the building). Raising the trusses requires the help of friends. You need someone in the middle holding up the ridge beam. We clamped the trusses together temporarily to hold them while we got things lined up. This gets a little tricky, especially 12' up on a ladder.
  • Install the 2 end trusses first, then the middle truss, and then the final 2.

Step #9: Finish the structure

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  • Once all the trusses are bolted in place, install 2 sheets of OSB horizontally on the bottom of each side. Before screwing them in, use a level to make sure the trusses are vertical. The plywood should fit perfectly on the 16' length of the workshop.
  • Two additional sheets of OSB or plywood can be added to each side to fully enclose the sides of the structure.

Step #10: Roof, doors, and windows

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  • The shed is structurally complete, but it won’t keep the weather out yet.
  • For natural light, we put clear plastic panels on the roof. Inadvertently, though, we created a greenhouse that was so warm it was virtually unusable. I ended up putting in rigid foam insulation on the sunny side. That did the trick!
  • The ends can be framed and finished however you wish. We put in an 8'-wide, 7-1/2'-tall roll-up door on one side (about $500 online), and on the other side, two huge 4'- wide by 5'-high “barn door” windows that swing open for ventilation during warm days.

Step #11: Finishing touches

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  • The trusses provide a perfect setup for lots of built-in custom shelving. We’re also planning on installing a storage loft on the end opposite the roll-up door. The inside is light, airy, and a very pleasant workspace.
  • We added pull-down power cords and hanging work lights in the middle of the workshop. Right now we’re using folding tables and stools but eventually we’d like to add flexible custom worktables. Also in the works are a giant whiteboard and a large LCD monitor for presentations.
Rick Schertle

Rick Schertle

Rick teaches middle school in San Jose, CA. He’s a contributing writer for MAKE and leads after school making clubs with kids. He designed the compressed air rocket for MAKE 15 and the folding-wing glider in MAKE 31. With his wife and kids, Rick loves all things that fly. Rick is the co-founder of AirRocketWorks.com.


Lendy Dunaway

Lendy Dunaway

Lendy Dunaway is a lifelong lover of designing and building things, and a collector of the tools, hardware, and machines to do it with. After writing software for 20 years, he now runs a small industrial design and fabrication company in San Jose, California, where he hosts a Young Makers club.


  • chad

    i downloaded the drawings but having a hard time figuring out what the sizes are i am using draft sight — is there a better and free program that will tell me the size of the osb to be cut out — been wanting to build a shop and this really fits the bill just perfect i cant find a cnc machine that is large enough for a full sheet of ply and just figured i would cut it out with a circular saw

    • al

      make a Pantograph to help copy the plans on to a sheet of ply

    • Rick Schertle

      Chad,

      Check out our updated hand-cut directions on the project website. Let me know if you have more questions and I’ll seen what I can do. Thanks for your interest.

      – Rick

      • chad

        Rick

        Awesome !! this really helps come november 1 or there of I will be building this!
        I plan to document this some how some way — might go on instructables or on my blog.
        Plan to use it for general storage and small workshop and general shed.
        Thanks again for the hand cut measurements this will make it so much better to work with.

  • Ed Wellman

    Is the composite board standard 4 x 8 ft dimensions? Will this fit in a CNC Router of 48′ x 84″ bed or is there space needed to allow the router to work.

    • Rick Schertle

      Yes, I believe so. The CNC plans utilize the edges of the OSB in the cuts. It uses about 87% of the material with very little waste.

  • Banjo

    I downloaded the drawings too, and on my CAD software, the weren’t any measurements apparent when I opened the file. Instead, I’m going to take the measurements provided in the article for the 2×4’s, assemble according to the pics, put ‘em on top of the plywood, and trace them out and then cut the plywood. I don’t have a CNC router, so that trial and error technique will have to suffice.

    • Kriss

      I found ABViewer 10 to be very useful at getting the angles and sizes off the DXF file. You can always get out the drafting scale and paper to draw what you want up in quarter scale. That is likely what I will be doing so it will be what I want and will fit the trailer frame I’m thinking of putting the shed on.

  • http://www.makerfairekc.com Luis E. Rodriguez

    Does anybody have VCarve files for these parts? I have a ShopBot and would love to customize this a bit.

  • http://phoenixphotobooths.com Brady Fulton

    Does the “Parts” list need to be revised? There are only (4) sheets of 7/16″ called for but the instructions call for (10) for the joist pieces. Please clarify.

    • Rick Schertle

      Brady,

      Thanks for pointing this out. We’ll get it updated. You’ll need ten sheets for the roof and 8 sheets for the walls. They roof can be whatever material you choose. Are you working on building this? If so, i would love to see how it’s coming. Thanks of your interest.

      – Rick

      • dan

        Really need the parts list updated. Seems there are way more than 8 2×4’s and 8 2×6’s. Also, lengths on the lumber pieces would be nice.

        • Rick Schertle

          Dan, Thanks for your patience. We’ll for sure be updating the parts list. We did a big update to the online article including hand-cut plans but overlooked the parts list. Thanks for pointing this out. If you’re at World Maker Faire New York, I’ll be sharing about the design and build process. Thanks again, Rick

  • Kyle Jurick

    This is great, but I live in the midwest where we get tons of snow in the winter. Any idea how much weight the roof can support?

    • Scott

      I have the same question. I suspect you’ll need to get a structural engineer to review this. (A lot of these designs target warm climates so it’s not a concern).

      • Kyle Jurick

        Surely there is at least one structural engineer in the Make community that can give an informal opinion on this! I’d love to build this, but would be furious if my roof caved in and dumped snow on my lathe, drill press, band saw, table saw, etc….

        • Scott

          Oh I agree, there’s probably a few structural engineers on the site. Whether they notice your question is one thing, followed by whether someone would want to make a professional statement (even with a disclaimer).

          Personally, if I build this, I would deviate and look to beef this up. I’d assume the walls are sufficient to handle the load, so that might be a matter of adding more roof trusses or reinforcing the middle.

          • http://www.open-hive.com Jim

            If I lived where you do, I think I’d balk a little at the trusses’ four-foot centers (as Scott mentioned). Just eyeballing the design, you could probably go two-foot centers without modifying too much else and be good to go.
            My dad gave me this issue of Make Magazine and I’m here checking it out online. I’m pretty sure my dad and I and my 14-year-old son are going to be building the Boy Cave pretty soon, and probably from these plans!

  • Kyle Jurick

    I’m at about $1800 for materials. This excludes hardware and foundation. This is with a steel roof. Not bad for a 14’x16′ building, really, but not $1000 either.

  • hothmob

    Does anyone know the origin of the shed/space used int he Maker Camp videos? It has more of a round truss, and i’m trying to replicate that. Thanks in advance Make community!

    • Kriss

      Yes I think I know the one you are talking about it was done by opensourceecology dot org cnc shelter

      • hothmob

        Cool, thanks! I found it

    • Rick Schertle

      The one used for Maker Camp is the Shelter 2.0. I looked into that for my makerspace and it was too small. Plus the rounded trusses took a lot out of the usable space. The trusses on this one don’t angle up until about seven and a half feet. The trusses are great for built in shelves. We’ll be adding some updates to the project including detailed hand-cut instructions (for those who don’t have a CNC machine) in the next few days.

      • hothmob

        Thanks for the input. I agree on the rounded truss, not to mention perhaps inefficient use of material. Hand-cut instructions would be fantastic.

  • Kriss

    I just happen to pick up issue 40 of Make: and found this shed. I was looking for someplace to build a homebuilt aircraft and here this pops up. The idea is scalable but you will have to work out the loads for wider trusses. Another idea I came up with was use this idea for a tiny house too.

    Something you can do if you don’t have a CNC handy is make 1/4 to 1/2 hard board patterns and use a router with a Template Guide to cut out the truss parts. I have used this trick to cut aluminum and wood parts.

    I too had issues with opening the DXF file and I had to try three different readers till I found one that would work and I found ABViewer 10 to be the most helpful.

  • Randy Vest

    I downloaded ABViewer and was not able to get a clear description of the plans. Is there a link to the plans. Measurements, pylon placement, etc? I am really wanting to build this shed but I don’t have access to a CNC router and was just going to use a skilsaw.

  • Rick Schertle

    Thanks everyone for the great discussion. If you’re at World Maker Faire New York, I’l be leading a session on both Saturday and Sunday on this CNC structure along with Lendy. In the next couple of days, we’ll be adding detailed hand-cut instructions (for those who don’t have access to a CNC machine). Please share pictures of what you’re custom take is on this project. I look forward to seeing the creativity!

  • Rick Schertle

    MAKE: Magazine and makezine.com readers. Thanks so much for your interest in this project. The level of interest has been overwhelming. A big thanks to MAKE’s project editor, Keith Hammond, for some huge updates to the online project. In Keith’s words…

    Thanks for tackling this project, it’s a great one. Rick is going to present it at World Maker Faire New York next week and I’ve just spruced it up with some additional resources you’ll find helpful.

    — As mentioned in the article, the DXF drawing is to be converted to toolpaths for a full 4’x8′ sheet of plywood or OSB. Today I added some images in Step 1 that we didn’t have room for in print, showing how the drawing is converted to toolpaths — you can see it how it exploits the edges of the OSB sheet to form corners of the truss parts.

    — I added Lendy’s new hand-cutting instructions and diagrams, for those who can’t access a CNC router.

    — I posted the entire set of plans and diagrams as a single zip file, you can download it in Step 1. With the limited screen resolution in our Steps format, it’s much easier to just grab these diagrams than try to read them online. (We’ll be fixing that soon too!)

    Hope this gets you rolling full speed ahead. Please share your experiences and questions in the Comments on the project page, Rick is watching and answering. And we’d love to see your final shed when it’s built.

    Best regards,

    –Keith

    Keith Hammond
    Projects Editor
    MAKE magazine (www.makezine.com)

    • Scott

      I have to say this is THE single best how-to from Make (or at least, the one with the most appeal to me). The updates for hand-cutting are a nice touch.

      As someone else noted, a snow-load estimation is important in some locations. Though that’s probably something which needs to be addressed locally.

      (that said if someone does research this, an informal comment about weight capacity would have some value).

  • olivas

    For those looking at different roofing materials, look at “Strength of Materials”. It gives you all the info you need and the math to see if your idea works.