I currently have a 6 x 8 meter steel shed as my main workshop studio. However, closed stuctures are really terrible for doing the sort of dust and chip-producing work that I do during the roughing out and sanding stages. An open air ... or semi-open ... space works much better.

In preparation for my recent move, I purchased 2 x 20 foot (6m) shipping containers in OK'ish condition. Cost was a factor, so I didn't go for refurbished boxes, knowing that it would be highly likely that I wouldn't treat them too well ... or would modify them in some way. Well ... here comes the first round of mods.

I decided that I would use the containers as the basis for a portable workshop set-up. One of the boxes will continue to store (and ultimately relocate) my wood pile, and the other will serve as general storage and provision of some work space - given that I have a reasonable amount of much more comfortable work space inside the existing shed.

I also own a 6 x 6 meter steel shed with 3 walls in kit form which I purchased several years ago and have never errected ... which travelled packed inside one of the containers. My plan was to errect the roof of the kit shed between the two containers (which would be dropped 6 meters apart) and build a raised floor/deck to work on.

As it turned out, entry to the site was difficult at the time that I moved (wet season) and I wasn't able to get the boxes into the right position easily, so a compromise was struck utilising the neighbour's 4 wheel drive tractor ... although the containers ended up only about 4 m apart ... not enough to accommodate my 'Plan A'.

'Plan B' emerged as what will most likely be much more practical, having a 8 x 3 meter work deck and roof built off the side of one of the containers and a temporary soft (tarpaulin) roof between the containers providing basic shade when required. This configuration also allows me to take in the wonderful view looking out from the site ... instead of staring at the side of a steel box while I'm working.

Bob Gilmour studio workshop in Julatten, Australia

I spent some time levelling up the first container and setting it up on solid concrete blocks and hardwood packers. The site is sloping and grassed and is solid clay underneath. I'm not too sure how many years I have here and don't really want to disturb the site any more than I have to ... minimal footprint impact, so to speak ... so, decided against excavations and concrete footings. Besides, the plan really is to set this structure up so that it's portable and can be dismantled with some amount of inconvenience and relocated when required. I intend to use 'ground screws' (self-tapping foundation anchors) to wind-proof the container and also to anchor the portal columns of the side roof structure and support the floor/deck.

Bob Gilmour studio workshop in Julatten, Australia

The main part of the side roof has 3 portal frames approximately 2.7 meters apart with about 300mm of overhang at the two ends. I plan to extend another bay of about 1.8 meters at the northern end ... giving me nearly 8 meters x 3 under roof. I will also errect a flat section of roof above the container doors at the northern end.

Bob Gilmour studio workshop in Julatten, Australia Bob Gilmour studio workshop in Julatten, Australia Bob Gilmour studio workshop in Julatten, Australia

The kit shed which I am butchering to build this new structure is fully engineered and certified (in it's original 6 x 6 configuration), and I'm pretty much using the existing plan as a guide in this construction ... except, of course, for my use of ground screws instead of concrete footings. The ground screws are pretty impressive. The ones I'm using are 800 mm long ... so, there is about 600 mm of screw down in the clay of the hillside ... I wound one in as a trial, and it sure took some doing to get it in all the way.

At this stage, I am assuming that I will keep all 3 sides of the work platform open ... although may end up sheeting the southern wall if the approaching winter weather proves too uncomfortable. The western sun beats in pretty relentlessly along the 6m side, so I will errect a shade cloth as required when I get to that stage.

The first stage to get started is to assemble the portal frames and fabricate some steel brackets with which to anchor them to the container wall.