Jun 232011
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If the weather had been better, if I had planned (or executed) better, if the former owner had not been the quintessential “unhandy” man, if I had not been only 20% effective for a week or more with the flu, if, if, if…

As a buddy of mine used to say, “If a frog had a tail he wouldn’t bump his butt every time he hopped.” And if everything had gone right, I would have remodeled the house and the garage before time to move in, and I would be building furniture by now. But, frogs don’t have tails, and my remodeling project took longer than expected, and the garage had to wait.

What to do with all my equipment while the shop was under construction became the pressing dilemma. The answer, my friends, was blowing in the wind. Literally.

I remember the day well. I left about 5:30 AM for the unhandy house, ready for another full day of remodeling work, undoubtedly to be filled with additional surprises. The pressure was building. Every day the drop-dead date for being out of the old house was nearing, and every day it seemed new problems and fate was prolonging the project. It was cold, but then, when is it not in Wisconsin? I believe the temperature was around 7 degrees, the wind gusting bitterly from the Northeast. Bundled in about five layers of clothing, head bowed against the blowing snow, I headed into the coffee shop for a much needed start to the day. Another frigid patron was wrestling with the newspaper vending machine and a fortuitous gust of wind ripped papers from her hand and directly into my face. As I peeled them away and tried to smooth and return them to her, I spied an advertisement. It was just like in the movies, when the spotlight shines, the music swells, and enlightenment spikes like a smile – a moving and storage company advertisement and a picture of a storage pod.

Despite the cold and the caffeine deficit, I changed a dollar into quarters and overpaid for the local newspaper. Over coffee (finally) I read and re-read the ad, and wondered if an on-site storage pod could be the answer. I could put all my equipment in a great big weather-tight and secure box, move the pod to the new house, store it in my own driveway, and move the machines into the shop when the garage conversion was complete.

Online, I checked out various companies that offer pod-type storage. All seemed similar, but the namesake Pods Enterprises seemed to be the originator, or at least had co-opted that position through marketing. Pod’s online quote system was slick and professional. By the end of the workday I had made the decision and formulated the plan, and had an appointment to have a Pod delivered.

I fretted over details…could the delivery guy put the Pod close enough to the garage? Could he set it straight? Would the slope of the driveway cause an issue? Would the 16 by 8 foot Pod be big enough? Would it really be dry inside and secure? How high was the Pod off the ground? Were there ways to secure my equipment for the move?

The helpful customer service representative at Pods patiently answered my questions, and the delivery driver was as professional, caring, and proud of his company as anyone could be. He set the Pod just four feet from the garage door, perfectly square to the entrance, and walked me through the use of the door, the lock, and what to do when I was ready to have the Pod moved.

The next Saturday a friend had volunteered to help pack the Pod. I had already spent the better part of the night before prepping the equipment for its hopefully short hibernation and relocation. Most drawers were emptied and the items packed. Doors and drawers were secured with shrink-wrap plastic. Delicate sections of the equipment were further protected with Styrofoam or bubble-wrap, and then each machine was covered with a moving blanket or two. The padded moving blankets were secured with additional shrink-wrap.

I hacked together a low ramp of 3/4 inch plywood and scrap dimensional lumber to smooth the rolling of equipment from my garage to the four-inch floor height of the Pod. I also purchased a number of 4 X 8 sheets of 2-inch thick Styrofoam insulation to be used as packing protection, a few inexpensive plastic drop cloths, and a few additional moving blankets.

In Wisconsin we plan for the worst possible weather, and the reality is usually worse, so I also rigged some heavy plastic above the Pod door and attached it to the front of the garage roof, forming a type of temporary roof over the short span between garage and Pod. I also rigged temporary plastic walls between the Pod and garage, essentially forming a plastic “hallway.” This turned out to be a good move. Saturday ushered in a rainstorm of epic proportions. Cold, fierce rain driven by gusting winds and a bone-chilling temperature of 38 degrees dampened our enthusiasm for “Pod-packing,” but we soldiered on.

My rolling lumber rack was the first item loaded. We partially emptied it, rolled it into the Pod, and then reloaded it. It was the item I had guessed to be the heaviest and most unwieldy, but the makeshift ramp held, so we were off to the races.

My workbench is the only large item in the shop not on wheels. We carried the beast, a few inches at a time, and nestled it into the Pod, opposite the eight-foot long lumber rack. The Pod unit has convenient tie-off points throughout. We used webbed straps and rope to secure the lumber rack and workbench and a couple of blocks of wood screwed to the wooden floor as insurance. Boxed items were packed in, under, and around the workbench and lumber rack, and within an hour, half the Pod was packed.

Before loading the machinery, we lined the Pod walls with the two-inch Styrofoam insulation. Like a make-it-up-as-you-go-along jigsaw puzzle, we put each machine into the Pod, secured it, and braced it with additional Styrofoam. When everything was loaded, we sealed the Pod inside its door, floor-to-ceiling, with 4-mil thick plastic (in case there was any water leakage around the door), closed the door, and added a padlock.

On the appointed moving day, the Pods driver arrived precisely on time. The moment he raised the Pod into the air and began to load it on the truck, my heart raced, but I was comforted by his professionalism and care. By his control gauges, he told me the Pod had 5,700 pounds inside. Not the heaviest load he ever carried, but well above average. He followed me to the new house, and in what seemed like only minutes, he had unloaded the Pod and placed it, just as carefully, at the entrance to my new garage/shop.

Shop equipment resting peacefully, waiting for its new home.

I was tempted, of course, to open the Pod and examine the contents, but I resisted. My rationale was simple…if anything was damaged, it might be weeks or longer before I could unload the Pod and really assess the situation, and in the meantime I would simply fret and obsess. Better that I not know. That lasted about ten days, and finally on a day without rain, I opened the door to find that everything was just as we had left it. Whew!

Now every day, I look at the Pod and it provides motivation to get the garage converted to the new Down To Earth Woodworking shop. If you are ever facing a move, or simply want to clear out your shop for some renovation or remodeling, consider using a pod storage unit.

This article first appeared in the Down to Earth Woodworker column in the June edition of Wood News.

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