Friday 6 February 2015

Ultimate Workshop Upgrade

Blackdown Shepherds Huts Revisited

When you are battling away with a large project in your workshop getting the working height correct can be a real struggle. In early 2014 we visited the team at Blackdown Shepherds Huts in Somerset England to see how they put a modern twist on a century’s old craft. We caught up with William Vickery there recently to see their latest workshop innovation designed to tackle this problem and best described as the ultimate workshop upgrade.

Demand for handcrafted, highly individual holiday homes, spare rooms and offices that the Shepherd Huts provide, has been rapidly growing. Since we last visited, the business is employing two more carpenters and looking for more. They have a new operations manager leaving William and George more time to concentrate on business development. They have also employed a new sales manager, his first task was to really understand the build process by assisting in the making of an entire hut from start to finish.

Due to rapidly rising demand for their product there was a need to improve some of the repetitive processes such as cladding and roofing the huts, leaving more time to concentrate on the highest quality bespoke joinery and customisation elements of the interior that have become the hallmark of their work.  

The solution was to create a bespoke workshop lift bringing the work piece to the craftsman rather than the other way round. Built during the quieter winter period in a space next to the existing workshop (originally a silage store with a sloping floor), they started by excavating over 300 tonnes of soil. This took the team well below the local water table so the base of the pit was fitted with a sump and a submersible pump.  The sides of the pit were then reinforced with concrete panels 2.5m deep 2.6 wide 5.4 long each weighing in at around 3 tonnes held in place in the corners by steel piles. With the sides and floor level and set, it was time to install the lift.

The main hoist is converted from a standard garage four post car ramp with a steel base plate which is operated above ground via a remote control. The hoist can lift up to four tonnes, which is ample as their heaviest hut to date weighed in at three tonnes when fully completed.  The best way to understand how this hoist helps in the process is to see it in action. So we setup a camera to record the building of a hut.

You can find out more about Blackdown Shepherds Huts at their website
Or read our earlier post:
If you have an unusual workshop adaptation you would like to share leave a comment below or drop us a line at  


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