Setting up my workshop

In order to use my balcony as a make-shift workshop, I needed some protection from rain water, and even more important, an effective way to tackle the mosquitos. Since I was doing this in a rented apartment, I wanted to spend as little money as possible and achieve the best results I could without making any structural or permanent changes.

For the rain water: I put up a little awning with a sheet of acrylic, to keep most of the rain out. I fastened it to the box grill with some galvanized iron wire, so that it was temporary but sturdy, and would keep most of the rain out (you can see this in the second image in this post). Total cost: Rs. 600/-.

For the mosquitos, I needed a solution that: 

  • was temporary yet effective
  • was easy to install and easy to remove, if required
  • could be installed without driving any screws or nails into the walls
  • was inexpensive

It seemed like a tall order, and it took me a while to devise a solution that checked all these boxes.

For the lower half of the balcony wall, I made mosquito mesh screens and inserted them into the existing niches in the wall. Here’s how:  

  • Using scrap pine wood strips, I made frames that were a couple of inches shorter in length and height than the niche into which each had to fit (I used simple lap joints to make the frames).
  • I bought some lightweight nylon mosquito netting, stretched it taut, folded down the edges and then attached it to each frame with a staple gun.
  • I stuck a strip of 1” thick Styrofoam to the entire outer edge of each frame, with silicon glue.
  • Finally, I gently pushed the frames into the niches. The Styrofoam compressed like a cushion around the edges for a snug fit.

For the upper half of the balcony wall, I used the design of a simple scroll:

  • I bought a sheet of mosquito mesh that was 12 feet long and about 5 feet wide, and had a tailor fold and sew a channel at the upper and lower borders.
  • Through each of these channels I inserted an 11-foot long PVC pipe, which allowed me to stretch the mesh between the two pipes, like a really large scroll.
  • I inserted small L-clamps (that I had originally bought to reinforce my dining chairs) in the gaps between the balcony ledge and the box grill, placing them wherever I could get a good, tight fit.
  • Then I put up my mesh scroll, letting the upper PVC pipe rest on the L-clamps, and the lower pipe rest on the balcony ledge, with just enough tension in the mesh screen. I added a few more L-clamps to hold the bottom pipe securely in place.

In all, this cost me around Rs. 2,500/- and the set-up works beautifully. In fact, it allows me to keep the balcony doors open all day, as I no longer have to worry about mosquitos, wasps, bees, and other bugs getting inside the house.

For my work bench, I bought a used metal desk for Rs. 900/-. It was 3×2 feet, with a laminated plywood top. I stuck a layer of cork sheets over the laminate and placed thick rubber and foam mats under the desk to muffle some of the sound (working with a chisel and hammer can be rather noisy). The desk had a little drawer and cupboard to the right side, which could hold most of my tools. Power tools were not an option, and I had decided to use only hand tools to begin with.

I was eager to try my hand at basic woodworking joints – lap joints, dados, box joints, mortise-and-tenon joints, dovetail joints – and I felt hand tools would suffice. I was able to get some scrap pine wood and rubber wood, and soon began experimenting with joinery.