Homeland Security

Amazing what technology is now available, and at such cheap prices.  Camera surveillance systems, recording up to 30 days of footage at a reasonable resolution.  Able to operate day and night (infrared), indoor and out.

Not only recording any motion, but able to stream the camera footage to the web, and send email alerts (to multiple addresses), with images attached.

With one (and multiple cameras) connected up, with the DVR and router connected up to UPS (particularly one working on the 4G network), the system can provide a surprisingly high degree of security, for a minimal price (under $200 for the surveillance system).

DVK414252_a1_mainNo need to purchase those fake cameras, the real deal hardly costs any more, and has significant functionality.

At that price, not only can you afford to have surveillance of your workshop, but the house, and approaches as well.

A New Tab

At the top of the website, you will see a new tab has appeared – Shed Build. (It may take a little bit for it to appear – the site is quite heavily cached it seems!  Even mine is appearing and disappearing – idiosyncrasies of the web!)

I will use this to capture some of the specifics of the shed design and construction.  New content will still appear here as new blog entries, and then summarised and refined under that tab for prosperity.

So to start, I wanted to look at some of the lessons learned from the existing shed.

With the decommissioning of the current shed in approximately 30 days (a month seems so much shorter when you realise how many, or rather how few days there are, especially if you only count weekends!), I am going to document the process involved in setting up the new shed, at the new location.

The existing 8×4 shed was a great improvement when we built it, but it has been well and truly outgrown  in the past couple of years.  It was as large as I could justify on the existing block at the time.

Looking back through the website, I didn’t realise how long the existing shed had been around – time sure flies! (Built April 2008)

So what lessons have I learned from the existing one, that needs to be incorporated into the new design?


The current shed is 8m x 4m, with a 2.1m high ceiling (to the lower beams).  Shed width is a critical factor – not just the square metreage. 4m is ok, but 6m would be more desirable.  This allows machines to line the walls (those that suit that location), and still provide plenty of room between them for work, manipulation of stock etc.

Length then is as much as possible for maximum area – the more wall space the better too – I ran out a way back!

Height – 2m is a minimum, but I found I was regularly banging stock into the beams.  2.4 – 3m would have been better (as in total clearance).


The doors on this shed were a good size – about 2m across (when both were opened).  It would have been better if I hadn’t had to block one of the two for the bandsaw, and would have been preferable if I hadn’t had to consider out and through the doors as space for some of the tools outfeed!


She’s solid – no doubt about that, and with society as it is, nice to know things are locked away.  However, one point is lighting, which is the next category.


I ran 10x double fluorescent tubes in the workshop, and as there were no external windows or skylights, this was the only source.  These have been good, but more would have been better.  Daylight for example!  With the new shed going to be directly opposite the house, having some windows would be ideal, and the ability to open part of the side of the shed (roller door).  There is a limit of course – the more windows and doors, the less wall space.


I struggled along for quite a while with power being provided to the shed via an extension cord, but things really improved once I had a decent amount of power bought directly in.

2x 15A, plus 3x 10A circuits.  I made the mistake of using the ready-wired plugs from Bunnings for the 10A supply (wired into the supply by the electrician).  These had their own circuit breaker on each line that was forever tripping.  Running too much on the same circuit, and some being machines that needed the full 10A when under high load.  The circuit breakers on the GPOs tripped at 10A at best, if not before  Normally, circuit breakers do allow some overcurrent before tripping, but these seem to be right on the limit.

You can never have too much power.

Temperature control:

It was always either way too hot, or way too cold out there.  Insulation (and installed during construction) is mandatory!  Additional temperature control in the form of air con or heating would be a definite added bonus.  I tried a gas heater, but that posed a number of problems.  For cooling, I didn’t want to use evaporative – too much cast iron and too much timber to want to change the workshop moisture levels.  When I did give in, it was very ineffective (portable units don’t cut the mustard).  One way or the other, if it is not a comfortable environment, you can loose so much shed time by not wanting to be out there.  Shed time can be hard to come by, and you can’t afford to throw it away because the weather is too hot, or cold!

So that is a first pass – I’m sure there is much more that I can glean from the existing shed to build into the new design.

Shed Security

Had a good question asked by Calum about securing your shed, particularly given how expensive this hobby can be become

“I recently found signs of prowlers around our house. This set off the alarm bells, how secure is my garage. How secure is the electronic garage door opener? Better put some bolts on the external doors. Better take an inventory of my tools and also take pictures. Have I kept the receipts of all my purchases?

So Stu, What have you done to secure your Shed? Do you keep an inventory. I imagine there are woodworkers out there with tools that would be very hard to replace. I wonder what the insurance companies think about sheds full of expensive tools.”

Nothing gets me thinking about Indiana Jones type property protection than the thought of deliberate acts to deny me what I have bled to collect together. Of course these days the prowlers seem to have more rights than you do, so I guess I’ll put away Spielberg’s imaginings and settle for what is allowed.

There are a number of things to approach with this topic, and if anyone has additional thoughts – do drop them into the comments!

Door Security – a roller door with electronic opener is ok wrt the electronic door opener is concerned, so long as the (hmm – what’s the polite term?) thief doesn’t get access to the space. If they do, then it is a simple button to override the mechanism and, well…… So give consideration to how strong the other doors are – some rear garage doors are done on the cheap, and use a hollow-cored door (especially if it is accessed from the house), rather than something robust. On any hinged door, give consideration to what hinges you use – can the pin be popped out and the door removed? There are hinges designed for secure doors. Roller doors can be pulled off their tracks, and levered up, so just how secure is any roller door? The one saving grace is because it is a garage, with a roller door it is normally fully visible from the street, so any attempts are going to be loud and obvious. Having security lighting (twin movement sensor floods) is cheap, but make sure the power switch is inside the secure area (eg inside the shed)

Roller doors can be great when woodworking- open the whole space up. On the other hand, because you are facing the street, anyone and everyone gets to see what you have.

Having a big door will definitely help (as in a big labrador!!)

Sometimes getting into the shed space is easier if you don’t go through the door! Is there laserlight on the roof? What are the walls made of? How is the wall material fixed to the structure? Some sheds can be easily entered using a Phillips (X) screwdriver, and unscrewing the few tec-screws holding the walls on! No need for a master key (aka bolt cutter). Speaking of which, if you are choosing a lock/padlock, remember what you are securing. Spending an extra $25 or so getting a better quality of lock is an investment in security. Going cheap is false economy – again remember the value of what you are protecting. I went “high security” for both the padlock, and the hasp and staple for the lock mechanism.

If the thief gets access to the shed, then your secondary security systems have to kick in. Motion alarm is a good start – if the idiot gets a surprise, they might just bolt. They are also very cheap.

Your computer can be a sophisticated security system. With a cheap web camera in the worshop plugged in and some software such as Webcam XP, you have a little security system . It has the option of when it contacts you – it can be set to movement sensor mode, so if more than (eg) 10% of the view changed (such as someone working into the scene), you can choose to have the program email you with photos, or with an email to SMS account, your shed can send you an SMS call for help!

You can even view the inside of the shed in realtime through a web browser.

Now, if the worst occurs, what can we have done to help return the status quo?

Insurance obviously. The company needs proof of purchase – either a receipt for example, or a photograph (photos are a great idea). The biggest danger is under insurance. How is that a bad thing? For example if I have contents insurance for $100,000 (and the shed contents is worth a lot less than that), but the house and shed contents combined are worth $200,000 and I have a robbery and the $2000 tablesaw is stolen I should be right ($2000 being a lot less than $100,000).

No. Being 50% under insured means that any pay out by the insurance company will be reduced by at least the same amount (50%), so you’d only get $1000 as the payout. Sucks huh! So don’t underinsure – the correct amount of cover is not that huge a cost (compared to loosing your workshop).

So photograph the collection, keep a record of all tools in the shop, and any identifying marks, serial numbers where available etc. Engraving or using microdots may also be good options.

Put up a sign on the fence “beware of the dog” and one on the shed “smile- your photo has already been emailed to the police”

Finally, remember that they will only really try to steal from you while you are not there. So (just for security purposes mind), the more time you spend out there, the less likely they will be to steal from you!

Hope that helps!

(I’d still prefer an Indiana Jones suitably sized bear clamp, with blowdarts, a 20′ granite boulder that is set loose if my handplanes are touched etc!)

Bots in the Woodshop?

And not the good kind.

I received an email this morning that set of a bunch of alarm bells for me, and thought I better mention it here in case others have gotten it as well.  It comes from “Andy” and is about a Drill Bit/Fastener Chart.

If those keywords are not familiar then you probably didn’t get the email (good).  It may be legitimate, but it has all the markings of a spam email, and links to an unfamiliar web location to download the chart, which is dangerous territory.  You might even get a chart from clicking on the link, but what else is included in the payload?

One practice that is common at the moment is to get people to click on a link that gets a download of something (a FedEx delivery document, porn etc), and included is a bot that gets installed on the computer.  At some stage in the future, a code is sent out through the bot network (or it is simply activated on a certain date), and all the infected computers act out their instruction (attack Microsoft, or whatever).  Part of the bot’s job can easily be to send copies of itself to all the contacts in your email list.  Talk about 7 degrees of separation – how many people’s email address are in your various email folders, and your contacts list?  Would they all know that an email from you wasn’t actually sent by you?

The concept is a Trojan, delivering a package with something else hidden inside.  In the original case, did Troy REALLY need a large wooden horse that arrived unsolicited on their doorstep?  Inside was something a little more incidious, that activated at a later date (that night), and threw open their security, costing them their city.

So perhaps this drill bit chart is legitimate, perhaps it is not.  The links look suspicious, and I have no need for a drill bit chart, especially one that arrived unsolicited.  So why expose myself, and my computer to the possible risk?

As I said recently on my IT blog (IT Savvy) – in this day and age, where it comes to computer terrorism – there is no “Be alert but not alarmed” (a catch-phrase of the Australian government during the recent terrorism activites in the world).  There is simply “Be alarmed”.

Power Runs

Been a quiet couple of days here (in the virtual shed) as it has been very busy otherwise.  So not a lot to report at this stage, although there’s always something 😉

– took the measurements and photos for the next blade review, and will be working on that over the next day or so

– secured the shed door (finally), so it now sports a pretty highly rated Lockwood bolt, staple and padlock, among other security methods that I’m not going to go into obviously.

– got the trailer to the tip, with an absolute mountain of rubbish, including the remains of the old shed, and its contents.  There is a cage on the trailer, and the rubbish pile was about 1 1/2 feet higher than that!

– picked up these power runs:

Shed Power

Shed Power

Hope they work out ok.  The first one is 12m long, cost about $32 and has a single power plug every 2 metres.  I’m going to run it down the middle of the roof for the lights, then across right hand wall to the front wall and back as far as it will go.  That will give me an extra power point for a light for the lathe, and another for the router table.

The second is 4m long, and has a double plug every 1m.  I bought two of these (given the shed is 8m long), and it will be run down the middle of the back wall for the full length.

Neither of these will be powering the 3HP (2400W) gear (router and tablesaw), which will have to have their own dedicated circuit.

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