How to build a rocket workshop (part 3: the emergency exit)

You know what they say: when god closes one door, he opens another. Right?

I was googling to find the exact phrase (and its original source) and apparently one of the most popular google searches along these lines is “when god closes all doors.” If that happens, you should be very concerned. It’s definitely a bad sign.

For example, the room can suddenly erupt in a fiery inferno, and if god has closed all doors, how are you going to escape? You need an emergency exit. And if one doesn’t exist, you may need to build it yourself.

This, then, is the story of me building my own emergency exit to escape the inevitable fire and billowing black smoke that is sure to occur in the near future: aka, installing a door.

Double doors on shed, made of plywood, with padlock
plywood doors + padlock. not super inviting

Our mundane garden shed came with what might generously be described as French doors. Generously would be the key word, here, because the doors are cheap, made of nothing other than thin plywood, and completely windowless. There’s no handle per se, but a nice metal padlock secures the structure from unwanted intrusion.

This phase of the shed-to-workshop project calls for the complete removal of these doors, and replacing them with a real door.

As with the windows, a lot of this is just measuring and planning. I considered putting in double doors (real non-plywood ones), but this is actually kind of a narrow space for that – the opening is only about 48 inches wide. On the other hand, that’s too wide for a single standard door, whose width is generally 36 inches. I decided to go with a single door and just put in a new wooden frame to accommodate it.

The height is also unusual here. A standard door would be approximately 78 to 80 inches in height, but the opening here with the plywood doors removed is only about 60 inches. Yes, that’s only five feet, meaning I have to duck to enter or exit, no matter what kind of door I use. It is a shed, after all.

In the end, I decided to get a fiberglass door, cut to a custom shorter height, with a large glass window to let in more natural light.

With the decisions made and planning complete, I placed an order for the door at a local shop, which includes the door jamb (i.e., the wooden part around the sides and top of the door). It arrived about a week later; in the meantime, I also picked up a heavy duty external locking door handle from Home Depot. As with the windows, I enlisted some help in removing the old plywood doors, framing and installing this new door.

Front view of shed, with a new white door with glass window panel
a legit door. much classier!

But it’s finally done! You can see where the old plywood doors had been, and where their hinges had been attached. We were able to repurpose some of the plywood from the old doors to fill in the gap (since the new door is narrower), caulking to fill in the spaces.

Of course, this still needs some additional work to finish and clean it up. I’ll need to paint the entire front wall blue again, which will first require matching the exact shade of blue and buying the paint. And I’ll also need to paint the wood trim around the door, something like white or grey.

View of shed from outside, with new front door and side windows
workshop starting to take shape, at least externally

But cleaning up and painting is no big deal. The hard part is over, and the place has a nice new door! A proper emergency exit, which you can be sure I’ll use during an upcoming welding mishap or rocket engine explosion.

The workshop is coming along nicely. I think the next step will be to get a butcher block countertop and install that inside so I have a nice large workbench for rocket projects.