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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 6:50 am 
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Location: Santiago, Chile
Gulp! I’m probably insane, but I am actually going to do this. (Unless you guys talk me out of it!)

Noob alert! I probably have no business even being here, much less trying to build my own studio, but I’m getting sick of having no decent place to track and mix that I can call my own, and having to traipse around all over the country to find places where I can work, dragging loads of equipment behind me.

So, Ill take a deep breath and just blurt it right out: I have decided to build a studio in my garage. There I said it! I just surprised myself! Even more surprising, my wife is on board with the project, and actually encouraging me to go ahead! (Well, for now, at least…. That might change a few months down the road!)

I have no idea what I’m doing here, and I’m way out of my league. I can build things (shed, garage, added on a couple of rooms to the house, some furniture, etc.), I have a decent set of what I suspect are the right tools (radial arm saw, compressor, nail guns, pneumatic caulker, the usual set of electric drills, planers, sanders, etc.), enough skills to use them without doing too much damage to myself or to the materials that I attack with them. And worst of all, I think I probably have just enough knowledge of acoustics to be dangerous. More to the point, I probably know just enough to be REALLY annoying to you guys that actually DO know what you are talking about. Which is why I’m here, I guess. (Not to annoy you! To learn from you).

I’ve read several books on acoustics and on studio design, (not Rod’s yet: I need to order that.), and I’ve just spent the last several days glued to my notebook screen, devouring as much of this site as I could, which I will continue to devour over the next several days. (Yes, days. Literally. Non-stop. This place is a gold mine, and I'm digging! I’m self-employed, so I get to do things like that, when work is a slow for a few days. Followed by periods of madly furious day-and-night activity, when things pick up again). So I think I get a bit of the theory of acoustics and construction, although I’m sure I’m about to be humbled in practice, both by you guys and by harsh reality.


So, first things first, according to the “Don’t even dare to THINK about posting here before you read this” sticky:

Where am I? Santiago, Chile. Way down there, at the other end of the planet. And that already brings up several challenges, since much of the neat stuff that I’d like to use, just is not available here (afaik), such as Green Glue, 703, etc. I’m going to have to do this with basic Home Depot type of materials. And no, we actually don’t even have Home Depot either! They used to be here, but pulled out 5 or 6 years ago. They sold out, and their stores are now called “Home Store”, but are not run like Home Depot was, and don’t stock the same brands… So I’m probably going to have to hunt down poor substitutes for whatever stuff you guys are going to suggest. Importing acoustic stuff would be prohibitively expensive.

What am I attempting to do? Get committed to the mental home, probably! But first I’d like to shoehorn a “studio” into my tiny garage. I’ll get into what I mean by “studio” later, but basically a control room and a live room. Really small ones.

Where am I right now in the project? Dreaming, basically. I have some rough ideas about layout, and I have an unlikely space to build them in. I need to first design the thing. Then build it. Then use it. Hopefully, in roughly that order. But first I'd like to hear from you guys, and pick your brains a bit, if I may.

How loud am I? For mixing, I like to keep it to manageable levels, around 80 to 85 dB(C) (yes, I do have a sound level meter, and yes I do use it), maybe 90 peak. For tracking, it’s another story: If the drummer wants to smash out 115 dB, then that’s how loud I am, even though I don’t want to be. I value my ears. Which is why I have this nutty notion that I’d like to squeeze both a live room AND a control room into this matchbox-sized garage, with at least a few dB of isolation between them, so that my ears don’t wilt and drop off when the drummer gets inspired.

What do I record? Mostly contemporary Christian music, which is pretty much everything across the board where I live. here in Latin America. Right now I’m working on a CD for a light-rock / ballad kind of musician (average kind of instruments: drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboard, lead singer, backing vocals, sax), and I also have lined up sessions for a folklore group (complete with harp, pan-pipes, accordion, charango, and congas, among other things… Don’t ask!), and also a Hip-hop group that I'm about to start tracking next week. So it’s pretty much anything and everything.

What is my budget? Realistically, I know this is going to cost me several thousand dollars (current estimate as at September 2008: US$ 6-8k) . Practically, I wish I could do it for about 50 cents. And I’m aware that, no matter what I set my budget to be at the beginning, the actual cost is going to be around twice that, at least. Murphy is a good friend of mine, and his law rules, OK? I know it’s also going to take me months longer than I ever expected, even in my most dismal, depressed, pessimistic moment. So be it. I’ll build as money allows, and I have some ideas (Aaaargh! That’s exactly what you guys did NOT want to here! A newbie who has ideas of his own!) I have some ideas on maybe being able to build it in stages, and use part of it early on to at least make some money, while construction carries on around me. For example, building the shell with basic acoustic treatment initially, so I can at least track and mix in one "large" room, then divide that into two (live + control), do more acoustic treatment, then finally the real finishing.

I’m sure that’s a terrible idea, to want to work and build in the same space (I hate to imagine my U47 having to live in the same environment as my radial arm saw!.). But I do want to start using it ASAP, to provide the funds to carry on building it. If you get what I mean.

So I’m guessing my budget to be around US$ 2k to 4k. Hopefully WAY less. Realistically… Oh well, … whatever. (EDIT NOTE: See the updated budget, a few paragraphs up. Way different, and still going up....)

The good news is that I think you guys have already convinced me to NOT float my floor. I hope you manage to keep me convinced, because that sounds like something that I really should NOT want to do…

The other good news is that you have also convinced me that I have to go for a full hermetically sealed “room within a room”, with two leaves all around. That’s what I’ll be heading for.

What do I have to work with? A nightmare! The space available is a long skinny two-car garage. Two very SMALL cars. More like one-car-and-a-pair-of-roller-blades. It’s roughly 3 meters wide, by 8.5 meters long (I guess metrics is OK here? I’m comfortable in Imperial measurements too, since I’ve lived in four countries in my life, two of which were metric, and two imperial, with Chile being a strange mix of both). Of that 8.5 meters of total length, I get to use about 5 meters for this project. That’s about all that I can spare, as the rest still needs to used for washer, dryer, laundry, chest freezer, gas cylinders (big ones, four of them) and the water heater. I COULD stretch that to maybe 5 1/2 meters, but I’d rather not, if possible. My wife would probably also start being less enthusiastic about the project if her laundry started to shrink...

What’s it made of? The “north” wall is concrete and brick, with 25 x 25 cm concrete and rebar pillars and beams, filled in with 13 cm thick brick-and-plaster (I think you guys call it “stucco”?: basically just a mix of sand and cement, kind of like mortar, applied with a trowel over the bricks, in a layer about 1 cm thick). On the other side of that wall is the kitchen, but since the house is on a slight slope, the garage floor is “sunken” about 52 cm below the kitchen floor. So you go down two steps from the kitchen into the garage, Thus a fair sized chunk of that north wall is actually the foundations of the kitchen (very substantial concrete and rebar), and behind that is dirt. This is good, I think, from the point of view of construction and acoustical isolation? Anyway, I’m not too concerned about that wall, since it only joins the kitchen. It’s not too bad to have a bit of noise coming through. This wall is not the highest priority. Worst case, I could probably treat the OTHER side of that wall, if I had to, inside the kitchen. Maybe stick some layers of sheetrock on it, or something. There is one window in the wall, but it is in the section that will not be part of the studio, and will remain in the laundry.

The “south” wall is a problem: It is also concrete and brick, but it is unfinished brick, and is actually the dividing wall that separates my garage from the neighbor’s garage. The center of that wall is my property line. Not fun. So I am absolutely connected (I think you guys refer to it as “coupled”) to the house next door. My garage slab is coupled to theirs, via the brick wall in between. We have a good relationship with the neighbors, and I‘d really like to keep it that way! Which, of course, is part of the reason why I need to build the studio.

The roof (there is no ceiling yet) slopes slightly across the garage: On the “north” side (abutting the kitchen) it is around 2.85 m high and on the “south” side it is around 2.45 m. I say “around”, since the floor isn’t that level, so it’s hard to give an accurate reading. The roof is basically 2x6 beams (joists? rafters?), 16” O.C. covered with 18mm plywood, and asphalt tiles (“shingles” for the USA?) on top. It’s already carrying a fairly heavy load. The roof is resting on 2x8 beams that run the full length of each wall, and are bolted to it with an assortment of bolts, every 16 inches or so. If I have to add much mass to the roof, then I am going to need to reinforce that wall. (I guess you’ve noticed that this crazy country where I live uses a mixture of measurements? Dimensioned lumber is sold and specified the same as in the USA, as 2”x4”, 2”x6”, etc, except that it comes in lengths of 3.2 meters, 4 meters, 5 meters. Manufactured wood is specified and sold in the metric system. So if I wanted a 4 foot x 8 foot sheet of 3/4 plywood, I would actually buy it as a 1.22 x 2.44 m sheet of 18 mm plywood. But I would then nail it to the 2” x 4” studs that come in lengths of 3.2 meters, and I would buy 4 inch nails to put do that…. Then I’d by 20 meters of 3/8” copper pipe, and an adapter to hook that up to my 10mm faucet, plus 20mm electrical conduit running through 1 inch holes, and I'd buy paint in 1 gallon cans, which covers so many square meters, but using a 4 inch brush or a 25cm roller... You get the picture… it’s a mess!)

Anyway, excuse that rant. Back to the roof: On the south end of the roof (the low end), there is a rain gutter that is inset into the beams (rafter? Joists? I don’t know what terminology you guys use!!!) In other words, there is a notch cut into the top of each beam, and the gutter sits in those notches. There is still a good 4 1/2 inches of wood under the notch, so there is plenty of support., as long as I don’t have to add too much extra mass up there. The roof will be my outer leaf. Oh, and the gutter leaks at present. I guess I should repair that before I build the studio?? :)

The floor is concrete slab laid on dirt, which is good news and bad news. I don’t know how thick it is, or if it has rebar, but I’m assuming that it is at least 10 cm (4”) and does have plenty of rebar in it, partly because this house was built by my father-in-law about 50 years ago, and is built like a tank! I hate it when my wife wants to hang a new picture, because that’s a job for my percussion drill with a tough 10mm masonry bit, and several minutes drilling, just get a plastic dowel and small screw in!. Secondly, Chile is an earthquake zone, and code probably requires rebar in all concrete. The floor has survived several earthquakes already, including the big one back in '85, with only minor surface cracking, so I think it must have rebar in it. Code does require that today, but I’m not sure about 50 years ago, when the house was built… I guess I might have to bight the bullet, and drill through part of the slab, to see what it is made of. I don’t think I can cut the slab, to decouple form the neighbor's property, as I’ve been told that it is part of the seismic structure of the house, and in any event I suspect it is holding up the south wall!

The other problem with the floor, (and this is a doozy!): It has the inspection chamber for the sewer, smack bang in the middle of it! I have NO idea how I’m going to work around that one, and there really isn’t much I can do about it. I can’t see any place else to move that chamber, and I’m not even sure that I could legally do so. This is going to be a BIG issue, obviously.

The “west” wall is the garage doors, out to the street. At present, they open out into the carport that I built several years back (where the cars live now), which is just built from 100 x100 mm square profile steel, set in concrete and welded together, with “Zincalum” sheeting on top (kind of like corrugated metal). The garage doors are just a pair of solid wood “things”, that hinge outwards, floor to ceiling, into the carport space. The doors will have to go, of course, and be replaced with something else. I’m averse to bricking up the doorway, which would probably be the smart thing to do. I’m thinking along the lines of keeping some kind of really thick solid wooden doors on the outside, as the outer leaf, so that it still looks like a garage from the street, then building an inner leaf, also with decent sized doors of some kind (maybe not as big as the outside ones) for loading gear in and out of the studio easily.

The “east” wall does not exist yet. That’s the one that will divide the studio from the laundry. My idea is that the control room will go on this end, butting up to the laundry, and the live room on the other end, with direct doors to the outside world.

I downloaded “SketchUp” last night, and as soon as I learn to use it, I’ll model the space that I have available, and some of the ideas that I’m thinking of for the basic layout. I’ll also take some pictures, just as soon as I remove enough of the junk that is piled up in the garage, so that you can actually see the walls and the roof…


What questions do I have?

1. Firstly, am I nuts to want to do this?

2. Is it reasonable to think that I can get a control room AND a live room into such a tiny space? Remember all I have is 3m by 5.5m. I’d like to be able to get a full drum kit in the live room (preferably with the drummer too…), so it needs to be big enough to do that and not sound too terrible. Is that an impossible dream, or is it do-able?

3. Is it reasonable to think that I can get the levels down enough so that a crazy drummer is barely audible on the other side of the “south” wall (the brick wall that abuts the neighbor’s garage)? If the drummer is belting it out at 110 dB, can I really expect to bring that down to something like 50 or 55 on the other side of that wall? I probably won’t be able to do record at night: I have no illusions about that. But I would like to be able to mix at night (I’m a night owl), assuming maybe 90 dB peak levels, and nothing audible outside the studio. Is that realistic?

4. What on earth can I do with that damn sewer inspection chamber? Moving it seems to be out of the question: I would have to break the slab and re-route drains into the carport, but the carport floor slopes badly, and I was told that code requires inspection chambers on a flat surface (I’ll check with the municipality and with a plumber, but I don’t have high hopes that I’ll be able to move it). With my current layout, it is going to end up more or less right under the wall that separates the control room from the live room, unless I can figure out a creative way around that. And I cannot seal it up completely, as it IS an inspection chamber, and we MIGHT need access to it one day. In the 14 years that I've been living in this house, we've never had to open it, but my friend Murphy tells me that exactly seventeen minutes after I seal it up with the last section of my brand new studio floor, there will be a major blockage that will only be accessible through that chamber...

I hate the thought of having to open that in the middle of my immaculate studio to clean out the sewer one day, but that’s the way it is! Is there any realistic way to building some kind of trapdoor into the floor that would allow access to that, but would also seal up the room tight enough, acoustically? I think this is going to be my biggest headache…


5. Since I do have a sloping roof, is there any way of using that acoustically, and sloping the ceiling, which will be my inner leaf? Or should I just aim for a flat ceiling? One thing I was considering is having the control room run sideways across the garage, making it 3 m “long” and maybe 2.5 “wide”, then have the roof sloping up and away from the mix position. In other words, my chair would be facing the south wall, where the roof is lowest, with the north wall behind me, where the roof is higher. That seems to be what I have seen on some plans and photos here and in books, for some studios. Is that possible / useful? The extra height might help to make the rooms seem not so small aesthetically, and I guess it could have some useful acoustic effects.

I have about 5 million other questions, but I think I need to stop now and ask you guys to judge my sanity first, and bring me down to earth again.

If you’ve read through my entire spiel up to this point, then either you are REALLY interested in this project, or you are having a REALLY boring day, with nothing better to do, and hoping that this meaningless drivel will put you to sleep…. ( I hope it’s the former! )


Stuart.



(edited (twice, so far) to fix sum rilly bat spellink errorz... like the roof is not supported by "beans" but rather by "beams"! :oops: ...)
(and also to update the budget estimate, and neaten things up a bit)



ANOTHER UPDATE: REAL DESIGN SPECS!!! (December 2008)
I finally dare to think that I know enough to specify some real numbers as my design specs:

RT60: I'd like to shoot for an RT60 time of under 0.5 seconds across the entire spectrum, with no more than 0.1 second variation between adjacent 1/3 octave bands.

STC: Yeah, I know! STC rating isn't really applicable to studios at all, but I'm aiming for STC of at least 60 between my rooms and the neighbors house, which is less than 50 centimeters away on the other side of the south wall.... (!) And STC 50 for LR to CR, LR to outside, CR to laundry, and LR / CR to kitchen.

Transmission loss: State another way, I'm aiming for at least 30 dB TL at the low end of the spectrum (down to 50 Hz), following the usual curves for Mass Law, partition resonance-governed, coincidence dip, etc, up to at least 65 dB TL at 10 kHz.

Room response: I'm aiming for "flat" response across the entire spectrum that my speakers can produce and that I can measure (aprox. 45 Hz to 20 kHz), with maximum variation of +/-10 dB. I will measure at 1 Hz. intervals up to 300 Hz,, then 1/3 octave bands from there up.

----------------------------

ONE MORE UPDATE: TARGET ROOM RATIO FOR CR (March 2009)
I'm aiming for Sepmeyer's first ratio, since it is the closest fit to the almost-cubed dimensions of my control room. the goal is therefore 1:1.14:1.39. I'm getting close by nudging things here and there, but sill a bit off. I'm also swapping "Height" for "Width", otherwise my ceiling would be so low as to be impractical and my CR would be so wide that it would eat into the LR space.


----------------------------


Last edited by Soundman2020 on Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:12 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 8:42 am 
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Stuart,

FINALLY!!!!

Someone that gets it!!!

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 10:25 am 
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Stuart, if only all noob introductions would be like this... in my opinion you already qualify for a moderator here :D Well done on your first post and welcome to the forum! You've at least given it a lot of thought which is good. Wow... just wow. And you came to the right place too. Let us learn from you as well!

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 12:16 pm 
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Thanks for the welcome, guys! You make me feel a bit better already. Partially sane, at least. But I have NO idea at all what you could possibly learn from me, Edo! But thanks for trying to make me feel better!.

I'm playing around with SketchUp right now. Looks pretty cool! I might be able to post some rough sketches tomorrow, with luck.

Stuart.


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 Post subject: Progress report:
PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 12:07 pm 
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Since I'm planning to make this into a diary of the "Saga Of My Studio", I guess I should report on progress every now and then. It's not much at all really, but my wife and I spent a few hours today, starting on the task of cleaning out all the junk in the garage, to make space for the studio. Hours of work, and very little to show for it, except lots of bags of junk waiting on the curb! It's amazing how much "stuff" one accumulates over the years, and it looks like it has all somehow managed to secretly migrate to the garage, and start breeding...

I was hoping to post some photos here today, but it's not really worth it yet. All that you can see is piles of junk. Not really useful for getting an idea of the available area.

But watch this space! Coming soon...


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 26, 2008 4:46 pm 
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OK, I'm still trying to figure out this SketchUp thing properly, and I've only been able to do something pretty basic so far, to give you guys an idea of the available space. I'm working on fleshing out the details, and inserting my initial concept of the layout so that you guys can tear it apart and tell me how to fix it, but that's not ready yet.

Anyway, at least it's some kind of progress, and should actually give you a better visual idea.

Stuart


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 6:10 am 
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I'm starting to get the hang of this SketchUp thingy. Pretty neat, but not too intuitive in some places.

Anyway, here are a couple more images of the space, one from each.


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Last edited by Soundman2020 on Thu Dec 04, 2008 12:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 10:53 am 
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Hi Stuart i think i should talk to you in spanish for a bit jejeje. .. Hola hombre no sabes cuanto me sorprendio ver a alguien de Chile tambien metido aqui sin duda es la primera vez. Te cuento soy de Quilpue aqui en la quinta region, y he seguido este foro durante un par de años.

Estudio sonido aqui en Viña y estoy cosntruyendo mi estudio hace un par de meses ya ( el control room esta listo en la obra gruesa). Bueno solo te queria decir que cualqueir cosa que necesites, discutir materiales cotizaciones en tiendas de aca y cosas concernientes a la idiosincracia de nuestros distribuidores de materiales (easy, homecenter, etc), estoy mas que dispuesto y creo que nos podriamos ayudar porque es verdad que cuesta mucho encontrar los materiales con los que los moderadores y usuarios en general de este foro trabajan.

Bueno dejo de darte la lata solo te dejo la invitacion para que cualquier cosa que necesites me avises y nada contento de ver a otro compatriota (o persona de Chile si no es el caso ejeje) metido en este foro.

Mis mejores deseos y ojala nos comuniquemos.

PD: tengo el libro de rod gervais, llego por amazon y realmente util.

Bueno Adios

Cristian.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 1:00 pm 
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Aloha and welcome to the forum Stuart,

Great job on your opening post.

But in the midst of it, I seem to have missed your floor to ceiling dimensions, so if I may ask, what might that be?

Aloha 8)

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 2:11 am 
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miztian wrote:
Hi Stuart i think i should talk to you in spanish for a bit jejeje. .. Hola hombre no sabes cuanto me sorprendio ver a alguien de Chile tambien metido aqui sin duda es la primera vez. ...

Cristian.


Hola Cristian, y muchas gracias por el bienvenido y por la oferta de ayuda! Seguramente te voy a cobrar la palabra! Pero en los intereses de mantener este foro internacional, creo que sería mejor usar el inglés. Yo podría traducir sus comentarios si no te sientes cómodo escribiendo en inglés. Después de todo, es lo que hago para ayudar a pagar las cuentas: Soy traductor español -> inglés, medio jornada.

Stuart



TRANSLATION (for those who don't speak Spanish): Cristian welcomed me to the forum, and is pleasantly surprised to find me posting here, since he is also located in Chile but has never seen anyone else from Chile on the forum, even though he has been following it for a couple of years. He is already well advanced with the construction of his studio, and he offered his help in locating materials here in Chile, and in finding substitutes, since he has already "been there and done that" over the course of his studio build.

My reply:

Hi Cristian, and thanks for the welcome and the offer of help! I'll certainly be taking you up on that. But in the interests of keeping this forum international, I think it would be better to use English. I could translate your comments here if you don’t feel comfortable posting in English. After all, that’s what I do to help pay the bills: I’m a freelance Spanish to English translator.

Cristian, do you already have a thread here, with your project on it? Any photos?

Stuart


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 2:42 am 
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kendale wrote:
Aloha and welcome to the forum Stuart,

Great job on your opening post.

But in the midst of it, I seem to have missed your floor to ceiling dimensions, so if I may ask, what might that be?

Aloha 8)


Hi Kendale, and thanks for the welcome.

Yeah, I did get a bit inspired with that long explanation, didn't I? But you guys DID ask for as many details as possible! Maybe I took you just a bit too literally ... .)

Anyway, the roof details are in there somewhere:

"The roof (there is no ceiling yet) slopes slightly across the garage: On the “north” side (abutting the kitchen) it is around 2.85 m high and on the “south” side it is around 2.45 m."


Maybe I should do a post that just summarizes the dimensions and basics, in a couple of lines, to save folks the trouble of reading through the whole chapter?


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Aloha Stuart,

Thanks for clearing that up. :wink: While a recap would help clarify things up, most of us here at the forum prefer that first time posters WOULD include the kind of information you have, so in that sense, thanks for making the effort to describe your situation.

Give me a few, and I'll try to have something for in a bit.

Aloha 8)

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Soundman2020 wrote:
and he offered his help in locating materials here in Chile, and in finding substitutes, since he has already "been there and done that" over the course of his studio build.


An added bonus!

Chance favors those that are prepared. :) (to borrow partly from Louis Pasteur)

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Great Stuart, i`ll be following your thread closely, hope everything works out great for you.

Good luck

Bye


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 Post subject: A question of etiquette
PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 12:46 pm 
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Location: Santiago, Chile
I'm just wondering about the etiquette of this forum: I've found some SketchUp designs here which have bits and pieces that I'd like to use in the model of my own studio. Is it OK to just cut-and-paste pieces from other people's models? For example, there are some slot resonators on one "small studio" design that I'd like to use, plus some walls-with-insulation-batts, a set of air-lock doors, and that kind of thing. Can I just copy these, or should I go to the trouble of building my own?


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