Woodworking Shops Part II

If you didn’t read yesterday’s blog, Part I of a three part series on woodworking shops, I’d advise you to back up a day and read it, as it’s the “start” in terms of figuring out how to design your new shop.

To continue…

Think in terms of “workflow.” Can some of the infeed/outfeed spaces be overlapped? For example, the table of a band saw may be a bit higher than a table saw table. That’s great! Now the band saw can be oriented such as the infeed or outfeed passes over the table saw, thereby doubling up on some of the floor space. By making workbenches and storage cabinets the same height as stationary tools, the surfaces can double as infeed or outfeed tables. Weather permitting, shop doors can be opened to extend outfeed to handle longer work pieces.

Corners may have to be cut. In an ideal world a dedicated stand is available for each power tool. It may not be realistic to have each and every tool perched atop a stand. Some of the smaller power tools, such as benchtop planers, belt/disc sanders, grinders, miter saws, etc., can be stored away in cabinets, and quickly set up on a bench when needed. There may not even be room for a traditional work bench. A commercially-made folding workbench might be a more viable solution. A piece of plywood can be clamped to the top for added workspace, and then stow the plywood and the folding bench along a wall when not in use. If wall space is at a premium (which it often is) they can be hung from ceiling hooks.

Larger stationary tools, like table saws and jointers, can be placed on rolling bases. This allows them to be stored in a more out-of-the-way location when not in use. When it comes time to use them, they can be rolled out on the floor, and oriented accordingly based on the work piece at hand. Thus only one tool need be in position at a time, unless planning to have more than one person working in the shop simultaneously. This means a bit more time is spent shuffling large tools around, and retrieving and putting away tools which would otherwise have a permanent spot in a larger shop. Unfortunately, this is the price to pay for having a compact work area. Get into this mind-set now, and before long, the extra chore will hardly be noticeable.

Think “double-duty.” Set up tools in a multi-use configuration to save space. A good example of this is to add a wing to a table saw to accommodate a router. Voila! – Instant router table. It might be possible to even find a way to double up the table saw’s fence as a router table fence. Build jigs to take the place of stand-alone tools. For example, a simple router jig can be constructed for milling mortises, as a substitute for a dedicated bench-top mortising machine. A table-mounted router with a straight bit can take the place of a jointer for truing the edges of boards. There are certain “multi-purpose” woodworking tools available, perhaps the best example being the Shopsmith tool. Other tools combine functions, such as a planer/jointer.

Scale down. Unless the need truly exists for a large tool, a smaller version may do the trick. Selecting a bench-top drill press over a floor-standing model can save a lot of precious space. Similarly, a bench-top planer occupies much less real estate than its full-size brethren, and its portability enables easy storage when it is not being used. If a table saw is too bulky a good 14-inch band saw will perform many of the same functions (plus a few unique ones), without the large footprint. Cutting sheet goods can be done quite accurately across sawhorses with nothing more than a circular saw and a straightedge.

In small woodworking shops, become adept at utilizing every inch of space. Storage cabinets are no exception, and if self-built, they can be very efficient places to keep your smaller tools and accessories. The key is to customize the size and shape to carefully fit into empty spaces in the work area. The walls may appear “busy” and bristling with shelves, nooks and crannies, however it is surprising how much stuff can be stored along ten or fifteen feet of wall space.

Storage cabinets and shelves need not be fancy. Carefully plan the best locations to place them. If space is getting tight around the floor area, consider mounting cabinets and shelving up high on the walls. They can even be out of reach – the only thing needed is a small step stool to get at them. Having storage units higher up on the wall frees up more space below, and keeps from feeling as “crowded” while working. Make the shelves adjustable, so they can be raised and lowered to closely accommodate the dimensions of the items being stowed away. Fasteners, drill bits and other small items can be stored in so-called parts cabinets having many small drawers. Provided the roof system is properly designed to support the weight, lumber can be stored in an attic or in the trusses, or can be suspended from the ceiling.

Stationary tools with open stands present a storage opportunity. A table saw with legs, has space below which is wasted. Consider removing the open-frame stand and mounting the machine atop a rolling cabinet. One can be constructed from 3/4″ plywood. It needn’t be elaborate – a wooden box to set the saw on will suffice. Now there is room to store stuff below, like blades, push blocks, jigs, etc.

Clamps pose unique storage problems, and these are best stored on some kind of rack. This can be as simple as cutting a series of notches in a narrow board, and attaching the board horizontally on the wall. Bars and pipe clamps can be hung from these notches. C-clamps can be stored simply by clamping them onto various protruding surfaces. There are many clever ways to stash away your smaller items.

OK, so this is a lot to think about.  Come back tomorrow when I finish up this three part series on woodworking shops to learn about electricity, lighting, heating and the most important aspect of all, your safety!

One thought on “Woodworking Shops Part II

  1. One shop project tends to lead to more and more… Plan ahead for an addition when you are ready to add a foundry for your pattern making or glass blowing, hot rod shop, black smithing the right building can make the difference between your full potential and a life in front of the boob tube saying “would’a could’a should’a”


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