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Shop Design - Space Saving Solutions For a Small Work Area

Every woodworker has nightmares of bad shops: windowless basements, low ceilings, cold floor, poor lighting and water. However, that is not my point. My point is that when I moved into a house with a one-car garage, 11 ft. wide and 19 ft. long, I wondered how I would fit a shop into such a tight space. Typically, a woodworking shop starts in a corner of the garage or basement. Over time, you add tools, develop new skills, build larger pieces, and change the layout. Then at some point, you may need to completely rethink and overhaul your existing space. There are four steps to accomplish this task: Graph It, Map It, Condense it, Enjoy It.

1. Graph It

The goals of any woodworker should be to

*Plan out the space on paper first.

*Aim for efficiency and functionality.

*Think about noise and comfort.

Often the most important considerations are saving space and laying out your tools for an efficient workflow. You can use a modeling program on your computer such as Google's SketchUp or use graph paper with a 1/4-inch grid. A 1/2-inch equals 1 inch format seems to work well. Measure the larger tools first. Arrange them on graph paper to create paper cut outs to be used as a plan view of your shop. Take the time to work out the most efficient placement of benches, cabinets, and machines, taking into account in-feed and out-feed zones as well as dust collection. The benefit of doing this exercise is that you can plan where you will place electrical outlets, soundproofing, insulation, or heating/cooling items.

2.Mapping out the territory

In a small shop, moving wood is easier than moving machines. For example, create adjacent, sequential zones for lumber storage, rough/finish cutting, sanding, assembly, and staining. Start out with paper cut outs, drawn to scale, of all large equipment.

Fitting the major machines such as tablesaw, jointer, planer, bandsaw, router table, drill press and chopsaw into a small room can create problems. As in most shops, large stationary tools demand the most space, so the tablesaw seems a good place to start. Rest large tools on mobile bases. I also kept an eye on the horizontal arrangement of tools and workstations, making sure that the outfeed from certain tools, like my tablesaw, could rest on the chopsaw table. This arrangement takes care of major stationary tools.

3.Condense It

Next, consolidate equipment to maximize space. For example, I placed the tabletop bandsaw and small drill press on the oversized base under my tablesaw. The chopsaw and scroll saw are housed on one moveable modular bench. Old cabinets became a workbench. Screws, bolts, dowels, and other small fasteners are effortless located. A tall vertical shelving unit was constructed to store equipment like my planner and hand held tools. The compact arrangement created an ample area to assemble larger pieces of furniture. As I had access to all sides of a piece, fitting, sanding, and staining were performed quicker.

To keep dust and other contaminates out, it is an ideal situation to have a separate room to apply stain, paint, or protective coatings. However, I do not have that option. Instead, I built a small room out of small ABS pipes covered with clear plastic. When not needed, it is easily taken apart and stored away.

4. Enjoy It

A good workshop should be simple and sensible, but designed with an eye toward efficiency. A sensible shop makes you work better and smarter. It is just the kind of place where I want to spend time planning, working, or unwinding.

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