New shop specs and layout

      Electric power and other considerations for a new cabinet shop. April 24, 2002

I'm looking for guidance regarding layout standards for a cabinet/furniture shop. I'm curious about 2 phase and 3 phase power, ceiling heights and lighting.

Forum Responses
You should check out the book "Setting Up Shop" by Sandor Nagyszalanczy. It addresses some of the issues you have brought up.

I do not recommend setting up anything around 2 phase electrical hookup. There probably aren't many tools or pieces of equipment in North America that use 2 phase. However, 3 phase is the standard for industrial equipment. So, you may want to give a lot of thought to the type of equipment you want to use.

Most electrical motors over 7 1/2 horsepower are 3 phase. So, table saws, many drill presses, shapers and other core stationary pieces of equipment are available either way. However, it would be foolish to run anything on the wrong type of power. If you plan on expanding into CNC routers, or a Timesaver wide belt, or even just a sizable dust collector (i.e. 15 or more horsepower) you should plan on 3 phase from the beginning. You will of course still need single phase for the hand tools, drills, PC routers, office equipment, etc.

Three phase power is the only way to go for an industrial shop. But there is more to it than that. You need to talk to you power company about your demand needs, now and projected. Three phase power is not available everywhere and can be very costly to have brought to you. Where you set up shop can be as important as how you set up shop.

Ceiling height depends on your product. For us, it's 14'. For a cabinet shop, 10' might do just fine.

Heating is another issue. If I had to start over again I would put radiant heat in my concrete floors. And over-light the place. You can always turn off a few but when you need more, it's there.

Take a look at T-8 type florescent lighting. These tubes use three different kinds of phosphorous and produce a brighter light. Unlike standard tube lights, these do not dim as they get older. Supposedly you get the same lumins with 1/3 less electricity consumption.

As a footnote to 3 phase: You can usually get better deals on three phase at auctions. This is because the weekenders don't bid the price up as much for 3 phase. (This is also why my long-range retirement plan included proactive purchases of single phase for my shop!)

From the original questioner:
I have been struggling with the single/three phase debate. I can get 3-phase but the monthly base rate is much higher. However, I can see the value for certain types of machines. I have an older Dewalt radial arm saw (16' blade) that would be great to setup. I am thinking about having a pneumatic line installed and am curious about range of tools besides router/grinders that use air?

Depending on usage, three phase power can be generated with a rotary converter. While not as efficient as that coming off the power line, it can be made to work. From the power company, you will encounter two types - V-phase and delta bank. V-phase uses one large transformer, say 50KW and a kicker, say 15kw. Two legs are run from the larger transformer and one from the smaller. This type is possible even if three phase is not available off the pole and is about 85% efficient. The delta bank on the other hand uses three equal transformers, say 35kw and has one line coming off each - two have 120 volts each and the third is a wild leg which might vary as much as 170 volts. Across any two lines you will have 240 volts. If you are to run a commercial shop, this type is the most desirable.

As far as air is concerned, most equipment will need air. From the small hinge insertion machines to the wide belt sander or even a Castle mortise machine.

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