Shop arrangement and setup

Shop owners describe the best and worst aspects of their workspaces. March 21, 2002

I typically build trim, picture frames, mirrors, bedroom sets, kitchen tables and the occasional cabinet or vanity. I am finishing my new 24' x 30' shop, located under my attached garage. The shop is separated from the basement of the house by a 12" insulated concrete form wall (2" of extruded polystyrene insulation on each side of a poured 8" thick concrete wall). I installed a separate furnace with heavy-duty filters and its own exhaust and return air, so as not to contaminate the house air. I have the basic idea laid out for dust collection and air filtration.

What is your favorite thing about your shop and what is the biggest pain in the butt, as far as placement of machinery, layout, etc?

Forum Responses
My favorite in my shop is my bench top rollovers that I designed for my smaller machines. Simple, fast, easy to rollover. The worst thing I had in my shop was my furnace - somehow dust was still getting inside no matter what I did or bought, until I bought an outside hardy wood burner and put radiant heat in there. Now I'm a happy guy.

Being able to move equipment around is a big thing. My shop is my garage, 20 x 24, and I have one long bench about 10 feet by 30" deep that works well. However, I would really like a portable worktable of sorts for the middle of the shop - something I can walk and work around. Currently using an old door and sawhorses. This is not too stable at times. Also, storage is a problem due to limited wall space. I built a couple of wall cabinets that already are overflowing with finishes, glue bottles and the like.

Someplace in The Family Handyman a couple of years ago was the plans for a really neat bench to go around the walls. It was kind of an upside-down A or delta shape so the top was 2' x 8', the middle shelf was about 12" x 8' and the bottom shelf was about 6" x 8'. This is a pretty nice design because you can keep the floor swept easily and you can't "hide" things on shelves. With most shelf designs having equal width shelves, stuff gets put on shelves never to be seen again, but still collects more than its share of dust. This prevents, or at least minimizes, that.

I built 6 sections for my daughter's place and it really works great. With the stock design, you can lag bolt it to about anything and at any height. You might consider building a rolling work table about 4' x 7' that would partially slide under one of these units.

I also suggest putting your air compressor in a small shed. This keeps the noise/vibration down and allows you to play some games to get a drier air supply in the summer.

For lots of ideas, get Landis' Workshop Book.

I had a shop with a bench bolted to the wall. The only good thing about it was it made a solid place to bolt my metal vise. It was not a woodworking bench. I have always had a shop-made traditional bench that I use a lot.

My suggestion is to use the walls for storage. Above waist height, hang tools on pegboards, below cabinets with doors. Mine don't have doors and are collecting dust very nicely.

My favorite piece is my assembly table. The top is 60" x 36", part of a commercial fire door. The door is about 2" thick covered with a high temp 'formica'. Cleanup is easy. It is 24" high on a heavy open frame with heavy-duty casters. I don't have stops on the casters but they might be handy. On the bracing of the table I hang/lay my clamps easily at hand.

I'm still not happy with my wood storage and scrap handling.

You can never have enough bench space. I have 3 benches and am building my fourth. All but 1 have locking wheels and are 1/2" lower in height to my table saw so they will never get in the way of large material cuts. They were all assembled with bolts and screws so they can be dismantled. For large cabinet layouts and glue-ups, 1 of my benches is 3' by 8'. I figure that is the largest carcass I will ever assemble.

Organize your tools. This saves me a lot of time when I work on a project. Categorize your tools and put them in associated groups and containers. I also have a container near each machine for the tools necessary for adjustments and blade changes for that machine. This saves a lot of time.

Get good lighting. This is needed to make accurate adjustments, measurements and layouts. Florescent is okay for general shop lighting but I also have 150 watt halogen lights from my hardware store. The ones I use have a small stand made from 1/2" tubing. I use a 1/2" conduit brace to attach them above each machine and bench.

I built a large closet for my dust collection system. It is airtight and lined with plastic except where it is vented with a hole, where I have a large furnace filter (a good one). If you do this it will cut down on noise and you will not have to spring for the 1 or 5 micron dust collector bag filters because it is all contained.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
I picked up an old heavy duty drafting table to use in the shop. The great thing is there is a foot pedal at the floor that can lower or raise the table height (great for my sore back). Also you can tilt the table almost all the way to 90 degrees vertical. I added wheels to it with locks to move it anywhere in the shop (outfeed table). I just thought it was a great buy "free." Very few architect's offices use these anymore since everything has gone to CAD.

Comment from contributor B:
I find myself building most of my best jigs myself. I needed a mobile assemby table so after researching everything imaginable over the web and local dealers, I found Harbor Freight had a scissor lift table, 20x32 for 200.00, and I removed the cart's handle, built a 2x5ft with top of 1 1/4 in laminations, then attached a mahogany (bang) 1 3/4 in door to it! Nice workbench, 36x80. Adjusts from 10 in from floor to about 38 in high. I can sit on one end (160lbs) without tilting, so it will work for cabinets. It has casters and lockable front casters. 220.00 total. It doubles as a material handler!