Decisions made setting up your personal woodwork
shop should be made using your own personal preferences. There
is no single right way, set it up using your own needs
and inclination, don't let someone influence you into making choice that
are not what you need, it's your workshop build it your way.
Create a Work Triangle
The goal in designing your home workshop is to create a similar work
triangle that allows you to maximize the amount of space you have to
comfortably create the kind of projects you want. Architects do this
when designing kitchens, the three points of the kitchen work triangle
is the stove, the refrigerator, and the main counter space and sink
The three main points of the home workshop are the stationary power
tools, the workbench and where you store your hand tools and supplies.
Start by graphing the space you can devote to the shop. Do this to
scale. Make scaled cutouts of your major tools, benches, storage, etc.
Try different arrangements using the work triangle method. Remember to
consider existing obstacles that cannot be moved, such as, doors,
windows, furnaces, cars, etc.
You may not always be able to start out with all the space you’d like to
have, but with some thinking, planning and organization, you can
probably end up with a shop comfortable enough to do the kind of
woodworking you will be doing.
Strive For Comfort
A home woodwork shop is more than a place where you make sawdust. It is a
place you will spend a lot of time, so try to make it as comfortable as
possible. Thinking and planning is so important when building a
woodworking project, you will need a comfortable place to sit as you
draft and think out your projects. A drafting board that can be stored
and a comfy stool are necessities.
Books, plans, manuals and reference materials need to have their own
easy-to-reach storage, yet be fairly well protected. A wall shelf-box
with a cover might do the trick.
Most shops are in areas where you have little or no heat at all. With
the modern and efficient ceramic and other types of electric heaters,
keeping your shop warm and comfortable is no problem.
Nice touches of comfort include a wall clock, thermometer, radio, and to
deaden the shop sounds, nail some acoustic tiles on hard walls.
Especially, near the noisy tools. Don’t forget to have anti-fatigue
mats at all your primary workstations.
Plan The Distance
Eliminate extra footsteps by careful placement of your tools. Not only
will this help conserve your energy, it will be plain more efficient.
Decide which piece of equipment you will be using the most. Locate it
where it will be convenient to reach. Leave enough around it so you’re
not banging into other tools. Consider how long (or wide) the wood you
start with will be. Longer boards can extend over top of lower tools,
allowing you to place them closer together without disturbing each
Humans tend to group things alphabetically or by basic categories.
Suppress these tendencies when organizing your workshop. Accessibility
is the key. For example, scroll saw blades aught to be stored near the
scroll saw, not in a cabinet at the other end of your shop.
Lathe chisels need to be stored near the lathe ... clamps near your
clamping table ... drill bits near the drill, etc., etc. You get the
Make It Fit You
Your new workshop should fit you like a pair of comfortable old shoes.
Product designers call it “ergonomics”. We’ll just call it common sense.
You and you alone decide how high your workbench needs to be. Set the
height of each tool, bench and cabinet to fit your height. Don’t accept a
table saw height that makes you have to bend over in a back-aching
crouch just pass a board thru the blade. Tools such as drill presses and
band saws should be adjusted to a comfortable working height.
A good method for targeting each work surface to the height that fits
you is to measure the distance from the floor to your waist. This is
typically the best work surface height for your body height.
You cannot use it if your cannot find it. Supplies such as screws,
nails, brads, need to be easy to see, find and pick up. Never mix items.
Do so and you’ll always be disorganized. Take a hint from the cook in
your family. They don’t mix the sage in with the bay leaves.
There are dozens of way to store the small items needed in your shop.
Small shelves to hold same size jars or tins. Larger shelves to hold
varying storage containers.
Lumber is stored by size. Smaller, thinner, shorter up higher and
larger, heavier and longer down low. large sheet goods (plywood) is
stored on edge in a sturdy rack that allows you to thumb thru them
without needing to hold them all up.
Two scrap lumber boxes. One for hardwood and one for softwood scraps.
When planning your storage and organizing all the non-tool stuff in your
new shop, be sure to keep the most used items at the most convenient
locations. Stuff you use most frequently need to be most accessible.
Store the stuff you’ll only use once in a blue moon in the more
out-of-the-way spots. The thing you want to avoid here is having to use a
step ladder to reach the stuff you use most frequently.
Mobile machine bases have solved a lot of the space problems faced by
small shop woodworkers. You can put heavy machines like table saws,
joiner, planers, band saws, on mobile bases and store them around the
perimeter of a shop and roll them out into the center when you need
them. Rolling them back into storage along the wall is a snap.
Back to flexibility. The workbench can always be a fold-down version if space is really tight.
Getting In and Out
Layout your new woodworking shop so it’s quick and easy to get into and
out. If you have to spend an hour getting everything ready to woodwork
and an hour putting your shop away, how much time will that leave you to
do actual woodworking? Design it so it’s easy to open and easy to
Keep It Safe
You (or a visitor) can get hurt in a shop unless you plan it to be safe,
keep it safe, and practice safety. Make sure the electrical is checked
out by someone qualified. Make sure every tool has a safe access to
electricity (no cords crisscrossing the shop floor). Provide for
ventilation of vapors and dust in the air.
Get a good fire extinguisher and keep it updated. Keep well-stocked
first aid kit nearby. You will need it sooner or later. Finally, keep
your shop locked (and the key hidden) if there are kids around your
house. Let them in only when you are there to supervise.