Look for mentors and teachers who are willing to share their ideas. Then incorporate their ideas into your woodworking shop. My grandfather was my first woodworking role model. His most important lesson was a quote I'll never forget: "there's no substitute for quality - in the work that you do and the tools that you use." So buy the best tools and take care of them. Never ask to borrow a friend's tools, tools are very personal possessions.
My shop is an outbuilding retreat, a place to put creative ideas into a practical forms. Here's how it's designed to make my woodworking time enjoyable, productive and rewarding. The heart of many woodworking shops is the table saw. It is best if it's located near the center of the shop. Once the table saw is in place it is easy to position the other work stations. A work station is just the area where complementary tools and materials are organized together for efficient woodworking. Position your tools so you save time as you do different tasks.
I count on hand tools as much as I do power tools. I use power tools to prepare all workpieces for assembly. Then I often use hand planes (block, #4 & #7), hand & cabinet scrapers, draw knives, spoke shaves and various chisels to add finished details. Hand and power tools complement each other. Develop skills in all tool areas.
My grandfather was religious about keeping his tools well tuned up. Always keep saw blades, bits, and cutters sharp and clean. Store all cutting accessories properly between use. Read, understand and follow the tool instruction manual.
Another passion I inherited is for a traditional (heavy & sturdy) European style master's workbench. I confess that my German cabinetmaker's workbench is the one tool I couldn't part with. Two heavy duty vises (quick release face & tail) turn this tool into the perfect shop helper. A silent companion that enjoys my work as much as I do. A good bench will securely hold the workpiece. This frees both hands to control the hand plane, router or tool of choice.
This is a brief overview of my general shop layout. amd how the tools are organized together. Keep a shop well organized. It saves time and improves woodworking pleasure - you can count on it.
The center of the shop
I've found the most important tool in my shop is the 2 h.p., 230-volt tilting arbor table saw. It has the power to safely produce smoothly ripped edges and accurate crosscuts. The key to smooth/burn-free cuts is using the right saw blade for the job. However, a high quality, 40-tooth carbide tipped, combination saw blade will efficiently perform both ripping and crosscutting operations.
Attached to the table saw is an outfeed table, a high-quality rip fence with built-in scale and extension wing, plus a deluxe guard system.
Allow 10 ft. of clearance on both infeed and outfeed areas of the table saw. This allows you to work with long stock. The extension wing allows me to work with wide stock and plywood panels.
Underneath the extension wing is a storage chest on casters, containing dado blades, table inserts, and various ripping and crosscutting blades. The top of this chest is an ideal place to set work in progress - safely away from the surface of the table saw. The miter gauge, with a hold down accessory attachment, hangs conveniently on the left hand side of the saw along with the safety push sticks.
This tool closet houses all the portable power tools. These include 3/8" and 1/2" electric drills (both cordless and with cord), 1 1/2 h.p. and 3 1/4 h.p. spiral housing, D-handle and plunge routers, template guide kit, laminate trimmer, finishing sander, palm grip random orbital sander with dust collection, variable-speed random orbital sander with dust removal system, bayonet saw (jig saw), pocket cutter, 3" x 21" and 4" x 24" belt sanders, biscuit joiner, router bits, drill bits, shaper cutters, band saw blades, bayonet saw blades, shaper accessories, and miscellaneous silicon carbide abrasives. For safety and security, the tool closet locks. This area of the shop is designed to perform all shaping, routing and sanding operations. An explosion-proof window fan helps remove all fine airborne dust created by sanding operations.
The stationary sanding center consists of a 6" belt sander, a 12" disk sander and an auxiliary pneumatic drum sander. It is hooked to the central dust collection system. The dust collection airflow is controlled by a blast gate (seen on the 5"metal pipe). Each stationary tool should have a blast gate to shut off the air flow when dust collection is not needed at that tool. A 1 1/2 h.p., 3/4" spindle shaper has two speeds to provide flexibility when working with various sizes of cutters.
Every window has internal shutters, a comfortable shop stool is a nice addition to any woodworking shop. Included is a stereo and tape deck for those times when you just need a tune.
Light your shop with florescent color corrected bulbs for energy efficiency and light that closely resembles full spectrum sun light. Several incandescent spot lights are handy aids to use during finishing. Poor light is a safety hazard, hard on the eyes and makes it next to impossible to finish projects properly. I have many windows to provide plenty of natural sun light. You can't beat natural light. Functional interior shutters are a good investment - they can save heat (or cool air depending on the season) when you aren't in the shop.
Two workbenches are excellent time saves. One hard maple bench is built into the wall. The 200 pound European cabinetmaker's bench is sturdy and it's equipped with 2 metal dogs. It doesn't get pushed around during different woodworking operations. Notice that this bench is in the best light of the shop - the south west corner with windows and a glass door. It's positioned away from the wall so I can work on any side of the bench. Storage drawers and shelves are under the benches. This keeps miscellaneous hardware and fasteners (wood screws, etc.), files, chisels and layout tools close at hand.
Other tools in this work station are: 16" two speed scroll saw, free standing router table with 1 1/2 h.p. spiral housing router, motorized miter box saw, hand miter saw and hand planes & scrapers.
The 6" jointer goes right by the table saw. I set up tools so there is a circular flow as I work from tool to tool. Think ergonomically. Ergonomics is defined as the applied science (sorry scientists, but I call it an art) of designing, arranging and safely working very effectively in one's space in relation to the work environment.
The long bed 6" jointer always has push blocks nearby - ready for use. Always wear safety glasses, hearing protectors and roll up shirt sleeves when working with power tools. Use safety equipment as instructed in tool manuals.
When making furniture, work with wood that has a moisture content between 6% to 8% for best results. A moisture meter is a good investment. Take care of the wood during storage. All wood should be at least 18" off the floor and stored as flat as possible. Storage shelves and bins make lumber storage easy. Just build them super strong. The lumber weight adds up.
The 16 1/2" floor drill press is equipped with a bit storage tray hooked onto the column. The bookcase stores various drill press accessories: drum sanding kit, plug cutters, mortising chisels/bits, Forstner/spur bits, and hold down clamps.
A 12" portable planer is positioned on a storage chest that doubles as a stand for the planer. Mobile chests with locking casters make excellent work platforms for certain benchtop power tools. Most of my stationary power tools are equipped with lockable casters. This allows me to get the most out of a limited amount of space.
This area houses more lumber storage, jigs, fixtures, project templates, dovetail template, every type of clamp imaginable, and hand saws. I use an age old tool tray to carry the tools to other areas in the shop. Properly organized, a well stocked wall of clamps will take up very little space. A place for everything and everything in its place is a good shop motto.
The 12" variable speed wood lathe is bolted onto a workbench. A 220 grit 10" diameter wet wheel grinder is the perfect tool to use to sharpen lathe chisels. I like to secure this type of grinder on a movable stand. Build a storage rack for the lathe chisels right onto the sharpening wheel stand.
A separate dust collector hose (with controllable blast gate) makes clean up a breeze. One tool box holds all lathe accessories. A four jaw chuck, that has an expandable dovetail option, increases lathe capabilities considerably.
The 14" band saw (3/4 h.p.) is equipped with a quick disconnect dust collector hookup that is shared with the radial arm saw. Extra lighting is used on many stationary tools. Spare blades are stored on a wall peg. Cool guide blocks replace the original metal ones. Cool blocks improve the cutting quality and extend the life of the blade.
A few heirlooms adorn the wall and the stained glass window adds a good feeling to the shop. This is a creative environment so the stereo and decorations help make my shop time rewarding and inspiring.
Best light - Southwest corner
Back to the beginning. The workbench area is positioned to be the cleanest part of the shop. This is where I apply the finishes because fine dust and vapors are pulled out of the shop with the help of the exhaust window fan in a far corner. Naturally, I use tack cloths to thoroughly clean sawdust from the bench area before applying finishes on projects.
Since the floor is painted concrete, I use anti-fatigue mats in heavy use areas. They make a cold floor more comfortable.
Central two-stage dust collection system.
All the stationary power tools in my shop are connected to a 2 h.p., 1100 c.f.m. dust collection system. I prefer the two-stage dust collector, because it has more chip storage capacity and helps reduce the risk of a spark-started sawdust fire. The 5" metal pipe used to connect each tool is standard vent pipe.
The 10" radial arm saw has a 60-tooth, carbide tipped blade for super smooth crosscuts. I use the radial arm saw for 90 degree crosscuts. The saw is close to the lumber storage bin. This makes sense because I use this saw to crosscut the rough lumber into manageable working lengths.
Also in the photo are the 12" variable speed wood lathe, sharpening center, consisting of a 10" wet wheel grinder, plus a lathe chisel storage rack.
Every shop should have a minimum of two doors or windows with screens for open ventilation during finishing. Keep a properly rated fire extinguisher by each door. Always turn on the vent van while applying finishes. Safely remove all finishing cloths and rags from the shop at the end of each day. Finish soaked rags can spontaneously burst into flames in certain circumstances.
I hope you find several ideas here that will safely improve your enjoyable hours in the shop.
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