Tips Setting Up a Woodwork Shop

in a Two Car Garage

Two Car Garage Workshop
Overview


The Two-Car Wood Shop reverts into a garage at night and all woodworking materials, tools and equipment are stored along the perimeter walls. This can consume 30-40 linear feet of wall at an average depth of 18 inches. In most garage configurations this will still allow one wall for storage of non-woodworking possessions, should there be any.

Storing a shop this tightly can't be achieved in haphazard steps - it requires a
strategy. Periodic restructuring is possible but not an effective use of time or
materials, so a good set of guiding concepts is called for. Everything in the shop has storage characteristics: bulk, weight, frequency of use, susceptibility to damage or dust, etc. If space is allocated by such characteristics then the shop can expand comfortably as more equipment is acquired.

NOTE ABOUT CABINETS: If absolute suppression of sawdust is a priority then everything in the shop can be enclosed behind cabinet doors. But doors get in the way when reaching for tools and they also consume volume with their arc of swing. Sliding doors take less space and have the added advantage that they allow easier access to cabinets when there are cars in the garage.


Hand Tools

Some hand tools are reached for constantly. First are the measuring and marking devices - a straightedge ruler for instance. These are followed by basic woodworking tools such as saws, planes, chisels, hammers and so forth. These items need to be very easily accessible, preferably hanging out in the open on a pegboard. When the shop is in the active mode, the path from workbench to pegboard will be well-traveled.

The wider assortment of hand tools may require a chest of drawers. By sorting tools according to their drawer-height requirement very tight packing can be accomplished and hundreds of tools can be stored in one chest.

Clamps

Another high-priority tool is the clamp. Common clamps are essential as extra hands, so a few of them should always be within easy reach from the workbench. Less common clamps, used exclusively for gluing, can be stored in out-of-the-way corners. Some clamps are quite long or oddly shaped.

Hand Power Tools


Like the manual hand tools, powered hand tools are used frequently throughout a project. These come in many shapes but the sizes are all under one cubic foot. A pigeon-hole system keeps tools separated so that their blades don't touch and their cords don't get tangled.

Bits & Blades

In a professional shop, bits are kept close to their associated tools for convenience. But, since the garage shop has no stationary tools, it makes sense to create a special storage location for these items. The key points in design are protection of cutting edges, ease of locating the right tool, and expandability to allow for new purchases. Sometimes the commercially-available cases are a good choice, but some custom-built holders are usually called for as well. There's no way to predict the number and size of all bits and blades, especially in a growing shop.

Protective Wear

Yes, we should use them - goggles, ear protectors, breathing masks, apron. If these items are covered in dust on a top shelf then they won't be very attractive to the woodworker. They should be kept clean in a drawer or cabinet and always within easy reach.

Bench-top Tools


A well-equipped garage shop will have a dozen or more bench-top power tools. These constitute the greatest storage challenge for a number of reasons:

  • There is no consistent size or shape. Some are tall, some are wide.
  • The weights vary. Some are twenty pounds; some are over a hundred pounds.
  • Transfer between the storage position and the bench-top position is a core.
  • Activity of the shop. Speed and safety are important.

Heavy Tools

The waist-level storage should be reserved for the heavier bench-top tools. If
possible, lifting should be eliminated in favor of sliding from one surface to another. Table saws,thickness planers and radial arm saws are examples of items that should be transferred horizontally but not vertically.

Light Tools

Some bench-top tools are lightweight and easily lifted between heights. Router tables, scroll saws and spindle sanders are some examples. These can go on a top or bottom shelf if necessary.

Tall Tools

Some tools have a mostly vertical shape and take up the equivalent height of two other bench-top tools. They might not be particularly heavy but transferring them on and off the shelf requires extra effort in balancing. Examples: drill press, mortiser, band saw.

Long Tools

Some tools have a mostly horizontal shape and take up the equivalent width of two other bench-top tools. Lathes and jointers are not only long but also heavy.

Work Surfaces


The workbench is one device that will be used whether the garage is in park mode or shop mode. The bench should probably rest below the pegboard wall and near an electrical outlet so that hand tools can be applied.

Other work surfaces (tables, vertical stands, rollers) may be heavy, odd-shaped or bulky. Since they normally rest on the floor anyway it's best to leave them at floor level.

Floor-Standing Tools

If the shop has any true floor-standing tools (not bench-top), they will probably be slid or rolled into perimeter storage positions. They are large and not compact, the storage cabinet system might have to be built around them. It's important to identify these tools early in the development of the shop.

Lumber

NOTE: Projects should be planned carefully to minimize excess lumber. On general-purpose (ie: unpredictable) projects, the leftover materials from the
previous project are seldom useful and just take up space. They're good for firewood or as donations to the local high school wood shop.

Full Sheets

Full sheets are properly stored on a flat 4ft x 8ft surface to prevent bowing. Since there is no room for this in the garage shop, long-term storage of sheets should be avoided. For short-term storage, stand the sheet close to a wall and as vertical as possible. Small blocks on the floor can help to keep the bottom edge clean and dry. Sheets consume very little depth so other items can be stored in from of them.

Long Boards

Leftover "boards" come in many variations: thin, thick, long, short, planks and strips of molding. One or two shelves 8ft long x 1ft deep can handle these pieces.  The shelve should be well supported and perfectly flat to avoid deforming the wood.

Short Boards

Shorter pieces that might be destined as test scrap can be treated less carefully. A vertical bin will hold a variety of pieces on a small footprint of space.

Little Blocks

Sandwich-size pieces are very handy as spacers and clamping aids. It's a good idea to save samples of offcuts in all thicknesses and wood-types. Angled and cylindrical pieces are handy as well.

Jigs

Hand-made jigs for special cuts tend to accumulate. You don't want to throw them away but maybe you won't use them very often either. The same can be true for purchased jigs. Items such as these should be stored on upper shelves or other "inconvenient" locations.

Tool Accessories


New tools come with bags of accessories, some useful and others not. These can include wrenches, dust pipes and bags, extensions and safety devices. (If you're not going to use the safety guards, at least don't throw them away. Your heirs might want them.)

Manuals, Books, and Miscellaneous Papers


Every shop needs some kind of library area. All tools come with manuals. Also there are books, magazines and clippings. Standard sheets of sandpaper should also be cataloged according to grit. File cabinets are good for keeping these items clean.

Small Items

It's worth the extra time to create a comprehensive storage system to include all sizes of screws, nails and miscellaneous fasteners. These items are common to all projects so they can be drawn from "inventory" as required. It's much easier than running to the hardware store to get a dozen brads.

Liquids

Woodworking involves a variety of fluids: stain, solvent, paint, varnish, polyurethane; and semi-fluids: glue, wood putty. These can degrade chemically over time so a regular culling and safe disposal are good habits. The special considerations in storage are:

  • Fire hazard.  Some of these are very combustible and should be kept in metal containers as far as possible from sparks, flames and other combustible materials.  Volatile liquids may also build up dangerous fumes if not open to ventilation.    
  • Leakage.  Improperly stored liquids may spill or drip onto tools, lumber or people.
  • Temperature.  Depending on local climate, the garage may be subjected to extreme hot or cold. Glues and other sensitive fluids may have to be stored elsewhere.

Electronics


Most shops have a battery re-charging station for cordless tools. Re-chargers are built to withstand the shop dust. Radios and telephones will function but are difficult to keep clean. If the shop has an expensive stereo or computer there are dust cases and filter/fans available. These items need to breathe so as not to overheat.


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