Setting up a Successful Home Woodworking Shop

Setting up a Successful Home Woodworking Shop

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.

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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 area.

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 other.


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 idea.

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.

Logical Accessibility

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.

Space Flexibility

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 close.

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.