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Shop Layout

Shop layout was probably the most frustrating thing for me to find when I started my workshop design.  There isn’t much on the web of any serious quality or thought.  Even the big woodworking magazines fail to have a set of principals guide their suggested shop layouts, or they default to showing what others have done without analysis. 

My goal on this blog is to break down the philosophy of design so you can use it to customize it to your exact shop, whether it’s in a one-car garage workshop, basement, shed, or huge standalone building.  You can go the the “Shop Layout” category to read all the articles specifically dealing with how your shop can flow with how you naturally work, dramatically reducing mental and physical fatigue.  Placement of your table saw RELATIVE to your jointer and planer make a real difference; how you angle tool stations to each other is a great one-time investment.  I get over twice as much done now, and since most machines are on casters, I can tweak the layout as I evolve.

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Shop Envelope & Comfort (Walls, Roof, etc.)

Your shop envelope performance can make or break your available shop time.  Thin, uninsulated walls?  Unfinished roof/ ceiling?  Damp basement walls causing a musty-smelling shop?  Well you probably don’t feel like entering the shop on a winter night, or a hot summer afternoon. 

Even without adding supplemental heat or AC, you can design it so that your shop holds temperature pretty well.  Before you close up those walls to make them look good, think about what you can do before that.  I found that it doesn’t cost as much as I thought, and I spread the work and $ out over time, and the shop conditions just kept getting better.

You can go to the “Shop Comfort” category and get a comprehensive list of exactly how to design your walls, under your roof, doors, etc.  Do a little research, and you’ll find that you can narrow down your best options pretty quickly, whether you’re building a workshop or improving what you have. 

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Dust Collection

I used to live in a house with a one-car garage workshop.  I didn’t have dust extraction at all for awhile because I couldn’t afford it.  Well after a few cuts I’d have to leave the shop to wait for the dust to settle.  Total waste of time, and pretty bad for health.  Design your dust collection system, do it right with a centralized collector, use sheet metal ductwork (not that hard to install yourself), snap in some blastgates, some flex hose at each machine, and account for future machines.  Then get an overhead air cleaner (filter box with a fan) when you can afford to.

Of course, there’s a lot more planning than just buying what people sell; you’ve got to know what you want to achieve such as small particle filtration, the correct airflow to each machine and whether the ports that come with the tool are undersized, sizing your ductwork, and all of the dust collection fittings that are available vs. what you actually need, downdraft tables for sanding operations, the right filter bags and their sizing, cartridge filter options, ambient air cleaners, and the type of dust collector to meet these needs.

Go visit the “Shop Infrastructure” category to read more, and to get a solid overview before you start your design, read “Dust Collection Mastery”.

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Electrical System & Lighting

Before you start insulating your walls, you’ll want to have all of your outlets and switches in place.  At least generate a plan yourself, even if you are going to hire a licensed electrician.  This way you can give them direction as to what you want.  From there, they’ll do what they have to do to make it right and per code. 

Carefully decide what woodworking tools should be on their own circuit, and what you’re ok with combining like your drill press and mortiser.  Leave some outlets for future machines.  And don’t forget to anticipate some machines will be upgraded from 120V to 220V, like your Jointer,Planer, Bandsaw, Tablesaw, Dust Collector, Drum Sander, or Lathe.  I like some overhead outlets for machines in the middle of the shop.

Check out “Wiring up Your Shop” and go step-by-step with me to plan which machines go on which circuits, and see my finished electrical plan. 

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Workstations & Tools

Each type of activity, ideally, will have its own station.  This way you minimize set-up time.  Now, let’s narrow down your thoughts some more. 

Each station should have a series of systems that serve you while you’re there.  Dust extraction, mobility, storage of tools at-the-ready, jig and fixture-mounts, lighting, electrical are all things that each station should have customized in an ergonomic way for you.

Generally, each piece of major woodworking machinery should have its own station.  Combining things means one of the tools will likely be in the way of another’s operation, costing you set up time.  This goes hand-in-hand with planning your workshop layout.

The “Plans & Resources” page will be helpful to find tools you’ve been looking for, unique time-saving accessories, and parts to build your workstations.

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Jigs & Fixtures

I’m sure you probably already have at least some jigs or fixtures.  I started with a simple but modified miter-gauge, then made a few sleds for the table saw, a hand-held router dado jig, circular saw guide, and a router fence system.  You don’t usually use all these at once, so having a good storage space for them is critical. 

Make sure you don’t hide them away though or you’ll forget you have them and won’t get to benefit from them, and of course store them at the station where you’ll most likely use them.

Jigs exist for both power tools and hand tools.  Anything that saves time or improves accuracy/ quality significantly can be a good investment, but just beware of minor improvements by the “latest” gimmick.

The “Plans & Resources” page is a good place to go to look for jig accessories.

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Storage & Organization

Well-thought out workshop storage will reduce the time you spend looking for stuff.  Creating access levels of storage, i.e. “immediately at-hand“, “sometimes-use”, and “seldom-use” will guide how each item is stored. 

Try to store things right at the station they’re most often needed, and don’t be afraid to buy two or three of something so you have it at multiple workstations.  In fact, do that on purpose.

You can also read about critical woodshop storage strategies here.

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Furniture & Design Inspiration

In my travels, I take a lot of pictures specifically for later use as design inspiration.  It totally works.  Vegas casinos, malls, restaurants, model home tours, Sam Maloof’s house, friend’s houses, architecture, all kinds of stuff. 

Sometimes all you need is to flip through a series of pictures either in a book, on a blog or in magazines and poof! you have an inspired thought.  Every so often click around here and see what I’ve added. 

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Enjoy!

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