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Thread: My shop is smaller than yours--- post ideas/pics/tips for *really* tiny workshops

  1. #1

    My shop is smaller than yours--- post ideas/pics/tips for *really* tiny workshops

    Hey guys, I've been building up a workshop over the last 8 years in a 1.4 car garage.
    However, I'm used to woodworking in very suboptimal environments (under a desk, bedroom floor, etc).
    I built my guitar under my dorm desk in dental school.

    I'm sure that I'm not alone...

    Do you guys have stories/ideas/pictures/tips for truly tiny workshops?

    It'd be fun to see the useful, silly, and insightful posts that you guys can bring to the table.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
    Posts
    4,268
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Lau View Post
    Hey guys, I've been building up a workshop over the last 8 years in a 1.4 car garage.
    However, I'm used to woodworking in very suboptimal environments (under a desk, bedroom floor, etc).
    I built my guitar under my dorm desk in dental school.
    I'm sure that I'm not alone...
    Do you guys have stories/ideas/pictures/tips for truly tiny workshops?
    It'd be fun to see the useful, silly, and insightful posts that you guys can bring to the table.
    Matt,

    I worked in tight spaces before, including building cabinets with small tools in the living room of rental property.

    I had no workshop space at my first house - I bought a radial arm saw and put it on the porch. With that and a few electric and arm-powered hand tools I made lots of things. The radial arm saw could rip, crosscut, cut molding, drill (horizontally), and made a great drum sander. Then I used it to help build a 20x20 shop behind the house - SO much space!

    Besides the obvious things (put tools on mobile bases, use hand tools, use multi-function tools) one thing worked for me where we live now but when I had only 1/2 of a two car garage: I limited the kinds of things I did in the shop. I could easily fit a lathe, bandsaw, bench grinder, and some wood storage in the space so I did a lot of woodturning. I had a benchtop planer, portable table saw, and some other tools that I kept on shelves - I used these in the other 1/2 of the garage when the car was moved out, or simply worked outside when the weather permitted, making good use of sawhorses.

    (I worked this way for years until I saved up enough to build a shop, 24x62, wood, metal, maintenance, more. This makes things easier but it's still too small...)

    Some people have done some very creative things to get the most out of a small space. I have a book on small workshops that has a lot of ideas, pictures, and layouts. I think it's from Fine Woodworking - maybe you can find it with an internet search.

    BTW, here are a couple of the many things I built on the "front porch" shop of my first house with the radial arm saw, over 45 years ago, both still in use today. Sorry, just the bottom of the bathroom wall cabinet is visible.

    cabinet_bath_P5202139.jpg rocking_horse.jpg

    JKJ

  3. #3
    Hey john,

    thanks for sharing your story.

    I actually started this thread because I'd bought the Fine Woodworking book on Woodworking in Small Shops--but found it lacking.
    Our definitions of "small" were very different--their small is a 30 x 20 area with multiple levels of space.
    Mine was like yours... :P

  4. #4
    My first "shop" was an extra bedroom, about 10x10, in our first apartment. I had to negotiate with the upstairs neighbors over noise. Once they understood it was our path to furniture and I agreed to not go too late or stop too early I was OK. A canvas tarp protected the carpet. I built a sofa that converted to a double bed, a kitchen table, a queen sized bed, and a couple chests of drawers and a bunch of other stuff in that bedroom (and sometimes the rest of the apartment). That was around 1980 and we used some of that furniture until the move to the current house in 2013. So well over 30 years. Construction was glue and screws but it held up through several moves and a lot of living.
    My current shop is 14x24. That's about as big as I've ever had. I occasionally take over some space in an adjacent 2 car garage or the driveway. It needs cleaned out at the moment but if I avoid clutter it does not constrain me to work in this size space. I will soon build a bathroom cabinet that will be 18 inches deep, 2-3 feet wide (depends on how wide the makeup area is) and 8 feet tall in this shop. Finish will be sprayed water based tinted lacquer. Most cuts will be made with the track saw but the table saw and other tools will be used. Because of the opaque finish it will probably also be glued and screwed. I also plan a queen sized bed and double bed later. I am sure I can do this in this shop because I've done it before - including in even less space.
    The current shop is my second in an oversized one car garage. Both have had one long wall with my crosscut tools on a long bench that has drawers for tool storage underneith. Current one has conduit sticking out of the wall for lumber storage above the crosscut tools. Small table saw and worktable go out in the middle. The worktable is based upon Ron Paulk's workbench designs but rolls on locking casters. It functions as outfeed support for the table saw and as a general assembly/work table. It is also where I cut up sheet goods with the track saw. It is 3x6 feet. Other tools and sheet goods storage go around the outside walls of the shop and get wheeled out when they are needed.
    Last edited by Lee Schierer; 11-14-2017 at 11:32 PM. Reason: fixed wonky text

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Location
    Itapevi, SP - Brazil
    Posts
    59

    Mine

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Lau View Post

    [...]

    I'm sure that I'm not alone...

    Do you guys have stories/ideas/pictures/tips for truly tiny workshops?

    It'd be fun to see the useful, silly, and insightful posts that you guys can bring to the table.
    Attached you will find some pictures from my workshop... it is 104 square foot one. My small timber rack is in the garage hung high in order to do not obstruct the way. There is also my aluminium bar I use a guide to break up panels with my skillsaw.

    I had visited some workshop from friends in Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Denmark... most of them have similar sized workshops with a few with a "big" one: around 250 square foot (something like one car garage). I have no amateur woodworker friend living at the US, so I never visited one real workshop there but from all information I can get from internet and magazines, it looks most in North America (Canada included) really think a two-car garage (around 500-600 square foot) workshop is "small" and there is a number of people with above 1,000 square foot shops... for amateur woodworking!

    Regards,
    Attached Images Attached Images

  6. #6
    Mine is a bedroom in my home, about 7 x 12(2 x 2 closet as well) and 3 x 3 nothched out for furnace on the other side of the wall. There is a bed( 42" x 75"), desk 10sq ft, workbench with cabinet and 4 drawers under it 2' x 4', 2 floor cabinets 14"d x 42"l x 29"h, scroll saw stand 12"x24" on wheels w/2 drawers and cabinet, small parts cab on wheels 20"w x 32"d x 27"h w/ 10 harbor freight sorty conainers, 3 platforms about 2' x 2' leading up to bed(loft), wall hung shop vac in furnace room and on/off switch over workbench and hose thru wall, cabinet on wall 2' x 3', carving board hanger and drawers for carving tools, 4' x 4' french cleat board on wall, fold down sharpening station under window 21" x 15" w/ 24" x 48" wall hanging spot for supplies that opens out to closet(sorty conainer under that), 5 shelves in closet. I am finally almost done with the room, yeehaa lol

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Cary, NC
    Posts
    455
    My GF converted a 9 x 16 screened porch into a year round shop. She has a Robust Liberty, a Jet 1018 lathe, a grinder, a workbench from HF and a 16' bench. It works well for her woodturning and carving. She has her bandsaw, drillpress and oscilating sander in her basement garage. She is kind enough to let me have a couple of lathes in the downstairs shop. I think that we all have shop envy.
    Joe

  8. #8
    Thanks for the pictures.

    This is *exactly* what I was looking for!
    As a total hobbyist, I feel a bit silly complaining about having a small shop--i should be thankful that I have any power tools at all!
    My first attempt at building a guitar was stymied because I found a butter knife to be sharper than some of the hand tools at home depot...flamed maple is not a good material to work by hand for a first guitar.

    I really like how things are well sorted out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Osvaldo Cristo View Post
    Attached you will find some pictures from my workshop... it is 104 square foot one. My small timber rack is in the garage hung high in order to do not obstruct the way. There is also my aluminium bar I use a guide to break up panels with my skillsaw.

    I had visited some workshop from friends in Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Denmark... most of them have similar sized workshops with a few with a "big" one: around 250 square foot (something like one car garage). I have no amateur woodworker friend living at the US, so I never visited one real workshop there but from all information I can get from internet and magazines, it looks most in North America (Canada included) really think a two-car garage (around 500-600 square foot) workshop is "small" and there is a number of people with above 1,000 square foot shops... for amateur woodworking!

    Regards,

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by david beck View Post
    Mine is a bedroom in my home, about 7 x 12(2 x 2 closet as well) and 3 x 3 nothched out for furnace on the other side of the wall. There is a bed( 42" x 75"), desk 10sq ft, workbench with cabinet and 4 drawers under it 2' x 4', 2 floor cabinets 14"d x 42"l x 29"h, scroll saw stand 12"x24" on wheels w/2 drawers and cabinet, small parts cab on wheels 20"w x 32"d x 27"h w/ 10 harbor freight sorty conainers, 3 platforms about 2' x 2' leading up to bed(loft), wall hung shop vac in furnace room and on/off switch over workbench and hose thru wall, cabinet on wall 2' x 3', carving board hanger and drawers for carving tools, 4' x 4' french cleat board on wall, fold down sharpening station under window 21" x 15" w/ 24" x 48" wall hanging spot for supplies that opens out to closet(sorty conainer under that), 5 shelves in closet. I am finally almost done with the room, yeehaa lol

    Mind posting pictures?

    I'm looking for ideas.
    Personally, I can envision having two workshops:
    1. Garage for serious power tool, carving, messy stuff.
    2. mobile setup for hand tool, fine tuning, fine assembly, and finish (scrapers and planes)....preferably what I can pop in my car.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Suwanee, GA
    Posts
    40
    Admittedly, this is not built yet, and I am not 100% convinced it is the solution to my problem. However, the thought process is that I build a frame at the outfeed height of my table saw that has multiple inserts with tools mounted to them. Top side has to be flat for outfeed operation but the panels would have mitre saw, scroll saw, small router insert and a tool TBD. In storage / outfeed position, you have two tools in the bottom of the table and two inverted in the top position. To use, just flip them over or swap inserts as needed. There are certainly drawbacks, such as having to hoist tools in and out and up and down, but currently, I have these things sitting underneath benches or inside of cabinets and I have to pull them out to clamp to the top of the bench... at least this provides a functional home.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Upland CA
    Posts
    3,763
    Don't know if it is quite what you are looking for Matt, but every once in a while I see on CL a steel Sears workbench that has a revolving center which holds three benchtop tools. It flips like the shop made flip tops, but is a triangle shaped 'flipper'. It has an extra foot or so on each end for bench space. Total width looks like 5-6'.

    They go pretty cheap, and sometimes include the tools. Looks like a good idea if you are in a pinch for space.
    Rick Potter

    DIY journeyman,
    FWW wannabe.
    AKA Village Idiot.

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