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Thread: Wood shop wiring book / reference recommendations?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Delaplane, VA

    Wood shop wiring book / reference recommendations?

    Good evening,

    Over the last week I've read every last thread in this forum on shop electrical - and made quite a few detours into the dust collection threads and other interesting places along the way.

    I now know how to troubleshoot contactors, wire 3-phase motors and subpanels, that normally outlet amperage ratings must match the circuit wiring & breaker rating, except that you can mix 15A and 20A receptacles on a 20A circuit for some reason, and lots and lots and lots of other stuff.

    Things are at that point where I need to add a circuit for my first 220V tool, and while I'm at it I'm going to wire the whole shop/garage right. I've got two circuits today, one for the (inadequate) lights and another for the outlets. In order to run the DC (OK, it's a shop vac) and tablesaw at the same time requires running an extension cord into the house for the vac and turning off the space heater. The good news is the 200A house main panel is in the garage.

    My electrician will be helping me with the planning/permitting and a "pre-inspection" of my work to prepare for the county inspector. I'm preparing a list of questions for the electrician, but I know I'll have lots more once I get started. I'd like to find a good book instead of bugging him with 10,000 phone calls.

    I'm going to check out the B&D and "code check" books mentioned in earlier threads, but are there any books/web sites/references dealing specifically with woodshop wiring that you have found useful?

    A search on Amazon doesn't turn up anything very specific, which seems odd. I find it hard to believe nobody has written a book specifically on woodshop electrical topics.

    Let your collective wisdom wash over me...


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Albany, NY
    I doubt there is such a book since the answer is too dependent on the situation. I'd guess that most shops are wired like this:

    - one or two lighting circuits
    - several 110 utility circuits (depending on where your shop is located, would need to be GFCI protected)
    - a separate 220 circuit to each major tool

    Realistically, in a one person shop it might be logical to just have one 220 circuit that goes to all the tools that need 220 (except for the DC) which would mean that, likely, if you turned two tools on at once you'd trip the breaker. That would actually be safer in a way since, if you're the only one in the shop, you should only have one tool powered at a time. However, I'm not really sure that's legal with respect to electrical code (might be, I'm not an electrician and it's not the way I've ever seen things done)

    In my shop I have a dedicated 220 to each major tool. That's certainly code, but not necessarily common sense (as per the argument above).

    Realistically, if you have a decent electrician, and tell him what you're doing, he should be able to tell you what you need.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Milwaukee, WI
    I just wired my woodshop, not aware of any "woodshop wiring" books. But really, if you have an elecrician to advise you, what more do you need? I would keep the lights on a separate circuit...other than that it really like any other wiring job...size the circuits for anticipated loads.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Puyallup, WA
    +1 for Mr. Bregar,

    I recently concluded a complete rewire of my garage also. Put lights on there own circuit and hopscotch your outlets. I ran four 220 (twist lock) drops @ 30amps on two circuits. I figured at most I'll have my TS and jointer running at the same time. I found the toughest part was running the 100amp subpanel, 70 feet, from the house's main.

    *Money saver:
    I got both rolls of my 12/2 and 10/2 Romex at HD with a coupon (as electrical goes it's pretty much their only loss leader).
    I bought my cord from various retailers that offered an electrical "oops" bin (like a shorts bin but for cord).
    The plugs are going to cost you double at ANY of the box stores. Search eBay for both your male and female connectors & outlets. What couldn't be had on eBay I purchased from Galesburg Electrical.

    Last edited by G. Brad Schmidt; 12-10-2009 at 12:01 PM.
    Redheads are like other women only more so

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Vancouver, Washington
    I guess since you have an electrician to ask specific questions too, what you need from us is advice as to what you need in the shop, then you can ask him how to do it.

    I have have 4 circuits for outlets, 1 for lights , and 3 220v circuits (one breaker per outlet.

    For the 120v outlets, I leapfrogged 2 circuits on 2 walls... as in. the north and west walls use circuits 1 and 2, but alternating 1,2,1,2,1,2 so one circuit doesn't have outlets next to eachother. I figured if I had them above a bench, i'd be less likely to overload that way.

    And my outlets are 52" high, so i can lean a 4x8 sheet against the wall without covering em up, plus have benches and things. I did have some lower under windows though.

    Oh, and I put some in the ceiling, so i guess that's 5 120v circuits.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Camas WA
    Ditto on asking the electrician.

    There are electrical codes that are universal and there are local codes and preferences. Your electrician should be familiar with both of them. The books will give you the basics of wiring circuits, outlets, switches, and variations on a theme GFCI, three way switches etc.

    Most of the infomation specific to woodshops would be convenient locations (like the 52 inches mentioned above), number of circuits, number of outlets, outlets in the ceiling (mentioned above). This will be the accumulated experience of the posts here that you have already been looking through. Much of it specific to the individual preferences as folks have developed their work shops.

    My suggestion is to take the time to go through the posts and write down every idea or suggestion you find and then sit back in your easy chair close your eyes and walk through the vision of your shop. Stop at each station and imagine what services that you have listed would apply and what would still be missing. Create a floor plan and and draw little symbols of each outlet, switch etc. and add notes as to voltage etc.

    When you show this to your electrician friend he will be able to discuss with you the feasability of your intentions and make suggestions as to what will work. What might work better for what you want to accomplish and how to save on materials and effort.

    I had my panel reset by an electrician and then pulled my own permit to do the rest of the wiring. I'm not an electrician. I spoke with a friend from church who wired his own house to find out about local codes and preferences. When the inspector came he gave me two verbal corrections, one suggestion and signed it off. He didn't even want to come back after I covered it up with sheet rock. He said it looked like I knew what I was doing and didn't have any further concerns. Most of that I think was from being very neat about how I ran the wires and stapled them. Presentation, Presentation, Presentation.
    Last edited by Dave Lessley; 12-10-2009 at 2:25 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Heres what I did...

    20 x 20 Detached Garage with Catherdral Ceiling @ 13 in the middle.

    40 slot panel with 50A breaker, Lights on 2 circuits

    10/2 with 30 a breaker (separate lines)
    TS and potential electric heater

    Rest of garage 12/2 and 20 amp breakers
    1 circuit on each wall with 20a plugs (approx 5 per circuit)
    Used double boxes but some only have 1 plug. Want room to expand if need be
    1 dedicated line for compressor.

    12/2 with 20a (240 breaker) for
    1 dedicated for DC
    1 with 2 - 240 plugs on it

    Ran all lines up along the roof rafters

    Keep in mind running lines for undercabinet lights to be direct wired off a switch. May want to run a circuit for track lighting etc to a lathe.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    I dont want to break any of the forum rules by posting links to other forums, but there are sites dedicated to electrical work. Many frequented by professional electricians. You may want to seeks those out and join.

    I find SMC and some other forums that I like to be the best way to learn about new things.

  9. #9
    I'm not sure whether you will be using metal conduit or romex style cable. Metal conduit makes for more flexibility but some don't like the looks and it takes more expense. I prefer it if the walls stay open stud I even like it over the drywall. But it is likely you are using romex.

    Any way most manufacturers recommend an individual (dedicated) line to tools like TS and DP and DC's etc... whether 120 volt or 240 volt. However this is not cut in stone and a 120 item or even another 240 item can exist on the line also. Just be sure that if multiple tools are running it is within the limits of the branch circuit. If someone else is in the shop do not start a motor tool similtaneously with the other person,.. if they are on the same circuit. To run both 120 and 240 volt tools on the same circuit just run a neutral with your hots and ground. Your electrician will know how to handle it. Might want to install combination duplexes that allows a 240 volt tool to plug in and a 120 volt item to the other receptacle.

    Keep receptacles off your lighting circuit and wire your lights with 14 awg at least two circuits.

    Make use of 3 way switching for your lights.

    Make use of fluorescent when applicable.

    One or two 20 amp circuits for 120 volt receptacles. GDO's can be with these circuits.

    Think about space heating (if needed) and run individual circuits to that stuff.

    Let your electrician worry about codes.
    Last edited by Roger Frazee; 12-10-2009 at 6:36 PM.
    Ever wonder what happens if you get scared 1/2 to death twice ?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Delaplane, VA
    Wow, thanks to all for the ideas, especially Dave L for the 'virtual' walkthrough concept. I have a diagram in process, the walkthrough technique should help me catch all of the obvious items.

    I was right, there is a book in here somewhere, it just hasn't been written yet. Perhaps someday I'll just have to be the guy to write it. But if I do I'll sure have to donate the majority of the proceeds to the Creek for the inspiration!

    From finishing a few rooms in our basement I have some experience with the local inspectors - they can be a bit gruff, but once they see that you know what you are doing they relax considerably. I'm a neat freak and that does seem to carry some weight.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts. I feel like I'm taking more than I'm giving from this community, hopefully I can repay that debt and even turn the tables some day.


  11. #11
    Some good ideas so far.

    Hopscotch your regular outlets--makes it easy to plug in a tool and a shopvac. You might also consider 20A circuits for the outlets.

    Put the outlets above 48" on any walls where you might have a workbench or lean plywood. Remember that baltic birch is 60" though.

    Something I haven't seen mentioned yet--I wired the circuit for my tablesaw with a switched outlet for extra security while changing blades.

    Have a couple circuits for lights. You might find it useful to have individual pull chains on each fluorescent fixture--makes it easy to fine-tune the amount and location of lighting.

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