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Thread: Small shops

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
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    Norway
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    Small shops

    Browsing around here at SMC, and seeing all those spacy shops you guys have, sort of like 1000 sqft or so, - it is of course impressive, but I'm quite certain that there's a fair bunch of us in urban areas that doesn't have that space, or opportunity, of all this luxury....
    I have what may be called a raw basement of appx 1000 sqft, but given other requirements, I'm left with appx 11'x14-20' for a small workshop, - depending if I set up a small storage as a separate room in front of workshop. I'd very much appreciate seeing pic's of such small shops, and any opinions on the matter.........

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
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    Orwell, NY
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    256
    I think it partly depends on what you want to make. You can make ships in bottles in a very small space, or pens, for instance. If you want to build a boat you need a shop that is as long as the boat (or a bit longer is easier) and a way to get it out when you're done, to take the other extreme. My workshop is 14x20 and I have been able to build some furniture, a couple of canoes, and a lot of musical instruments in it, but some tools live elsewhere and I have some other lumber and gear storage outside the shop.
    Zach

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halgeir Wold View Post
    Browsing around here at SMC, and seeing all those spacy shops you guys have, sort of like 1000 sqft or so, - it is of course impressive, but I'm quite certain that there's a fair bunch of us in urban areas that doesn't have that space, or opportunity, of all this luxury....
    I have what may be called a raw basement of appx 1000 sqft, but given other requirements, I'm left with appx 11'x14-20' for a small workshop, - depending if I set up a small storage as a separate room in front of workshop. I'd very much appreciate seeing pic's of such small shops, and any opinions on the matter.........
    Hi Halgeir. A few years ago I built a new shop, 24x62, but for years before that I had small shops, first a 20x20 then a 16x16, then 1/2 of a 2-car garage. (I do love my current space, room for woodturning, flat wood, welding, machining, and lots of wood storage!)

    How the shop is laid out depends a lot on what you want to do with it. It might be helpful to describe the things you want to make, the tools you have or want to have. In some cases, putting everything on mobile bases makes sense.

    My 1/2 of the 2-car garage shop was tight but sufficient for what I used it for - a lathe or two, drill press, a couple of bandsaws, and a fair amount of storage for turning blanks on racks. But I had hand tools, routers, router table, drum/belt sander, and a lunchbox planer on shelves, and a radial arm saw squeezed between the two bays. I could spread out and work on saw horses in the 2nd half of the garage on occasion, or sometimes outside if the weather was good. I can recommend taking advantage of all the vertical space you have - even in my current shop I have shelves all around near the ceiling and keep step stools and long reach grabbers handy.

    Your shop use is probably nothing like mine was in that garage but I'm sure others have similar sized shops. If you give more information, someone might have some good ideas. Also, there are books on setting up a shop in small places. I have one around somewhere.

    JKJ

  4. #4
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    The "secret" to small shop work is...flexibility. With a really large shop, theoretically at least, one can plant machines in a particular spot that matches their work flow and not move them. You can't do that in a very small shop. A "tool corral" can help with that using mobile bases for larger tools for sure. So can an assembly surface that can be stored away and setup at multiple heights. But something else one can do is "think differently" about how to approach projects when it comes to tools. There are a lot of alternative methods available today that were less common or didn't exist years ago. Some folks have build whole "small shop" setups nicely with something like the Festool system and a big band saw and/or embraced extensive use of hand tools. Small Euro combination machines can provide a whole lot of capability in a smaller space. (not inexpensive, but there is that "whole lot of capability" thing) And then there is CNC which brings a lot of interesting capabilities into a small space. Try to think outside of the box a little and set things up so you have the flexibility to redefine your space day by day as your projects demand and consider alternative tools and methods that are easier to deploy in a small shop environment.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  5. #5
    I've got an almost embarrassingly small workshop, but works for me (since it's what I've got!). Total space is ~21'x8'. It's the front part of a detached garage that buts up against my property line so I'm pretty much stuck with that size. It's also got 7'11" ceilings which makes maneuvering 8' boards fun as well. It was built out by the previous owner and I'm still tweaking it to improve it's usability as much as I can. I built a workbench that I slide in and out as needed and I probably set a record for the amount of use of wheels on a table saw as I push it to the size when not using it, and it takes up all of my usable space when I am using it.

    Size is definitely in the eye of the beholder as your space sounds large to someone like me and I think everyone always wants at least 100sq ft more. I'm currently trying to get creative to squeeze in some dust collection by putting a unit in a built in storage cabinet on the other side of a wall. Still struggling with how to pull that one off.
    Last edited by Keith Outten; 01-04-2020 at 1:13 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Bloomington, IL
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    5,956
    Welcome Jon. I saw some through wall duct work fittings at a localish Rockler franchise recently Maybe check there for ideas on how to plumb that.
    Glad its my shop I am responsible for - I only have to make me happy.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Columbus, OH
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    1,768
    I have 520 sq ft in a basement shop, with another ~40 sq ft for wood storage. All of my tools (planers, sanders, drill press, table saw/router, dust collector) are on wheels. And the joiner and bandsaw will soon be. This allows me to park tools at the walls and move them to the center space when needed. I also use heavy duty roller stands (Rockler) to provide long board support to all the tools. These fold up so that I can park them to the side when not needed. The table saw rarely moves, but there have been a couple times when that was handy.

    I have an 11' dedicated miter saw bench with lots of storage in the base along along with a mobile sheet goods cart against another wall. My primary workbench is roughly centered in the shop with a lighter duty secondary bench over base cabinets (storing power hand tools) along another wall, with upper cabinets to house all my hand tools. Finally, I have another bench for my small lathe against the 4th wall, along with shelf storage above and below that.

    I will soon finish a standing lumber rack project that will allow me to store about 1400 bd ft of lumber in that separate 40 sq ft. I have 8' ceilings so vertical storage of lumber is not an option. The rack gives me a good floor-to-ceiling horizontal solution. I also have a wall mounted lumber rack but that will come down when I finish the standing rack, giving me back some wall space and corner space which I will use to store finishes, solvents, etc.

    Long clamps are stored under the workbench and short clamps are stored on a short run wall in the corner of the shop.

    Another secret to small shops is to be efficient and inventive in how you store things.
    Last edited by Brian Tymchak; 01-03-2020 at 12:32 PM.
    Brian

    "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger or more complicated...it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." - E.F. Schumacher

  8. #8
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    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    planning the layout

    Quote Originally Posted by John K Jordan View Post
    ... In some cases, putting everything on mobile bases makes sense.
    Another thing I remembered that some with small shops do - design the layout so the out feed of some tools, such as table saw, etc, is high enough to clear some other tools, allowing them to be arranged in an overlapping space in the center of the shop.

    I recommend experimenting with the space and existing and planned tools using a scale diagram and cutouts. I even planned my large shop this way after I decided on the size and before I started construction. Might be even more useful with a small space.

    Some of my cutouts had projections for infeed and outfeed. I made circles representing the minimum and desired space I could put up with between machines for walking and moving materials. I could slide these circles through a potential layout an imagine the workflow. I went through many iterations before building but even before the walls went up I was able to use a fork lift to set the main part of the cabinet saw in place exactly where it still is today.
    PM66_2012-11-29_18-01-16_549_small.jpg
    Doing the layout on paper first even let me move some planned doors a little to allow for working occasional long stock.

    People often use cad and other digital tools for this but for me there is nothing simpler than pushing pieces of paper around in a scale space. Stick them down with scotch tape, transfer to a sketch.

    An example of some stage of some early iteration:

    layout_paper_2.jpg

    JKJ

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Halgeir Wold View Post
    Browsing around here at SMC, and seeing all those spacy shops you guys have, sort of like 1000 sqft or so, - it is of course impressive, but I'm quite certain that there's a fair bunch of us in urban areas that doesn't have that space, or opportunity, of all this luxury....
    I have what may be called a raw basement of appx 1000 sqft, but given other requirements, I'm left with appx 11'x14-20' for a small workshop, - depending if I set up a small storage as a separate room in front of workshop. I'd very much appreciate seeing pic's of such small shops, and any opinions on the matter.........
    Remember......large shops just means more crap. You'll be surprise how much crap is in those large shop..... everyone says put everything on wheels. Most wouldnt need equipment on wheels if they would stop shopping for things they don't need... more doesn't always mean more...

    Remember.... the want is always larger than the need in woodworking...
    Last edited by jack duren; 01-03-2020 at 3:31 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    fayetteville Arkansas
    Posts
    543
    Matching the size of your shop to size of your woodworking projects is an advantage. My shop is not large (20'x40'). I could built it larger but the present size is well matched for the hobbyists projects I like. You can walk yourself to death in a large shop with tools spread inefficiently. Efficiency of the layout is important regardless of shop size.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Okotoks AB
    Posts
    1,631
    There was a guy on another forum who lived in South America (Columbia maybe?) and all he had for a shop was a bathroom, and it was not very big. He turned out some great stuff though. I just think of that when I get feeling that my shop is too small.

    It actually is a pretty good size, about 500 sq ft, but the problem is that it is shared with 2 cars that are parked there every night. I've managed to lay it out so I can do a fair bit without having to move the cars out. It's far from the most efficient from a workflow perspective, but that's okay. I love it, warts and all.

  12. #12
    I'm with you except cars don't back in. Shops has made me a living for several years so its earned it's right to stay a shop. I'm in the process of removing things now that don't make sence to take space. When starting a new shop one needs to compress and grow were Many want to spread everything to look like they have more. Over time there looking for that space again...

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Collegeville PA (30 min west of Philly)
    Posts
    543
    What are we considering "small"?

    I'm at about 450 square feet dedicated to tools and assembly (with separate space for spray booth and for lumber storage) and feel like that's plenty enough space to have all equipment be "permanent" and "stationary" (meaning I would never have to move anything more than a foot to accommodated occasional infeed/outfeed needs). If needed, I could spray in that space, I just find it nice to have it separate and clean. Lumber storage could be eliminated by buying only what you need when you need it.

    In my case, this includes: drill press (floor model, not bench top), belt sander (again, floor model), 14" band saw (floor model), router table, miter saw and counter, cabinet table saw, 12" lunchbox planer, 6" jointer, cyclone, two large assembly tables.

    (Edit: my shop is a shop... no cars, bikes, skateboards, basketballs etc... :-)
    - Bob R.
    Collegeville PA (30 minutes west of Philly)

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Suffolk, Va.
    Posts
    108
    I have an 18X22 shop. Small but I am happy with it. I make furniture for family and friends and really like my shop. I use Grizzly's Workshop Planner for layout.
    Michael Dilday
    Suffolk, Va.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Riefer View Post
    What are we considering "small"?

    I'm at about 450 square feet dedicated to tools and assembly (with separate space for spray booth and for lumber storage) and feel like that's plenty enough space to have all equipment be "permanent" and "stationary" (meaning I would never have to move anything more than a foot to accommodated occasional infeed/outfeed needs). If needed, I could spray in that space, I just find it nice to have it separate and clean. Lumber storage could be eliminated by buying only what you need when you need it.

    In my case, this includes: drill press (floor model, not bench top), belt sander (again, floor model), 14" band saw (floor model), router table, miter saw and counter, cabinet table saw, 12" lunchbox planer, 6" jointer, cyclone, two large assembly tables.

    (Edit: my shop is a shop... no cars, bikes, skateboards, basketballs etc... :-)
    Have over 600 in the garage and I'm compressed. It really matters how much and what you build. If I build cabinets I require storage for 1/2 what's in it plus the cabinets I build....Thursday I bought a ridgid job box and an Delta stationary sander and there's just no room..
    20200102_132926.jpg.3dff910bbb6520bf6cf724d9da413b01.jpg20200102_135954.jpg.d14e4b1e690a87891570177606eb9cc1.jpg
    Last edited by jack duren; 01-04-2020 at 1:08 PM.

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