Workshop layout?

Questions about tools and jigs you want to buy/build/modify.

Workshop layout?

Postby Matthew Lau » Wed Apr 10, 2019 1:25 pm

Hey everybody,

I finally moved back near my workshop.
For the msot part, it's a cluttered mess of wood and tools and stuff.

Do you have tips on a good workshop layout?


I know that there's different goals (needs to move out, for car to fit; needs to look good; etc).
I'd love your tips.
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Peter Wilcox » Wed Apr 10, 2019 1:33 pm

Matthew Lau wrote:For the msot part, it's a cluttered mess of wood and tools and stuff.


That's how mine is laid out - can't keep it any other way.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Bryan Bear » Wed Apr 10, 2019 2:05 pm

The best layout will be different for everyone. And, it will be fluid. When I moved my shop to the other end of the basement, I did a lot of planning based on what I didn't like about the old set-up. That was time well spent. I immediately saw the benefits. Over time, my work evolved and I have made a number of changes to the set up. So I would advise 1) work for a while in your shop to see what you would want to change and 2) try not to make anything too permanent with the understanding that you WILL be changing things.
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Matthew Lau » Wed Apr 10, 2019 4:45 pm

Would you mind showing photos?

I promise to avoid photo bombing the MIMF servers (like I did the the MIM photos).
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Bryan Bear » Wed Apr 10, 2019 5:43 pm

My shop is awkwardly long and narrow (less than 10' by 18' with some closest built out around various utilities). I have tried to get photos in the past but they never tell the story of what it is like in there. I have some parameters that most people done have to deal with, since peopple usually have space in the middle of the floor. Any space in front of a bench or machine near a wall is in the middle of the room but also the space in front of something on the opposite wall <g>

I opted for more counter top workbench space than some would have because I always found myself running out of horizontal surfaces. this takes up valuable floor space but worth it for me. My main bench is a U shaped kitchen counter with a peninsula on one side. That takes up a lot of floor space but gives me plenty of space to maneuver between work areas (like you would when preparing a meal) and I can keep most of the tools I need in the cabinets right there. 85% of what I need to do I can do from that small space. directly behind that I have a counter and cabinets that have benchtop power tools so I can turn around take a few steps and do a quick sanding, drilling or small bandsaw job. Around the peninsula is the 14" bandsaw thickness sander mounted on a rolling tool box and my small table saw on a rolling cart under the table the RAS is mounted to. I just roll out what I need.

There was some wasted space next to a poorly placed door on the closet that the breaker box is in. Fortunately I was able to make shelves just deep enough to not get hit by the door and still house guitar sets and bracing so that space is not wasted.

One thing I recently did that was a tremendous help was to empty one of the base cabinets and make 4 large trays that slide in. I can keep all the components of a guitar (as long as the neck is not attached) in a tray and put it away when I am not working on it. With the cabinet door closed those projects are protected from whatever else is going on in the shop until I need them again. This is really helpful because I often have to stop guitar making for extended periods of time while I do other messier projects for the home or school. It is nice to know my in progress instruments are safe and all the parts are together. I used to lose stuff. . .

Boards that have not yet been sawn into smaller pieces are stored in the blank space along the two walls of my kitchen counter. I framed the bench under the counter and filled it with wall cabinets instead of base cabinets because I found that most of what I wanted on hand didn't need the depth of a base cabinet. This means I can slide long boards out of the way between the cabinets and wall.

So, as you can see your space and workstyle can be a huge factor in how you set things up. I bet many of the awesome craftsmen here would struggle and curse trying to use my shop but it works very well for me.
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:35 pm

Matthew - can't offer much "layout" advice. My shop has been expanded and completely re-configured three times in the 25 years we've been in this house. The current layout is a joy to work in, but was highly constrained by:

  • Space for laundry room, bathroom and "physical plant" (water heater and boiler)
  • Very low (7-ft) ceilings
  • An I-beam that runs down the center and extends 6" below the ceiling
  • Two support pipes supporting the i-beam
  • A vertical waste pipe from the main-floor bathrooms

The space is about 25x25 less the space for laundry/bath/physical plant

Despite all that, I have a 3hp cyclone, 15" planer, 8" jointer, 14" band saw, cabinet saw, floor-standing VS drill press, oscillating belt/spindle sander, sliding compound miter saw, mortiser and mini lathe, plus two work benches, two machinists tool boxes, tool cabinets, a small wood stash and *TONS* of storage space. Completed it about two years ago, and still have a couple of half-empty drawers. Everything is on mobile bases, but nothing ever has to be moved to use.

I'm attaching for panoramic photos below. I hope they show up ok.

The only way I was able to get this all into such a small space, with every machine in a fixed spot, hooked to dust collection and power AND still had room to move around was by modeling the entire thing in Sketchup. I was able to download from their 3D warehouse many machines that were close in size to my own, and was able to move things around, route DC ducting, plan lighting etc. so that it would all work together.

There are also a gazillion (and thats a *metric* gazillion) little features that I would not live without. From the dispenser for 3-oz plastic cups for mixing epoxy and the like to the multiple tool racks made of 3/4" ply that allow drilling holes for screws and hooks anywhere so I can cram a huge number of tools hung neatly in a small space, one over the general-purpose work bench, one behind the woodworking bench, and two next to the drill press. I have things hung all over with magnets, including the adjusting hex keys for every machine, my hot-glue gun next to my woodworking bench for "tack-welding" jigs together, and as you can see, drawers, drawers and more drawers. The four cabinets you see all measure about 12" deep 48" wide and about 30" tall. Along the wall above the SCMS you'll see a very deep shelf. This, like Brian's cabinet is my "work in progress" shelf, just tall enough for guitar bodies to be stored on-edge, but invaluable so it keeps parts from taking up all the flat surfaces when I'm mid-project, or like Brian, have to drop one project to do something else that gets put on the front burner.

Because of the I-beam, I routed my DC ducting right down that beam. This kinda splits the shop right down the middle with most of the actual wood working done on one side, and the other side dedicated to finishing and assembly. The four shots below show the two "halves" of the shop, with two panoramas for each - one toward the center (with the air cleaner, jointer planer and band saw) and the other looking at the outer walls.

PS - in looking at these, I'm amazed at how much additional stuff I've crammed in here since these pics were taken!! :lol:

Shop Pano 4s.jpg


Shop Pano 1s.jpg


Shop Pano_2s.jpg


Shop Pano 3s.jpg
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Apr 10, 2019 9:13 pm

I'll add something else - the small stuff, like the stuff you want to have right next to your primary working spot will constantly be refined. The cabinet you see just above my woodworking bench looks nothing like it does in those pics. The "wing" on the left is pretty much the same though a few tools have been acquired and added, but other than the planes and spoke shaves on the top, everything else has been re- and re-re-configured. I found myself constantly walking across the shop for some items, and have been gradually moving them near the bench. Certain things (like my 1-2-3 blocks and gauge blocks) were moved from a machinist's chest to the bottom shelf of this cabinet. I also made a four-drawer unit to go on the bottom shelf where I store various knives, scrapers, small files and some consumables like wax I use as a glue-resist, a rag soaked with various oils (Boeshield, camilla oil, WD-40 etc) for wiping off planes and chisels before storing, glass vials of several species of wood dust used for gap-filling, an eye-dropper bottle of detergent to use when wet-sanding etc. After two years, I don't think I've got that space fine-tuned yet.
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Bob Gramann » Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:19 pm

Don’t put anything above your workbench. You will find it useful to have your bench in the open so you can approach it from all sides. Cabinets, pegboards, etc. just gives your tools, cans, and anything else and excuse to fall on your precious work. If it can fall on your guitar, it will.
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Apr 23, 2019 7:34 pm

Bob Gramann wrote:Don’t put anything above your workbench. You will find it useful to have your bench in the open so you can approach it from all sides. Cabinets, pegboards, etc. just gives your tools, cans, and anything else and excuse to fall on your precious work. If it can fall on your guitar, it will.

That's true if you have the room. I tried mightily to put my workbench in the middle of the room, but in the end couldn't make it work.
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Chuck Tweedy » Wed Apr 24, 2019 11:50 pm

your shop is the bomb steve.
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Steve Sawyer » Thu Apr 25, 2019 5:08 pm

Chuck Tweedy wrote:your shop is the bomb steve.

Thanks, Chuck. This is literally the fourth iteration. Each time the LOML gave me a little more space to work with, everything got re-configured. I think I've hit the limit on that goodwill though, as the only other space I can get is to start moving a wall into the recreation room, and she ain't gonna go along with that! :D

The goal on this iteration was to finally get every piece of machinery into a stationary position with power and dust collection in place. It used to be that to use many pieces of equipment including the jointer, planer and band saw, I had to move a bunch of stuff, connect DC hoses, run extension cords etc., then reverse the entire process when the operation was completed. I never got the use that I should have out of my band saw because it was such a PITA to use it. I'm still, after two years in this configuration trying to get into the habit of thinking of using the band saw first, particularly on some small piece that might be a problem on a table saw or SCMS.

I also wanted to get a lot of storage options. I hate work spaces where I have stuff leaning against the walls everywhere, piles of stuff under workbenches, and jars and cans and boxes of hardware and various shop bric-a-brac on shelves, in drawers and piled along the back of the workbenches. I'm a pathological "a place for everything and everything in its place" kinda guy...

BTW, I mentioned above using Sketchup extensively to design this space. Last week, I became frustrated with my music room because my keyboard was across the room from the desk/shelf where I work with my laptop, making it very awkward to make a connection to my DAW and MuseScore. Once again Sketchup allowed me to re-work the space until I had a workable arrangement. A few days of work which included making a cabinet for the keyboard, and my music room is now MUCH better arranged from a working standpoint, and much neater looking and less cluttered.

Music Room s.jpg
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Re: Workshop layout?

Postby Matthew Lau » Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:01 pm

I can't believe I forgot about the thread.

Thanks for the posts!
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