Bare Necessities Workshop Space

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10 thoughts on “Bare Necessities Workshop Space

  1. Another advantage of a tool chest is something Christopher Schwarz mentioned in his blog a while back, and that’s how he’ll use his tool chest as an assembly table on some projects. He also has it on casters so it will work as a stool when he wants to sit at the workbench.

    For a small shop, it’s a good idea to have as many multi-use items as you can. For example, a sawbench can also be a stool. Things like that. Just my 2 cents worth anyways 🙂

  2. That was a timely article Bob! Thanks!

    I’m in the planning stages of setting up a hand tool woodworking area at the foot of my bed so to speak. I live in an apartment and my wife has the second bedroom as her space. If I use the space between the end of our bed and the wall I have 5’ 9” of space. Length wise, I can use about 9’ of the wall if I move out a couple of book cases. There’s a window on the adjacent wall (left) with about 29” of wall space available (corner to window frame). No other wall space is available. I think I could get by with a workbench that is 6’ long by maybe 25”-30” wide and still have room to move around. I would need to build some drawers under the workbench for storage. A medium sized tool chest is a possibility as well as what is shown on wall in your fourth drawing, but probably not the lumber storage.

    One issue is the rug in our master bedroom would have to be covered while I work. My thinking so far, is to get a good quality canvas tarp about 8’ wide. I was going to fold over one end and fasten its edge about 4’ up on the wall, to the wall studs with lag bolts and washers (or maybe toggle bolts between the studs) through a 1”x4” board. Then I would run the tarp down the wall, under the workbench and across the rug, then up the end of the bed and lay they excess across part of the bed. When not in use, I would roll the tarp up on a long wooden dowel and hang it on the front of the workbench. Clean up of shavings and sawdust would consist of using a shop vac.

    Does this sound reasonable? Any suggestions?

    Thanks again Bob.

    • Sounds reasonable to me. I wouldn’t bother making the bench any more than 24″ deep though. Any deeper than that and it starts to become too far to reach the other side of it. If my bench was any wider than it is (about 22″) I wouldn’t be able to get to the stuff high up on my tool wall and on the shelf.

      • Thanks Bob for the suggestion, and encouragement. I currently have a makeshift table (for my computer) against the wall that I would be hanging tools on. The table is almost 30” across (deep). I’m 6’1”, and have no problem reaching across the table to the wall while I’m standing up, or even up higher on the wall. However, I will probably restrict the workbench width to no more than 26”. That will also give me 4 more inches of work space, than I currently have (with the table in place), between the front of the workbench and the end of the bed, so that’s a plus.

  3. One thing you can think about in a smaller shop, which I struggle with in my shop is using things in multiple ways.

    Right now I am building a Saw Bench that is also my saw storage, as well as a variety of other tools. Some things can and should be single use, but somethings might be able to be used in a variety of operations. It will be based on a basic 6 board chest, with internal parts based on the “Anarchist Tool Chest” ideas from Schwarz.

    I’ll be posting my build and pictures on my completed Saw Bench Tool Chest in about a week on my blog.


  4. Nice graphics. On lumber storage, do you buy all the wood for a project at once, or just enough for current operations? (not sure on your completion rate of a project – I tend to, uh, savor my projects these days). If you buy it all early, I assume you do a rough breakdown initially to make storage manageable?


    • Matt,
      It depends on the size of the project really. For my current entertainment center build, there’s no way I could store all the lumber I need for the piece, so I’m buying it in stages. For the dressing table I’ll be moving on to next, I’ll buy it all at once since it is a significantly lesser quantity of lumber that will be needed. In my shop, I can store boards up to about 10′ long, so I don’t need to break things down too much before bringing the lumber in. In cases where I have very large & wide boards though, I’ll do a rough break down, maybe to approximate half board length (depending upon what pieces are coming out of that board), either at the lumber yard before loading the lumber (benefits of using hand saws ;)) or out in the driveway or garage before I bring the boards in.

  5. Talk about 8′ by 6′ ?
    Well my shop is actually 8 and 1/2′ by a little under 6′ (it’s actually 1.80×2.60m)
    Ho and i’m also storing two bikes in there witch is generally no a problem since the benchtop is taller so a workpiece can eventually pass over them.

    The bench i’m using is a mechanical bench (boohbooh) approximately 30″ by 21 and 1/2″. My two main concern about it is that it’s mounted on casters so even when looked it still wobble a little but don’t move so i still can do decent planing job on it. The second is that due to the all metal construction of the base it makes horrible and long resonating noise when i’m chiseling on it.
    Replacing it with a all wood shop made bench is on my long term todo list…

    I’m using mostly handtools but also handheld powertools and also got a little drillpress that lies on the floor by a side when not in use (lifting this things to the benchtop is a great way to practice squats). Ho and got a shopvac, just wish someone invent a hand so with built-in dust collecting system ;c) I must confess i actually ended up using mostly handtools because of the little space, but now i’m glad it went so.

    While my main use is to build guitars, i have yet been able to build decents home furnitures like a 4’wx2’dx3’h kitchen buffet. I admit using pre-milled stock for it, anyway i dont yet own a jointer plane (it’s on my to buy list).

    From this experience i can give an advice : when dealing with such a small place, i think it’s better to start from the place you need to comfortably work around the bench and then decide the size of it then the opposite. If the bench is smaller you can always find another way to do the things maybe sometimes using different tools. I know face jointing on a power router is not as cool as using a jointer plane but hey we’re talking about compromises here. You may also want to change you design according to what you know you can handle in your shop. Powertool guys went to use smaller size lumber and found ways to assemble them when needing large boards to accommodate with the limited size of a typical power jointer, that might be an inspiration here. You could find a way to create the 5′ long board mentioned out of two 2’1/2 board that you could easily joint even on a bench as small as mine. The bench is just like any other tools, you have to learn to work with yours.
    But if you can’t get in a correct position to work around, there is no point in getting the bigger bench as you’re not be able to use it for anything.

    So IMHO the first thing to layout is, when you are sawing for joinery, how far do you reach your back leg to be in stable position. You need a clear space that is at least a square from this size in front of the place where you would have your joinery vise (probably your only vise). I would probably put this on the center and then design the bench and everything else around this.

  6. I definitely agree with the bench, sawbench and tool storage. How you store your wood, whether you have a sharpening station and assembly table are choices completely subject to your imagination.

    I converted an two old generic shop tables into a rolling assembly cart with clamp and wood storage, plus some tool storage. The castors lock to keep it from rolling around. I’m sure I’ll refine it, but it’s a great caddie for me. Plus it consolidated some items and tidied the place up a bit. In a pinch I can stack stuff on top of it and roll it out to the pickup to load things up as well!

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