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Experience is the best teacher

With 50 years experience under his belt when he built his Vermont workshop, Fred Collins knew exactly what he wanted and how to build it himself.

  • Building is in his blood

    Fred Collins got his introduction to woodworking as a youngster, working for his homebuilder father. Add that to a 30-year career as an industrial arts teacher and there isn't much that Fred doesn't know about the tools of his trade. After retiring in 2000, Fred decided to put that knowledge to work and build his own shop next to his home.

  • A shop with a view

    From his below-grade shop, Fred has great views of the mountains. A lower-level yard makes it easier to transport materials and finished goods in and out of the shop. The garage and shop are separated from the main hose by a small bridge.

    TYPE: Dedicated space under detached garage

    SIZE: 32'8"x 22'10", ceiling height is 8'3"

    CONSTRUCTION: Hand-hewn timber-framed structure with 16" trusses between ceiling and garage floor above. R-60 insulation in ceiling; R-30 insulation in walls. Concrete slab floor

    HEATING: Water-heated radiant slab. Water is heated by the wood/oil-fired boiler in the basement of the house. Three heating zones for house; added fourth zone for shop

    COOLING: None

    ELECTRICAL:100-amp service panel

    LIGHTING: Fourteen 4'-long, 2-tube full-spectrum fluorescent fixtures

    DUST COLLECTION: Oneida cyclone 2-hp dust collection, plus central vacuum

    AIR COMPRESSOR: Coleman Powermate 1 12 -hp oilless compressor

  • He likes it quiet

    To keep noise to a minimum, Fred placed his dust collector and vacuum in a closet lined with sound-deadening board and foam. The vacuum vents outside, and the dust collector vents back into the shop through a baffled chase lined with foam.

  • His combination machine is front and center

    The combination machine in the foreground is the centerpiece of Fred's shop. Lumber and sheet goods lie close at hand. Additional tools all have their places around the perimeter of the shop; plus, the shop offers plenty of wall space as well as built-in cabinets for hand tools and accessories.

  • Dust collection at its finest

    Extra-long dust-collection hoses allow for tool mobility. Ductwork is plumbed through the ceiling, leading to the dust collector in a nearby closet.

  • Tools line the walls

    When designing his 32'8"X22'10" shop, Fred was intent on keeping additional property taxes and heating costs down. That was the thinking behind the focal point of his shop--the combination machine that includes a tablesaw, jointer, planer, shaper, and slot mortiser. This all-in-one unit takes up no more space than a typical cabinet saw with extension table. The rest of the machines are located along outside walls to maximize floor space.

  • Lots of lumber storage

    Just inside the 5' double doors are Fred's drawing table and files, plus one of five windows that let in ample natural light. Sheet goods, stock lumber, and clamps make up the goods conveniently stored along a nearby wall on a rack Fred designed.

  • You can't be too organized

    Typical of Fred's habit of keeping his shop organized, this handsome wall unit provides abundant storage space for power tools, accessories, and hardware.

  • He keeps it on the level

    The worktable and sliding mitersaw table can be latched together and have shop-made leveling. The worktable also has an auxiliary fence, with scale and stops, that can be slid out of the way on T-slots when the table is used independently of the saw.

  • An extra-long lathe bed

    This well-organized area of Fred's shop includes an array of wall-mounted tools, clamps, a lathe, and a drum sander. The lathe spans 8' between centers, a length necessary for porch posts and other architectural renovation work. One of several clever innovations is Fred's rolling dust-collecting hood/turning-tool holder. The unit rolls along the length of the lathe on a trolley, which is fastened to the bed. "My tools and dust collection are always where I need them," Fred says.

  • Experience is the best teacher

    This store-bought hydraulic rolling lift table/cart is one of Fred's favorite tools, especially as an assembly or finishing table. He uses it frequently as a "third hand," with the planer, drum sander, or tablesaw. The cart is instantly adjustable for any height within its operating range so it can match the height of any nearby surface. Sturdy enough to lift 600 pounds, it came in handy when Fred moved his lathe into place.

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