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Options For Your First Shop

Ready to set up a shop of your own? We mapped out three typical small-space shops, then came up with surefire strategies to beat the space squeeze.

Choose Your Tools Thoughtfully Which tools do you have to have? Admittedly, in tight quarters your options are limited. Thousands of craftsmen in such situations turn to a multipurpose tool that saws, drills, bores, turns, and sands. The Basic Tool Kit (below) and Power Tools (below) pages will help you decide what you need.

The other approach is task-oriented tools. Here's where you must focus and select the stationary power tools you really need to do the work you want to do. Perhaps a tablesaw, or radial-arm saw, and some portable power and hand tools will fill the bill. But most of us either have—or would like to have—a greater selection. Our model shop layouts indicate how you can fit them in.

Make Your Equipment Do Double Duty A workbench acts as the hub of any workshop, no matter the size. For small spaces, select a workbench 4' to 5' long and 24" wide. If you make it the same height as your tablesaw top, it can act as an extension to support sheet goods when ripping.

Double duty ideas.jpg

A good-quality 10" or 9" tablesaw, properly adjusted and fitted with a sharp carbide-tipped blade, can cut accurately enough to do much jointer work. For an extension, equip it with a plastic laminate-covered plywood router table, and you have extra bench space.

Table szw extension.jpg (

Too cramped for a tablesaw? Opt for a radial-arm saw against a wall, as in our long, narrow shop plan. With a little cabinet work, you can transform the space it occupies into a real work center, with bench and storage.

Radial arm saw.jpg

A note about lighting: Use 4' or 8' 80-watt fluorescent fixtures or 150-watt bulbs on a separate lighting circuit. Check for proper intensity by setting a block of wood at different places around the shop—if it doesn't cast a shadow, your lighting is bright enough. Paint all walls, and even the ceiling where possible, stark white to make the room seem larger.

Plan Your Work In Stages Organize your work into stages, or steps, and clean up after each session so there's enough room to get each step completed: Step 1 Rip and cut off stock into manageable parts, so you won't have to handle large pieces. Step 2 Complete cuts, joinery, and assembly necessary for all sub-assemblies you have in the project. Step 3 Use your assembly bench to join the sub-assemblies. Step 4 Apply finish in the assembly area. Spray outside or in a separate area.

Efficient Shop Layout I

Just as in your kitchen, getting things done efficiently depends largely on shop layout. Where you position your equipment determines how workable your shop will be.

Situate your stationary power tools according to your working patterns and the shape of the space. Do allow for certain minimum passageways and areas. For guidelines, we figure on 18" to 24" walkways between benches and machinery or between stationary tools. To work between benches and equipment, rather than just walk, you need 30" to 36".



10 x 22 shop.jpg


Options for your fist shop

Efficient Shop Layout II

THE 11x22' GARAGE SHOP This space could be a single-car garage or in one-half of a double garage. In either case, we've assumed you have to share space with a vehicle.

11 x 22 shop.jpg

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