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$1,000 Backyard Workshop

With only 100 square feet to work with, Vern put a lot of thought into laying out the shop and choosing tools that best serve his needs.

Vern Schweigert’s backyard shed, below, looks like any other that would store rakes, shovels, and other lawn and garden equipment. But open the double doors and you step into the Narnia of woodworking, a fully functional shop. 

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The 10×10' shed sports insulated walls and ceiling, covered with painted drywall. Vern scouted out discarded materials to finish his shop at very low cost. A friend’s kitchen remodel provided recycled cabinets, and excess material purchased from a nearby contractor became the floating, insulated flooring. Vern made the workbench base from 8×8 scraps purchased from a construction site and topped it with solid maple reclaimed from a bowling alley.

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The mechanic’s tool chest stores smaller tools and accessories. The plywood-mounted mitersaw bridges a gap between a base cabinet and the workbench.

For the electric supply, Vern ran two 20-amp circuits from the house underground to a small subpanel in the shed. A couple of flat-mount LED fixtures provide adequate lighting without compromising headroom. He did all this work himself for just under $1,000.

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Without a tablesaw, Vern has become proficient with the bandsaw and appreciates its versatility. He rolls it out on a mobile base for easier access when needed. A compact, shop-made router table serves his routing needs.

Vern’s previous workshops, before he downsized and moved, included a tablesaw and radial-arm saw. At first, he missed having them. But, he says, “The 14" bandsaw together with my mitersaw and circular saw get the job done.” To rip longer stock, he simply rolls the bandsaw into the doorway.

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Taking advantage of every square inch of space, Vern stores router bits in a rack attached to the side of a cabinet.

He explains that the biggest challenge of working in a small shop is the time it takes to build a project. Limited space makes it difficult to work on more than one project, or part of a project, at a time. But Vern also sees this as an advantage: It forces him to take more time in the planning and execution, which gives him greater satisfaction once the project is complete.

Vern loves spending time in his small shop. But he says: “The only thing I wish I had more space for is a lounge chair and a TV. Then my shop would become a full-time man cave.” 

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