When Ken Balatgek built his new workshop, he put a lot of thought into the design.
Back-to-back tablesaws provide a large surface for cutting sheet goods. Ken dedicated one of the saws to cutting dadoes. A pair of strategically placed assembly tables include storage underneath.

When Ken Balatgek built his new workshop, he put a lot of thought into the design. Embedded in an embankment, with the upper-level shop accessible from the main driveway, he uses the lower level for storage and parking his truck. The bottom floor also houses a finishing room, cyclone dust collector, air compressor, and furnace. Between both levels, Ken has about 2,600 square feet of space. A custom-made open freight elevator helps move lumber and projects between floors. Foot traffic uses a spiral staircase.

Ken designed his two-story shop to fit the topography. Windows provide plenty of natural light, and the double doors make it easy to get projects and materials in and out.

Blast gates in the floor route dust from the stationary tools, including dual bandsaws and tablesaws, as well as a wide-belt sander, to ductwork in the lower level. Ken ran ethernet cable from each blast gate to a panel with an array of LEDs. Magnetic door- and window-alarm sensors at each blast gate complete a circuit when a gate opens, and a corresponding light glows on the panel. One glance tells Ken how many and which blast gates are open.

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The bulk of the dust-collection system hides in the lower level of the building. Ductwork leads to ports in the floor of the shop near each machine. Ken designed a lighted panel to tell him which blast gates are open (inset photo).

For storing hardware, such as screws and other fasteners, Ken was fortunate to obtain some heavy-duty card-catalog cabinets from a library auction. He repainted them and added dividers. Ken built much of the other cabinetry using lumber milled from a beech tree felled by a friend. He made his traditional workbench from soft maple using plans and hardware from Benchcrafted. "It was my first 'big' project," he says.

Among all the machinery, Ken maintains a "hand-tool corner" where he works at his traditional workbench.

A heavily insulated ceiling and 2×6 walls allow an air conditioner to cool the shop in the heat of summer without stressing Ken's wallet. Wintertime heat comes from a wood stove or the furnace.

An off-the-shelf electric hoist lifts and lowers this 36×60" aluminum platform. Trolleys on the elevator guide it along wall-mounted track.

Ken recently acquired a Digital Wood Carver 2440 CNC router. He's having a lot of fun exploring its potential for creating signs, plaques, inlay work, and whatever else he can dream up.


Ken Balatgek stays busy with his dental practice

and raising three girls. His woodworking ventures started less than a decade ago. He enjoys building furniture and woodturning while discovering new potential for his CNC router.