A horse stable transformation creates the heart and soul of a workshop haven.
Bill Houghton's workshop
Natural light floods Bill Houghton's workshop to create an inviting work environment.

Where most would see an old pole barn, Bill Houghton saw a blank canvas for a dream workshop. Bill set about transforming the former horse stable into a center for his woodworking and the restoration of a 1948 Ford F-1 panel truck.

Bill started by partitioning the barn into three spaces: an auto shop, a woodshop, and a large utility room that includes a half bath.

Next, he cut window openings in the metal siding. Previous owners had installed rigid foam insulation between the 2×4 banding before covering it with plywood. In front of this, Bill added framed and insulated walls before covering them with 1/2" drywall and wainscoting. The result is an exterior wall thickness of over 6-1/2".

For the ceiling, Bill added joists between the trusses, covered them with painted OSB, then piled 10" of insulation on top. The 10' ceiling height provides plenty of room for maneuvering long boards. LED lighting supplements the natural light spilling in from the array of windows around the shop.

For power, Bill installed a dedicated 200-amp, 40-circuit panel. To avoid tripping over cords strung across the floor, he mounted a cable reel on the ceiling over the main workbench. Convenient 120- and 240-volt cord drops near the major tools plug into turn-lock receptacles in the ceiling.

A mini-split heat pump system heats and cools the shop. It's supplemented by a ceiling-mounted electric heater that's fired up when the outside temperatures drop below freezing.

Dust collection consists of a 3-hp dust collector connected to thin-wall PVC piping. Flexible hoses connect the major tools to the wall-mounted dust gates. A 7-1/2-hp air compressor feeds 3/4" flexible HDPE-over-aluminum tubing that let him customize the installation. He used a kit(rapidairproducts.com) that included compression fittings and tools for DIY installation. The compressor and dust collector reside in the utility room to keep the noise levels in the shop in a more comfortable range.

Bill admits he's a penny-pincher when it comes to shop purchases. He outfitted his shop with bargain tools and equipment, older tools requiring repairs, or garage-sale deals. His finds include a 5-hp Rockwell model 18 planer, a Foley-Belsaw jointer/molder, and several vintage saws. Many of the base and wall cabinets were destined for the landfill until Bill snagged them and gave them a new life in his shop. To create flat and stable worksurfaces, he used MDF topped with 1/4" hardboard then added hardwood edging.

Floor Plan

Two radial-arm saws and the mitersaw create a cutting trio along one wall. Bill made sure the tables of the saws were at the same level to support long boards. Bill dedicated one of the radial-arm saws to cutting dadoes. The other serves primarily for crosscutting boards to rough length.

Wall of tools
This "wall of tools" features aligned worksurfaces to support long workpieces when using the radial-arm saws or compound mitersaw.

Larger tools like the planer, molder, and bandsaws rest on mobile bases. Several benchtop tools, including the mitersaw and radial-arm saws, reside on cabinet bases with casters. The cabinets provide ample storage space for accessories.

Bill's tablesaw is the heart of his shop. The large outfeed table features storage underneath. A scrap bin conveniently tucks under the wing of the tablesaw. He also added a tool well to keep his most-used tablesaw accessories at hand.

Wall-mounted racks
Wall-mounted racks keep clamps accessible while saving wall space with their compact design. The hinged front section swings out to allow access to longer clamps.
storage rack
Designed to fit a narrow space beside the garage door, this storage rack keeps cutoffs and sheet goods in neat order.

Woodworking is in Bill's blood. "I learned much from spending weekends with my grandfather while growing up," he says. His shop projects include repairing pieces, repurposing items, or building new cabinets for an antique store owned by two of his daughters.

Bill Houghton
Bill Houghton's interest in woodworking started in a 7th-grade shop class. A retired electrical contractor who raised seven children, he has had plenty of projects to complete.