Spare but nowhere near spartan
Red laminate on MDF panels framed in birch adds color and a consistent appearance to cabinets, tool stands, and benches.

Compared with the coal cellar where he once set up shop, Rick Campbell now works in palatial surroundings. Daylight streams through the windows into his 14×22' shop, and he can stand up instead of being hunched beneath low joists.

Rick stands outside the entrance to his backyard shop. The simple design allowed him to spend more on interior fixtures and equipment.

"The only tools I keep in my shop," Rick explains, "are the ones I use regularly. And I'm ruthless when it comes to lumber storage, buying materials only for the project I'm working on. I have a 4×10' lean-to shed outside my shop with one lumber rack, but everything else gets burned in the fireplace or taken to the recycling center."

"I probably get more comments about my two workbenches than anything else," Rick says, "because they're so versatile. I replaced a long bench with two smaller ones—each about 2×4'. They're both on casters, so I can position them end-to-end or side-by-side. Or I split them apart as infeed or outfeed support for my tablesaw.

"I kept the tops simple—a torsion box sandwiched between 34 " plywood sheets. The hardwood sides of the box stand 14 " proud of the 34 " plywood top, creating a recess for a replaceable 14 " hardboard top. When it gets worn, I pop it out and drop in a new one.

Every tool has a home. Slatwall and custom movable panels hang on beveled cleats (also called French cleats).

"The other tool that catches people's eyes is my dual router table [opening photo]. It's a real time-saver—plus it improves accuracy. If a project requires two bits to cut a rabbet and an ogee profile, for example, I keep both bits in a router. I don't lose any time with setups—especially if I make a mistake and need to cut a replacement part."