Won't you be a good neighbor?
Whenever I escape to the workshop, I might as well be stranded on a (well-equipped) deserted island. Save for the occasional visit from my wife or one of my sons, I am a man unto himself.
In reality, though, my garage shop is surrounded on all sides not by white sand beaches but by neighbors. What I do in the shop—and when I do it—impacts the folks living around me, for better or worse.
That's why I chose to embrace my neighbors (no, not that way) by putting into place some friendly shop policies. After all, it makes more sense to prevent neighborly friction than to mend fences after the fact. Unless you have a basement shop, chances are good you can help keep the 'hood happier by following these simple recommendations.
Ever get on such a roll in the shop that you miss meals, bed times, or the kids' birthdays? Working late in the evening (or wee hours of the morning) with a thickness planer, router, or other loud power tool can rattle the windows and jangle the nerves of the folks who live next door. To help keep the peace, wrap up your power tool operations early in the evening and save the after-dark hours for hand tool work, sharpening, clean-up, or planning for the next shop session. This will go a long way toward amicable relations.
Use your power (tools) for good
Do the folks across the back fence need a door trimmed because they replaced their carpeting? Offer to tackle that chore for them. If someone on your block fancies himself a barbecue pit master, make a gift of your abundance of hardwood scraps for smoking meats. And, if your neighbor has a broken drawer runner, you'll be a hometown hero if you fix the old one or mill a new part.
Know Thy Neighbor
A garage shop with an open door attracts neighbors like iron filings to a rare-earth magnet. Maybe they drop by and pepper you with "whaddaya doin'?" questions. Showing your nosy neighbor what's on the bench will give them a better understanding of what you do and just might lead to a paying commission to build a bookshelf. (If you feel awkward charging for your labor, consider pricing the job to just cover the cost of the project materials and that new cordless drill you've been eyeing.)
I'm not saying you should hang an "open for tours" sign on your shop, but taking a few simple steps to be open and friendly with your neighbors will make your life easier. At the very least, you'll have something to talk about at the next neighborhood get-together!