There are few things as fun – or as overwhelming – as setting up a new workshop. On the one hand, you get to start from scratch with a real blank slate. You’re going to be able to customize your shop to your exact, finding out exactly where every tool, every table, and every cabinet and is outgoing. On the other hand, though, you’re going to have to stare at that blank slate and make everything fit. The other good that your first few configurations and ideas just aren’t going to “play well” with one another. And then it’s back to the drawing board. Sometimes multiple times!
To help you shortcut the process and set up shop with as little headache and hassle as possible we put together this list of tips and tricks.
Thin the Herd
Straight out of the gate you want to eliminate EVERYTHING your new shop doesn’t need, at least as much as possible.
Get rid of old scrap wood you haven’t used in six months. Abandoned old and broken tools you’re not going to fix or use any longer. Decide what you’re going to do with duplicates and really try to winnow things down to the essentials.
This alone is going to help you save a whole lot of space and make planning your new shop much easier.
Evaluate Your Space
Secondly, take a good hard look at the space that you have available from a raw footprint standpoint.
Measure square footage accurately but also be on the lookout for bump outs, odd angles, and walls that aren’t flush or support columns that stand in the middle of otherwise free and clear expanses.
You need to know what kind of space you have to work with (where your windows and doors are, too) but you also need to know about any structural hurdles or obstacles you’ll need to work around.
Get a real lay of the land down on a piece of paper (drawn to scale) and you will be able to map your new job out without moving heavy tools and equipment three or four times.
Vertical space in a lot of shops is criminally underused.
Start thinking about how you can use your walls to maximize your storage space, but not just in the traditional “couple of cabinets over here” kind of way.
French cleat systems can change the way you use your vertical space almost completely. This is a super versatile way to get a lot more storage space on your walls, especially if you build custom storage bins or mounting brackets that play nicely with your French cleat set up.
Maximize every square inch you have including the “airspace” in your shop and you’ll be amazed at what you can squeeze into even compact shop footprints.
Orient Everything Based Off of Your Workflow
The number one thing that knew shop owners struggle with (professionals and amateurs alike) is fitting tools somewhat randomly, or aligning them in different spaces without really thinking about how all of them fit into your overall workflow.
Rather than just sort of throwing your tools wherever they land, instead start to think about how you’re going to use each piece and how you can more efficiently move around the shop with the finished product off of those tools.
Something that comes out of your jointer and planer is probably going to be moved pretty quickly to your table saw setup. From there it might move over to your main workbench or any of the drill presses that you have set up, or over to the router table.
Think about how a piece of material is going to move around your shop and then design your layout accordingly. This alone is a game changing to that will make shop life a whole lot more enjoyable!