When you have a small workshop, you likely think often about how to best utilize your space. As you get more invested in your work, you will begin to add tools and want the flow of your work to be much more efficient and smooth. Instead of having to constantly rearrange, you should shoot for an organized efficient shop from the start.
Update: Since writing this blog, I created two build plans that will help you to organize your workspace and I will link them below for those who are interest.
Okay, let’s get into it.
The space in your shop is so much more than your floor space. When thinking about your layout, think about which tools need to be on (or in) a table or raised surface. What are you going to be doing with the space below that tool? What about the space above your head? Is there room for storage above you?
As I built (and still building) more workspaces, I knew I wanted to capitalize on those above and below spaces. I built my miter saw station with drawers to utilize that space. I built my planer cart with drawers as well (this was a not successful experiment but a great learning experience). My router table was built with drawers as well. These are all tools and workspaces that need to be elevated to properly be used. So you may as well utilize the space below for storage.
Overhead storage is extremely popular for non-frequently used tools and lumber. My suggestion is to overbuild any storage that you are putting above you and make sure to keep it out of the way of your lights. Overhead storage is next on my list so I can get some lumber up and off the floor. This is key to optimize a small workshop. I really like the lumber rack I use. It’s pictured above as well.
I work out of a 2 car garage and don’t have enough space for everything to have a dedicated location. So I put as many things as possible on casters so I can push it up against a wall when not needed. My planer, jointer, bandsaw, and table saw are all mobile in the shop using locking casters. This allows me to pull only the tools I need out and have more room for those tools only. Get some good locking casters when you do this so your tools don’t want to move on you when using them!
This is one that I am constantly wanting to improve. Using wall space is so great because your tools are out in the open and easy to grab at a moments notice. You can also get really creative with your storage on a wall and pack a TON of tools in a small area. You will want to make sure the wall you are using is not in danger of being bumped constantly while you are working.
One of the most common and ingenious wall storage solutions is a french cleat system. This system uses strips of wood on the wall with a 45 degree cut and the item that you are hanging has an opposite 45 degree cut. Then you can mate these cuts together to have an extremely strong connection holding your tools up. These are all held together with no screws so they can easily be moved and rearranged for updates. Stay tuned as this is the next project on my storage list!
What is your typical workflow for your projects? Do you mill all your own lumber? Do you buy everything S4S? Are most of your projects sheet goods? These are really important things to keep in mind when setting up your shop as the flow is super important for your work.
Think through a normal project in your head and how the material would flow through your shop. Does it come in and hit the first tool easily? Does it pass to your next operation well? Do you have to move other tools out of the way? Where does your extra material go? These are really important things to consider in your shop. And the thing is, you probably won’t get it right the first time. Learning how you work is part of becoming a more efficient woodworker.
I hope these tips helped. Remember that most people do not start in a spacious, heated barn—most of us start in a garage. But if you optimize a small workshop effectively, it won’t matter where you are working. What matters is what you are creating.
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Located in West Michigan, Bearded Moose Woodworking handcrafts custom wood furniture, cabinets, and built-ins using locally-sourced hardwoods.