I’m a bit of nerd when it comes to shops. I’m always curious to see what others have done and what I can learn from it. I’m going to add my shop into the mix to hopefully help inspire some other nerd make their shop better. I’m planning on discussing how my shop came to be, the size both, in terms of benefits and limitations, tools, fixtures, and also, future plans for it.

As a carpenter, the garage was a blank canvas for me to put my stamp.

When my wife and I bought our house, the single car garage was immediately earmarked for my shop. It was technically rectangular in shape, but more closely resembled a square (14’ long x 13’ wide) shell with no lights. Thats 182 square feet for those of you keeping score. Small. The one plug it did have was on the left hand wall near the back, and had a breaker that was infuriatingly finicky . The rickety shelves above, empty, a layer of dust showed the outline of the boxes that once occupied the space. The back and side walls of the shop were simply framed with 2×4’s and covered with a layer of white textured stucco; No insulation between the two. The same goes for the ceiling, except 2×8 framing. This was typical of the time the home was built. The last wall was made up of an overhead steel garage door, set two feet off center to the right. Original to the house, 50+ years old, squeaky and rough, but working nonetheless. The floor, concrete, had a slight slope to the front and in towards the middle where in the front third sat a round drain. All in all, the space was quite unadorned. As a carpenter, the garage was a blank canvas for me to put my stamp.

Shop before

In terms of designing the shop I had several limitations to overcome. The first being its overall size. Could I actually make a functioning shop in this size of space? If so, how could I make it a place where I actually wanted to work? The second limitation I had was power. Would I be able to get enough power into the shop to suit my needs both in terms of running my power tools, as well as providing proper lighting in the workspace. The third was portability. How could I make my shop functional and adaptable while still allowing me to easily load tools for my day job if need be? Portability was also linked to the overall size of the shop in the sense that having portable tools would allow me change the configuration of the shop. The final limitation I had to overcome was storage. Both wood and tools are essential to a woodworking hobby, and the storage of them, a necessary evil. Finding a good way to have them both out of the way and within an arm’s reach is essential to an efficient shop. While there were definite limitations, I was sure I could overcome them and create a great small shop.

Finding a good way to have them both out of the way and within an arm’s reach is essential to an efficient shop.

I initially set to mapping out the shop using Sketchup. This allowed me to manipulate the larger pieces I had acquired (table saw, miter saw, band saw, jointer, and work bench) and figure out if I could create a shop that I would want to spend time in. Call me lazy, but this seemed much easier than actually physically manipulating the tools in place. I decided that the table saw would be the centerpiece of my shop with my workbench acting as an out-feed table. The jointer and band saw would be on wheels which would allow me to roll them around. Once I had an idea of where these main tools would sit, I was then able to place the electrical outlets, as well as the lights. I took the old fashioned approach and used pencil and paper to map this out. I got some good information with regards to lighting from a Wood Magazine article. Storage resolved itself when the guys at work came across a set of cabinets destined for the dump. Some did end up in the dump, but a few became fixtures in the shop. Nothing fancy or aesthetically pleasing, but functional. A few other additions I made that, in my opinion, would make my shop more enjoyable were insulation for warmth in the winter and cooling in the summer, as well as plywood walls and ceiling for easily mounting fixtures.

With a solid plan in place I set to actually making things happen. I started by removing the stucco, and having an electrician buddy wire the shop for power. This included two separate circuits for plugs (so I can run two tools at once i.e. ShopVac and router), a circuit for lights, and a 220V plug for future use. This is nearing the max capacity of my panel and is the best I could do. To take advantage of the two plug circuits I spray painted the covers two different colors so I always know when I’m plugged into two different circuits.plug covers I then insulated the walls and ceiling using JM fibreglass insulation. Pretty standard. With a little effort I was able to sheet the walls and ceiling with ½” standard fir plywood and applied a coat of white drywall sealer that was left over from painting upstairs. I chose white over the other colors because it thought it would help reflect light and make the shop feel both brighter and larger. Next came mounting the cabinets and building a miter saw bench and storage shelves. This concluded what I thought were the essentials, and what was left was a workable shop. It stayed that way for a month or two as I used the space to find out what worked, what didn’t, and what I needed to add. I would recommend doing this as things feel different in reality than they do in Sketchup. Nothing substitutes the feeling of actually getting in the shop and making something.

So far I am happy with my setup. Because of the overall size I will never be able to build a set of kitchen cabinets, or a large bed, and I’m ok with that. I am constantly tinkering with where things are placed and which things go on which shelf, but that’s half the fun. Overall, I think I am going to be able to produce quality pieces out of this shop, and that is something that excites me.

Overall, I think I am going to be able to produce quality pieces out of this shop, and that is something that excites me

——–Just a side note, in case you’re curious, because I always am, I did all of the work myself (minus electrical panel connection) and did it for a hair under $1000 CAD. Money well spent in my opinion.


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