I have a small home workshop. I'm always needing a tool I don't have,
or running out of space. One possible solution that has occured to me
is, for lack of a better term, a "Group Workshop". This would be a
rather large workshop owned by a group of woodworkers (or an
entrepeneur renting to woodworkers), equipped with the most comonly
needed power and hand tools. Each member would have a storage space
for his/her wood and personal tools
Has anyone seen this concept in action? How well did it work? How
were the users charged (by the hour of usage?, a monthly usage fee?,
both?, other?). How much of a problem was liability? How was tool
maintenance/re-furbishment handled? How about security?
The concept seems workable, but does it actually work in practice, or
has it even been tried?
Hell, I'd be happy to find a space I could rent/share cheaply just to do my
woodworking. Since I live in an apartment *and* use a wheelchair, I have
compounded difficulty in finding some place to build my projects. I already
have or would be willing to buy any needed tools if I could just find the
space somewhere. Fact is, I've been looking for a location for over fifteen
FWIW .. .. I'm just finishing up construction on a brand-new 28'X44'shop
in SE Tennessee .. .. just North of Chattanooga. I'd be glad to share
the space with other guys on an informal basis. Not much interested in
starting a business venture, but some kind of co-op relationship would
| Hell, I'd be happy to find a space I could rent/share cheaply just
| to do my woodworking. Since I live in an apartment *and* use a
| wheelchair, I have compounded difficulty in finding some place to
| build my projects. I already have or would be willing to buy any
| needed tools if I could just find the space somewhere. Fact is,
| I've been looking for a location for over fifteen years.
How far are you willing to commute? :-)
DeSoto, Iowa USA
What you are looking for is a Tool Lending Library. They have
been around for a while with varying degrees of success. I
would tend to believe that the people using it that determines
the success or failure of any given endeavor.
You may look into the current ones for pointers about how they
Here is a list:
My community center has a woodshop that is open a few days a week and
has a per day charge for it's use. (7$ I think) Fairly well equiped
with most tools you could want including a router (no bits) and
sanders (no sandpaper).
And they encourage you bring your oun tools as well. One fellow came
with his brand new router table from Lee Valley - I think to show off
his new toy. Another sets up some semi finished stuff for display
while he cuts more stuff - probably to demonstrate his vast skills.
Their shop tools have seen a lot of use and abuse. Remember that it's
used by some people who don't know enuff not to open paint cans with a
chisel. It's amazing there isn't more blood stains on the floor
especially from the man who used the palm of his hand over the
endgrain to push the face of a board through a jointer. I stopped
this guy and showed him the push block.
You could spend a lot of time sharpening or adjusting tools before you
use them. For the big stuff like planer/jointer/large table saw, this
place is where I go. It sure could use some full time supervisors for
the sharp tool challenged.
I visited a very well appointed woodworking shop in a retirement
community in Phoenix which was set up as a club type shop for which
members were charged an initial membership fee and then were billed by
the hour of use. it seemed to work well for the 20 or so members but
insurance rates were high and the initial investment for power tools
was significant. Anyone wishing to join had to demonstrate
proficiency in the use of the tools and a volunteer proctor was always
on hand to ensure appropriate safety measures were always used (a la
Marc Adams woodworking school). All monies collected were used for
maintenence, rent, new equipment, etc.
One other option that may or may not help you is the various
woodworking clubs around the country. We have one here in
Central TX called (coincidentally) The Central Texas
Woodworkers Association. They meet at the Woodcraft store and
then they go visit various peoples' shops, etc.
I know quite a few people with shops due to my association
with them. I haven't had the need to "borrow" a shop, since I
have my own, but I know that other people in the club often
use others facilities on a one to one basis.
If nothing else, you may learn something from them. I know I did.
woodcraft had some, don't know if they still do,my local one does not.
A few years ago I thought this was a money making idea and looked into it
and found that the insurance would be prohibitively expensive. there are
some senior centers that have them thought.
If there are actual attorneys here, maybe they can chime in if I'm
wrong. I've been wrong before. <G>
I was under the impression that if a shop were set up as a club, where
only members are allowed to use the "shared" property, liability was
greatly reduced. In essence, you'd be suing yourself.
I could be all wet, but I've heard of motocross and snowmobile courses
set up the same way.
If you were to provide access on a "paid admission" basis, the liability
goes way up. The schools seem to have stringent rules and much
supervision that an "open shop" wouldn't have.
Adult Education programs around here are the place to make that sort of
thing work. It covers insurance and teaching challenges, and gets the real
estate part of the problem worked on. There are a lot of folks involved in
ours, and I've taken 6 or 8 classes there. It's housed in the former high
school from which I graduated [mumble grumble] years ago.
More useful to me is the associated woodworkers' group, but that may just
Contact your local high schools and votechs to see if they already have
such a program. Ours in Oakdale Mn used to do exactly this. For
many years, a local college where I now live had a similar program for
machinist wannabees like me. They ran it in semesters, one night a
week for 3 hours, 8 or 10 weeks at a time. It was managed by one of
their daytime instructors who would actually teach from scratch any
newbies who signed up. Gone now, (sigh).
But I have heard that in other areas of our state (Wisconsin) they still
As others have mentioned, look around for a local woodworking club.
There must be several hundred around the USA. They will already have
addressed this issue for you.
There is one I know for sure in southern Ontario ( Oshawa) Canada called
The Carpenters Square. It's a pay as you go shop with most of the tools you
would want to do most all projects. The only thing I think it is missing is
a spray booth area. It's charged by the hour or you can buy blocks of time
or be a yearly member . Not sure of the cost for the blocks or membership
but it was around 10 bucks an hour when I used the place in the late 90's.
Can't tell you about the insurance end of it but the owner did say to have a
spray booth made the insurance go through the roof. You can try looking on
the web for them not sure if he has a site or not but you may have to add a
. ca at the end of it.
My town has an outstanding workshop at the senior center. The whole
operation (the center) is run by the city and all activities are free
of charge. The woodshop is perhaps 2,000 sq ft and is well stocked
with serious tools, inc. large and small planers, drum sander, perhaps
six jigsaws, two cabinet saws, and a separate room with three large
lathes and a couple of smaller ones for pens. It's all ducted to a big
outdoor commercial cyclone. Use is free, but there's a "kitty" into
which people drop money for supplies and such. A large local cabinet
manufacturer donates all its cutoffs and blems, so there's also a big
outdoor shed full of nice hardwood, including some glued panels,
though nothing exotic.
Now I'm 25 years plus away from being a "senior" but the guys that run
the shop seemed happy to see me the few times I've dropped in. They
encouraged me to bring my projects in when I needed a 20" bandsaw, or
huge drum sander, 10" jointer, etc. and said I was welcome to do so if
I threw a fiver into the kitty now and then. The shop is open seven
days a week and always supervised by one of 3-4 shop managers, all of
whom are retired cabinet makers. The last time I was in they were
contemplating knocking out a wall and adding another 500 sq ft for a
new lathe room, since so many people were interested in turning they
had to set a limit of one large piece per day to keep people from
waiting too long. Local companies donate new machinery every so often
too, so they actually have equipment that there isn't room for, i.e.
extra cabinet saws just waiting for space.
So it clearly can be done, at least if you have a good space and a
dedicated group of volunteers to make it work. Oh-- and tax dollars to
keep it going. My guess is that part of the reason this one works is
that it's almost exclusively seniors that use it...people with some
experience and likely more patience than you'd see from a bunch of 30-
somethings trying to get something planed before the kids came home.
In fact, the shop manager told me lots of stories about stupid things
people had done, i.e. breaking machines through ignorance, trying to
plane varnished threshold plates, etc. All of those stories seemed to
be about young guys, but they didn't hold my relative youth and
inexperience against me. In fact, I have the sense that should I want
it I could get some pretty valuable pointers from some of the guys who
hang out there.
There are such places that are NOT in senior centers. Here in
the Bay Area, there is a club with it's own shop, and two commerical
schools that allow for classes and "shop" time. In addition, the
local Woodcraft also has rental time.
I'd check with an insurance agent and see what kind of rate
you would have to pay. The biggest impediment, I see, is
lining up the 10 or so people you'll need to get started. Space,
tools, etc. could easily eat up about $100k, I'd think.
I like the suggestions of looking around at the various
Adult Ed. schools and also check out the local community
colleges. There also might be a voch tech school nearby
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