Make it big, insulate the heck out of it, and make sure you can afford
to heat it. Compromise on big if needed to maintain the other two - not
freezing your behind off in the shop is very valuable in winter, and
money spent on insulating will pay back on heating (if spent
One other factor that can have ann effect on "needed" shop size is
cultivating any neanderthal tendencies you have - working on a board on
a bench with tools takes a lot less room than pushing boards through
machines. 10+ foot ceilings are good for not whacking boards in to the
ceiling, not so good for heat.
Some does depend on what you plan to make - typical board size, etc.
The graph paper cutouts are a good idea, but you still have to have an
idea of what stock you might be feeding to get an idea of needed space
(16 foot boards through tablesaw/planer/jointer need 32+ feet just for
Don't forget assembly and finish as things that need space but don't
have machines to stake it out for them.
I'm adding to the consensus for granting yourself the liberty of more
you think you need in exchange for later looking back with rueful
Taunton published "The Workshop Book" which you will find an
treatment. Your climate will counsel you on which of the structural
are unadvisable or gospel for your situation. Check Amazon for reviews
the book and the topically associated volumes purchased by other
Unless--and even if--you are a pyramid builder of the first order, it
is often much
cheaper to buy sound real estate than it is to oversee its
construction, either in the
costs of the time, frustration or money involved.
Visiting a megalopolis of a factory one time, I came upon a hall that
had a 3-D
scale representation of the entire facility, including the
consumables, and raw
materials incoming, plus the products emerging at the end of the line.
operations and machines were wisely grouped and how elements could
in that modeled environment would have approached a pleasure.
Perhaps you can overcome wifely resistance to a suitable larger house
the personal touch of an appeal to her interests. "Honey haven't you
of a sewing/sun/ drawing/craft/dressing/etcetera room all of your
own?" And if the subject
sprawling property is a proportional purchase value (with that
"Dearest, think of the return if we ever sell the place. Why, we could
take a trip
around _____on that kind of profit."
My first was a 24' x 24' (no vehicles) and it worked well until I
realized I had not thought of space for a paint booth and drying racks.
Inclement weather can ruin a whole day (or 2) at play.
My second rude awakening came after I installed a huge dust collection
system and sacrificed a good portion of usable floor space ...I wound up
moving the DC into an overhead half-loft at one end, Compressor outside
under a lean-to style shelter, and painting within mesquito nets hung
from a tent frame.
I too was an amateur (still am) and didn't think I needed much
I am close by (15 minute drive). If you want to come look at what I did,
I would be happy to arrange it.
Three things to think about in Michigan:
1) How much do you want to use it in the winter - that goes to heating
2) How much of your summer stuff do you need to store - deck chairs,
mowers, etc. If you don't have storage space, it will end up in the shop
3) How many half finished projects will you have, the more, the more
storage space you will need.
I built a 30 by 45 barn and split it into parts:
1) A loft for deep storage (e.g. pool stuff, winter covers, special
2) A 2 car garage that holds the mower and other outdoor equipment, plus
my 15 year old van that I use to go to the saw mill, etc
3) An alleyway that holds my greenhouse stuff and other tools that
support my garden, greenhouse and orchard.
4) My workshop
If I had it to do over again, I probably would do it differently today.
But I decided 15 years ago when greenhouses were more interesting and
wooodworking less so. I made a lot of mistakes that someday, I will have
Wood workers in your situation don't have garages, they have workshops.
Tell your wife a heated garage is horrible for cars any where salt is
part of winter.
And there's the whole issue of snow,
Salt doesn't rust stuff, salt water does. Your cars can be caked with
frozen salt all winter and no rust until the salt/ice mixture thaws and
turns to salt water, which rusts anything capable of rusting. Placing
your car in a heated garage will cause a daily thaw cycle conducive to
rust. Explain this to your wife carefully so she parks her car outside
and use the garage for it's intended purpose, a wood shop. (worked for me)
I always dreamed of having a nice out building for my workshop. I'm now
very happy that never happened. If you have a commercial shop, where
you are forced to spend 8 - 18 hours a day in your shop, sure, good to
have a separate building. If you are a hobbyist, even a serious one,
having it as part of your home is super. When I was young I spent long
days in my shop, now, I spend small chunks of time. I just walk down
the steps to my warm shop when ever, and for as long as I wish. No need
to heat it, no need to tramp though the snow to get to a cold shop.
Everything is there waiting for me. I would buy the one with a huge
outbuilding, use the huge outbuilding for the garage and storage of all
the junk you and your family should be collecting.
A two car garage 24x24 at least is the minimum comfortable size for a
complete wood shop for a hobbyist, which you certainly are from what you
say. Lathe, drill press, bandsaw, jig saw can all be placed against one
wall, with room for a shaper or planer on wheels against the same wall.
Table saw and jointer ideally should be on same bench, on wheels.
IMO, 24x24 is minimal, and quite enough. Bigger would be nice for a
crazy stuff like spray booth, storage of half built junk, odd
hardware/jigs and so on, but 24x24 is a good size for the shop. Almost
everyone here thinks you can't have too much room, but I don't agree. A
hobbyist in a warehouse would be walking around way too much and would
end up with all his tools in a small, 32x32' space anyhow. Compact is
good, and I'd say for most stuff a hobbyist does, you want minimum size,
plus a little extra room to breath. If you plan on commercially
building house trusses for a living, or house boats, you need more room.
Building kitchen cabinets, desks, end tables, book cases, chairs, and
so on, smaller is OK. If I were building my own, I'd build 32x32, and
put my compressor and dust collector in a separate partition/room so I
didn't have to listen to them.
My suggestion on tools is get the best you can afford. If you are
filthy, stinking rich, Festools and such are fine, if you are poor, or
like me, cheap, look for quality used tools. Cheap (new) tools are
seldom a good deal, although there are some exceptions in hand tools, I
don't think there are any exceptions on stationary tools. I don't want
to own a cheap bandsaw or table saw, or jointer, for example.
Personally, my most used tools are the table saw, drill press and
bandsaw, and if I were advising someone on which tools to buy first,
they would be the first 3, followed by a disk/belt sander combo. If
your primary interest is turning bowls or pens, this would not work:-)
You Can't Fix Stupid, but You Can Vote it Out!
I would opt for building one. Even if it is pre-fab steel.
Even if you built a garage to house all your cars *PLUS* space for a
generously sized shop area, one is going to get overflow from the other.
Best to have areas dedicated to one function, IMO.
Everything on the left side except for the lathe are on castors as are the
router table and drum sander.
The grid is 2' x 2' and things are pretty accurately sized except for the
depth of the upper cabinets; they are 12-13" deep.
Depends on what you are machining. A table saw needs at least 8' in both
front and back; width sufficent for what you are cutting plus room to get
around it. Same for a BS but it can be on a castor base, stored against a
wall and pulled out into an aisle when being used. Ditto DP.
One of the biggest suckers up of space is storing material. And jigs. Give
*LOTS* of thought to that. And to electrical outlets...one every 4-5 feet
is not overkill; and put them at counter height.
I use the area on the jpg of my shop where the roll around tables are for
assembly and finishing. If I were spraying often I'd want an area just for
that. I do have a protected but not roofed area outside the shop that I
sometimes use now.
The two tools I could live without if I had to are my joiner and the drill
press. I joined edges for a long time on a router table. The DP gets
little use but is handy when I need it.
My most used tools are the cabinet saw and the drum sander. I use the
latter constantly to plane and size rough lumber; it is somewhat slower than
a thickness planer but there is never any tear out or knife marks either.
For me, it pretty much replaces both a planer and joiner. The ability to
sand up to 32" wide is not to be sneezed at either.
I like the idea of having some nice and low (traditional height 12-14")
and a whole bunch more at countertop height. That's how my garage is set
up in places, and it's nice when I need an extension cord run semi-
permanently because I don't lose 3' running up the wall.
I'd also suggest having some at least 52" high. Don't put them at 48",
you need the extra height for getting over stored sheet goods and shelves
that you decide to build at 48"... and then measure the switch height.
Never teach your apprentice everything you know.
When considering tools, consider their infeed and outfeed requirements.
To cut a 8' sheet on the table saw, you need 8' in front of the saw and
8' behind it. One of the things I did laying out my shop was determine
those spaces and put them in as part of the plan.
Dust collection and air compressors are loud noisy things I'd suggest
putting behind a partition wall if possible. A big cyclone dust
collector would be a good thing to have for a permanent shop.
If building, build a small building close to the house for the trash and
miscellaneous garden tool storage. It can be part of the garage, if need
be. Build your shop farther out. You'll be happy to walk out to the
shop in the snow, but the rest of your family won't be as happy to walk
past your shop to get to the snow shovel or garbage can.
One of my annoyances with my set up is there's no dust free area for
finishing. If I paint or poly, I can't do anything for several hours to
prevent messing up the finish. One of these days, I might build a little
booth (say 8x8 or 10x10) to keep the dust out so as one project is drying
I can start work on another. I wonder how hard it would be to make one
that could be assembled and disassembled with only one person?
Size wise, there's usually no such thing as too much space. My shop fits
into a space about 25x30, but the storage is a little disorganized and
there's a bunch of other stuff on the other side of the garage. (See
garden tool comment above.)
Never teach your apprentice everything you know.
For me, this is interesting question in itself. Has it got a standard
answer? I would (like to) envision temporary "walls" created with the
equivalent of a shower curtain, except it would, I suppose, need to
reach to the ceiling and the floor. Basically a dust-free (and
I was thinking about something similar to house walls, 2x4 construction
with studs every so many inches and maybe 1/2" plywood or something
lighter on the walls. For something designed to be taken down after use,
plastic sheeting just wouldn't hold up.
If I used screws or bolts through the top and bottom plate, then the
whole thing could be stored as a compact pile of around a dozen 2x4s when
not in use. Sheets or blankets could then be draped over the structure
to keep the dust out. The seal doesn't need to be 100%, just enough to
keep the sawdust from settling on the workpiece.
Never teach your apprentice everything you know.
Since you are just trying to keep out dust, a dozen 2x4s seems like real
overkill. Maybe if a few hooks were attached to the ceiling, tarps
could be hung? I think even it it wasn't perfect, it might be pretty
good. Lets keep thinking about this one.
I have a garage door opener in the way, so I was thinking of building
what amounts to a dog cage to drape plastic or tarps over. A kind of
temporary "finishing room" rather than a "hat" to protect the project.
Some of those finish vapors aren't fit for human co-habitation so you
wouldn't *want* to be in the shop with those things drying.
The hat approach would work, though. Just a simple frame to cover the
project while you work on something else. Even a plastic storage tote
Never teach your apprentice everything you know.
Easy way to do this would be to rig a "shower curtain", the same kind of
deal as the privacy curtains they have in hospitals. Won't keep all the
dust out but it will stop most of it and if you can rig a (small)
filtered fan to keep positive pressure in the area that should do for
<http://www.medicalproductsdirect.com/privacyscreens.html seems to have
everything you need including curved tracks, if you want to do it the
fancy way--note that I have never done business with that company and
have no idea if they are reputable or not--I found it while looking for
a picture of the sort of arrangement I was talking about.
One can probably do well enough though just hanging some conduit, bent
as needed, and using shower curtain hooks and blue tarps.
If your ceiling is too high to make hanging them practical, use the
aluminum supports for a beach sun shade that has been abandoned, or you can
use PVC pipe and fittings dry fitted (no glue) together to make a support
for tarps. DO NOT use plastic sheet. Any airborn spray finish will dry on
the inside of the plastic sheeting, then when the wind or your bumping the
plastic causes the plastic sheeting to flex, the finish comes off the
plastic in little flakes that float around the area. How do I know that?
On Sun, 16 Jan 2011 00:22:32 +0000, Puckdropper wrote:
I have the same problem. I too would advocate a finishing room if
I don't know how old the original poster is, but at my age a toilet would
certainly save a few trips back to the house. And if he's installing
plumbing he might as well put in a sink while he's at it.
Intelligence is an experiment that failed - G. B. Shaw
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