I'm about to have the enviable opportunity to build a shop from the
ground up. Wife & I are moving to 10 acres with a 40x40 pole barn.
I'm planning on sectioning off about a 20x40 area for a dedicated
workshop. I'm a relative newbie so I'm looking for things to consider
if you had to do it all over again.
I currently own a table saw w/router table attached, 14" bandsaw, 12"
benchtop drill press. Next major investment will probably be a
dedicated dust collector, followed by a surface planer, then a
- I recall seeing somewhere a dust collector system that expelled
wood chips directly outside to a mulch/compost heap? I havn't been
able to find any information on anything like this... was I drunk?
- Any advice on a space heater? We have natural gas at the house & I
could probably run a line to the pole barn pretty easily.
- Any general thoughts/recommendations on workshop setup, construction
materials, lighting, tool placement, etc?
Will post pics when done... Thanks.
What are the annual temperature ranges and precipitation expectations
where this is located?
How much electric power is available at the pole barn now?
An insulated ceiling for the shop should be installed before walling
off the shop itself.
Is the pole barn itself on high ground such that water drains away
Now would be the time to install a full bathroom with shower into this
Try not to face any doors to the north and only high small windows to
On Mon, 20 Oct 2003 21:31:09 -0700, Ed Komeshak
I'd look at infra-red heaters. They heat you up quick.
I'd build a cart for the drill press. I did that and got if off the bench
giving me more space and portability of the press to move it out of the way
when in use. Given the total space you have, a router table with storage
may be better than having your saw tied up at times.
You did not mention air. If you don't have a compressor, get one. Then run
black iron pipe or copper tubing around the wall with many taps so you can
plug a tool in where needed.
I envy you. Not the pole barn, but being young enough to do it. When I buil tmy
shop, I felt it might be a little on the large side at 25' x 48'. It's not.
Section off the whole barn. If you need an outbuilding for mowers and such
garbage, build another shed.
Big fan and open door.
Vented furnace. I use a recycled (got it free from a local HVAC guy) electric
Skylights are good. So are T8 fluors. Put lights in at least 2 banks, so a
blown breaker doesn't get them all. Lotsa light fictures. Lotsa wiring.
Place tools to suit YOUR working style. Not mine. Not someone else's. That
said, I like the planer so it is fed from the small door for extra long pieces.
The table saw is to one side and forward of it about 8'. I shorten stuff before
it goes through there. The jointer is next to the table saw. When I get a RAS
again, it will go next to the wall, somewhere.
Lots of flat space is handy, too.
"Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle."
Of course, there's all kinds of information on the internet and in
newsgroups. But you have to hunt for it and digest it in bits and pieces.
There is no substitute for a good comprehensive book with lots of pictures.
They are much more enjoyable in the John, even though we have wireless
laptops now. :-)
I have gotten a lot of enjoyment and ideas from a book named "Setting up
Shop" by Saundor Nagyszalanczy (Taunton press). To give you and idea of how
its layed out, there are individual chapters titled:
Walls, ceilings, and floors
Electricity and lighting
Heating and Ventilation
Equipping your shop
Benches and work areas
Storing tools, lumber, and supplies
Dust collection and compressed air
As you see, its quite comprehensive.
Have you thought about putting a small wood stove in? My wife complains
because smetimes my shop is warmer than the house. I can really crank up
the heat to dry glue or just because. I keep my coffee hot, melt wax and
even do some edge burning on it. The best thing is I get rid of all my
unusable chunks of wood. Now before anyone complains and says all chunks of
wood are usable I only need so many pen blanks. As for the chips...I use an
old blower motor and fan from an old furnace I built a square box about
5feet tall and 1 foot square. I mounted the suction side of the fan on the
top of the box. I made a door on the bottom to clean it out with and
finally made a modified filter. The filter is a standard furnace filter but
I added a tight mesh screen to the bottom of it. Everyonce in a while I
need to clean it out. Now by adding propper size holes and a little liquid
nails I simply plumb using sewer pipes and then flex tubing I purchased from
the hardware store. The over all project cost me about 100 dollars and that
was just for the plumbing. The furnace fan was given to me by a furnace
installer and the wood was scrap that I hadn't burned yet. I also burn the
chips of wood. I put them in a small cardboard box like a cereal box or
just wrap them in newspaper. I stay plenty warm and even have an old
lazyboy chair out there to relax in. Another reason for a wood stove is
that it give you a good reason to go buy firewood. Some of my best pieces
of work have been nothing but an old piece of firewood. Consider a scroll
saw, radial arm saw, and perhaps a lathe in the future. Where will all
these pieces fit? I would think about using the whole barn. Just a
thought. I am on 100 acres and have multiple sheds though. When I started
woodworking it was in my garage. My wife complained about all the dust on
her car every morning.
Unless you can create the WHOLE universe in 5 days, Then perhaps giving
"advice" to God, isn't such a good idea!
New to the wreck, huh? ;-)
Like many things, context is everything. Here on the wreck, in a situation
like this when someone says "you suck", what is meant is "I envy you, you
lucky bastard" and is said in good fun.
Possibly drunk, but some people do this. The problem is that it has to draw
air into your shop to replace the air expelled outside. No big deal in nice
weather to have a door open or window cracked. The problem is that in cold
weather the incoming air is cold, so heating is a problem. If you leave all
doors and windows closed and still run the system, it will suck air down the
chimmney (vent pipe) of your heating system. This is a problem because of
carbon monoxide poisoning.
I have a cyclone dust collector that drops all the dust into a large garbage
can. When the can gets full, I can just wheel it outside and dump it.
Piece of cake.
How about letting me use the other half of that barn!
When I bought my Griz, they showed an option to use a garbage can to collect
the larger stuff. I bought the adapter that is suppose to fit onto a
standard garbage can. I have yet to try it due to space in the workshop but
this might also be a way to go if you don't want to purchase a cyclone.
p.s. I am looking at doing the same thing - move to 5 AC and put up a poll
barn. Some good ideas from this thread for me already.
I understand there is an auction currently on e-bay where you can outfit
But on a semi-serious note- what you are about to embark on is a dream for
most of us. My own humble suggestions probably repeat what you have and will
hear - pletny of electrical outlets, a 100 amp panel, think of putting down
a fairly thick concrete slab in some portion of the shop as you never know
when you may get some really heavy iron, lots of natural light, ceilings at
least 9' high (if not open ceiling although the latter would be a bear to
I'm in a similar position; bought 11 acres a few years ago in western
Maine, including a nice barn with high ceilings. A dream-come-true for
me for sure!! I'm in the middle of outfitting it right now. Here are a
few things I've either done or run into already;
1.) I sketched up a plan of my proposed shop and showed it to a friend
who used to run his own cabinet shop. He had a lot of good suggestions,
including some very detailed things that only an experienced hand would
notice. Good idea to find someone like that, if you can.
2.) For some reason the guy who built the barn didn't insulate it,
although he clad the interior with nice 1x10 shiplap pine. In the middle
of winter its almost unusable. Most of the lights won't come on, the
steel surfaces are so cold my hand sticks to them and most of the
liquids like wood glues, paints etc freeze solid. Often the daytime temp
in there was around '0' F. A kerosene heater I tried in there was
useless. I'm working on insulating it and getting a wood stove in there.
This winter I'm going to move my liquids into the house so they don't
freeze. I also found a lot of rust on my chisels, even though they were
in a leather roll, which I think is related to the cold. A heater in
there would dry out the air.
3.) My ceiling is held up by open web joists which make for grand high
space without any columns, but you can't hang anything from them,
regardless of how tempting it is to do so.
4.) Six months ago I had a pretty good idea what I was going to do in
there. I've already made some fairly significant changes to that initial
plan, so be prepared to be flexible and don't get locked into one layout
5.) I originally intended to build everything in there myself to get
exactly what I wanted in terms of function and appearance. I have now
decided that will take too much of my time and I bought inexpensive
birch utility base cabinets from Lowes in an attempt to get things
rolling and not get too bogged down in minutiae (like building ten
drawers). My first big compromise; probably not my last.
My $.02, hope that helps.
A few things I recall;
He was most interested in thinking through the flow of work and
materials through the shop. The whole layout revolves around that,
He suggested I put a planer and joiner right into the workflow, instead
of having them at the side on mobile bases. This is to get me accustomed
to using less expensive unsurfaced wood and not relying on precut lumber,
He suggested trying to get floor outlets or a pedestal at the table saw
if at all possible,
He didn't like a floor drain because they have a mysterious way of
sucking up everything that falls onto the floor,
He suggested I hang lots of lights right over the work areas, instead of
trying to light the whole space from the ceiling,
And he suggested I put my compressor in an adjacent space so the noise
isn't such a nuisance.
That's all I can think of.
Mo' Sawdust wrote:
Sounds like you'll be building your dream shop gradually so setting priorities
is the thing.
In hind sight I'd have to say shop lighting gets the ball rolling very nicely,
do it well the first time and you'll need to do very little later in terms of
specialized task lighting.
Secondly a bench that suits your work style will do more to develope your skills
than anything I can think of.
Since you're not using rough lumber yet, why not make a few purchases here and
there of some green lumber at a good price, you'll have barn space to store it
as it cures and it will be ready in a year when your shop gets more geared up.
Wiring; currently I'm moving a basement shop and I decided to make both 110v and
220v recepticles at each of my machine locations. Makes for more flexibility as
you acquire new equipment. For instance my RAS is 220v but I often use it as a
work surface with various 110v portable power tools.
Your jointer and planer will need a fair amount of clearance for infeed and
outfeed, group them together.
Dust extraction; nothing wrong with pushing a small unit around the shop until
you get more established and know where things are going to be and then plan a
A few guidelines that work for me:
1. Keep as much up off the floor as possible, makes the shop feel and work
bigger and its easier to keep clean. Hanging cabinets, overhead storage, etc.
2. It's not necessary to have lots of flat surfaces, they collect tools that
should be put away and general clutter. I have a free standing work bench that
is probably on the small side and a portable assembly table. The table folds up
and stores away when I need extra space. Having a tall and short assembly area
is especially nice.
3. Always have a designated sharpening station(s) that make your equipment
readily available. If you sharpen often its much easier to keep your tools
right and not nearly as monotonous. It will impact your woodworking
4. A small cart on wheels with multiple shelves to keep a project on is a very
handy thing when you need to shift gears between projects. It keeps things all
together and organized and frees up your work surfaces. I often push my project
cart into the lumber room before I clean up the shop.
That's all I can think of for now.
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