My little shop is 12x14, but it does have wiring installed. It's
difficult to build large pieces in such a small space, but I've done it
by sectionalizing the pieces. The most important thing is to have
everything on wheels and use flip top stands to share one space with two
I've also got a "tower" with 4 tools on shelves that I can take out and
set on a rolling cabinet. There's an empty "shelf" that sits on the
cabinet when there's no tool on it so I can use it as an extra work space.
You may spend a lot of time moving stuff around, but you can definitely
do some useful work in that space.
Forget about a big table saw. Get one of the better benchtops, or even
better, an old old contractor saw. I've got a '48 Delta that, with a
good blade, is at least as accurate as anything made today, but it has a
very small table.
Or you can go the Shopsmith route, but I tried that and it was just too
much tool setup for me. It's also pretty hard to duplicate a prior setup
exactly after you've reconfigured the machine.
Intelligence is an experiment that failed - G. B. Shaw
Not enough, not enough, c'est la vie.
Get hold of the Taunton Press "Workshop Book" (also their "Workbench
Cabinet saw and workbench, the rest needs to fit round those.
If you've bought a ready-made building, consider ripping out the main
window over your hand workbench and doubling its size. Artificial
light is worth making an effort to get more of.
Go easy on wood storage. You can have other people do this for you, so
ask if this is the best value use you're getting out of your expensive
building. Wouldn't you rather have a bandsaw there? Don't be afraid to
rent cheap off-site for rough log storage.
Roof storage needs to be planned for and installed before other stuff
gets in the way. It's also a good place to hide cyclone fans or
dehumidifiers, if you need such.
A shed full of junk stops being a workshop. Less is more. Be
Yes. Spend the necessary money to get a fixed power supply out there
too. It is far easier and quicker to work with lights that just come
on when you hit the switch. It's also easier to install this now while
it's empty and easy to work around.
Think of your climate, your daylight, and look at other's local
experience. My "workshop time" is largely dark winter evenings - day
job, outdoors in the summer evenings. So I need a little heat, lots of
artificial light, and lots of rainproofing. One of my biggest jobs at
present (huge old shed (1,000sq ft), but needing refurb) is to get
some decent insulation in there.
Wow, thanks everyone for the great replies.
To answer some questions:
I live on Long Island, NY, so a good part of the year the shed will be
too damn cold or dark to do anything. I can make dust march -
november, after that I'll just pine.
Planning is an absolute must. Not only am I going to be trying to
sqeeze a work bench, tools and the rest in the shed, I'm going to have
to put all my yard tools/mowers/other junk in there. She is already
planning moving a bunch of stuff from the house to the shed too.
I have two windows in the front of the shed for some light, and I'll
have the doors open when I'm working.
My first projects will be making a good bench and a good wooden
toolbox. Anyone have any good plans for a bench? I do wonder tho if
having a workbench on wheels i a good idea. Don't want it moving when
I am trying to use the table saw. (Table saws scare the f***k out of
I'll take pictures and paste the links here as I get going.
Hand tools don't take much space to store or to use. Ever watch Roy
Underhill on the Woodwright's shop?
Ah, so you won't have a shop, but merely a storage area. Don't worry,
you can work with it. Claim a space by the doors for your tools and
defend it. Others will clutter it up, it happens to me all the time.
You could take a look at the Google Sketchup gallery. They've got tons
of plans for things like that there. [Btw: If anyone's submitted
anything to the 3D gallery, thanks! It really made workshop planning in
I've not quite gotten around to designing my bench, but one of the things
I intend to do is have several shallow drawers for screwdriver/chisel
storage and several deeper drawers for larger items.
A good table saw is too heavy to place on a bench when you want to use
it. There's one Ridgid makes that folds up into a rather convienent
size, has tool storage on the side, and can be rolled out when you want
to use it. I've never used it, but it gets recommended every once in a
while so it's probably a good tool.
Hope this helps,
Never teach your apprentice everything you know.
Mine is on wheels, but I jack it up onto a couple of 4x4 blocks at each
end. With storage underneath it does *not* move, even with hand planing.
This method makes it a little hard to move, but I find it's the one thing
in the shop that seldom moves.
Oh yes, if the bottom is solid for storage, put a piece of cardboard on
the floor under the bench. Pull out the cardboard to retrieve dropped
items. DAMHIKT :-).
Intelligence is an experiment that failed - G. B. Shaw
Your first task is planning the layout (work areas) within your
limited space. The shop-planning books already mentioned are of
incredible benefit to you. Building your work areas to best suit the
work-flow of the sorts of projects to which you aspire, using the
skills you have and wish to gain, will reap maximum enjoyment of what
is likely going to wind up being a very small amount of dedicated
Do this as soon as possible, lay claim to the area(s) that will remain
dedicated to woodworking, and defend your turf tenaciously.
Speaking of aspirations. You've not indicated your interests, but
there are a number of skills that can be mastered in a small work
area. Then, in the future, when there's a larger house/property with
a larger shop, and you have the space to construct large pieces,
you'll also have the skills to build fine furniture.
I believe you could easily develop, within the confines you've
described, significant talent at joinery, bending, laminating,
veneering, inlay, and carving; .
Your second task, in my opinion, is to determine the ideal height of
your work-surfaces. The previously recommended workbench books offer
a variety of formulas for this extremely important ergonomic
decision. The formula I used in my own shop was the height of my
palms at attention (shoulders back, chest out, arms at side) with
wrists bent upward so the hands are parallel with the floor.
Everything I can control (workbench, table-saw, chop-saw, etc.) is at
that height. That makes them all comfortable for me to use for
extended periods and eases transferring things from one work area to
If your shed is like others I've seen, the floor-joists are atop a
couple runners (4x4 of 6x6) that sit directly on the ground. Down
here on the big sandbar (FL) we're required to lash them to ground-
screws. In any case, your floor will likely be well above ground
If that is the case, I believe you'll be well served by a large-as-you-
can-manage-deck, at floor height, immediately outside your doors.
That will make rolling tools out for use much more convenient. That
will also work very well with the awning others have recommended.
I am a huge fan of having permanent outlets. Do yourself a favor and
trench in some gray polybutylene conduit with adequate wire to deliver
at least 30amps to your shed. That way you can run a real power-hog
with the lights on. Lights are like clamps. It is not possible to
have too many. Once the wiring is run, any electrician will be able
to hook you up. Don't know about NY, but most places I've been, owner-
installed electrical does not have to be inspected because you can't
There are as many definitions of "good" workbench as there are designs
and plans. Portability is not a friend of workbenches for hand work.
I believe you'll be happier in your shed with a smallish bench that
gains some stability from being affixed to a side-wall (preferably
near the door).
Unless you are planning on traveling elsewhere to do woodworking, I
don't believe you'll get as much use from a toolbox as you would
permanent storage (cabinets & cupboards). Everything you build for
your shop, be it fixed or wheeled, will have room below the working
surface that can be leveraged as storage.
My opinion, and $4, will get you a coffee some places. :-)
Best of luck with your endeavors.
With the assistance of my father-in-law, we ran a line under the house
from the main panel to the shed. We put it all on a new circuit. It's
been working fine for years with only an occasional trip when bad
weather rolls in, like the storms we had in '08 where over a million
here were without power.
I live in a mobile home community. Ergo I have very limited space to
have a real woodshop. I have mainly been using my utility room to do
turning, with some creative enhancements to protect everything. Then I
added a scrollsaw, and now a drill press and bandsaw, etc. Obviously I
can't keep it all in-house, so some is in a 12x16 barn style shed.
It houses garden tools, misc house items and the woodworking tools.
This year it's going to get an upgrade. More cabinets and a bigger
work surface. Either later this year or next year, the plan is to
extend it another 7-8 feet, splitting it into two parts, one for a
woodshop and one for everything else.
So far it has worked for me for the past five years. From my point of
view, you'll get a lot into your 12x12 if you are only going to use it
for a shop. I unfortunately cannot dedicate it entirely to that but
the addition should give me a 12x8 shop that should nicely handle all
my current requirements, and a few still to come.
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