10 Tips on Setting Up Your First Woodworking Shop

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Published Thursday 14th May 2015

While your day job might already be focused on woodworking, when it comes to pursuing it as a hobby, there's no substitute for a personal workshop where you can dabble with projects that are close to your heart.

In this guide, we'll cover some top tips on setting up your first woodworking shop and optimising the space to suit the way you work.

Philosophy

A workshop is a woodworker's castle and before we delve into the nitty gritty, it's worth reflecting on the ethos of your shop. Although we'll be covering best practice below, you should expect your workshop to evolve over time as you take on new projects, expand your horizons and utilise new tools and techniques.

A workshop's layout isn't written in stone and as such, it's vital to consider the ability to customise when setting out your shop in the first instance. Try and ensure you've got plenty of plug space and sufficient room for adding in new tools over time.

Workflow

Before you put pen to paper on your first designs, you should spend some time reflecting on the ideal path you'd want a project to take. This is known as 'workflow' and is the crux of how you'll lay out your shop.

You should look to section off an area that deals with each stage of the project, from breaking raw timber into manageable pieces, to shaping these and considering where to place the all-important workbench.

Instead of doing things the hard way, plot a design template on paper. However, be warned – no plan survives contact with the enemy and the ergonomics of carrying out projects will undoubtedly necessitate some changes very early on.

Using mobile bases can be a great way to tackle this issue – allowing you to change things around on the fly without an onerous amount of heavy lifting.

Storage and Tools

We can't all be blessed with a spacious, custom-built workshops and using space effectively is monumentally important.

One cheap and effective way to manage this is to organise your tools and look into the most efficient methods of storage.

Segregating tools by function can be a good way of situating them ergonomically – enabling you to easily select the right one for the job at every stage.

However, as there can be a great deal of overlap between stages – others argue that you should have every tool within easy reach at all times. While plotting their ideal situation will be of benefit, the only way to find what works best for you is to jump in and get your hands dirty on a project or two.

Rust

Tools are one of your most important investments and it's crucial to make sure they're properly protected when not in use.

Unless you live by the sea, one of the main catalysts for rust is likely to be the dust in the air. While treating tools with oil can help mitigate the effects, your choice of storage solution will factor prominently in how well maintained they are.

Wall racks and shelves that are open to the air will leave your tools exposed, while chests and sealable plastic boxes can be great options for protecting against both humidity and dust.

Once again, though, these factors need to be balanced against how easily you can reach the tools you regularly need, as well as their proximity to your workbench, et cetera.

Space

Despite the best of intentions, workshops have a tendency to attract clutter. When setting out your tool storage, be sure to think beyond the tool itself and take into account all the space needed to use it without it bumping into something else.

Two ways to save on space include utilising the corners for key tools like drill presses and positioning tools, like band saws, near to doors or windows – allowing you to work with particularly long lengths of wood without impinging on internal space.

Windows can also be useful when it comes to finishing, providing ventilation for the – often toxic – chemicals you'll be using and providing a plethora of natural light, enabling you to inspect colour matching and the quality of application.

Utility

You should also factor in how easy tools are to get in and out of storage when setting up shop. While you may be able to store masses of things efficiently, that won't be of much benefit when it takes you an hour to pack and unpack items you'll need.

Assembly

Whether you use a stand-alone assembly table or double up with your workbench, it makes sense to locate these centrally. This provides easy access to individual project parts and can provide a hub around which you set out your tools.

Storage

If possible within the constraints of your new shop, it can be a good idea to store wood near the entrance. This will not only prevent you from having to drag huge pieces around the shop, but also means you can unload timber into the shop a lot more efficiently.

Creature Comforts

Since you'll probably be spending a great deal of time in your shop, don't neglect the little touches that'll make it a comfortable place to work all year round.

Garages and basements are particularly popular places to set up shop, but can often offer little or nothing in the way of heating. Fortunately, there's a range of cheap electric heaters that will make a good investment as a way to keep your shop temperate.

You'll also need an ergonomic space to store your drafting board, books, plans and other reference materials. A wall-mounted shelf can often be a good idea, but be sure to include a cover to protect these items from dust and damp.

Usability

While you might be able to bag a bargain when it comes to tools and fixtures, don't compromise on usability. Get benches, tables and saws that fit your height – as you'll quickly tire of bending in uncomfortable positions when utilising these for extended periods.

Your Shop

Hopefully the above will provide some food for thought, but bear in mind there's no one right way to do things when it comes to shop layout. If you've got an ingenious layout you'd like to share, or want to ask any questions about any of the topics we've discussed above, leave a comment below or get in touch via Twitter. We always love to hear from you.

And if you're looking for quality timber for the next project in your shop, be sure to take a look at our expansive range today.