From garage to workshop #1: A preliminary survey

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Blog entry by JSOvens posted 02-06-2014 08:20 AM 2017 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of From garage to workshop series Part 2: Planning and cleaning »

Hello fellow LJs and visitors,

I am a fairly new member here on the Lumberjocks website and have so far only managed to post one project (the one that got me into this woodworking ‘mess’). I have done quite a few other small projects (which I may post in due time), but there has been one thing throughout all of my woodworking ‘life’ (about a year by now) which has been bothering me and constantly hampering my progress on any project: a messy, disorganized workshop!

Want to know what I mean by that? Let me first begin by giving a little bit of background on what I have for shop space. I have a tandem 2-car garage, about 12’x30’ give-or-take. Half of this is taken up by the car and some shelving for general ‘house storage’. That means I get maybe a 12’x15’-ish area for my shop. I’m not complaining, I feel that this could be quite a bit of space if things are set up right, but when it looks like the following photos, it can become very tedious to navigate from one area to another. Let’s take a look:

This is a photo taken from the car’s parking spot. My ‘kingdom’ extends from the storage racks at the back to the near end of the workbench to the right. Some issues right off the bat:

1. It’s a mess!
Does this need an explaination? There are gadgets, doodads, whatzits and thingamabobs strewn over every surface. Here’s a better photo showing the state of my large 2.5’x8’ workbench:

And here’s another of my central 2’x4’ workbench:

This is really frustrating because I end up playing a game of musical benches with them when I want to try and get work done. I have not drawers, cupboards or shelves to store any of it. This is not only frustrating, but has a propensity to lead to unsafe working habits. This needs to be fixed.

2. There are large pieces of lumber in the way.
If you look in the back left area, you will see some big pieces of lumber. These are some scores I got off of a woodworker in my area who is retiring (I got some nice pieces of Wenge, Jatoba, Maple, Imbuia, Lyptus, Cherry and Oak for the curious ;). It doesn’t look so bad from this view, but check out these photos:

As you can see, I also have a multitude of other miscellaneous scraps both on and off camera. These bits and pieces of wood strewn about make it very annoying to go from one place to another in this shop. Thus another necessity: lumber storage. I plan to store the larger pieces on shelves high up on the walls somewhere so it’s out of the way.

3. There’s stuff on the floor!
Here’s an example of what kind of stuff:

These are jigs and sleds that just don’t fit anywhere else. When this kind of stuff is littered about it not only causes a tripping hazard but it makes it so hard to clean up all of the sawdust after a day’s (read: a few hours’, if you’re a hobbyist like me) work. By the way, that clamp rack is now only holding somewhere around 1/2 of my clamps, so that will need to be dealt with as well.

So overall this probably sounds like I’m complaining about what I have for a workshop space, but this is not true, I can assure you. I recognize that I am blessed to have this space and to be in a position that allows me to pursue this awesome hobby! Rather, the purpose of this series, for me anyways, is to get motivated to shape things up so that I can better enjoy woodworking in a cleaner and safer environment. The reason I am writing about this journey is twofold: 1) I recognize that there are hundreds of skilled members with great ideas on this website and 2) I have several friends and family who are always interested in what I am up to. I do also have an external blog on Blogspot (, but I reserve that for my actual woodworking projects. I update it about once a month or so, but may be able to increase that frequency when I get my shop cleaned up (feel free to visit if you’re interested).

As this post has already gotten quite wordy, I think I will end it here for now. In my next post I will talk about how I plan to tackle this huge project and will hopefully have some diagrams (assuming my SketchUp skills allow for it). Hopefully I’ll also be able to get some clever ideas from the audience!

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your comments,


-- Jeffrey S. Ovens, Canada

8 comments so far

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1656 days

#1 posted 02-06-2014 11:24 AM

I understand where you are coming from and a sympathize. I am in a similar situation and more than anything I am excited about the possibility of starting a full remodel in my shop within a short month or two.

A cluttered space makes for a cluttered mind, so I wish you best of luck in starting fresh with an organized shop!

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3102 days

#2 posted 02-06-2014 01:00 PM

Two words… “French Cleats”... They have been my best friend since I first discovered them. Me personally I have got to keep an organized shop. I am one of those types who doesn’t function well in a mess. Not only in my wood shop, but also in my paying job of being a mechanic as well. Not at all uncommon for me to stop everything and hit “Reset” (as I call it).

Best of luck and look forward to seeing what you come up with…..

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View jakeprater's profile


90 posts in 1614 days

#3 posted 02-06-2014 01:35 PM

I’m in the same situation, a space with potential, but my organization skills and discipline are lacking. Right now I’m working on a shelf for my garage so I can get all the “stuff” off my bench. What I do know about myself is that if there is a flat clear surface nearby, I’ll find stuff to fill it up with, even when the car the stuff goes in is under that surface…..... is that the definition of insanity?
Anyway, good luck with getting organized. I personally love the French cleat system, and after I finish my cabinet, that’s my next organization project. That and a lumber rack of some sort…...

-- All this sawdust.......wait........ what happened to my board???

View CoachSchroeder's profile


97 posts in 1629 days

#4 posted 02-06-2014 01:48 PM

You should put your work benches on casters.
The router table/stand for example- Build a box for some storage and put that guy on wheels.
This way, when the garage/shop is in work mode you can double your space.
When you are not working you can roll everything away.

-- -Sam, in Wisconsin

View JSOvens's profile


78 posts in 1682 days

#5 posted 02-07-2014 01:32 AM

From the moment I first saw French Cleats implemented in a workshop I fell in love with the idea. You can bet these will feature somehow or another in my workshop. As for casters, I originally planned to have my benches on them so that I could take the car out and roll them in the vacated area while I work. However I probably should have mentioned that that half of the garage has a very sloped and uneven floor and I wasn’t sure how having a sloped work surface would turn out. I may still add them in the end.

-- Jeffrey S. Ovens, Canada

View JKMDETAIL's profile


212 posts in 1680 days

#6 posted 02-07-2014 03:49 PM

Walls, You need to use the wall space. Be it a french cleat system or used kitchen cabinets that can be bought cheap or picked up on side of rhe road. close in base of work benches. This will make them stronger and get some clutter out of sight at least. I would look at enclosing the existing house hold shelving if for no other reason to cut out on the dust. I think this is the same type of problem no matter how big of a space you have.

View dbhost's profile


5726 posts in 3257 days

#7 posted 02-07-2014 05:21 PM

I am finishing up a shop cleanup / remodel now… It is a long, painful, but well worth it process…

It would have been nicer had I been able to have the money, and land to just hire a contractor to build a dedicated building I could simply move into, and leave the mess behind in the garage / old workshop. Not going to happen though…

One suggestion for you. Put some white paint on those drywalled walls. It will help you use the available light better instead of absorbing it…

Like others have mentioned, think vertically. Use the walls, the ceiling, and the space in the middle, keep in mind your shop is measured in cubic feet, not square feet! Use it!

My updated workshop tour is on my bog page as well. You can check it out hopefully it will give you some ideas…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View SquintyPolock's profile


99 posts in 1922 days

#8 posted 02-09-2014 02:25 PM

I hear ya, loud and clear! A place for everything and everything has it’s place. You’ll get there.

-- It's all in a day's work...

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