How often do you clean your shop?

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Blog entry by Kjuly posted 07-26-2009 07:22 PM 1648 reads 0 times favorited 33 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Why should you take away from your precious woodworking time to clean the shop? The obvious answer is safety. Woodworking is much safer without a lot of clutter and piles of saw dust everywhere. There is another reason and in some ways it’s just as important as having a clean, safe place to work.

A few years ago, I was working in a cabinet shop building store fixtures for a large retailer. Three months had passed since I had been promoted to Journeyman Cabinetmaker. Times were good, we were working 10 hour shifts, six days a week and there was no indication that the work would be letting up any time soon. It was a Friday near the end of the shift when we were cleaning up as we did every day. The superintendent came strolling through the shop as he often did, chatting with the guys and checking out the work that had been accomplished that day. Warren was a pleasant guy whose laid back demeanor made him easy to talk to and quite often he had a funny story to tell or a little tidbit of news about some upcoming work.

For quite some time I had been wanting to ask Warren why we had to spend so much time cleaning when we would just mess it up the next morning. I had decided that this was the day that I was going to put on my new journeyman’s hat and quiz him as to why we needed to go through the cleaning chore each and everyday. As I was cleaning around my bench, keeping an eye out for Warren and thinking about how I was going to approach the subject, I could feel the butterflies starting in my stomach. Cleaning the shop was a hard and fast rule and I was going to question it. Is this a good idea? Could I end up cleaning out the dust bin every day for the entire winter? As he approached my bench I could feel my face starting to flush and it must have showed because he started the conversation with “So Keith, what’s on your mind?” Well, I said, pausing for a moment while trying to decide if I was going to question a shop rule, I was wondering why we spend time cleaning the shop every night when we would just mess it up again the next morning? With a slight smile and a firm tone he offered a simple explanation. When you start your day with a clean and organized work shop, it is much easier to get started. It makes it too easy to put off getting started if you start your day by looking for tools or clearing off your work bench. Then he stated that walking into a shop that is clean gives you a fresh start for the day.

Having to follow these rules for many years, the cleaning aspect has become habit for me and it’s true when I work late and don’t clean at the end of the day, I am slower to get going the next morning. From a business standpoint this is easy to understand but what about the hobbiest? I think that it is just as important for the hobbiest because your woodworking time is limited. If you start with a clean work area, you are able to get more enjoyment from your woodworking.

Try cleaning up when you are done for the day and I think you will agree that starting out with a clean shop is best and it entices you to get back at that project.


-- Keith, Charlotte, MI

33 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3790 days

#1 posted 07-26-2009 08:15 PM

Good idea, Keith. I couldn’t agree with you more.

I have enough trouble keeping up with my pencils, rulers, squares, etc. without having to sift through piles of sawdust trying to find them. At times they seem to have a mind of their own and can disappear in a heartbeat. And I have another incentive to keep my shop clean- MY WIFE. If I don’t clean up every day she is a stereotypical redhead who is borderline OCD with respect to keeping things neat and organized. If she spots sawdust on the shop floor she yells at me for “tracking sawdust into the house and leaving such a mess in MY shop”. :)

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View kosta's profile


946 posts in 3323 days

#2 posted 07-26-2009 08:32 PM

I only clean my shop when I cant walk thru or im using the angle grinder and I dont want my house to burn down because of all the saw dust

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2781 posts in 3406 days

#3 posted 07-26-2009 08:49 PM

I usually clean after a major project. If it’s a big one then sometime in the middle of it. I will clean before using any finish. I love a sawdusty shop during a project and a clean one after a project.

Procedure: At the end of the day
  • Pick up any loose tools
  • Blow away dust from areas above the floor
Next morning:
  • sweep
  • lightly blow again
  • Shop vac

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 3295 days

#4 posted 07-26-2009 08:54 PM

I am kind of the same way ^^^^ I try to keep it clean all the time…but does not always happen. But I will clean it every night before shutting down…and sometimes depending on the job…several times during the day.

I will be working…look for a tool I just sat down….not be able to find it…..and stop everything and straighten up right then.

It drives me nuts when I have things laying around everywhere and not be able to find a thing.

-- Don S.E. OK

View Kjuly's profile


308 posts in 3254 days

#5 posted 07-26-2009 09:14 PM

My shop is not attached to my house but my wife has meet me at the back door, with look on her face, say’in “stop right there Mr. your not coming into my house looking like that.
Craftsman on the lake,
Thanks for sharing the pictures of your shop. Nice layout and very organized.
I find myself cleaning up during the day. That’s happens to me way too often…. can’t find something so I start cleaning until it shows up.
I lose tools in the shop and have no one to blame except my dog.

-- Keith, Charlotte, MI

View dbhost's profile


5705 posts in 3200 days

#6 posted 07-26-2009 10:11 PM

Regular shop cleaning is a habit I need to get into, and stay in. Sometimes I am lucky to find my lathe under the shavings. (just a little exaggeration, but not much sometimes…). Your old boss is right. It is MUCH easier to get work done when you are not hunting for just where this or that tool is… One of the reasons I spend so much time on shop organization projects. Including taking as much as I can out of tool boxes and put them on pegboard. I know a lot of guys hate peg board, but with the right pegs there is hardly an item in my shop that does more for organization…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 3464 days

#7 posted 07-26-2009 10:27 PM

I do a organization of tools and clean up most sawdust at the end of the day and then when the current project is completed, to the finish point, then I do a complete clean and vacuum…..... ready for finish and then the next project. I do wish I had a “seperate” finish location though !

I agree, it is so much easier to start a project when everything is clean and in it’s place.

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3553 days

#8 posted 07-26-2009 10:40 PM

I clean with Bronwens help every few days when I’m working on something and a super dooper good clean up when I’ve finished .Otherwise I get into a terrible muddle and things become dangerous to me. And when I am not feeling up to making anything, I clean and tidy all the time the rewards of being free to do as you please call it retirement, early or otherwise. :DAlistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 3659 days

#9 posted 07-26-2009 11:31 PM

Ah cleaning not my best point when i have to i’m affraid but it’s a very small shop so it can’t get that dirty LOL…...................


-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3742 days

#10 posted 07-26-2009 11:55 PM

I sweep the floor and pick up as I am working on a project daily. When I am done, I vac and blow off everything in the shop top to bottom because I finish the project in the shop as well. With the dust collection system, it makes a big difference from how it used to be. I always like my shop to be neat, organized, clean and safe.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4068 days

#11 posted 07-26-2009 11:58 PM

I clean my shop more than just at the end of the day.

A clean shop does help get the day started. When the mind is slow in the morning, having everything in it’s place helps for a smooth start.

Being disciplined enough to keep things in there proper place ensures a continuously smooth running operation.

I have a lot on my mind and I wear all of the hats for my business. So a clean shop and office allows me to think clearly. A messy shop leads to lost concentration because my lineal thought process is interrupted.

I clean between various operations. A couple minutes of sweeping up allows my mind to change gears for the next part of the operation in manufacturing a project, I call it “tooling up.” It is as much a mindset as it is getting the tools out for that particular activity.

A clean shop is a safe shop. This is a much understated fact.

Some people struggle to keep their shop clean, but for me it is in my DNA.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Occie gilliam's profile

Occie gilliam

505 posts in 3264 days

#12 posted 07-27-2009 12:05 AM

I feel a lot better when my shop is clean. ( my play pen with real tools)
its Sunday after noon and it need cleaning

-- OC down in Costa Rica. come down and see me some time. I'll keep the light on for you

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3713 days

#13 posted 07-27-2009 12:06 AM

I usually clean at the end of the day. After 22 years of keeping everything “ship shape” for Uncle Sam, it comes naturally. Since 2006 my wife and I have lived in the upstairs of my shop, while working on the house we’re building. Got in the habit of at least vacuuming the shop at the end of the day, so the sawdust wouldn’t end up in the living area, ‘cause when Momma’s happy, everybody’s happy.

View littlecope's profile


3071 posts in 3470 days

#14 posted 07-27-2009 01:08 AM

You Guys are shaming me!!
I thought looking for tools, pencils, measuring devices, etc. under piles of sawdust, cut-offs, and other assorted debris, was just another joy of woodworking!! :)
I’m so bad the spider that shares the shop leaves trails in the sawdust!Spider Tracks...Spider Tracks in the sawdust
More sawdust gently falls, covers up the old ones, and the spider makes new ones…I say “the spider” because it’s the only insect of any kind in the room that I’ve ever seen, and I only saw him once. He lowered himself right next to my hand, watched me work for a minute and then went on his way. This is not a joke, he only had five legs. I felt bad about that. I probably made him have a real bad day one time, jostling some lumber around or something :-(

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View kosta's profile


946 posts in 3323 days

#15 posted 07-27-2009 04:18 AM

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