New Woodworker Workshop Setup #1: Getting Set Up / Making a Plan

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Blog entry by PocketHole69 posted 07-07-2010 08:38 PM 8643 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of New Woodworker Workshop Setup series Part 2: Electrical wiring is in »

Over the past couple months I’ve really been getting in to this woodworking thing. I’ve spent way over $1000 on blades, bits, a new table saw, and woods and hardware for jigs.

I’ve been doing all this in a narrow strip of my 2 car garage thats about 5’ wide and 12’ long. Some genius decided that the homeower would only ever need 1 outlet in the whole 2 car garage, so I’ve been swapping plugs when I need to switch to a new tool, using extension cords, and using plug strips.

For dust collection I’ve been using a shopvac and for air filtration I’ve been using a box fan sitting behind me and blowing toward the door. It’s less than ideal and not very safe- I’m very careful to cleanup afterwards but there is a disgusting amount of dust floating around in the garage when I’m routing or sanding, so I need a solution to that.

Oh yeah, I have a 17’ long 1968 Fury III taking up 75% of the garage too.

To make matters worse, I’ve got a baby on the way. I can already feel my fun budget getting pinched :) Not to mention the fact that everyone tells me the wife is going to want to park in the garage with the baby so she can quickly and safely move the baby and it’s 200 lbs of gear in to the Pilot when it’s raining or hot out.

So, I need to make some changes.

Here are my plans:


Right now, I have an old car taking up 75% of the garage. To fix this, I’m going to buy a car cover and park it in the driveway. After that I’ll do some heavy cleaning and move my “workshop” to the far wall of the garage where the Fury is now sitting.

This will empty my garage and and double my space for woodworking. This will also make room for my wife to park her car beside the door for when the baby comes. That, and if I need the whole garage for cutting sheet goods, big projects, etc. I can always pull the car out and get the full 2-car garage width.


The one outlet thing sucks. I can only run one tool at once or I’ll trip a breaker, I have to use extension cords for everything, etc. To fix this my buddy noknot and I are going to run 2 new 20A circuits to the opposite wall where my workshop is going to be. This will let me run two big draw tools like a table saw and dust collector at the same time.

Because of the design of my finished garage with a bonus room up top, we’re going to build a bulkhead off the side of a structural beam in the roof and run the wires across that way. Then we’ll split the wall in to two circuits with 2 outlet boxes each.

Dust Collection:

I’ve done a lot of reading on lumberjocks and on other websites about dust collection and I’ve decided to go with the small rockler wall mount dust collector. I know the drawbacks, but I need something compact and I don’t mind switching the hose between tools- I do that now with the shopvac. One day when I have more space I’ll invest in a 2HP monster. It’s going to go on one of the 20A circuits on the “woodworking wall”. This with all their “dust right” accessories will be a big improvement over my tiny little shop vac.

Air Filtration:

I scored an old 800 CFM blower from the HVAC shop beside my office for free- I’m going to build an air filtration box similar to this one made by Bullgoose


I’ve been looking at shopnotes and I think I’m going to do something similar to the cabinets in shopnotes #97, but thats a little way down the road.

Once I get the garage cleaned out I’ll start taking pictures and document the process. I’m not sure if I should post it as a project or not, but I’ll document the steps somehow.

-- Jason, Atlanta, GA

15 comments so far

View Dragonsrite's profile


136 posts in 3425 days

#1 posted 07-07-2010 08:46 PM

Hi Jason. Your transformation of shop to garage to shop would be perfect for the ‘blog’ section.

-- Dragonsrite, Minnesota

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2908 days

#2 posted 07-07-2010 09:30 PM

Jason, I was recently in the same situation as you were. I had a very small part of my two stall garage set up with tools but as I got more into woodworking I quickly learned I needed more space. I too was expecting a new baby and my wife wanted to park in the garage this last winter.. Once the snow melted I started building my shop. My situation sounds a lot like yours so here is my advice on it now that I have my shop set up.

Electric- I only had a few outlets and two small lights in my garage. I didn’t really plan it out well before hand but I added more outlets and replaced the two lights with a few rows of florescent fixtures. After a few months I had to redo it again. The reason I had to redo it is because like you I also only planned on using half of my garage for the shop and the other half for a car, lawn mower, ext ext. A few months later I realized I was going to need the whole garage. I then added a couple more breakers and re arranged the outlets. My advice to you would be to plan on needing more power and more outlets in your garage now so that you don’t have to redo it if you should decide on more later. I run my whole shop on a double pull 60amp breaker which runs to a sub panel with 3 breakers for outlets and two for the lights. I think you can have somewhere between 5 and seven outlets on a single breaker. If at all possible I would wire the whole garage so that they are there if needed. If you buy a larger roll of wire there will be plenty there to do it all. If not I would at least have a plan as to how and where to add should you decide to expand the shop later. Running wires was a pain once I had shelfs, cabinets and tools in the shop.

Lumber- I don’t think you said anything about wood storage. My biggest problem once my shop was done was that I did not plan out enough space to store cut offs and lumber. I never imagined I would have the amount of small cut offs that I have now. Shop notes have a lot of under table and above head storage ideas for lumber. I wouldn’t skip on this at all.

Dust Collection- This is another thing I didn’t plan on. I figured I would be ok in the garage with the door open. I cant offer much advice because I am working on putting one in right now.

Baby- Here is how you get past the whole baby thing. You tell your wife that you think it would be really special for you to build the babies crib or rocker or what not yourself. You use that as the excuse as to why you need to take over the garage and buy tools. If she ever complains you work in the garage to much just tell her its for the baby. Once you build a crib she will be so happy and will feel bad about making you move the shop for the car. If she wants the garage after the baby is born just tell her you now have to build a changing table and when your done with that she can park in there… After the changing table then go onto the next baby project! Sooner or later she will come to terms with the fact that you no longer have a garage but a workshop with a garage door.

Good Luck!

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View CryptKeeper's profile


132 posts in 2978 days

#3 posted 07-07-2010 09:38 PM

Sounds like you have put a lot of thought into your project. Actually, I just did the same thing to my garage so, please feel free to checkout my new workshop pic’s and ask any questions you like.

I do have a couple of suggestion:

First, the electrical – you will need more.

My house has a 200 amp service and in my main panel I had an empty space for a double pole breaker. I purchase a 100 amp ‘Workshop Load Center’ from Lowes for about $100 it came with a 100 amp main breaker, 4 20-amp single pole, and a 40-amp double.

I bought additional 1 – 100 amp (I put this in the main box and wired the subpanel off of it – I know it is redundant but I can kill the power at either location), 1 – 30 amp (tablesaw) and 1- 20 amp amp (bandsaw). I added 4 – 20 amp receptacles each on their own circuit.

Cost break down:
sub panel: $100
3 additional breakers: $36
100’ roll 12/3 wire $83 – used less than half of the roll
16’ 10/3 wire $20 (tablesaw and bandsaw)
4 20amp outlets,water resistant boxes and covers: $48

The feed wire for sub-panel could get pricey depending on the distance (I mounted mine right beneath the main to end of my work bench and I was lucky to get my wire for free) but it would have cost me about $25.

The total cost to isolate my tools and get plenty of outlets was about $325 and about 4 hours – it was well worth every cent and skint knuckle.

Second thing is you might want to reconsider the t collector. I originally considered the wall mount option but after talking to several people that owned them including the manager at my local Rockler store they all said it doesn’t have enough CFM’s to move the debris from a jointer or planer.

The Rockler Store Manager demonstrated this using the floor models with the 28’ expandable hose connected to a 6” Delta Jointer. After seeing the demonstration I decided it was worth the effort to jockey my shop around and fit a full size collector.

One thing I do regret is not taking before photos for a comparison.

Good luck,

-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3331 days

#4 posted 07-07-2010 11:49 PM

you have a good plan///keep at it and before long you will be set up and running…a little more efficent then you are now…when its right you will be able to improve and have what you want…when i started wood working i was in a room that was maybe 8×10…a very humble setting…....when i went from that to the shop i built…it was heaven…..20×30 with 10 foot walls…...its been my salvation…and you will one day have yours…enjoy the journey…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3756 days

#5 posted 07-07-2010 11:54 PM

Sounds like you plan will be the same as what I’ve been blogging on my renovation. I even want to run some additional wiring across the I-beam in my ceiling (I figure you can only put so many holes in your wall studs before you weaken it) and the air filtration plan (literally got the blower unit today). Good luck. It’s a lot of work, but I can already see benefits and I’ve still got a ways to go.

Oh, and one major difference. I don’t have a cool car in my garage. Just a minivan (same situation as yours) and a mobile lumber rack taking the place of your classic.

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 2962 days

#6 posted 07-08-2010 01:04 AM

I agree with the posts above. I will also suggest a sub-panel and definitely 220v as well. Many tools with more than 3HP require 220V

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View PocketHole69's profile


79 posts in 3065 days

#7 posted 07-08-2010 03:37 AM

Hey guys, thanks for the 220v suggestion. The honest truth is I don’t plan to stay in this house very long (2-3 years max) and I can’t see spending the additional expense on adding a sub panel, wiring 220v, etc. I don’t think it will add much to the home’s value and honestly it might take some away.

Also, with a new baby on the way I can’t really see my wife approving of the purchase of any new “big” shop tools that will require the extra voltage. She’s already watching me like a hawk!

This project is about adding a reasonable one-wall workshop to a house’s “working” garage, not to build the New Yankee Workshop. I’m completely cool with staying under the 1 1/2 hp level for now- one day when I build my 2000 square foot building in the back yard you can bet it will have 220v, a huge dust collector, and more.

-- Jason, Atlanta, GA

View CryptKeeper's profile


132 posts in 2978 days

#8 posted 07-08-2010 08:33 AM

I fully understand not wanting to invest a whole lot in house you plan on selling and I’m in the exact same position, including a baby on the way (due in 6 weeks). We actually planned to sell our house last year but with the economy and the housing prices there is no telling when we’ll be able to move on.

However, when I can finally sell this house everything I’ve done will come with me all I need to do is disconnect the wiring from the main box and load my bench up. I attached the sub-panel and 3 of the outlets directly to the end of my bench. The final outlet I connected to the under side of the table saw with zip ties.

I still have a little tidying up to but you can get an idea with a couple of pic’s:
Sub Panel and Outlets
Outlet attached to tablesaw

-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

View noknot's profile


548 posts in 3470 days

#9 posted 07-09-2010 12:30 AM

crypt thats a scary setup I can think of so many reasons why not to do that. Jason your wife is watching you and for the right price she will never find out your hidden agenda (evil chortle). Thanks for the buddy props and all this time I thought we were friends.Well downgraded once again.


View CryptKeeper's profile


132 posts in 2978 days

#10 posted 07-09-2010 03:20 AM

I know my setup is not to code but a permit is not required because this is considered a temporary setup. However, I did have one of my company’s licensed electricians review the work and only two things he said would be flagged was the height of the sub-panel and the exposed wiring is not in conduit.

Neither of these concern me as I am the only one working in the shop. Do you see something else that I should consider?


-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

View PocketHole69's profile


79 posts in 3065 days

#11 posted 07-09-2010 05:27 AM

noknot- I thought buddy was an upgrade, considering what I’ve been calling you. I’ve got the Fury out of the garage and the wall cleaned out. I’ve gone ahead and cut out for the boxes and wire races on the wall and drilled all the studs. All we need to do on Sat is install the breakers, do the cross-ceiling run and pull cable.

Crypt- lol thats nuts. I like how your romex runs down to the floor level- is this in a basement or a garage?Everything I do will be in compliance with the national electric code and in agreement with standard home building conventions- wire staples within 12” of the box, uniform 44” height for the boxes, wires through studs with nail guards, etc. I work for a fire protection company- it really wouldn’t do to have my house burn down because of bad wiring. That and I’m trying to do something that might add a little value to my home for someone looking, not something I can yank out and take with me.

-- Jason, Atlanta, GA

View CryptKeeper's profile


132 posts in 2978 days

#12 posted 07-09-2010 06:26 AM

It is the garage and when I build a permanent dedicated shop I too will follow the applicable building codes. However, in the current situation I don’t really consider the romex or the outlet boxes anything more than an extension cord or a power strip laying on the floor.

I have worked for two companies in two different industries and they both used the same type of setup for their shop environments. The only difference being that the breaker box and outlets are attached to an A-Frame on casters.

To bring in an electrician and pull permits the cost would have been over $2500 and that is if they didn’t find anything else that needs to come up to code – my house was built to code in ‘92.

In the current (and foreseeable) housing market the added value = $0 and at least this way I can take my $325 investment with me and re-use the components.

-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

View noknot's profile


548 posts in 3470 days

#13 posted 07-11-2010 01:50 AM

Crypt I was not saying it wont work, I look at it as one nicked wire from a dropped tool you could get hurt. I hope you will look at pocket holes blog about this when its finished it may help give you some ideas. Pocket hole start posting the pics so the fellas can see it step by step. Thanks again It was fun.


View CryptKeeper's profile


132 posts in 2978 days

#14 posted 07-11-2010 02:09 AM

I always like to see pictures of others projects big and small. I take every opportunity to learn from someone’s experience. The ideal thing for my setup would be to build a shallow ramp over the cables to protect them and normally the dust collector hose runs along side the wire – it was removed for the photos.

-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

View PocketHole69's profile


79 posts in 3065 days

#15 posted 07-11-2010 05:03 AM

Ok, part two is posted.

-- Jason, Atlanta, GA

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