The cheap shop challenge...

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Blog entry by dbhost posted 12-01-2010 06:48 AM 1857 reads 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Similar to my made in America challenge, but the idea here is to put together a fully outfitted shop on the cheap. Let me lay out the scenario for you…

You have a blank space with no tools whatsoever in it, and a check for $5,000.00. You need to fill it with the major machines on that budget and Not a penny more. Spending less would mean you would have funds for hand held stuff, stock, etc… Here we are merely addressing the major tools in the shop. Now the requirements are…

#1. New or used, doesn’t matter. #2. You must have the $$ spent, and the tools in your shop within 90 days of starting the project. #3. If buying used, the budget must also allocate funds for restoration if needed. #4. IF possible, buy North American produced, but come up with the best quality you can on the money allocated. #5. You CAN if you wish, and have the skills to, make your own tools out of any materials available. You MUST however be able to have it working reliably in the time frame allocated, and within budget. #6 Don’t worry about electrical, or dust collection ducting, blast gates, or hoses. For the purposes of this challenge, assume those are already there and acceptable… (assume you just moved in to a house with an outbuilding that had the ducting and all there, as well as electrical, the guy that was there before was a woodworker…)

The major tools you will need to have in your shop will be…

10” belt driven table was equipped with BOTH a riving knife, AND a sliding miter table. Can be OEM to the saw, or add on like a BORK and a Mast-R-Slide…

12×36 wood lathe or similar. But MINIMUM of 12” swing and 30” between centers.

basic set of turning tools, roughing gouges, bowl gouges, skews etc…

Chuck for the lathe.

Band saw with at least 1 HP, and resaw capacity of at least 12”.

6” or larger floor model straight knife jointer

13” lunch box type planer.

A dozen each F type bar clamps in 6”, 12”, 24” and 36” complete with clamp pads for each clamp.

2 2.25 HP fixed and plunge base router kits with 1/4” and 1/2” collets and variable speed.

2HP Dust collector with 1 micron canister filter.

Ambient air filter with secondary filtration of at least 1 micron, and a minimum of 1K CFM, remote control, and timer functions.

Oscillating spindle sander

Edge belt sander

8” Bench Grinder

12” sliding compound Miter Saw.

Floor model drill press (how on earth did I forget that one in my made in USA challenge?!)

What other tools can you fit in within the budget?

Have fun with this one. I am sure it can be done, you just need to dig some…


I just got a PM from a fellow that gave me a great idea and I wanted to share it, the main idea that is… with you…

The suggestion was to come up with a standard shop size to work with so everyone is working with a level playing field. I hadn’t thought of it, and I LOVE the idea! So yeah, but what size?

Now most guys or gals starting out take over either a garage, a basement or even a garden shed… Probably the most common are garage or basement… And since Garages are typically a bit smaller, and more common, not to mention what I am familiar with, and this is my challenge after all. Let’s go with that! So here’s the specs on the space.. And this size is partially based on what I have seen in the MLS postings over the years, and partially because this is a size I would want to have…

Width 24’, Length 32’, ceiling height 10’. Door layout is 2 8’ wide doors, separated by a 1’ wide post, and with 2’ to the side of one of the doors, the remainging 5’ to the side of the other. A man door along one of the side depth walls, let’s say the one that is 5’ in from the overhead door, and just to remind us this is a garage, there should be space to park the wife’s car, keep the kids bikes, and at least one lawn mower…

NOW it’s getting interesting….

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19 comments so far

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3188 days

#1 posted 12-01-2010 01:26 PM

OK, so is this a ‘virtual’ challenge? Surely you don’t expect us to go out and actually spend $5k for a challenge. Please clarify. :)

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View kshipp's profile


179 posts in 3805 days

#2 posted 12-01-2010 01:49 PM


-- Kyle Shipp,

View Woodbutchery's profile (online now)


398 posts in 3613 days

#3 posted 12-01-2010 02:07 PM

Craig’s list and local free-cycles.

Within a 90 day period you can probably find everything on your list at very reasonable prices. Its how I’m building my shop tools inventory. So far, the table saw is the only thing I’ve bought “new” and it was a floor show model, so they knocked $100 off the price.

As to actually going on the hunt … I make up my own homework assignments, thank you ;-).

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 3082 days

#4 posted 12-01-2010 03:15 PM

I would assume this is “virtual”.

Easily done by copying each add you find a tool in and keeping it on file, then making one document to show all of the ads.

I like the Craigslist idea.

You may even do some e-bay, maybe the “buy it now” or watch them and then go with what it sold for as though you were the one buying it.

Just my thoughts.

--, Making design and application one. †

View Ken90712's profile


17563 posts in 3216 days

#5 posted 12-01-2010 04:22 PM

Interesting challange, I might have to work on this in my spare time.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View dbhost's profile


5726 posts in 3259 days

#6 posted 12-01-2010 04:42 PM

Yes, it’s virtual. And I am assuming Craigslist… Just wondering what sorts of bargains folks can latch on to… Of course IF you want to build out a new shop knock yourself out..

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3902 days

#7 posted 12-01-2010 04:44 PM

It might be interesting to see what people come up with if they determine for themselves what qualifies as “fully outfitted.”

-- -- --

View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 3082 days

#8 posted 12-01-2010 04:49 PM

Ok, dbhost, where do we submit this “virtual” shop?
When does it have to be done by?

--, Making design and application one. †

View dbhost's profile


5726 posts in 3259 days

#9 posted 12-01-2010 05:01 PM

I would post it up here…

My intent is to get people talking about setting up a cheap but high quality shop. I kind of want to see what kind of quality can be had on the cheap… Particularly the proponents of old iron. I have an interest in the stuff, but have been scared off out of fears of needing a major rebuild, new motors and such… But then again, there are old machines out there for sale cheap that have never seen more than a dozen boards run through the blades… I also am partially looking to see how much U.S. manufactured equipment can be squeezed in there… My U.S. made shop challenge was a bit too hard line, so now we are trying to put it in to the realm of the reachable for a guy (or gal) just starting out, or on a limited budget. This is intended for a home hobby workshop, not a professional cabinet shop. (Although I know of at least 2 guys doing “professional” woodworking in their shops, and they have less in their shops than I do mine, and I feel I got off cheap…

I will post up an example later on…

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View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 3082 days

#10 posted 12-01-2010 05:03 PM

Ok, I had an idea about doing it as a blog, showing the different places I would get stuff, with prices, in my own are, of course.

This should becoming my slow time, soon, so I may actually have a little time for this.

Oh, can we all start off with the same size building? Makes the challenge a bit more, well, challenging. :-)

--, Making design and application one. †

View dbhost's profile


5726 posts in 3259 days

#11 posted 12-01-2010 05:06 PM

That would be great!

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View dbhost's profile


5726 posts in 3259 days

#12 posted 12-01-2010 05:30 PM

Nope. You are free to add a compressor / air tools if you fit them in to the budget. But it is not a requirement for this challenge… Actually just about anything you can think of, wide drum sanders, shapers, etc… but they whole shebang has to stay under $5 grand… The idea is to build the best shop you can on the cheap…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 3082 days

#13 posted 12-01-2010 05:31 PM

Here is a thought on the shop layout/size. What do you think? It is your typical 2-car garage size, modified to be just a shop.



--, Making design and application one. †

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3788 days

#14 posted 12-01-2010 06:28 PM

I’m a little confused as to the objectives here, but very few home/hobbiest woodworkers have a 24’x32’ shop. An interesting shop size poll on the Shopsmith forum revealed that 13% of the respondents had to work in 100 sq. ft. or less. Over 30% were limited to no more than 200 sq. ft. While this was not a scientific poll, there were enough responses to get a strong indication as to what a great many woodworkers are faced with.

A couple of years ago an article on equipping a small workshop, in “Woodworker’s Journal”, caught my ire. The tools that the author selected were all powered by universal electric motors, lower quality entry level stuff in my opinion. In an email exchange with the author, he did not like my comments, but frankly, my Shopsmith, in my 192 sq. ft. space, exceeded the quality, capacity, and performance of every one of the tools on his list.

I’m wondering how many guys here have to work in 100 sq. ft., or in no more than 200. It would be interesting to see how they have risen to the challenge.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 3082 days

#15 posted 12-02-2010 04:49 AM

I put up a 24’x24’ shop, because, quite honestly, if someone where able to, it wouldn’t cost that much compared to a smaller shop. So, if it is already up, why not make it what would have been a 2 car garage.

--, Making design and application one. †

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