Starting up a workshop the second time around. #1: Background and gathering the resources.

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Blog entry by David Kirtley posted 06-15-2010 07:37 AM 1142 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Starting up a workshop the second time around. series Part 2: Workbench plan »

Once upon a time, I had a pretty well outfitted workshop. Plenty of tools and workspace. After having most of my tools stolen in a break-in, I put woodworking on hold. Thankfully, they mostly took the tools that I was least interested in and attached to. I boxed up what I could salvage and now, 12 or so years later, I live somewhere else and have started getting geared up to make some stuff.

The nice thing about starting over is that you don’t have to make the same mistakes again. The first time around, I went down the list of tools that the magazines and books told me I needed to make stuff. Table saw, bandsaw, jointer, a few routers. The usual stuff. I also had the “rust fever” and had a pretty impressive collection of hand tools. You know the routine, all the bench planes from #2 to #8 including the 1/2 and 1/4 sizes. (OK, there were some duplicates as well, but they were different types) Chisels, spokeshaves, saws, adzes, combination planes, circular planes. I had to have a leg vise and anvil to sneak in a little toolmaking as well. How about an Woods adjustable tenoner? Come on, you gotta have one of those. I built the big maple workbench with the tail and face vises on one side and a patternmaker’s vise on the other. Did all the the dovetail templates and such. Been there. Done that.

I have just about finished collecting the startup set of tools and am getting organized. This time around, instead of having a dedicated shop building, I am working on one side of a two car garage. This will present some serious storage and workflow problems. Just to add to the difficulty level, I will be working around a small boat on a trailer that lives on the same side of the garage. Kind of like adding a full twist to a dive to get more points.

Power tools this time around will be secondary. Not because I have some idealized notion of the “purity” of hand tools or some such silliness but because simply, I don’t have space for them. Without dust collection they make more of a mess than I want to deal with and they are noisy too. The whole list of power tools is: A 14in HF bandsaw with riser block, A HF lathe, a cheap Ryobi miter saw, and a hollow chisel mortiser that I am on the fence about even keeping since it is pretty worthless unless I set up a better fence and hold down system. I also have a little portable router table to use until I get a better one built. Throw in a few portables like a circular saw, a wet grinder, and bench top drill press and you have the whole picture.

For hand tools, I have mainly chisels. Mmmmm. Chisels. Yummy. Mortise chisels, firmer chisels, beveled paring chisels, a new set of Japanese chisels, gouges, a couple of bruzzes (sounds so much sexier than corner chisels), a couple slicks, and a few miscellaneous spares such as offset paring and some stray carving tools. Saws consist of a small frame saw with wide blade a la Tage Frid, a couple of carpenter grade Japanese pull saws, and I am currently building a turning saw that has been a lot of fun. Throw in a couple holdfasts, draw knives, and measuring and marking tools and that is it except for the planes.

I have a few remaining metallic planes but I have been happiest with the wooden ones. Simple and effective. I will build a couple more but the ones I have are a mixed bag. An old wooden jointer. A pretty Harris Tools badger plane (anyone remember them?). A little kit built Krenov style with brass sides and a Hock blade, an old Stanley scrub plane. A few block planes, scrapers, and spokeshaves and such.

The next step will be to get stuff organized and in a usable state. After being stored for so long, much work is needed to fight off the rust monsters and get stuff sharpened and organized. I have started some and will start making a list of things to do. The next big item on the list is making a new workbench. My current one is a dinky piece of *%& that will become the new stand for my lathe. It is not that bad but the vises are pretty worthless, it doesn’t have a thick enough top for holdfasts to work well, and I hate the tool trough. Quite possibly the worst feature ever invented for a workbench. What I am going to build will be pretty small as workbenches go. Kind of half way between a joinery bench and a real work bench. More on that later.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

3 comments so far

View BobG's profile


172 posts in 2930 days

#1 posted 06-15-2010 02:24 PM

Good luck David! I know what you are going through, 11 years ago I left a 24’ X 38’ workshop and am just now getting setup in a 20’ X 22’ garage that has 2 Motorcycles and a car that think they should be able to live in the garage also. Time will tell, but at least the need to make saw dust is still there! Good luck again and keep on!

-- BobG, Lowell, Arkansas--------My goal in life is to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am! Make more saw dust!!

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3730 days

#2 posted 06-15-2010 03:01 PM

I’ve had to work in 1/2 of a garage for over 25 years and this is still my situation in Gainesville. The best advice I can offer is to start with your workbench. I find that every project finds it’s way to this indespensible assembly, clamping, gluing, and sharpening station. While I get good use out of my power tools, I’m using hand tools more and more. My collection of hand planes is growing and my skill with them is increasing.

Pay attention to lighting and add additional electrical circuits and recepticles. Like Henry Ford said “You can have your workshop any color as long as it’s white.” (At least I think he said something like this.)

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2967 days

#3 posted 06-15-2010 03:12 PM

I built the boat in the same spot so it is doable. The real trick is to build things in component pieces that don’t take up too much space until the final assembly. That and the cheap fold up plastic sawhorses are a real blessing.

It’s not that hard once you learn the steps to the dance. The trickiest part is when I get out a full sheet of plywood. Lean it out from the wall, up over the head, turn to clear the bandsaw, step over the trailer tongue, then a fluid turn to bring it down on its long edge on the other side of the boat and out to the back end of the garage.

The lighting is the worst problem but I temporarily solved that with a nice 500 watt quartz light that I can point up to the ceiling and perform the instant daylight magic trick. Otherwise right now, I have one 2-bulb 4ft fluorescent fixture and the garage door opener lights. Bleh.

Yes, the workbench is next on the list but I need to wait until the new vise comes in to get the actual dimensions. Lots of little jobs to keep me busy though. The hardware for the turning saw is making its way from NYC to deep south Texas as I type….

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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