I finally ran the numbers. My shop is a 1-car rental garage in cramped, suburban LA. Making things extra strange is that there is a 6’ tall cinder block wall running down one side of the property that terminates right at the corner of my garage. It actually buts into it, overlapping the wall by the width of the cinder blocks. The fence around the back of the property passes about 4’ behind the garage, giving me a little tree-covered (Hollywood Junipers and Ficus benjamina) area I plan to use for wood drying of small logs I find here, and tiny resawn/stickered stuff – the bonsai version of a real wood drying area :), and then it turns right in line with the edge of the garage and terminates on the other corner, butting right into that side. This means I can’t get to the outer side of one long wall of my garage.
It’s sealed off from me by a cement wall and a wooden fence. It’s my neighbor’s wall, esentially and sometimes I hear him banging on it. I think he might have pegboard installed, because it’s sounded like he’s gardening, hanging tools up as he finishes using them on the outside of my garage wall. I think he has a potting table pushed up against it, but I can’t know, because it’s hidden by a wall across my entire property. It’s especially weird for me, as I grew up in the middle of nowhere, in the deep woods, with no neighbors, really. It was total seclusion, and now even in a separate home – which definitely beats apartment life of a few years ago, don’t get me wrong – I still don’t ‘own’ the whole garage. I can’t go knocking out a hole to vent my dust collector, or a fume extractor on that wall, which is the empty (of windows/doors) long wall. But I digress. It’s just a rental house, and I’m hoping to buy a house with a 2-car garage one of these years. This place is just a stepping stone to my dreams, and I’m plenty happy with everything the place does allow me to do in the meantime, which includes a lot of learning, and experience building.
Anyway, it’s 13’x17.5’ inside, or a whopping 227.5sq. ft. I subtracted the footprints of my tools, which include a very large router table (Woodpecker’s biggest), a RIDGID table saw (pretty big), 2 2×8, heavy workbench tables (on sale a couple years ago at Sam’s Club), a Craftsman 12” drill press, a Delta 6” jointer, a Craftsman 18” wood/metal bandsaw, a Delta 1HP dust collector w/ 30gal galv. trash can separator, and the floor cabinet I just built. And I’m really anxious to get a good 9” disc/6”x24” belt sander. Where am I going to put it, though? And where am I ever going to set up all the welding stuff I want to learn about? I’m glad the landlady pays for gardeners, because I barely have room for the 2 shovels, rake, and pushbroom I hung in the corner behind the door, all in overlapping fashion.
The remaining, scattered, usable floor area in my garage is 124sq. ft., or roughly a 10’x12’ patch. I wish that were all contiguous. That would actually be a pretty sweet area for me to work in. Unfortunately, that’s all in bits here and there, lost in large part between tools against the walls, or divided in half by the huge table saw in the middle of the room. It was quite a struggle to move heavy tools around back and forth for weeks while building that cabinet. There’s no chance of making anything like a bed, or couch, or dining room table, so for now I’m concentrating on smaller things. I can’t even imagine how much faster I’d be with another car’s worth of space in which to have a true woodworker’s bench – the big 4’x8’ kind, with the vice built in and everything. While building the lazy susan this past week, I’d set up the saw, make some cuts, then knock it down, sink the blade, remove the guard, stow the fence, and use the saw as a work table upon which to biscuit-join the pieces. Then I laid out wax paper and did the glue-ups on the saw, moving everything setting up the saw again to rip the edge banding later, and knocking it down once more to glue that on. It’s like working in a tavern puzzle.
The other problem is that my one 2’x8’ table upon which I could do a lot of assembly-type work has been piled at least 1’ high in junk spilling off all edges for probably a year. There’s just been absolutely nowhere to move it all to. That’s why I built the shop cabinet, and it holds a tremendous amount of stuff – need to post about that soon. I’m moving almost everything into there, or recycling it, giving it away, or selling it. I managed to sell my fold-up circular saw to my officemate’s friend 2 weeks ago. What a huge relief that was! Almost 6 additional sq. ft. of space! I danced in its emptied corner that night, in celebration.
Probably the next half-year is just going to be getting my ducks in a row, cleaning the rest of the place out of my accumulated junk, organizing, and building more shelves and cabinets to get everything up off the floor and in a place, so I can reclaim my space. I suppose in some ways this is good training. If I had 2-cars worth of space a year or two ago, I’d probably spill into all areas and choke myself out of there, too :) Now I’m kind of hardened against that sort of space-waste, like I’ve been through some kind of military academy that trains it out of you. I’ve also built a too-elaborate wood storage shed outside to hold pretty much all of my lumber, and am making a smaller, stepped shelving thing now to hang up high on the long wall of the garage, and will post about that soon, too. The only part that’s a little upsetting is that it’ll probably be a year in all of building just to get me more room, and then I’ll probably find a great place to move to on craigslist, and have to take down all of my intricate work getting this place set up as well as it possibly can be. I don’t know how I’ll ever get the wood shed out of the back yard. It’s far bigger than either of the gates, and those are the only ways out. Maybe helicopter :)
What kind of sq. ft. do you have in your shop? Ever considered subtracting your tool/table/storage footprints to see how much actual usable space you have? Do you wish you had more, or can you pretty much go from tool to tool, to assembly area with no need to reshuffle your whole shop?
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator