Setting up a workshop on a budget.
I have been working in wood since my early twenties. Owned and operated a five man custom cabinet shop, setup a toy company, and just made gifts for Christmas presents over those years. Some of my shops have been operated in small as a space as 8’x12’ in a space on a warehouse floor, to an industrial size of 3,000 sq ft in a private owned building with a storefront.
Enough about that, my latest shop is setup not too mass produce or create a company but just enough for me to setup and sell on Etsy. It really all started with the garage. Me and wife bought a Versatube garage for $6,000.00, poured the 6” slab and installed the garage door and entry door together. The garage measures 10’ x 30’ x 20’ and is perfect for what I am doing now and the tools it contains.
I would guess the first question you ask yourself is what do I want to do with my shop and how do I want to use it. For example my garage is used to change the oil in the motorcycle, and in the car and store some of my yard tools. The garage also is setup to plane wood, shape, bandsaw, sand, and make the items you see on my projects site. I chose to make this garage fit me instead of making me fit the garage lets refer to it as the shop.
Let’s assume you want to have your garage similar to mine. You first need to plan it out.
Let’s go over some of things you need to get started.
The first thing you want to do is create a list of the tools you want. I say this only because you may not get everything at once. A good place to start is to just dot down your thoughts on what you want to buy as if you had all the cash in the world, then break it down to what you can afford.
The basics for any workshop will include the following. Let’s start with the stationary tools. I am sure a lot of you can afford the best and most expensive, but this blog is for those who want to just have a good working tool they can afford and not make payments on. This is the reader I want to address. I think there are more of us “Red Greens” than the “Tim Allen’s”. You know what I mean. Anyway this blog is going to be rough, not polished and wrote just like we are sitting around the fire with some good ole hot coffee bean and a warm biscuit to eat. So sit back and enjoy the first fireside chat.
On your list the primary stationary tools should be the following.
• 10” table saw either belt drive or direct drive with a good fence.
• A good planer preferably a 10” or 12” (this is not a need but a want), just like I said make it a want not a need.
• A good bench model bandsaw. I am using a 9” throat and it works fine. I will review in later blogs some models I found to be pretty good and affordable.
That’s pretty much it for the stationary tools. In future blogs I’ll show you how to make each one of these mobile so you can move them around your shop.
Now let’s list the primary benchtop tools. I am going to venture and say this is going to be your meat and bones of your shop work. At least in our first imaginary shop it will be.
Bench Top Tools
• A bench mounted drill press. You don’t need a standing one to drill into wood or any of the stuff we are going to discuss here. I’ll explain later in other blogs.
• Air compressor. It should be something that will run air guns or a good amount of air while blowing off oil on your project. Or just dusting off the equipment.
• A good scroll saw nothing too fancy.
• A good mitre saw. I like the 12” models in case you want to cut 4” x 4” landscape timbers. You will use your mitre saw a lot in our put together shop.
• A router mounted table. This can be a dangerous tool so get a good fence with yours.
Now we are going to list our primary sanding equipment that is benchtop and mobile. I feel that every good shop should have at least these to start off with.
Sanding Tools and Hand powered Tools
• 1”belt drive with a 5” sanding disc. I would get two of these. (I will show you later in a blog how to convert one of these into a really cool ½” belt sander modification.
• A 4” x 36” belt sander with a 6” disc. This comes in handy with knife handles and other wood shaping.
• I would say this is my most important tool I use on every project. My oscillating drum sander with various sleeves.
• Don’t forget your hand and palm sanders.
• A circular saw is handy try to get a good 7” blade model.
• Skill saws are nice but in my opinion not necessary. Or they are called jig saws.
• All your hand drills, they can be cordless or corded it’s really up to you.
Boy that’s a lot of writing for such simple boy like me. I need a sip of coffee before I go further.
Ok where was I? Oh yeah, we have our tool list and it looks pretty good so far. We have not even touched on what the misses will think. Besides this is our imaginary first shop and we can design it how we want.
Storage Cabinets and Work bench
Back to the topic, our first shop will need a lot of cabinets to store stuff on. I think the biggest mistake anyone makes in their design is a lack of storage space to put all the other neat tools they want to buy.
• Shelving is important
• Cabinets either with doors or not. (I prefer doors due to the saw dust.)
• Tall standing cabinets
• A nice built work bench with lights over head (I’ll explain in another blog how to make one)
• I think this is very important. A really strong and sturdy table that is really large and solid. When I say solid I want to be able to hammer anything I want on it and not have it move or collapse. (From past experience I know this is very important and often overlooked.)
I think that about covers what I have now and own. You don’t need a loan or lease to make any of these purchases. You can if you want too, but then this blog may not be of interest to you.
Since we are designing our shop we need electricity. I have had in the past four phase, three phase and a compressor that was big enough to run a small refinery running on industrial power. I am telling you now you don’t need anything more than good ole’ 110/120 household electricity. I will also tell you now that I am no electrician and never plan to be. But with the use of a cell phone and sending pictures to my dad, I was able to wire my garage, install the lights and install a 100 amp service from my house and pole without the need for any electrician.
You are going to want a lot of four gang outlets and then more. I will show you in a future blog how to mount and use a power strip on your table and still make your table mobile. I can’t say enough about how important all those outlets will become. I set mine up so that every four feet has a place to plug in.
This too is very important. You want to be able to see without using all of those shop bought trouble lights hanging everywhere on your tools. Use good long fluorescent bulbs and don’t skimp on the lighting. You want there to be no shadows anywhere if you can help it.
Takes another sip of coffee, I sure can talk when I get to thinking. Not sure if that is a good thing or not. I guess that’s it for now. Check back next week when we will discuss how to set this stuff up and plan it out using tools that are available in your house without the need for a computer.
If you are anxious about setting up your shop and want to start pricing things out before reading the next blog. I suggest you start with Harbor Freight, then Home Depot, and Menards.
Hope you enjoyed our first fireside chat with Bill this week.
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