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Unmotivated with small shop

by agallant
posted 05-20-2013 02:19 PM

1 2 next »
94 replies

94 replies so far

View Bullet's profile


150 posts in 3299 days

#1 posted 05-20-2013 02:20 PM

Try turning some pens. A small lathe is pretty cheap and they make great gifts. Quick projects and pretty fullfilling.
My shop is about the same size as yours. 12×20 – sometimes it’s a pain to do bigger jobs (I can’t fit a 4×8 sheet into the basement), but I really enjoy it, so I make it work. Roller bases on everything is the way to go to make it easier. Also a vac system will really help. I find that I get kind of discouraged when the dust builds up on everything. A clean shop is easier to work in.

-- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you're talking about.

View chrisstef's profile


17312 posts in 2976 days

#2 posted 05-20-2013 02:26 PM

You can try and but some of your equipment on roll around bases and tuck them in where you can. Pull one machine out at a time to use. It’ll take a bit more planning to work like that but you can get it done without a doubt.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2921 days

#3 posted 05-20-2013 02:27 PM

Honestly 288 sqft is larger than a lot of woodworkers have to use. Sure, we’d all want larger shops, but we make do with our space. Is it that you have a bunch of large machinery? Perhaps you can get into hand tools, which require little space. Planing by itself can be very therapeutic.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View poopiekat's profile


4349 posts in 3704 days

#4 posted 05-20-2013 02:34 PM

Your lack of motivation should not be blamed on the size of your shop. You need to do some soul-searching to find the REAL reason for not producing. If you had, say, 2000 sf, the same lack of motivation would still be there.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4188 days

#5 posted 05-20-2013 02:34 PM

I’m in half of a two-car garage, so I’ve got no more space than you. I’d love to have a huge shop with every tool in it’s place and a central dust collection system, but I make do. Most of my tools are on wheels so I can make a little extra room when I need it.

To give up woodworking because your shop is too small is like giving up sex because you only have a single bed. Improvise, man! :-)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View agallant's profile


551 posts in 2856 days

#6 posted 05-20-2013 02:35 PM

Im not sure about that. It is just a PITA to alwas have to keep things super clean, speaking of that, cleaning will be my first step when I get home tonight.

View CrazeeTxn's profile


151 posts in 1920 days

#7 posted 05-20-2013 02:35 PM

Mines only 250 sq ft. I have two benches (one with a motiser and d/p) the other is for everything else. A t/s with extensions on the left and right, miter saw, b/s, joiner, planer, a couple of metal lockers, lumber cart, router table, Jet d/c and a few jigs. The t/s and the benches are the only things without wheels.

The benches have shelves for additional storage and I just finished putting wheels on the miter saw and router table so I could move them out of the way if needed.

Maybe just reorganize a little bit (if the machines are movable)? I believe there are websites that will let you layout your shop and place tools to maximize space. If not, use some graph paper and cut pieces (footprints) out to scale and move around.

Adding mobile bases is a lot cheaper than expanding and may provide you with alot more options :)

View Dchip's profile


271 posts in 3222 days

#8 posted 05-20-2013 03:09 PM

I work in a 9’x12’ room, and the best thing I ever did was put a table saw / router table combo on casters. I keep a sheet of plywood off to the side so this serves back-up duty as a mobile workbench (finishing bench, planer cart, etc.) as well.

-- Dan Chiappetta, NYC,

View Loren's profile (online now)


10283 posts in 3617 days

#9 posted 05-20-2013 04:03 PM

Projects that don’t require a lot of floor space to build:

-demilune table
-jewelry box
-silver chest

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2940 days

#10 posted 05-20-2013 04:10 PM

Is it the size of the shop or the layout and/or organization in the shop?
Or, maybe something else?

There is a member on here, who I won’t name, that had a totally un-supportive spouse and had to work outside and drag everything out for every work session; then put it all back up at the end of every session. This person now has a one car garage to work in and just puts out an incredible amount of work; happy as a lark. I wish I could be so motivated.

But, my point is you can find motivation, regardless of conditions, if you want to. Get motivated to improve the efficiency of your space, for instance.

View bbasiaga's profile


1204 posts in 1964 days

#11 posted 05-20-2013 04:21 PM

If you had a 2000sqft shop, you’d just have a bigger mess to clean when everything was finally too cluttered/dusty to work well. I’m hoping to have a shop your size at the next house. That would be so much better than having to share garage space with the car.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View TOM's profile


65 posts in 1960 days

#12 posted 05-20-2013 04:23 PM

Here are two magazine issues you might find helpful / inspiring (as I have). . . .

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1827 posts in 1939 days

#13 posted 05-20-2013 04:24 PM

I have half of a one car garage. We all would love some more space…...and for it to be clean (my wife would love that). Anyway, maybe if you make something for someone as a gift, or as a donation for a charity or something. That would force you to really concentrate and finish. Sometimes being woodworkers we do things so much for our own enjoyment or pleasure and forget that others might benefit from our craft. I saw the door you made, gorgeous work.

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View bondogaposis's profile


4690 posts in 2320 days

#14 posted 05-20-2013 04:28 PM

Organization is the key to working in a small shop. I have about as much space as you, I’d love to double it. I get by though and don’t suffer from lack of motivation. I do try to balance woodworking w/ other activities and try alternate between hunting and fishing w/ shop time. I need my outdoors too.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2938 days

#15 posted 05-20-2013 04:29 PM

One car garage build, 20×9.5’

Bit of a squeeze, but it can be done

View MT_Stringer's profile


3160 posts in 3200 days

#16 posted 05-20-2013 04:33 PM

Just search You Tube for garage shop ideas…cabinets, mobile tool carts. That ought to get you motivated to get better organized so you have a little more room. I also work out of a one car garage with lots of stuff in it so I can sympathize with you.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View agallant's profile


551 posts in 2856 days

#17 posted 05-20-2013 04:33 PM

I guess one of the issues I have is that with all of my tools in one space, when working on home projects when I am done or need to clean up real quick I tend to just dump the tools in the shop around and on the table saw.

View TOM's profile


65 posts in 1960 days

#18 posted 05-20-2013 04:40 PM

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1452 posts in 2116 days

#19 posted 05-20-2013 04:41 PM

I work in around 128 sq ft in a 2 car garage. Organization and multi-functionality are key. My shop area looks like a wreck, but it gets cleaned of dust and shavings very regularly and I always know where to find things. I’d definitely suggest looking into woodturning. It’s a great way to be very productive with little room and time.

View JayT's profile


5590 posts in 2180 days

#20 posted 05-20-2013 04:59 PM

My shop is about 110sq ft. of shed attached to our garage, 288 sounds like a dream.

The small size does make it more difficult to do larger projects, but it’s usually doable. Table saw is on a mobile base to tuck into the corner and will soon be switched to a mobile work station to utilize wasted space. Benches are designed to have lots of storage. I’ve also added French cleats to a couple walls, which helped a lot with being able to rearrange tools to fit better, and use the overhead space as much as possible.

When working with large pieces, such as breaking down plywood or assembling a piece of furniture, I either work outside or move the car out of the single car garage and use that space for a few hours. When I am done, it all gets packed up back in the shop.

A couple of other things that work for me. 1) Keep it simple—if I do not need a tool on a regular basis, I don’t own it. 2) Use hand tools instead of a space-eating machine, when possible. For instance, I don’t have a jointer or planer, so do those operations with hand planes. Same result, a bit more time (maybe), and a lot less space used. 3) Work on one project at a time. Don’t start another until that one is out of the shop. If the projects are really small, I do violate this one periodically, but there is never more than one furniture piece at a time going.

If you want to do woodworking, you can find a way.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View muleskinner's profile


896 posts in 2406 days

#21 posted 05-20-2013 05:21 PM

”...when working on home projects when I am done or need to clean up real quick I tend to just dump the tools in the shop around and on the table saw.”

Heh. Welcome to my 650 sq.ft. shop. Sometimes size doesn’t matter.

-- Visualize whirled peas

View agallant's profile


551 posts in 2856 days

#22 posted 05-20-2013 05:28 PM

Yeah I guess it really does not get any better just if I had a larger shop I could have a larger area to randomly place things when I am done and it won’t feel as cluttered.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2255 days

#23 posted 05-20-2013 05:32 PM

I have exactly 288 sq ft right now. I built my kitchen cabinets in there. I had to move them to the garage as I completed them and the garage became the “finishing room”. It gets to be quite a mess when I have something larger going on. Right now I’m building a garden shed for my wife. The shop looks like a bomb went off. When I “clean up” at the end of the day, I basically drag everything into the shop. Next day, I take out what I’m using again. It’s supposed to rain on and off for the next 3 days. I’ll go out there and tidy up. It’s kind of relaxing putting stuff away.

I have a table saw, 14” band saw, grizzly 6” jointer, dewalt planer, bench top drill press, a corner for assembling electronics for my radio controlled airplanes, a workbench that doubles as an outfeed table, a clamp cart, shop vac, several cabinets…. I think the biggest thing for me was getting everything on wheels. I can arrange things for a specific job or project and then park them when I’m done.

Oh yeah… when the garden shed is done I get to remove a partition wall and gain another 6 feet (96 sq ft) so I’ll have the entire building and a total of 384 sq ft. :)

Kind of a nice incentive to get the garden shed completed. hehehe

View lepelerin's profile


495 posts in 2294 days

#24 posted 05-20-2013 05:52 PM

How the lack of square footage is the source of not being motivated?
Imagine if you had a larger shop, What would be your motivational factor to get some work done? What would you build?
I do have a tiny workshop compare to many people on this site. I wish I had 1000 sq, even 500. But no mine is 180 sf (9×20) and absolutely no way to expand it. It’s in the basement! . And I do have to store 2 see kayak in this space with my tools. Question of organization. Cramped yes but fun to be there. Maybe woodworking is not what you really want to do. Reconsider your options.

In your statement ” but I think the reason why I have been staying away …” might lay the answer. You are not sure … you only think. What makes you say so, what makes you think this is the lack of space. Imagine for a second if you had more space what would you do. ... How would you get motivated. What would be the motivational factor … Think about it.

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2836 days

#25 posted 05-20-2013 06:16 PM

A small shop can be discouraging. My shop is 18×18 minus one corner that is 7×7. I carved off that corner because my wife needed a place to put the freezer as well as for her to have a little storage. The other problem about my shop is that people have to walk strait through the middle to be able to go into the back door of the house. I figure my shop is about 275 sq ft. One time I made 2 full size bookcases for my daughter. It wasn’t easy but I managed. There are all kinds of skill building smaller projects that you can do, including smaller pieces of furniture. Everything in my shop is on rollers except for my scroll saw and the drill press. I have a full size Powematic PM 2000 table saw and an 8 inch Powermatic jointer. I have a Jet 18 inch band saw. I have a complete set of portable power tools, and a large collection of hand tools. I also have the usual stuff like a a workbench, portable dust collector, miter saw, Midi Lathe, scroll saw, vertical/horizontal 6 in. belt/disc sander. One thing that helped me was building plenty of work table space with lots of drawers and I also built some storage cabinets for the walls. I even had one wall with small plastic drawer units for all kinds of hardware. It sounds crowded but it was a totally useful shop and had it setup where most of the time I didn’t have move anything to get to something. Sometimes I wanted to build something big and it got a little frustrating but I’ve often worked on the concrete driveway if I had to. I no longer live in that house and have moved to a bigger house where I will finally be able to build at least a 25×25 stand alone shop. But I used that other shop for about 8 to 10 years.

Think about building smaller things like boxes, spice cabinets, and end tables. A midi lathe doesn’t take up too much room. There are also countless small projects like scroll sawing, intarsia, power carving, and woodcarving just to name a few off the top of my head. Get yourself organized and work on turning your shop into a lean mean machine. You’ll love it. It’s always fun to work on your shop.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View MT_Stringer's profile


3160 posts in 3200 days

#26 posted 05-20-2013 06:52 PM

Thanks for that, Tom. That guy’s wall is exactly like mine. except I have the big Harbor Freight roll around tool box on that wall.

I am planning new cabinets that will house my small refrigerator, air compressor and miter saw.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View TOM's profile


65 posts in 1960 days

#27 posted 05-20-2013 06:56 PM

Well, you know what they say …. “necessity is the mother of invention”

Perhaps some of the ideas presented throughout may provide some ideas and inspiration for you to modify your own workspace to better suit your needs and space.

View bandit571's profile


19764 posts in 2653 days

#28 posted 05-20-2013 07:05 PM

Welcommen to Das Dungeon

Then go look at what I have done down there.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Don W's profile

Don W

18686 posts in 2537 days

#29 posted 05-20-2013 07:31 PM

I went from a barn about 30’ x 70’ to 14’ x 14’ when I switched careers. Most of my bigger stuff was put in storage until about 3 or 4 years ago. I worked with portable equipment.

Not that its not nice with a bigger shop (now 24×40) I managed in what I had. A lot of my work was done outside, so weather was an issue.

There are an awful lot of finish carpenters that work out of an enclosed trailer or pickup. I did that to.

It takes a little more planning in the small shop. For instance I still had a RAS. It sat on the back wall, and I had a window on each end. Work piece was to long? Open the window.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

7950 posts in 2298 days

#30 posted 05-20-2013 07:43 PM

imo, the key to working in smaller shops is to have your tools and your bench space organized as best as you can and DO NOT use the shop for storage. Even lumber storage.

I’m finishing the organization of my 480 sf basement shop and since I put the lumber and cutoffs out in the barn, the shop seems spacious.

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2654 days

#31 posted 05-20-2013 07:44 PM

I guess I am the sole cheapskate posting here. My wife has a shopping/catalog addiction and finds stuff that she wants. I always review and do the math on how much it would cost to do it cheaper and better. That is what drives my woodworking hobby. As noted above, there are ways to do that in a very tiny amount of space.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3160 posts in 3200 days

#32 posted 05-20-2013 07:51 PM

I get requests all the time on Facebook, usually with a picture attached…”Uncle Mike, can you make this?” :-)

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2836 days

#33 posted 05-20-2013 08:02 PM

If anyone wants to know what some people can do with a small shop take a look at what dilo does in his closet workshop.

Here’s an article about his shop and the furniture that he builds.

Here’s his project pages.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Earlextech's profile


1160 posts in 2660 days

#34 posted 05-20-2013 08:19 PM

I started my custom cabinet business on my back porch (160 sq ft). Motivation comes from within, not from being without. Pick a project and do it. Once it’s done you’ll realize it’s not the space, or lack thereof, that has been discouraging you.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View muleskinner's profile


896 posts in 2406 days

#35 posted 05-20-2013 08:28 PM

teejk – you’re not the only cheapskate here. And I don’t think what your wife has is an addiction, I think it’s chromosomal. I also have the same response that you do. My problem is that my initial calculations might show that I can do it cheaper and better but the ‘after action’ analysis usually shows I could have bought two of ‘em at Ikea. Doesn’t stop me.

-- Visualize whirled peas

View madts's profile


1855 posts in 2309 days

#36 posted 05-20-2013 08:30 PM

I have all my tools on wheels so that I can get them into the driveway. Which is great except in the summer time in texas. Tools can get so hot that you burn yourself when you pick them up. My Asshole neighbor cut a big limb for my tree that shaded his grass, but also shaded me in the afternoon. So it goes. Revenge is going to be beautiful. So my friend look on the bright side. You have tools. Make the best of them.

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View DS's profile


2897 posts in 2390 days

#37 posted 05-20-2013 08:45 PM

I started in 1/2 of a two car garage and have upgraded to 1/3 of a three car garage. (True)
It never seems that there is enough room. Setting up for an operation is akin’ to parting the red sea.

It slows me down, but I always manage to get good results from my efforts.
The motivation to work, for me, has little to do with the current state of my shop, but rather, what I am willing to do to acheive the desired results.

I wish you all the best in your situation.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View torpidihummer's profile


65 posts in 1822 days

#38 posted 05-20-2013 09:12 PM

Seven years ago, when I totally retired, my wife and I moved to Southern California, from Oregon,
while in Oregon I built a large shop20X20with a twenty foot ceiling. I purchased a Mobile Home and thought I was going to convert my car port in to a shop, wrong! I was informed by the Park Owners that I could only build
a 15X8 foot shop so my son inherited all of my large “toy” like my Shopsmith, planners and other tools. But
since I reduced my shop work to wood carving, specially birds of prey and song birds, can keep myself busy
and content with my small shop. Only large tool I have now is a new bank saw that I purchased ten days ago.
What I am trying to say is is “yes” one can be content with a smaller shop.

-- Torpidhummer

View Sergio's profile


470 posts in 2662 days

#39 posted 05-20-2013 09:22 PM

LOL… come to see my “workshop” :
I am building a quite big drum sander now (29” drum)... It will probably replace my workbench, since I am thinking to build a top with vises so I will hide it also… it will take some time, then I will post when finished.

-- - Greetings from Brazil - --

View firefighterontheside's profile


17974 posts in 1826 days

#40 posted 05-20-2013 09:34 PM

I too have a shop that is 12 by 24. Exactly 288 feet. Sometimes I feel crowded. That is usually from storing too much stuff inside. I also end up moving pieces out to the garage which my shop is attached to. My truck ends up living outside for a while. I wish it were bigger, but it gets the job done. I’ve been trying to do better with organization and dust collection which helps me feel like I have more room. I’m in the process of insulating so that I can cool it this summer. I put a tv out there recently as well. I have a phone out there which is good too. I think the more comfortable it becomes the happier I’ll be with it. Most of the time the nice stuff I build is for other people, but sometimes you need to make something for yourself. Start with something that you can enjoy yourself.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View oldnovice's profile


6775 posts in 3337 days

#41 posted 05-20-2013 10:58 PM

I am working in 1/2 of a two stall garage which is quite a comedown from 24’x40’ basement I had in Illinois. I do miss the space but I still manage with what I have.

Most of my equipment is moveable so it can be put out of the way when not in use. I no longer can leave a project just sitting in the middle of everything so when I quit for the day/evening I need to make room to keep passage open to/from the wheelchair ramp. Granted I haven’t made any of the real large projects I used to but that is probably due more to the fact that all the furniture I once built is still functional and somewhat to the physical limitations of age.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View littlecope's profile


3071 posts in 3471 days

#42 posted 05-20-2013 11:33 PM

My shop in Manchester was a 10’ x 11’ second bedroom (110 sq. ft.), and it was also the overflow room of the apartment, i.e., where all the junk collected…
I’ve worked on porches, outdoors, on the kitchen and on the living room floors…
Whatever I’ve had to do, I’ve made do, with the existing conditions…
Now I’ve got a whole basement, and can never find anything!!
But I’m not complaining… :)

The point is, if you want to do it, you will find a way…

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View RibsBrisket4me's profile


1554 posts in 2475 days

#43 posted 05-20-2013 11:46 PM

288 sqfeet is PLENTY of space.

1. get a shed or a yard stash to get mower, and yard junk out of thr shop.

2. get rid of workbenches…I use workmates and saw horses with MDF tops that fold up.

3. All tools, carts, etc on wheels.

4. Get rid of all your unused crap! :)

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4188 days

#44 posted 05-20-2013 11:49 PM


”I started in 1/2 of a two car garage and have upgraded to 1/3 of a three car garage.”

Mathematically, I don’t think that qualifies as an “upgrade”. :-)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2940 days

#45 posted 05-21-2013 12:09 AM

Charlie, I’m 90% sure you are 110% correct.

View Kevin Wells's profile

Kevin Wells

28 posts in 1808 days

#46 posted 05-21-2013 12:55 AM

I just started a workshop makeover. I started gutting the shop this weekend and will be rebuilding it over the next couple of months (I’m documenting the journey in my blog). Before and after I only have 240 square feet. I have 1 electrical outlet which I have to alternate what was plugged in and pray the breaker did not trip when the lathe fired up and my wife decided to make coffee. I was also down to one working light bulb. I can not do anything about the size of the space but I can add more lighting and electrical as well as a redesign of all benches, tables, counters, carts etc.

Over the years I have had to “mothball” my shop while I deployed to sandy beaches with no ocean to be found. When I returned, it usually took a while for me to find the motivation to unpack the shop and start again. Woodworking is a perishable skill. It is amazing what we have to re-teach ourselves when we take an extended break. That in itself can cause a lack of motivation or become the spark that reignites it. Its all in how you look at it.

After this last round, I found myself in a critical care bed in Germany and then at Walter Reed. I passed many days thinking about ways to re-model my shop. I knew, from past experience, that there would be a period of re-learning, but I decided it was just time to improve my techniques. However, I did not jump right in to a remodel. Instead, I worked with what I had, to make sure that I was re-doing the shop because I needed it to continue woodworking and not for some other reason.

At the end of the day, motivation comes from within. Its all about positive versus negative outlook. You can look at a small space and think it is too much hassle or look at it as a chance to improve and discover unfounded creativity to use what you have.

-- Kevin, Chuckin' Wood,

View RibsBrisket4me's profile


1554 posts in 2475 days

#47 posted 05-21-2013 12:59 AM

Right on Kevin.

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2473 days

#48 posted 05-21-2013 01:12 AM

Let’s get to the fact of the matter. Your lack of motivation is either because you just think you like woodworking or you’re just too lazy to come up with a project. 288 square feet of space has nothing to do with it other than you are using it as an excuse…

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3546 days

#49 posted 05-21-2013 01:22 AM

I too thought of Dilo also because of his small shop and his amazing work.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View muleskinner's profile


896 posts in 2406 days

#50 posted 05-21-2013 01:34 AM

Thanks Jim, Sergio’s remark made me think of that guy and the stuff he made. Seems I’ve seen a couple of Brits that are producing fantastic stuff out of not much more than a closet. It also made me think that there’s a lot of urban dwellers around the world that are rolling their eyes at us poor guys that only have half of a two car garage or a 12×20 shed.

-- Visualize whirled peas

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