Like Searching for El Dorado...
Open space in the wood shop can be as elusive as El Dorado, the lost city of gold. I am fortunate enough to have a shop large enough that I can have some open space to assemble and stage projects before sending them out.
Just as efficiency is critical for my survival, so is open space. Space is necessary to stage incoming materials, assemble, finish, and stage projects for shipping.
Space Is A Vacuum
Open space in the shop creates a vacuum and it will suck everything into itself. Fortunately in the shop, this is a matter of principal and not physics. Strict discipline in maintaining our workspace can keep control of this situation.
For me, it is critical for survival as a business to understand what costs me money in the shop and how to best utilize the space to make money. I have come to realize that I do NOT have space for storing. I am not in the warehouse/storage business and I cannot afford to store projects or materials. The material has to come in, get processed, and the project has to go out.
I have to make a choice to keep only select materials on hand and to allow my suppliers do what they do best. My local suppliers are in the business of maintaining, storing, and supplying the materials for me. I am fortunate that my two main suppliers are only 3 and 6 miles from my shop and I can rely on the convenience of this situation.
But even when I was working in Ohio, the same principles applied and my main suppliers were 28 and 40 miles (one way) from the shop. Making a good materials list and wisely picking the material yourself will minimize overages.
The accumulation occurs over time. A little material left over from a job here then another job there… It is not something that happens all at once. And we are correct, the pieces can be used in another project, but we have to determine what are the odds that a particular piece of scrap will be used? For the type of projects and work that I do, I tend to use a certain size of wood or sheet goods. If it is smaller than that the odds are not good that it will be used for a long time if ever.
Most all woodworkers have a certain amount of space to store the materials. It may only be a corner of the room, the wall space over the workbench, or it may be a sizable lumber rack that fills a wall or two.
I have come to realize that I need to understand and strictly adhere to my storage limit. My limit is this; if it does not fit on the lumber rack or sheet goods organizer then something has to go. At this point I can call a local woodworker to give the material to or I can burn it. But I cannot afford to store it.
Pro Vs. Hobbyist
My reasoning and point of view is that of a business. As a hobbyist the reasons are different but the end result is the same (or should be.)
An unorganized and messy shop space is often sharing garage or living space. There is a simple principle that I share with my clients, “When Momma’s happy – everybody’s happy.” If your spouse sees an unorganized and unused space, they will not be as supportive of your hobby. Maybe your space is unorganized but used, still it is an eyesore and the basic principal applies.
Hobby woodworkers have to split their time between work, family, and shop. If you are not operating as a business in the shop, understand that your time is just as valuable as mine. If it is difficult to function due to disorganization then you are wasting valuable time.
It is more difficult to get motivated to work in an unorganized shop. This leads to a shop that sees little use and in your spouse’s mind a waste of money and space.
It can be stated without any debate that an unorganized shop is simply not as safe to work in as an organized shop. We participate in an inherently hazardous activity when we work in the shop. Keeping a clean and organized wood shop lends itself to a safer work environment.
Motivation Through Organization Envy
Organizing cost me more time than money. Some may have to shell out a few bucks to purchase or build organizing systems for tools and materials but the return on investment is huge.
Since my last organizational efforts I keep thinking to myself, “I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner!” I hope this motivates others to get more organized so that they may be able to enjoy working in the shop as much as I do.
Many think that I have over 1,000 sf of shop space but I am functioning in 950 sf of shop space.
Share the Love~Share the Knowledge
-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com