Garage shop after years in an apartment: advice?

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Forum topic by meestajack posted 02-02-2011 12:17 PM 4248 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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33 posts in 2665 days

02-02-2011 12:17 PM

Topic tags/keywords: workshop garage beginner junk

I’ve been visiting the site for a while, but this is my first post on lumberjocks.

I’m what I’d call an advanced beginner woodworker, with a good foundation of knowledge and basic skills, but my development had been limited by living in a studio apartment for several years. I’m very interested in hand tools, traditional techniques and finishes, antiques, reclaimed materials.

Finally after these many years of working on the floor with a “bench” fashioned from wooden crates I’ve moved into a home with a great detached garage which I’ll be turning into a workshop. Everything will need to be inexpensive/diy at this point, with shop use geared towards hand tools and some power tools.

The building is approximately 16’x24’ with 9’ ceilings, overhead doors, and a storage loft. I have a late 40s/early 50s cast iron table saw that I’d like to restore/tune (rust removal, fence, blade, belt). Will need to update the existing bench for immediate woodworking, while thinking about a real bench down the line. Some sort of dust collection in in order, but I’m not settled on a method yet. Looking at vise options ranging from CL/Ebay to shopbuilt legvise plans, but I’d like something serviceable soon.

the place is full of clutter, tons of stored lumber, and general garage stuff which I’ve been trying to get organized between other projects.

these pictures were taken when we first moved in (only shots I have around):

I’ve already spent some time organizing, and gotten rid of alot of the junk, but I’ll need to spend alot more time before I have the full space cleared.

I’ll take some real measurements and post some progress photos soon.
Any tips on strategy/layout/equipment going forward? what do you wish you’d know starting out?

16 replies so far

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3335 days

#1 posted 02-02-2011 12:52 PM

welcome to LJ’s

looks like you scored real nice
on a decent shop space
and i see a bunch of cabinets
that look like they are being stored there
maybe use the lowers for some workbench
and the uppers could be hung with french cleats
the thing i’ve learned is to hang loose
and let the tools and your needs dictate
the layout till things settle down
that way you can still move things around
as projects and your needs evolve

definitely some lumber storage
where the wood is flat and accessible
as you progress
some tools might have rolling bases
so they can be out of the way when not in use
drawers are always nice to have
and those storage boxes from wal-mart
keep things handy
and bug proof

you have a great first chance here
enjoy !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3816 days

#2 posted 02-02-2011 01:30 PM

I see quite a bit of potential in the space that you have available. As far as planning goes I have found Grizzly's shop planner to be helpful in positioning tools in the shop.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3053 days

#3 posted 02-02-2011 02:25 PM

Nice score. Welcome to LJ’s,

Personally, I wish I had that extra 4 ft of width in my shop. My shop is only 12×24, but then, from what I gather, you can never have a big enough shop. No matter how large, you will always fill up the space and then feel like you need even more. There is a lot of potential in that space that you have. You mention that it is a detached garage. Probably the first thing that I would do is to proceed as you are doing and try to get things as organized as you can and free up some work space for yourself. Good lumber storage is vital. I’m sure if you dig around the many shop photos here on LJ’s, you will find some ideas to solve this problem. Also, you can get lots of ideas on how to arrange your shop for most efficient work flow. There are lots of folks here that have small shops that are able to do some very impressive work.

A good bench is important. As for a vice, I have seen some fairly inexpensive basid cast iron woodworking vises at HD and Woodcraft. Also, look at Harbor Freight. It might not be your ideal vice for the long haul, but will give you something sturdy to get started.

Most of all, don’t get hung up on trying to have a perfect shop. It seems that every time I get my shop to where I think I finally have it arranged the way that I want it, I find a good deal on a tool or a new project requires that I rearrange. I was pretty happy about my shop until recently, I found a great buy on a slightly used jointer. Now I have no idea how I am going to arrange things to fit that new tool in there. I suggest, just do something with what you have, and then make changes as needed as you learn more or as your tools and projects change. The most important thing is to have fun. I am constantly amazed at th satisfaction and enjoyment that I get out of making even the simplest of projects. Do something cool with what you know how to do and don’t be afraid to try new things and learn new techniques. After years of making dovetails with a jig and a router, I am now trying to learn to cut dovetails by hand. In theory, it seemed like it would be easy. In practice, it has proven to be frustrating, but with each one that I cut, it gets a little better. I’m getting pretty close now.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3068 days

#4 posted 02-02-2011 04:36 PM

All your profile says about your location is “northeast”. I assume you have cold winters. I would advise you to consider some insulation and a source of heat.

For me, heat in the winter is much more important than air conditioning in the summer because I don’t do much woodworking in the summer. Summer is for outside activities.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View meestajack's profile


33 posts in 2665 days

#5 posted 02-02-2011 06:31 PM

Thanks for the replies!

In clearing the junk I already sold several of the cabinets on CL, but have a few pieces I’ll use as shop storage. I also have collected a few solid old drawers that I’ll use as storage bins on and under shelving. I’ll be mounting just about everything on wheels, I was lucky enough to score a milkcrate of casters from my father-in-law.

good advice on not worrying about perfect… I’ve been daydreaming about a full size shop for so long that I do need to be careful not to worry too much about every detail at this point. Want to focus on getting in there and working sooner than later.. things will evolve as you said.

ahh… heat.

I’d hoped to put a woodstove in the shop, but there is a rule about open flame in garages around here. Barring that I’m thinking about creating an adhoc hot water heating system from a small electric water heater and some salvaged baseboard. Maybe an inexpensive space heater for the interim.

Future plans include insulation, wood floor, more windows, and carraige doors… but that’s all a ways off.

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3335 days

#6 posted 02-02-2011 06:36 PM

electric and lighting

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View dbhost's profile


5708 posts in 3226 days

#7 posted 02-02-2011 06:46 PM

On the dust collection issue. there are a LOT of choices. If inexpensive and functional is what you are aiming for, get your hands on a copy of the current Wood Magazine issue, and use the coupon at Harbor Freight for their 2HP dust collector, add a Thien baffle to the inlet ring, and add a 1 micron bag, and you can have a good dust collector / separator for around $180.00

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3887 days

#8 posted 02-02-2011 06:51 PM

Buy a case a beer,invite all your best friends and sit down, raise a glass of the bubbly, and celebrate !!!

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3109 days

#9 posted 02-02-2011 07:08 PM

get some free space in a corner after Isolation of the garage :-)
remember light

get or make deasen workbench to start with then a pencil and paper , now you are ready to
rock out some of your goals for a dreamshop but it will never ends its a work in progress :-)

then lay up what you have of tools and try to organise them best as possiple to see what you need to
do with it to store it around the corner so its ready to work with

then you deside for project to make and find out what tools you need to make it or wuold be nice
to use in the project and then you buy a new tool or two for every project you make
and little by little you will get a good collection of tools and learn to know all what they are cable of and not
what tools you need all depending on what you like to make , small projects don´t need big tools
and remember there is no maschine that can make something a handtool can´t make

good luck and welcome to L J have fun and enjoy


View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3667 days

#10 posted 02-02-2011 07:13 PM

Congrats it always fun to have a place to work.

View meestajack's profile


33 posts in 2665 days

#11 posted 02-02-2011 08:25 PM

Spent some time out in the garage last night cleaning up and getting organized, took some time to go through a bunch of old power tools the previous owner left to see what I can use/restore/sell. I knew this stuff was in there, but this is the first time I’ve taken it all out to take a close look… they don’t make stuff like this anymore.

Ingersoll-Rand electric impact driver:

Porter Cable “locomotive” belt sander:

Can’t find a tag on this belt sander:

Porter Cable power planer:

Black and Decker rotary sander:

Black and Decker impact hammer:

Milwaukee drill:

plus a Dayton 1/3hp motor, Craftsman 1/3hp motor, Lucas “made in England” starter motor, etc…

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18266 posts in 3670 days

#12 posted 02-02-2011 09:04 PM

welcome aboard!! Celebrate!!!!!! ;-)) Thank God you have a shop now!!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3109 days

#13 posted 02-02-2011 09:39 PM

thank´s for the picture´s they do look good
but be aware of that they can be dangerus
to use becourse alot of metalhoused tools back then
not always was electric insulated as today so they can chock you

the B & D rotary sander is a drill without the chuck

I wuold make a shadowbox / displaycase thing for them if it was my treassure´s :-)


View Richard's profile


1916 posts in 2684 days

#14 posted 02-02-2011 11:10 PM

As Moron said “celebrate” you now have a shop to work with after all that time in an apartment “Which is where I am at the moment, have to drag the tools down to the carport to work then drag them all back in to the closet and vacuum down the parking area to keep the landlord happy and allow me to keep working there.
And don’t throw those old tools away or sell them. Refrub them and use them, they should last you longer than a lot of the junk that is sold today. Have a good tool guy check the electrical for you.

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3101 days

#15 posted 02-03-2011 04:45 AM

Jack, you are on your way now! And welcome to LJ. Rand

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