Shop Setup Help Please?

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Forum topic by cuttwice posted 12-13-2011 11:25 AM 3304 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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60 posts in 2923 days

12-13-2011 11:25 AM

Hi All -

I’ve just taken delivery of and assembled a new table saw (it’s just waiting for the electrician to come back and wire the 220 power), and I’m finally clearing some woodworking space in the barn near my house. I’m looking for advice about how best to lay out the new space. Here’s a 180 degree panorama shot of what’s there now (please click the link – the image is not embedded because it would get cropped too much):

I share this space with my father-in-law (it’s his barn), and while the overall space is quite large (about 30×40’), a good deal of it is occupied with lots of yard tools, a couple of wheelbarrows, bicycles, a motor scooter (my wife’s) and some yard equipment (snow blower, a utility wagon, and two lawn tractors – don’t ask).

I’m slowly excavating the junk (believe it or not, this is a substantial improvement!), and I’ll clear some more space still (I’m building a potting shed that will accept a lot of the gardening stuff between the closet and the garden cart, and I have to get rid of the small Ryobi table saw in the right foreground, for example), but the items listed above are there to stay, and that still leaves many walls encumbered by yard tools and gear and the center of the floor filled with power equipment. That’s not as great a loss as it seems – the floor in the center part of this space is in terrible condition, and I wouldn’t want to operate a power tool that was sitting on it (just walking on it with a heavy load in hand requires some caution). Unfortunately, fixing the floor is not an option – tearing it up to pour a flat replacement would cost too much and risk damage to the aged barn structure that I can’t take.

The shop is also a mess just now – the assembly table noted in the diagram is covered with junk, there’s an extra table saw at the end of it that has to go, and I have yet to build proper storage for hand tools and clamps, so they’re everywhere, but I’m trying to figure out how best to organize that stuff…

Here is a diagram of the furniture on the barn floor (the barn door that the panorama was taken from is at the top of the image, so please bear in mind that the diagram is backwards from the photograph):

The walls to either side of the barn door at the top of the diagram are both filled with tools, gas cans, and so forth, as is a good deal of the space on the wall at the bottom of the diagram (though much of the potting & gardening supplies along the wall at the bottom of the diagram will go soon, as I mentioned). I have to be able to get to the loft occasionally, so I can’t completely close up the wall on the right of the diagram, but I can use that wall as long as I can move stuff to get to the loft “door” high in that wall near the closet. There’s a fair amount of space on either side of the center area that’s relatively flat and available to use, but the area of the diagram that has the dimension information in it is going to be filled with garden equipment (out to about 15’ from that back wall, I’d guess).

The cabinet saw is angled the way it is to provide the longest possible infeed and outfeed runs (The front of the saw is the side closest to the door and I’m planning to build an outfeed table to roll up to the back of the saw for larger cuts). I plan to install a proper cyclone DC system in the closet shortly. Both the 220 for the table saw and the DC ductwork will drop from the ceiling at the post that’s just above the work bench on the right side of the diagram, so I reckon that’s a good place for other tools that will require good DC and possibly 220 current. For example, there’s a SCMS on the work table next to the shelf unit at the left of the diagram (the right of the picture, though you can’t see it well right now) that I’m planning to move the the work bench on the right of the diagram (I’m hoping to be able to get the table saw table to serve as support for either long boards on the SCMS table or outfeed for a planer). (A couple of notes that I forgot to include on the diagram – the work bench listed in the dimensions text is the one on the upper left of the diagram. The work bench on the right side of the diagram is approximately 30×105”. Also, the thing that looks like a small window on the right side of the diagram is the loft door and ladder that serves it, and the door at the upper right of the diagram is access to the stable next door and must remain usable.)

My problem is that there’s a lunchbox planer (DW735) on the way, and I need to plan for it and the jointer I hope to get before too long. I’m not sure how to position them to use the DC they’ll need and share feed support as much as possible in this space (preferably on the right of the diagram, to use the power and DC ducting that’s going in there). What do you all suggest to make use of this space best? Sorry for the long-winded post, and thanks in advance for any thoughts you’d care to share…

7 replies so far

View wolflrv's profile


85 posts in 2609 days

#1 posted 12-13-2011 01:48 PM

Dunno if I’ll get in trouble for posting this, but I thought I’d add a link to my shop restoration that I did earlier this summer.

I had a pretty good mess to start with. I tried to take it in bulk stages. The first thing I did was get the insulation and walls done. Then I started on the “chaos”. I went through every single item in the shop. I first organized it into woodworking and everything else. Then broke down the non-wood part of the shop into individual stuff, like plumbing, electrical, gardening, etc. I used a lot of shelving to get stuff compacted and give myself maximum floor space. The 4×8 storage shelf unit I built in is great for getting big bulky things out of the way..including a whole motorcycle that’s being restored!

Next I added dust collection and focused the big tools in a cluster around the DC. My smaller bench tools are housed on a lower shelf until they are needed. Most of my tools and hardware are organized in the old dresser and my toolbox. Stuff like drills, routers, sanders, etc are in the big gray cabinet next to the toolbox.

My next major revamp will be to build wall length cabinets with drawers and shelves underneath. I bought a copy of Tom Clark’s Practical Shop Cabinets and plan to work on really customizing my tool and material storage. This will accomplish 2 things. First I’ll have huge amounts of storage space and can eliminate the dresser, toolbox, gray cabinet and the supplies shelf completely. This new cabinet space can then also allow me to setup all my bench tools spaced out along the cabinets. I’ll still have all the wall space above the cabinets to hang tools or add any other shelving.

Bottom line, is take it a stage at a time. Hog out the junk first, sort what you’ll keep and then create “zones” to set stuff up in. It should all fall into place that way. Hopefully your father-in-law will be accommodating with letting you “zone” his stuff into an area. If you help organize his stuff better and build in some storage for him as you go, it should be a win-win situation for both of you. You have huge good usable space. It just takes some careful planning. Good luck and hope this helps some!

-- Handcrafted toys, models & gifts at --

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3104 days

#2 posted 12-13-2011 08:13 PM

Wow! I can only dream of a 30 ft x 40 ft shop. Four or more of my shop could fit into your space. I wish that I had your problem. You do have something to think about, however. Since your shop is bigger than the average size hobby shop you will want to do some serious thinking because you can make some mistakes that will cause you to do a lot more walking in a given day. I hope that it all works out well for you and hope that you will post some pictures of your shop after it’s done.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View cuttwice's profile


60 posts in 2923 days

#3 posted 12-14-2011 12:08 AM

Wolfrv, thanks very much for your reply, and for posting that link! It’s very helpful, and very encouraging – you certainly have gone a long way toward taming your chaos, so I’m encouraged to think I may be able to tame mine. I agree that taking it in stages is the key – I’ve already moved the horse feed and the beehive parts that were where the table saw is now to bins and shelves built in a couple of unused stalls in the adjoining stable, and I think the next step is getting the gardening/potting stuff under control.

My father-in-law has been very amenable to this project, all of which really started with me building him some barn doors he really likes when the old ones rotted off their frames:

I already plan some increased storage for him, as well as some “trash management”. The problem is, as the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, and my father-in-law is a bit of a pack rat, but we’ll work through that in time, I guess.

cr1, You’re right that some wall storage is going to have to be part of the solution here. I already have a bunch of industrial metal shelving that I plan to put up along the back wall of the barn behind the bike rack – hopefully, that will free up some space. Also, as I mentioned, the potting/gardening stuff will go outside to a dedicated potting bench/shed that I’m going to build sometime soon (unless it starts snowing).

I take your point about moving wood all the way back to the corner only to move it back to the middle to work on it, but I’m afraid that I’m stuck with that. It was all I could do to get that stuff organized where it is (it used to sit in a pile that occupied a huge chunk of central floor space), and moving it again is likely to exceed my FIL’s tolerance for change (as well as my tolerance for heavy lifting!) The same problem pertains to the walls on both sides of the barn door and the rest of the wall on the left of the diagram – minor reorganization is possible, but basically, that stuff ain’t movin’. That’s the bad news, The good news is that I can go up – there’s 13’ of ceiling height and a lot of space up there that’s not being used right now.

My post was really because I plan to put the machines on the right side of the diagram, in a space that’s really about 30×15 or so, and I’m not sure how to organize them. My interest isn’t so much in work flow (I’m not that organized) as in making the best use of that space. There is now a table saw, a SCMS, a router table, and a benchtop drill press and grinder (not moved from basement shop to this space yet). There will shortly be a lunchbox planer, and eventually a jointer and band saw (I don’t foresee getting a lathe, but who knows?) I’d like to organize them in such a way as to make dust collection runs as short as possible, and not have wire running all over the floor for power. I was hoping to get ideas about how to accomplish that most efficiently, and without shuffling machinery around any more than necessary.

helluvawreck, you’re right that it’s an embarrassment of riches for overall space, but it’s not really all shop space – it’s more like a big garage I can use some of. The lion’s share of the center space between those two vertical lines in the diagram will always be used by yard equipment and the like (those lines, by the way, represent two I-beams about 14’ apart that carry the load of the loft above and keep this old building from falling over). I think there will be some walking, but I can live with that. What’s more important to me is that I can keep the dust collection working properly (apart from not wanting to breathe it, I can’t cover all of the yard equipment and bikes and so forth with too much sawdust) and use the remaining space as well as possible. You’re right that it’s a big hobby shop, but I still want to plan the available space carefully.

Thanks all for the replies. Keep ‘em coming!

- John

View doncutlip's profile


2832 posts in 3793 days

#4 posted 12-24-2011 05:20 AM

I did a drawing to plan my shop. I had to work around two beam support poles, which it doesn’t look like you have that problem.

-- Don, Royersford, PA

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2592 days

#5 posted 12-24-2011 07:19 PM

Ok, some tips I see.

The cabinetshop itself that I use is about this same size. SO I can give you some really good pointers.

The Plywood rack needs to be close to the doors, and close to the tablesaw. You need to set your tablesaw up so that you have room for a 16’ length on either side, usually means pointing towards the doors.

Keep your cabinets for tool storage close together, and cabinets for hardware and such close together, makes finding things easier.

Make sure you can move all the way around your assembly tables. Workbenchs you might not need to, but that depends on how you use them.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View cuttwice's profile


60 posts in 2923 days

#6 posted 12-28-2011 12:46 PM

Thanks for the replies, fellows. cr1, I’m glad you like the doors. Since I was dumb enough to build them out of T&G mahogany and they’re about 600 lbs apiece, I hope they don’t tear the tracks that are carrying them off the barn!

Don, I’ve been drawing up a storm (I should stop and start building things!) – here’s the most recent plan draft (a couple of quick notes: 1 – this sketch is rotated 90 degrees relative to the original whole barn sketch, and it only includes the shop space at the right side of the original sketch between the closet at the lower right and the original work bench at the upper right of that sketch; 2 – the work table in grey is actually much further right than it appears – almost completely off the sketch; and 3 – the scale is wrong on screen, but the measurements are accurate):

That little blue box is the only post I have in the space I have available to me, but it’s not too much in the way, it’s carrying drops for both 110 and 220 power, and will also carry DC ducting as soon as I can manage to get that duct-work done.

TCC, I’m stuck with the wood where it is, I’m afraid, and only about 14’ of outfeed from the table saw is possible (I can move the saw in a pinch, but it will be moving onto somewhat uneven floor, so the pinch will have to be pretty severe!) Those are constraints I can’t fool with, unfortunately. I am planning to build cabinets (or at least shelving) for tool and hardware storage both below and above the bench along the top and left of this detail sketch (fortunately, I can go up several feet above the bench, though access will get complicated much above 7 or 8 feet). The assembly table in the original (whole barn) sketch is on wheels, so it can be moved out into clear space at need (though it too will run into uneven floor fairly quickly, I’m afraid).

I’m thinking I’ll build another, smaller assembly & outfeed table that may also serve as a rolling planer stand (with the planer on a reversible platform that will store the planer upside down and allow the table to be completely flat when the planer isn’t in use). Until that time, I’ll put the planer on the bench at the top of the detail sketch above, just left of the “work table”, which will leave me about 8’ of space on either side (I’ll build some low, movable, melamine-covered stands to put on the bench to raise the infeed and outfeed to the level of the planer bed).

The 2×10 benches aren’t built yet, though some of the wood is cut (some it was part of the rickety 2×10 bench that appears in the upper right part of the original sketch). This brings me to my next set of quandaries:
1 – I’ve been thinking that I should cover the 2×10s with 3/4” MDF, and edge both benches with some hardwood, to prevent the MDF from getting wrecked at the edges, but since I don’t see a good place to put a vise on those benches and I therefore don’t need to drill dog holes, does it make sense to use MDF, or should I just cover the 2×10s with some 3/8” sheathing plywood to keep them relatively clean and smooth?
2 – What size would you suggest for the assembly/outfeed table mentioned above? I’ll make it possible to raise the table onto casters and lower it for working, so I’m thinking that should be where the vise goes, but do you think putting a vise and dog holes in a bench that also contains an invert-able planer platform and serves as an outfeed table is trying to get that bench to do too much?
3 – the “work tables” in both sketches are industrial tables that are 34 & 3/16” high (they have metal legs and I can’t shorten them easily at all), but the table saw is 34” high and I’m planning to make the 2×10 benches match the saw, not the tables. Do you see a problem with this, or would you suggest another course?

Sorry about the additional long post, and thanks for whatever thoughts you may have,

- John

View cuttwice's profile


60 posts in 2923 days

#7 posted 01-18-2012 12:40 AM

UPDATE & further questions…

Hi All -

OK, some progress, and a bit of a dilemma. Below is the mostly completed bench (and some shelving underneath) for the barn shop. As you can see, the ladder to the loft has been cut off and the work table put underneath it (I’ll climb on the table to get into the loft at need). Also, the “L” referred to in the drawing above is built, and I’ve found a place for the rolling tool chest that I was given as a Christmas present.

The bench is a 3/4” plywood top over 2×10 planks, supported by 2×4 framing, which should be fairly sturdy. In time, I’ll build a flip-top rolling cart for the lunchbox planer which will nest under the near end of the bench when not in use, but for the moment, the planer will go at the right end of the bench, just left of the work table and ladder (the vise that’s sitting there now is just sitting, and will be moved). When the cart is built, I’ll replace the planer with the router table on that spot on the bench. I’m building some cabinet storage with the offcuts from the plywood used in the bench to go above the bench where that droopy single shelf is now. The DC unit will go into the green closet with the tarps on top of it in due course (as soon as my wallet recovers from the table saw purchase!)

So, now for the dilemma. I decided that it was better to have the bench level than at 34” above the floor all along its length (the floor descends as it gets closer to the center of the room). Unhappily, I didn’t think it through well enough, and didn’t shorten the bench height at the wall. Consequently, where it is closest to the table saw (in the left foreground of this photo), it is about 34-3/4” off the floor, which puts it above the level of the table saw. (grrrr…)

Since moving the table saw further out into the room is a problem (floor not level, saw would be in the way of other stuff in the barn), I’ll have to adjust the height of the part of the bench that is near it, so the bench doesn’t interfere with the saw. I can knock apart the framing of the bench and lower the part of it that comes away from the wall fairly readily, but I’m not sure how low to make it. I could lower it about 3/4” to make it match the saw, but I’m thinking that it might be nice to put the SCMS near the end of the bench, so as to get all the major dust producers near one another and minimize duct runs.

My problem is that to get 8’ of space to the right of the chop saw, I need to put it pretty close to the end of the bench, and it may also interfere with the table saw there. What I wold appreciate your thoughts about is:

1 – How much clear space does the table saw need left of the blade in your opinion?
2 – If you were building this space out, would you put the chop saw at the end of the bench, or leave it where it is now? (Please see the photo of the whole barn at the top of this thread, and you’ll see the SCMS on the other side of the room. That’s actually a pretty workable spot with good space either side of the blade, but I’ll never get decent DC there – it’s too far away from the rest of the tools.)

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you might have…

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