Setting up a shop for the first time

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Forum topic by tooold posted 07-04-2008 02:27 PM 1492 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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56 posts in 3921 days

07-04-2008 02:27 PM

Hi -

I received a very warm welcome here when I joined a few weeks back – I really appreciate it, makes my trepidation about setting up my shop and starting my first project a little less.

As I said in my intro, I’m American, and my British wife and I are in the final stages of moving to France, down in the Southwest, far from the excitement of the Riviera – birds and tractors are the main features of our area.

We’re finishing up redoing a pretty ugly concrete block dairy barn which will house a recording studio (what I do in real life), as well as a small apartment, a couple of good-sized storage rooms and my workshop. I’ve decided to make all the cabinets for the kitchen in the apartment. This first project will be an MDF job, nothing fancy, as luckily, I like Shaker stuff (I grew up near Pleasant Hill, a restored Shaker community in Kentucky) and while no Shaker ever touched MDF, you can get at least part of the way there. I’m hoping to use the experience of doing this kitchen to attempt some more advanced/larger projects in the house that’s the next to step into the modern age with things like decent plumbing and grounded electrical wiring.

My workshop will be about 36.5 sq metres, just a little under 400 sq ft, with one wall about 12 ft and the other about 30 ft. There’s a hot-water heater in one corner, and I’m going to put in a small wood-burning stove in the other corner of the same end. Two reasonably sized windows.

I’ve been trying to read as much as possible about setting up a shop for the first time, so I have a reasonably good idea of what I need, but I’m also aware that there are a lot of differing opinions. My budget isn’t huge, but I want to get good stuff and can justify the expense (or at least rationalize it) with the amount of money we’ll save over paying someone to do the work (all this assumes I don’t a) prove totally incompetent b) take three years to do something it would take a pro a week to do c) go insane.

So – here’s what I think I need – what have I missed? What should I leave until later?

1. Good workbench
2. Table saw with supported wood path so I can handle large pieces on my own
3. Router – the question here is hand-held or table (or both)
4. Freestanding drill press
5. Hand-held sander – what kind?
6. Two or three good planes
7. As many clamps (pipe clamps, small clamps, etc.) as possible

Now, the options – band saw? Chop saw? I didn’t put a jointer/sander on for now because the first project is mostly MDF, but obviously that needs to be included for later.

I’m most of you are (at least) smiling at how short this list is, not to mention how naive I am, but you have to start somewhere. Any advice or lessons learned would be incredibly helpful, as would comments from any readers in Europe, the land where power tools cost a lot more than they do in the US of A.

11 replies so far

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 4009 days

#1 posted 07-04-2008 05:14 PM

Hi There

Your main two piece of equipment should be your table saw, 3-5hp with 50” ripping fence (Delta, Powermatic) and power miter box saw, 10-12” sliding (Bosch, DeWalt). Down the road you should buy a 14” band saw (Delta, Powermatic), bench drill press (General) , edge/spindle sander (Ridgid), 12-13” planer (Dewalt, Delta) and router table (Bench Dog). In my cabinet business, I built cabinets for 9 years with this equipment. I built an assembly table the same height as my saw. It was a catch table when sawing and work/assembly table most of the other times.

Power hand tools : Combo router set 2 1/4HP straight/plunge (Bosch, Porter Cable), Combo set, 18v Cordless impact driver and percussion drill driver (Makita, Dewalt), 5-6” orbital sander (Bosch), 3 X 21 belt sander (Porter Cable), Jig saw (Bosch). Your best bet is to read the tool reviews in LJ. I listed brands I had or plan to get for my new shop. If you look at my sight you can see the type things I built with this equipment. Good Luck!

I am really impressed with your barn renovation. You did an outstanding on it. You look like the kind of guy that can do anything once he puts his mind to it.

God Bless tom

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View SteveKorz's profile


2139 posts in 3949 days

#2 posted 07-04-2008 06:26 PM

I would insert the bandsaw at a much higher priority. I just bought a Rikon 14” bandsaw, and I absolutely regret not having it sooner. Dick Cain did a great review on LumberJocks.

As for the jointer, if you are just going to use it to glue up edges, then use a metal piece of angle iron as a straightedge, and use your router with a spiral cutting bit. That works fantastic. I made one of THESE for about 30 bucks. I bought the steel and had to take it to a metal shop for someone to put it in a break and bend it. I made my own cam clamps, but you can buy them cheap. It works great, and I made mine 8’6” long to accomodate plywood or other large glue ups.

However, if you have lumber in the rough and you need to flatten one side before sticking it in the planer to flatten and thickness the other, then yes you’ll need to move it up on the list.

The most used pieces of power equipment in my shop are in this order… (I use my cordless drill more than just about anything, but I’m leaving it out since they are a pretty common item anymore)....
1.Miter saw
2.Table saw
3.Band saw
7.Scroll saw
8.Drill Press
9.Sanders (belt, hand, detail)

Most used hand tools (besides the obvious common stuff like measuring tapes, hammers, etc)
1.Box Plane/ shoulder/ rabbet plane
4.Thickness guage
5.Sharpening equipment (stones, flat marble and sandpaper)

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 4050 days

#3 posted 07-04-2008 07:40 PM

O.K., I’m in a mood.

I tell the boss….[insert word here] is an evolution. Life, Learning, Shops, whatever. Your shop will be better if you let it evolve as you find out how you work best in the space. Getting all the little hand tools can come along as you feel the need to do some rainy day shopping.

Your list is about as good as it gets. My adjustments would be as follows:

1. good
2. good
3. Definitely hand held. I would suggest the Porter Cable 3 1/4 hp. It will do anything. Table can come later.
4. good
5. Orbital of your choice. Although a combo belt/disc unit is real handy, too.
6. good
7. Get them as you need them. Clamps have a way of multiplying. But, I have many clamps I thought I needed, and I don’t have enough of the ones I use the most.
8. Definitely a chopsaw. Your choice. both sliders and standards have advantages and disadvantages.

Then the more you use rough lumber:

9. A jointer. Size depends on how long the pieces you work with most are. Sooner or later.
10. Planer

I would suggest building some cabinets for the shop. One can never have too much storage. It will also give you a chance to play with cabinets before building the real ones for the house. To me, a bandsaw is a great place to store stuff on. We use ours [at the shop] once every two or three months….nothing much that couldn’t be done with a jigsaw, usually. Buy the rest as you find you really have a need for. There isn’t much you can’t do with the basics.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View Betsy's profile


3392 posts in 4131 days

#4 posted 07-04-2008 11:09 PM

I’d move the band saw onto the list and close to the top. The table saw is, of course, important, but I think people don’t put enough importance on the band saw and what it can do for you.

Also, make sure you put some additional hand tools on the list. Chisels, files, etc.

I’d also start with a hand held router – perferably and plunge router.

Welcome to the slippery slope of tool gathering. You’ll love it!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 4050 days

#5 posted 07-05-2008 04:36 AM

I would add that your tablesaw and fence are the foundation of your shop. I would go for the highest quality I could afford. And I think the fence is about as important as the saw itself.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3883 days

#6 posted 07-05-2008 07:35 PM

Unless you are going to make a lot of cabinetry I’d
go with a good bandsaw. Kity and INCA bandsaws
are/were made in France and are excellent quality

The bandsaw is a lot more versatile than a table saw
for making furniture. Of course it’s nice to have both.

If I were only going to make cabinetry for the house
I would go with a guided circular-saw system like Festool
or the Eurekazone system.

If I were in France I could track down nice used equipment
fast and buy it for cash. I know gas is pricey there but
you can find some real bargains on Ebay in the UK and
other European countries.

If you buy a new table-saw you may soon regret not buying
a heavier-duty machine. If I were in Europe I’d look for
a used Wadkin before I would buy one of the newer
lightweight machines with small-capacity sliding tables and
gimmicky features.

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3948 days

#7 posted 07-05-2008 08:38 PM

There nothing wrong with your list, sure the pros are recomending a list of good very dependable equipment but I don’t think that they are necessarly keeping much of an eye on your budget, & and I’m not recomending that you go the cheap route, thats almost like throwing money away. There are a lot of good midrange lines that will be very satisfactory in the long haul. First I would reccomend that you read the review section here on the various types of tools. Use the index and you’ll find a lot of food for thought and then make up your mind. two words of caution. 1. Keep in mind your power requirments, you certainaly don’t want to operate a woodworking shop off a bunch of transformers, not very cost efficent either. On the other hand there’s no point in spending hours reading about things that won’t fit you needs. I would suggest sending a note to ‘yorkshire Stewart’ A LJ in england (obviously) he can probably tell you a lot more about
whats more in line with your needs and is going to be available in EU than most of us here. 2. Pay close attention to what many are saying about current Porter Cable products, a really great line of outstaning quality in the past that many feel has gone down hill badly since since Blk & Decker bought them out. read and draw your own your own conclusions. Any more question drop me a line or post another forum. I’ll ‘buddy’ you so that I am notified any time you post something. and..don’t worry about asking ‘the same questions’ just ask. rt

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View Mike's profile


391 posts in 3852 days

#8 posted 07-05-2008 10:48 PM

If you are just doing edges to glue you can also get attachments for a Dremel with a planer, or a RotoZip also has a guide for there spiral bits.

-- Measure once cut twice....oh wait....ooops.

View tooold's profile


56 posts in 3921 days

#9 posted 07-06-2008 02:44 PM

Guys, I really appreciate all the time you’ve put in on these answers, they’re very helpful. Except for the band saw, which seems like the love/hate poster child of woodworking!

My experience with recording equipment is that buying pro stuff used is the way to go. The learning curve tends to be steeper, and you have to know what you’re doing in order to both take advantage of what’s out there and not buy something you either don’t need or that doesn’t really work. It also tends to be a less formal network and so is more difficult to figure out where to buy. But I’m going to try to go this route; I have a few possibilities both in France and the UK that I’ll post soon for your comments.

Again, many thanks.


View tooold's profile


56 posts in 3921 days

#10 posted 07-16-2008 05:56 PM

OK, I’ve been scouring the Net, looking for used equipment. The table saw seems to be the most critical thing, as I’ll be working with large pieces of MDF and need power as well as good support.

Most everything that seems suitable is located in the UK (where I lived until a couple of months ago!). Wadkin has a used saw on their site which looks nice (Wadkin SP-12), but it’s more than I’d hoped to pay and I suspect getting it down here to SW France would add 50% to the cost.

This is a Kity I found which is new and probably not the machine the Wadkin is, but it’s more in my budget and it’s in France: Kity 619

I’m sadly aware of how much less all this is in the US.

I need to beware my love of really nice tools and get what I need for the work ahead of me. If I pull everything off I’ll be able to get nicer stuff, as I’ll have saved us considerable euros. Of course, then the work will be done…

Any thoughts? Again, I really appreciate everyone’s time and patience.

View Randy Sharp's profile

Randy Sharp

363 posts in 3907 days

#11 posted 07-16-2008 06:14 PM

And don’t forget the most underrated tool in the woodshop. A good-old fashioned grade school, wall-mounted, #2 pencil sharpener!

-- Randy, Tupelo, MS ~ A man who honors his wife will have children who honor their father.

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