Communal Woodworking Shop

  • Advertise with us

« back to Site Feedback forum

Forum topic by Dophi posted 06-11-2012 09:29 PM 1762 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Dophi's profile


27 posts in 3000 days

06-11-2012 09:29 PM

I’m not sure I’m in the proper place for this question. Please feel free to move the topic if it isn’t.

I have come to the conclusion my garage is not going to become my workshop. There are a few reasons for that. First and foremost it has become a clutter. It also wouldn’t fit the machines I’m beginning to realise are necessary. Besides being too small, I don’t want to put out all the money required to properly equip my hobby shop. This has led to searching for a communal workshop. I haven’t had any success to date. I was wondering if there are any lumberjocks in the Hamilton, Ontario area who might be aware of such a facility.


14 replies so far

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 3928 days

#1 posted 06-11-2012 11:18 PM

I did the very same thing in the Navy. Most larger bases had a woodworking hobby shop. It can be a real PITA at times with all the “know it alls” stopping by your bench every 5 minutes offering thier opinion on what you should do with each and every step.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3244 days

#2 posted 06-12-2012 12:07 AM

This idea comes up quite often because it seems to make so much sense. Unfortunately, the potenrtial liability sends the idea crashing down in flames before it gets off of the ground.

Several of us ex-Navy types looked into a hobbyshop setup in the early 70’s, but dropped the idea when we looked into liability insurance. Someone will probably chime in with having members sigh releases, but you’ll want to run that by a personal injury lawyer. I’ve had lawyers tell me that they’re usually worthless.

The only communal woodshop I’ve heard of that is actually in operation is in a gated, retirement community, is southern CA.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View devann's profile


2246 posts in 2867 days

#3 posted 06-12-2012 02:17 AM

There is a LJ on here that goes by tyskkvinna. She runs a community workshop. In Michigan I believe. You might contact her for more info.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View bobsmyuncle's profile


110 posts in 2866 days

#4 posted 06-12-2012 02:21 AM

Most retirement communities that I know have one. I don’t know how they work other than every new resident brings in a lot of tools with them. My BIL says it’s the only time he’s seen too many clamps.

The big problems I see is having to spend time looking for that 1/4” chisel that some knucklehead left under a bench somewhere, or get ready to make some glue-line cuts only to find two teeth missing from the $120 Forrest WWII blade, and nobody knows anything about it. Etc. etc. etc.

For a brief while here, there was, for lack of a better term, a woodworking “gym” that worked like a health club. Help when you needed it, stuff for sale, and tools available. It was pretty spendy for a membership and I understand a few building contractors signed up. It folded within a couple of years and the general thought was they were using the membership fees to help finance what ended up being a custom mill / cabinet shop.

‘til then, nobody borrows my tools.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2739 days

#5 posted 06-12-2012 02:43 AM

The woodcraft store near me in Norwalk, CT has a woodworkers club attached to it. There is a fee to use the shop, but it is still a communal shop. I think they said the next closest ones are in Maryland outside of DC and and Western NY.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View lunn's profile


215 posts in 2484 days

#6 posted 06-12-2012 11:23 AM

Sometimes i feel like my shop is communal. Someone may need a few boards planed something riped ect. I’ve let them build complete projects. My pay ? I’ve made a lot of very good friends that are always willing to give a hand. So look around, you may find a shop and a friend.

-- What started as a hobbie is now a full time JOB!

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3042 days

#7 posted 06-12-2012 11:34 AM

If I was you and you have a garage then I would setup a shop there for a gillion different reasons that I won’t go into. The only thing that I will say is that people are individuals and every person is different. Woodworking is very much an individual undertaking when done as a hobby. If I was in a community shop all of the distractions would drive me crazy. Now I will say that I am very much a rugged individualist and always do things my own way so maybe I’m just reading too much of myself into other people.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Don W's profile

Don W

18990 posts in 2743 days

#8 posted 06-12-2012 11:43 AM

I worked out of a 14’ x 14’ shed for years. Its where my hand tool infliction started. I love the fact I now have a real shop with bigger tools, but often stand an wonder why I have them. I use the hand tools almost all the time now anyhow (other than a few basics). I have started to hate the noise, dust and unemotional product that comes with them.

Some of the newer scaled down tools, like the bench top table saws, bench top jointer and such have come a long long way. Hell you can get the bench top jointers with helical cutters now.

I guess I’ve just reworded helluvawreck’s post, but thats my 2 cents.

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

View Jumpsticks's profile


2 posts in 2362 days

#9 posted 06-12-2012 12:09 PM

I have had the priviledge for the past 7 years hosting the B.O.B. Club (Band of Brothers) in my basement shop. It was my desire for older men with some talent to teach the younger men to use the tools and the things they had learned in the shop. Many said I couldn’t have this type of shop because of the insurance and the liability and I listened to that talk for a number of years. For the past 7, accident free, years I have watch fathers & sons, grandpas & grandsons and friends and neighbors build and fix stuff together. I am sorry B.O.B. has ended as we are moving, but when we land in the new location I am looking forward to new faces around the workbench especially the next generation.


View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3161 days

#10 posted 06-12-2012 12:30 PM

Devann is correct.. I run a communal workshop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You are of course welcome to stop by, though it is kind of a drive.. :)

The liability is a factor, for sure, but it’s not that bad. We have good insurance. There is a fair amount of overhead (insurance, electricity, big electricity, gas, etc) but I think one of the big reasons why we’ve been able to do pretty well versus what I see with a lot of other people is the shop I run is not just a woodshop. In fact I think the majority of the people who use the space do electronics related things.

Most of the people who use the woodshop are not “woodworkers”, per se, but people who want to do a little here and there. Make a shelf, fix a rack, make a box, etc. I would absolutely welcome any serious woodworker who wants to do the bulk of their creation in my shop.

We don’t have much issue with tools being broken. I go to a lot of effort to make sure people know what they are doing, and we collect donated tools so there’s a large variety in various stages of awesomeness. the more expensive the tool, the more you better be able to show you can handle it. :)

Anyway, back to the initial topic—You are welcome to contact me directly (as is any other LJer) for more info about spaces like this and maybe somebody in my group would know of one in your area.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Don W's profile

Don W

18990 posts in 2743 days

#11 posted 06-12-2012 12:39 PM

I’m curious as to how this would work. I will often glue and clamp a project sunday afternoon, and not get back to it until the following weekend (or maybe 2nd or 3rd following weekend depending on life’s little adventures). Some projects are extremely hard to move in that state. So how would that work?

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

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3161 days

#12 posted 06-12-2012 12:51 PM

With a shared space comes a few more responsibilities. I let people glue and dry (or paint and dry, etc) overnight but you can’t leave something for several weeks and come back to it. However, this sort of thing is discussed when you join so that there is a clear understanding. A large project will get you a dedicated space to work on it, but you need to continually work on it and not abandon it for weeks at a time. A few people work on large projects that bring them back into the shop and then take them home.

There’s certainly trade-offs to doing a community shop. That’s one of the downsides for some people. The upside is I have many tools available that are either completely out of the realm of possibilities for the average woodworker (high end CNC, for example) and a lot of tools that would just not make sense to buy to use once or twice (dovetail jigs, router table, funny router bits, etc).

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Don W's profile

Don W

18990 posts in 2743 days

#13 posted 06-12-2012 01:31 PM

thanks for the answer Lis. I definitely understand the advantages, especially for someone starting out or who is not really serous about it (or would be serious but just don’t have the time). We all work different and sometimes our environment drives how we work. I think its a great thing for those who can not have their own shop.

In Dophi’s instance I think I’d go for the shop in the garage, and as he got to projects bigger than the garage allowed, then try the community route fo the individual projects.

I like the ability to walk out to the shop for a half hour if that’s the time I have. I usually can’t plan that far ahead.

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

View Dophi's profile


27 posts in 3000 days

#14 posted 06-13-2012 01:34 AM

Thanks to all of you who commented. I was confident I would get a good cross section of views on my dilema. Deep down I would very much like to use my garage. As someone said, it would be so convenient on many aspects of having a shop. By the sounds of things, Lis of Michigan appears to have the set up I have been imagining. If I could find that locally, I would certainly check it out. Once again, thanks to all for your comments. You have definitely given me food for thought.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics