Computer as a tool in the work shop

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Forum topic by Nicky posted 05-12-2007 04:56 PM 1757 views 1 time favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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695 posts in 4293 days

05-12-2007 04:56 PM

I’ve been toying around with the idea of a shop makeover. Mainly building new storage cabinets, totally redo the lighting, tape/plaster the sheetrock, and add some duct work for dust collection. If I go ahead with this, blog will follow.

I’ve been playing with Schetchup, trying to workout some of the details of cabinets I want. I have a small TV/Radio/CD player that I use, mainly for background noise, but I do enjoy listening to talk radio, sports, even the cooking shows.

What are your thoughts about having a computer, in the shop?

I’m thinking that I can use it as a radio, cd/dvd player; but more so as a reference tool. I can incorporate room for a computer, with some thought put into keeping this space clean and well ventilated.

Do you have a computer in your shop? Pros/Cons…


-- Nicky

18 replies so far

View USCJeff's profile


1065 posts in 4269 days

#1 posted 05-12-2007 05:40 PM

I wouldn’t put anything more than an old PC that you wouldn’t miss when it dies from the dust. I can’t think of a way to eliminate the PC getting dusty while being close to the working area. You could limit the dust, but I believe it will eventually fail prematurely. I would sent an email to one of the podcast guys to see what they’re doing. Marc (Woodwhisper) and Matt (Matt’s Basement Workshop) both have electronics in their shops.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View Martin Sojka's profile

Martin Sojka

1893 posts in 4673 days

#2 posted 05-12-2007 06:20 PM

Checking LumberJocks directly in the shop sounds like a great advantage too, Nicky ;)

View WayneC's profile


13792 posts in 4298 days

#3 posted 05-12-2007 08:30 PM

Also you can reference plans and things on the internet. I am guessing that a regular maintenance program where you blow any dust out of the computer with compressed air would be a good thing too.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4326 days

#4 posted 05-12-2007 11:45 PM

There are some low-powered computer motherboards (I’ve used the Via Eden ones) that don’t require a fan. While they do want some airflow, with some careful case design, and maybe an external fan and a heat exchanger, you could build them as completely sealed. A decent LCD that you could wrap in plastic and a cheap replaceable keyboard that you could just toss when you can no longer blow the dust out of it and it sounds like a great idea.

Search for “Mini ITX”, I’ve bought quite a few of these for various applications from iDot PC over the years, but there are a number of vendors, and some might even sell ‘em to you already airtight.

They’re never going to be a high speed gaming computer, but for something to keep a web page (or maybe, if you network it to elsewhere in the house, an article from the complete Woodworking Magazine archives CD) visible in a dusty environment that’d probably be a good relatively inexpensive way to go.

Especially if you ran a lightweight Linux distribution on it, so you wouldn’t have all the overhead of Microsoft Windows slowing it down.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View VTWoody's profile


95 posts in 4258 days

#5 posted 05-13-2007 12:52 AM

There is also the idea of actually putting a nice computer in there and putting in water cooling on the little bugger. As a gamer, I have often considered the water cooling aspect of a supercharged computer, but up until the last few years, it just seemed like I would be playing with fire (pun intended) with the idea of putting that much water next to my prized possession cpu. With the advent of Modding computers, there are many retailers that actually sell incredibly sophisticated, silent (the ultimate in computer design) and leak proof kits to cool your cpu video cards, and harddrives. With this type of setup, there is little need to have airflow from outside of your computer to cool the cpu. The one website that I remember being very cool was

If you are planning on running your computer to stream video or music, then you do actually need to have a decent cpu and even better ram in order to buffer the video and/or music.

I think with good dust collection in the shop, and a better filter on the computer (something akin to the material from a dust collector’s bag, you should have no problems having even a modern computer in your shop with no worries.

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4512 days

#6 posted 05-13-2007 02:03 AM

I agree that dust will be the main concern when placing a computer in the workshop. Unless you can put it in a pressurized compartment or a seperate room free from the main workshop dust, I’d be skeptical.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View thewoodwhisperer's profile


605 posts in 4385 days

#7 posted 05-13-2007 02:39 AM

I do indeed have a computer in the workshop. How long will it last? Who knows. I blow the dust out every few days and keep my fingers crossed. Its really our “extra” computer if you will so its not a huge loss if it goes down. If I were smart, I would build a box with a large filter grill on possibly add another fan to increase the airflow. But…alas…..Im not smart. :)

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out

View USCJeff's profile


1065 posts in 4269 days

#8 posted 05-13-2007 03:05 AM

You could also buy a dust jacket for the monitor and tower. They’re cheap. Cover it when you aren’t actively looking at. Should help.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4362 days

#9 posted 05-13-2007 03:23 AM

where there’s a will, there’s a way!!!
A great tool it would be; very helpful and efficient. Just figure out the dust problem.
How about putting it in another room, with a window directly in front of the monitor and just he keyboard in the work area… I have no idea if that is a great idea. I’m so tired after a busy day that I can’t even see straight.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View brunob's profile


2277 posts in 4370 days

#10 posted 05-13-2007 03:43 AM

I’ve had a laptop with a wireless internet connection in my shop for about a year now. I don’t give it any special care other than blow off the dust every few weeks. It shows no signs of age so far. It’s a great help for reference work.

-- Bruce from Central New, if you'll pardon me, I have some sawdust to make.

View USCJeff's profile


1065 posts in 4269 days

#11 posted 05-13-2007 05:24 AM

I have done the same thing Bruce. I’m a little bit wary about leaving it in the shop when I’m making some real sawdust because I use the laptop for work and graduate school. I take it out there to follow a plan or watch a podcast or something while I’m sharpening or doing some other mundane task. I used to use it for music, but have put some tunes out there now. I’ve thought about getting the Itunes muffs.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View thewoodwhisperer's profile


605 posts in 4385 days

#12 posted 05-13-2007 06:10 AM

I love those things Jeff. Highly recommend them. Just remember you wont hear ANYTHING when you have those suckers on with music.

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out

View Nicky's profile


695 posts in 4293 days

#13 posted 05-13-2007 06:26 AM

The driver for putting a computer in the shop is to reference plans as well as creating new ones. The entertainment value is a plus.

I replaced my wife’s computer a few months back, so I’ll most likely the old one. If I need to replace the computer; no biggy.

My plan (my hope?) if I redo the shop, is to try and include a computer. The footprint of a computer, with an LCD screen is small.

I’ve had a cd-player and TV for years in my work shop. I’ve used compressed air to keep these clean, I’m sure an LCD screen, exposed in the shop environment will do just fine. The CPU, keyboard, mouse would be housed in a cabinet. I would think that a keyboard tray, that has some room for a mouse would be available, and I could build it under a drafting table/desk area. The cabinet would have vent holes that have air filters for the cpu, I don’t think I would need to have a forced air system, but if needed, I’m sure I could employ a small fan.

VT – I had students that worked for me a few years back. They devised a system of over-clocking cpu’s by using a modified heat sink, fish pump, and water. They successfully ran computational codes 30% faster.

Dan – I read mail, browse the web, do some drawing, but like the idea of a lightweight linux distribution. Maybe build my own kernel, call it Lumber-nix…just kidding! Windows works fine for what I do.

Thanks for weighing in folks, I appreciate your thoughts.

-- Nicky

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4326 days

#14 posted 05-14-2007 05:09 PM

Nicky, Ubuntu would probably install quicker and more easily than Windows on that platform, you might give that or Knoppix a whirl. Both of those have Live CD versions so you can boot with the CD, play around, see if you like ‘em, and if so, then you can install them.

And our computers (one of the aforementioned fanless Via machines as a server, two laptops and a Linux/Windows desktop) are all in my shop, which is also my living room and contains my electronics workbench. Having good dust collection rocks.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View mot's profile


4922 posts in 4237 days

#15 posted 05-14-2007 05:45 PM

I have xubuntu (even more streamlined) on a PIII800 for a shop computer. Do I wish I had a faster computer? You bet. Do I care if this one grenades? Not a bit. There has been some really useful tips in this thread. We had a heated discussion over at woodnet about the same thing when I first looked at putting a computer in. My computer actually sits above the freezer outside my shop as I just don’t have the space for it. I’ll probably get a bargain notebook to put in there, some leaseback thingy and roll the dice. The linux option is a great one for most things that one might do with a shop computer.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

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