I am a blessed man for having a wife that let me build my dream woodshop. In this monthly blog there will be updates about the shop I’m building from foundation to finish.
I have an A Contractors License with learning experiences from building a large contractors shop, a garage woodshop and a good sized under the house woodshop. I have always enjoyed building the most efficient shop and the process has been just as fun as using the shop. Through the years I enjoyed reading books on electrical, concrete versus wood flooring, machinery, lighting, vacuum systems, layout and the building. Everything that I have put into this article comes from many websites and books and personal experience. I wanted the best shop I could build and afford. I want to thank those who have shared articles, information books and websites over the past 37 years, that’s what this blog is about, sharing information.
This Blog has new and added information monthly.
New Shop updates and information will start on 10/20/15
look for UPDATES
Table of content:
Location UPDATE: : The shed every wood shop should have.
Shop-Wood verses Steel
Flooring UPDATE: The cost and planning of building a metal wood shop building 22 by 41 by 9’ high.
Heavy Duty ex-cords
Wood working Machines
Vacuum Systems Plastic, HVAC, Spiral UPDATE: : The Vacuum System- Do all the major tools work efficiently?
Setting up Shop UPDATE: Projects and the shop
UPDATE: : Glue ups How many clamps do you really need? Answer…
Part Two- Organizing the Work Space
Tools That Move
I’m going to start from the beginning
Location- If you are lucky enough to have room on your property to put up a shop or your putting your shop in the garage there are some things you will need to lay out. Storage Shed or Cabinets for your shop materials, (paint, tools and wood). Before I built my shop I thought about the eight by twelve storage shed that would be six feet away from my shop door. I use this shed to keep the clutter out of the shop and separate flammables. I have two steel cabinets in the shop for everyday tools and materials but it’s nice to have an overflow area so close to the shop. This shed allows extra room for a machine not in use, a bench or an extra tool you don’t use often. I have always been able to use cabinets and shelves on wheels to make my shop space efficient. I have moved my fourteen inch band saw, scroll saw and my 10” contractors saw into the storage shed. This is the best Idea for saving space in your woodshop if you have room for a shed. Below in Shop Mobility there are many ideas on how to make your space easier to work in. There are so many books and websites out there that will fit everyone’s needs it’s best to read up for your shop; for me it is a shed.
UPDATE: The shed every wood shop should have.
When I had my garage shop my thought was to have all materials, nails, paints and all tools at my finger tips. I found those items took up valuable space and some items were never used. In the new shop I have a steel cabinet that I keep stains and other flammable liquids. The problem is there are twenty cans in the cabinet, I know some of these stains and thinners won’t be used for a long time. I live in an area where outside temperatures rise to 110, acetone should be kept in a temperature zone no higher than 90 to 95 degrees. So I put a small refrigerator in the shed to put these flammable liquids in; it’s rare I will use acetone, paint thinner, and the rest in one day or even six months. These materials don’t take a lot of space but if you start thinking about materials and tools you don’t use the shed is important not only for safety but space. I have a shed attached to my garage, my shop for my vacuum system, and my main shed for everything else. These sheds aren’t big just 2’ wide x 8’ feet long by 7’ high this is 128 sq ft and will cost around $225.00 ( five sheets of plywood, twelve 2×4s some roofing and paint).
Shop-Wood verses Steel- through my research and location (Northern California) I found a wood structure shop to be at least thirty-five percent more than a steel building. I know being in the trades this price will differ from area to area. The wood building I designed to calculated prices used an architect and engineered drawings. The structure would’ve had plywood floors and R18 insulation four windows and two garage doors. For some reason the county I live in considers a wood structure to be a house even though it’s a shop and for that reason the price went up.
With a steel building the engineered drawings came with the building and the insulation (R7) was accepted by the building department. A wood structure takes a least a month to put up and my size shop went up in a day and a half/concrete in one day (5 day cure time). I would have preferred a wood building but it’s a shop and budget was a consideration. If you are considering a steel building these are some of the major things to consider; size, height, windows, sky lights, doors, caulking where the steel siding meets the concrete slab, insulation and overhangs over the doors (I missed the caulking which allowed the spiders to come in and the entry door overhangs). The building I chose is 41’ by 22’, nine feet high with a wall that separates a 12’ by 22’ area for a guest room, leaving a 29’ by 22’ shop area (this is 5’ wider then a standard two car garage). My shop design has two skylights placed over areas that I thought would work the best for machines and bench areas. UPDATE:( The skylights have helped so much I wish I had put in two more. I’m in full sun so summers are hot, but Fall, Winter and Spring the light and warmth are a plus.) The two garage doors placed for winter sun allows light and ventilation, these ideas came from a shop lighting site. I don’t have to use my lighting as much and I enjoy working in natural light.
My flooring is concrete epoxy covered for better dust control. I read an article that explained dust gets trapped in the concrete and with past experience it just made since. After working in the shop I’m glad I put the epoxy down, dust is easier to clean up and everyone comments on how good it looks. Epoxy takes two days to lay down, one day concrete prep the second day mixing epoxy and rolling the epoxy in 3’x4’ strips. It helps having a friend spread the flakes. Just tell him you will help with his floor, it will be worth it. It took four hours for my shop area and when finished we were tired. My 29’ by 22’ shop area cost $200, but it looks great and dust control is so much easier.
UPDATE: The cost and planning of building a metal wood shop building 22 by 41 by 9’ high. I started with a plot plan (¼” equals 1 foot) that I drew of my property. If you are lucky enough to have a plot plan then photocopy it and draw in your shop. If you don’t have a copy your county or city department of planning will have one. It will cost just a couple of dollars and you will have a full set of plans. If there have been changes to your property then you will have to update your plot plan (the county or city will allow you to draw your own plan). I called the county and found out what property line setbacks I needed and placed the shop 20’ from property line (this may be different in your area so call your planning department or building department and they will help). The shop foundation is 5 sack concrete with rebar 1 foot on center with a 6” floor and 8” foundation 41’ long by 22’ wide. The cost in my area for a contractor was $9,938. You can have the concrete contractor lay out the concrete pad with layout lines. It will cost about $500 to hire a backhoe with operator to dig the foundation or just let your concrete contractor handle it. I had to wait a week for the concrete to cure and the steel building went up in a day and a half. The steel building company I went with was American Steel Buildings; the cost was $11,000. Now the building started at $8,000 which is the lure they use when you see a steel building ad. I had them install two 9’ roll up garage doors, four windows, insulation and two entry doors. I spent over twenty hours of research and talked with a couple of building companies and looked at some of the engineered drawings and American Steel was the best in my opinion and after a year I still think I made the right choice. I made a mistake in the odd size and that cost me $400. Also; I should have added a overhang for the entry door and put a seal in-between the building and the concrete foundation to stop the crawling critters. I sealed the bottom of the shop with sealer I bought at Home Depot and have scheduled American Steel to come out and do some extras in the apartment and put a cover over the entry door. When My wife and I talked about building the shop we decided that a future 12 ½’ by 22’ mother-in law apartment would be part of the shop so I put up a wall but for now it is storage so that left me with a shop a little bigger than a garage; 5’ longer. I set up a garage wood shop in our first home and found by having all the tools on wheels it gave me plenty of space (See my other blog Organizing the Woodshop). This size of shop works well for me. I find I do a lot of walking which makes me glad it’s not bigger. I have every wood working machine and tool with plenty of space. I did build a 3’ by 8’ soundproof shed for my vacuum which keeps the dust out of the shop and gave me five extra feet of room(shed cost $350).
Lighting- I used the lowest priced T8 fluorescent 8’ 4 bulb fixtures ($40 a fixture). By using a cheaper light fixture there is a problem with static on the radio. The lighting fixtures using the higher priced ballast ($86) would’ve taken care of the static. My shop has eight fixtures with six boxes of bulbs I paid $500 plus tax, the static free fixtures would’ve been over $1,000. I spent many hours looking over websites for the best fixture and the best pricing and found Lowes to be the best with available stock. Most stores and electrical houses said I would have to order them; many saying it would be at least two weeks. The reason I chose the 8’ 4 bulb fixture was the lighting sites and who wants to deal with eight foot bulbs, plus past experience. With my shop size I don’t have a shadow.
Fluorescent lighting static-I have spent at least ten hours looking at different sites on the static problem. The bottom line is the ballast that creates the arc in the fluorescent tube creates electrical interference. This static charge carries into speaker wire and airwaves, you can use shielded cable TV wire but with all of what I have read it’s expensive to shield a signal. My shed has electricity on a different circuit so I tried plugging in to see if that would help, it didn’t. This is where the skylights come in handy, I don’t regret using the less expensive fixtures and I used the money I saved to buy a small drum sander. I will change out the cheaper ballasts with the higher grade ballast when they go bad. I use a solid state IPod doc when the lights are on.
Electric- I first drew up a shop layout, if you read your machine manuals they all say plug in at the power source and use the correct breakers. I installed a four plug 110 outlet every eight feet and three 240 outlets on both walls with two four plug 110 outlets and one 220 outlet at each end of the shop. I also have 240 cords coming from two points, one over the 20” planer and one over the table saw. I can pull these cords up when I need the center of the shop for large projects. I purchased a 30 foot #12 wire electric reel that covers the shop for a portable vacuum system or any electrical tool I need.For more on wiring a shop check Electric Wiring & Heavy Duty Extension Cords(below)
I wired my first house I built because I didn’t have the money to hire an electrician. I found all the information I needed in do- it yourself electrical books. When I finished I hired an electrician to check out my work. I did the same with the shop. No problems but I’m a contractor anyone that doesn’t do electrical for a living will have a lot to consider. I have at least 50 hours into bending EMT conduit, pulling wire, wiring the panel and connecting plugs. It was a big job but I enjoyed doing it.
Woodworking Machines- I found personal preference plays a large role in the machines you choose. In my case I wanted a light industrial shop and my first choose was Powermatic until I added up what I wanted (I purchased seven machines). I have read a lot of woodworking magazines for over forty years and have always purchased the tool review magazines and for the price Grizzly was my choice. There is a whole lot to say about Grizzly but all I will say is this, over the years I have seen their tools show up in review magazines and they have won many best tool or best value awards. In many internet reviews people that had problems have said Grizzly responds well. I had a problem with a 12” drum sander motor and with a ten minute call they had one shipped to me in two days. Yes I had to install it but four bolts and a coupling and the job was finished.The quality of the Grizzly machine did not diminish in my eyes and using the seven machines I purchased I have found no problems. I have calibrated the boards after squaring them and all are within one and a half thousandth. Cleaning the gunk off and setting them up can be a pain, that’s why they are less expensive. I believe as do many reviews the Grizzly machines are just as good as many of the brands out there. After all most (if not all) machines come from China.
Vacuum Systems- There is more about this one item in building a shop then anything I read about. Dust is dangerous to your health. So that said Spiral pipe, plastic pipe or HVAC ducting. There are two web sites that give so much information on HVAC vacuum systems there worth reading, they are listed below.
UPDATE: The Vacuum System- Do all the major tools work efficiently?
When installing my vacuum system I measured the CFM (cubic feet per minute) of the vacuum which is 2300 CFM ; pipe diameter and total pipe distance to my major machines. As I have stated in Building a Wood Shop there are many good sites for information and calculations,;www.billpentz.com is the best, it tells you everything you want to know about vacuum systems.
Installing the vacuum system around my tools with quick disconnecting clamps allows me to move any machine and build any project. Some of the best shops I have designed and worked in have been mobile so my vacuum system has two extra outlets for different machine configurations. I rarely lay hoses across the floor (1) CFM levels are reduced the farther you are away from the main trunk line (2) there is always a chance for something bad to happening- tripping etc.. The vacuum system I installed in the shop follows the ceiling with a 6” hose drop between my 10” Cabinet saw and 20” planer. I took off the 4” inlet on my table saw and installed a 6” inlet, accroding to www.billpentz.com the cfm drop between 4” and 6” adaptor drops quite a bit. I installed a 6” gate to separate half of the shop so putting an 18” board through my 20” planer is easier on dust build-up. I built a soundproof shed alongside the shop for my two bag vacuum system and cyclone. The large vent is pointed in toward the property so dust and noise are outside the shop.
Plastic Pipe-There are two sides to the electrical static build up in plastic, some say yes some say no. The smaller systems I have built had no problems with static electricity. I am going to use 6” pipe so in my way of thinking static build up could be an issue. So if I use plastic I will put HVAC metal tape inside and out with screws to connect fittings and grounding wire to the machine. I have read two great sites out of the twenty sites I visited plus books I read and learned a lot about vacuum systems. I am still in the middle of a choice only because spiral pipe and fittings cost more. I did find Blast Gate Co. to have the best price after hours of research for 6” pipe and fittings. For my shop the system will cost about $650 for plastic and $850 plus shipping for a Blast Gate system. Shipping from the East Coast to the West Coast will be expensive; I will update shipping cost when I choose the best system for the shop. I have a Grizzly 7” two stage 2300 CFM system. I will be running 6” to my Planer and to my 8” Jointer with a 5” line to my table saw. I put together 4” lines to both the table saw and jointer for a small project and found the 4” not sufficient even though that’s what Grizzly has on their machines. In the websites they do a great job of explaining why you shouldn’t reduce down. You can purchase larger machine inlets at Peachtree.com. They are not too expensive however I don’t know how long it will take to install them. I will update this information when I get them all on.
Setting up shop-I have just started some projects and thanks to one article I am able to move any tool or cabinet in the shop. With my electrical lay out moving machines is a breeze. I have already moved the glue-up bench and three machines and gained more space (all on wheels). I also purchased a Harbor Tool 500 lb. lift cart that moves my lathe, and a number of machines I have in the shop, this tool pays for itself in chiropractic appointments. Being able to move everything is the best thing I have done for my shop. When I want to use my planer, table saw and jointer I put them in their spaces. When I’m using the panel saw to build cabinets I can move the jointer and planer off to the side and build kitchens cabinets. The sites and books that talked about mobility in the shop were for small shops to larger garage shops. I use an extra lower craftsmen box for a table saw extension and place where I keep all of my saw blades and machine tools (yet to be completed).
UPDATE: Projects and the shop
During the past year in my shop there have been many projects completed. Now wood working is my favorite thing to do in the shop, but I have built garage cabinets, a room that adjoins the shop and along with two high school seniors rehabbed my garage. For each project the shop used different machines and tools so that meant moving tools. While building the garage cabinets I moved out the panel saw, chop saw and table saw so building became easy, all other tools moved to the side. My next project is to build furniture so out comes the 20” planer, jointer, table saw and other tools that are all movables(see how to mobilize a shop). The one thing I have noticed, not all projects need the same materials or tools so I have moved many of the tools and flammable liquids to my shed(see shed update). I enjoy working with tools so I have many. The problem with many machines is space and the shop is only five feet bigger then a two car garage 22’ by28’. The vacuum system is overhead and other vacuum lines are up against the wall. So before you start to build a shop or reorganize one you should draw out a plan that will allow you to build the most efficient shop you can build. Over the past year working in the shop with projects and slowly putting things I need in place I always looked back at my original plan and found very little change. When you put in enough plugs and vacuum system outlets with movable tools your shop becomes efficient so projects become easier and that’s the part I enjoy not working at wood working.
UPDATE: Glue ups How many clamps do you really need? Answer…
Glue ups. How many clamps do you really need; well that depends on how big your biggest projects are. The other answer to this question is one short.
Harbor Tool clamps have never let me down and I have many but the new Beasley clamp is on my wish list. When this clamp came out it left the shelves so fast there was a 3 month waiting list. Shop tool justification and expense and space sometimes clash and at $44 dollars each you need a project to justify buying four of these guys. Its nice to work with expensive tools but your shop budget could be stretched, and aah that’s when justification comes in ;-).
When you are gluing up a project you should have good clamps, glue brushes and a small roller. The area you designate should have easy clamp access, resin paper on your bench along with ample space so your gluing times and your layouts will become more efficient.
Clamp Storage: do all the clamps fit in the area that you’re going to be gluing in, using unfinished walls in your shop or garage to hang clamps and other small tools will create a lot of space. Think about how many clamps you can fit in a 15” long area just by using 2 by 6 wall bracing with L brackets. I have never finished a work area with sheet rock, I would lose to much space. In other unfinished areas I use peg board and cabinets this allows for many work areas.
This is the shop I have always wanted and am enjoying building it as much as using it. There is so much information and things to complete I have just grazed part of it. Here are two great sites that I have learned a lot from www.billpentz.com andwww.artofwoodshopdesign.com
I have asked friends to come over when I’m finished and build their projects. As Mom said if you can’t share your toys then you shouldn’t have them.
I hope this has answered some questions about building your shop.
Part Two Organizing the Work shop
Tools That Move-Extra space know matter how big or small your woodshop never seems to be enough. I have had a garage shop and a shop under the house and both had good working areas with good storage. When I finally built my last shop 22’x41’ I had to give up 12’ for a guest bedroom. This still left me with a 22’ x 29’ area a little bigger than a standard garage for new and old tools to organize. I am an organized packrat so I looked at this space and thought it will work if everything moves. When I purchased my new machines I made sure they all had mobility and if they didn’t I purchased mobile bases. My older tools either had wheels or I could move them easily with a dolly. The main objective of this shop was walking between the machines when I was working, no hoses or extension cords to trip on. My woodshop in high school was laid out where you could walk from front to back without getting into someone’s work zone and I wanted that. I also wanted a shop I could build a project in the same amount of time that I did back in high school. If you think about it you only had fifty minutes, with ten minutes to cleanup. As you can see I still have a way’s to go but I can see the finish line.
I read twenty reviews on four different mobile bases and the Shop Fox mobile base was my choice. There were a couple of bases that were cheaper that would have done the job but I liked the look of the Shop Fox. As I said in setting up a shop, tools are a personal preference. Everything in my shop has wheels including my two steel cabinets which are mounted on furniture dollies. In my garage shop every tool had wheels, I have a 10” contractors table saw that I still use and I used two 1”x 2” x 30” pieces of oak with locking wheels that I mounted on the base stand. Some tools need to have a fixed base like a lathe or sanding machines and in my garage shop they stayed up against the wall. When I have a project I like to move the machines away from the wall, I move these fixed based machines using my 500 pound lifting table. This portable table lowers so I can slide under my drum sander, with a couple of 4×4’s I can lift my lathe and chop saw stand. Moving heavy objects from the floor to my bench is so much easier. The lifting table along with my hand cart are tools I use every day, having a bad back has taught me just a little extra time using these tools saves a night of back pain. The 500 pound lifting table ($150 minus 20% using the coupon) and my hand cart came from Harbor Tool. I looked at many lifting tables in catalogs and they all looked the same but the prices were higher. I noticed in the Northern Tool catalog the mobile table was the exact same table. The problem with the harbor tool table is after a while the table starts to lower overnight. I went back to harbor tool and asked the manager about this and he said he had five tables in the back with the same problem and all you have to do is bleed the system, I still haven’t done this so if you thinking about this tool you may want to purchase a warranty. If I’m jointing or planing this mobile table can hold many pieces of wood and makes repetitive work easy and for $120, that includes the 20% off it’s a great tool. I have two steel cabinets and I’m surprised how often I move them, this is an idea I came up with on a winter day when I brought my work area into a smaller work space. I set my 220 heater on top of the cabinet, tilted it downward and my space became warm. One cabinet holds all my small tools and the other cabinet contains supplies and hand tools that I don’t keep in my tool box.
My glue up table moves to the middle of the room and just the other day went outside as a portable work bench.
This table has a steel plate for a top which I use for welding and when I use it for glue up’s I put a large piece of card board down with red rosin paper. Rosin paper is tuff, hard to tear and you can wipe the glue off without going through it like butcher paper. It’s great for writing down dimensions for projects, no checking small print on a piece of paper, and when you’re finished, you lay down a fresh piece for a new project. My garage shop was mobile just for the reason it was my wife’s parking spot. If I had a week long project the car would stay out but when finished everything went back up against the wall.
In my current shop moving the tools around allows for big projects, the panel saw comes out for building cabinets or (which I haven’t done yet) room for my Tbird to come in so I can work on it. All hanging cords go up to hooks in the ceiling and the twenty inch planer and 10” cabinet saw move to the side.
The 17” band saw moves smoothly and having a large space for cutting veneers is great.
Electric Wiring & Heavy Duty Extension Cords Using extension Cords with mobile machines takes planning
This heavy duty twelve foot extension cord (#6 cord) keeps power draw down to a minimum when I start up any machine. When I built the shop I installed #6 wire from the panel to all 240 plugs. I wanted to make sure when using an extension cord the machine would be like connecting to the full power coming from the panel. In your machine manuals all machines that use 240 or 220 should be plugged into the wall. 120 machines very rarely will say you can run a tool on an extension cord and if you can it’s a short one. The wire for a standard 120 volt plug in a shop should be at least #12 and if you have other tools on that circuit that are running at the same time it’s wise to consult an electrician. I talked to an electrician and he said there isn’t a code problem with using the larger wire just smaller wire. One of the areas of concern with smaller wire is all machines draw power and that power comes out of the breaker, this is for the safety of the machine. If the machine has a minimum gauge wire the breaker will trip saving the motor or appliance. This is why the breaker is in place. If the wire is larger your control for the current is from the smaller cord on the machine which can get warm if overloaded, and if bogged down will trip the motor trip switch. The idea about a movable shop, you need power at the end of the line whether it’s up against the wall or in the middle of the room. To make sure my table saw and planer motor would not trip from bog down I follow the cutting specs for the machines. I also have a 3 hp motor on my 10” saw and a 5 hp motor on the 20” planer. I suggest anyone wanting to wire a shop that uses heavy extension cords do some calculations and do some reading on electric motors and current flow, this is a job for an electrician.
Back to mobility-If you need some good ideas to make your shop mobile put into your search engine (woodshop mobile base images). I use images on a lot of my searches because it gives you pictures of all the websites, you select the picture and then select the website, if I can see it I can build it. The beauty of this web idea is you find what you need instead of opening many websites. Here’s some of the pictures on the mobility of my shop.
I took the sheets you see out of my truck using the glue-up table and then standing the 4×8 sheets up against the wall.
The bottom tool box has a piece of 1/2 plywood screwed to the top with hard board screwed to it. Two screws and it’s a tool box again. Notice the hanging #6 extension cords.
I needed to move some tools to start installing a cabinet in the corner, not hard at all.
There are so many books, videos and ideas on how to build a cabinet that moves or how to make your tools move it’s staggering. The best tool for mobility for me is the 500 pound lifting table because it does so much.
Building a work station
Ok you have followed your shop plan and have installed plugs, air connections and vacuum piping for a work station. I have two main work stations that are versatile. My glue-up station works as a sanding station, lay out area, glue-up area and second work bench. My work table is mobile so if I want to work outside on a nice day I can. I put this station in front of my window and right under a skylight for natural light. I have everything I need on a peg board in front of the table. This station has rosin paper hanging directly above the table, a knife, sand paper, clamps, rubber gloves, glue brushes, screw drivers, pliers, bench bisects (these bisects are used all the time at this station, I suggest every shop have this item), square, dust masks, paper towels, whisk brush, mallet, paint/glue scraper, small bungee cords, safety glasses, glue/stain mixing containers, and ear protection. Under the table top I have various sanders and sand paper. The table top has card board covering a steel top and rosin paper to cover the card board. The rosin paper is hung above the table and after glue up or at the end of a project I roll off a new piece of paper and everything is clean. I just started to use rosin paper and should have been using it for years. I used butcher paper but I was always fighting the light weight along with stains and glue leaking through. Rosin paper is tuff and it lasts twice as long. This station also has a dehumidifier to protect my clamps along with protecting the machines in the shop.
My main work station is a built-in work bench. Notice the storage area under the bench. I use this for 16” and 18” veneer sheets. I try to keep plugs and battery chargers out of the way of working space. Every machine, rolling cabinet and work table can be brought to this area. This station has a lumber rack, radial arm saw, a vise that can be removed if necessary and my main tool box. I use this area for my rough cuts, vise work and repair area. The glue-up station and bench area with everything you need within arms reach make wood working easy and efficient. My shop chair is adjustable in height so I can easily make adjustments on machines without straining my back and with a round base can be rolled anywhere in the shop without having to pick it up(Scandinavian Designs $100.). The mobile table has been used for putting away tools, lifting heavy items and tool table while adjusting machines. As I have said before this is the most used tool in the shop.
Each station will have its own needs; a lathe will need at least a four inch vacuum system along with a place for tools, face shield and sand paper box. My drill and grinder area has peg board with mortise bits, drill bits, drill table for large projects and drill table fence.
If you work efficiently it’s not really working, and if you enjoying what your building it’s so much easier to have what you need in front of you, a work station is part of my enjoyment.
Have A Great woodworking day.
-- Never put youself in a bad situation or how could we have prevented this accident ;-)