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Setting Up a Small Woodworking Shop in a Garage

Acquiring a new hobby is amazing and fun! Whether you’re looking at it as a fun past time or to make some decent coin, you need to set up a fully functional little woodworking shop to get started. There are a handful of tools you need plus you need to prep the space and make sure everything is safe. What we’re going to today is get you all set up in your new small woodworking workshop whether it’s in your garage or rental space. Remember that your little workshop can always be expanded on, improved and changed for the better as you develop your skills. Get pumped up and excited as we dive right in!

General Wood Shop Layout 

It doesn’t matter where you decide to set up your small woodwork shop, there are a few key tips in terms of layout. Here are a few pieces of advice to help you get started.

    • Don’t Disrupt the Flow

      Think about what you need in your woodshop. That requires attention to the works of art you intend to create. What sort of power tools, hand tools, table saws, etc will you be needing? That is a story for another section, but you want to be able to smoothly maneuver through your workspace. 

      From the first cutting of the shape all the way to polishing with a finish, you want your wood’s journey to be uninterrupted. Don’t place the first tool you need in the center of your woodwork workshop and the last tool you need right at the door. Create a flow where you can move from one machine to another smoothly.

    • Tool Storage

      Larger power tools such as big power saws should be placed in succession in the order you need them. But how about smaller hand tools and power tools? Well, you need a specific place to store them. Hopefully, it can be somewhere near your workbench so you can reach for them easily. It’s worth mentioning that a workbench isn’t always a bench, it can be a small table or whatever you see fit.

    • Let There be Light

      We always make sure there is good lighting in woodworking shops. If you’re going to work into the night, make sure there is ample lighting installed in the form of overhead lights and lamps to light the way. You don’t want to accidentally make a cut where one isn’t needed. That’s the perfect way to restart a project – which is what you don’t want.

      Natural lighting is best during the day, so place your workbench near a window. It’s always nice to have a nice view, so why not make your woodworking shop relaxing?

    • Wood Storage

      We talked about storage for your hand tools and power tools, now we’re going to look at where to place your wood pieces. We suggest placing them near the front of the woodshop or near your workbench. This is solely for convenience since you’d want to grab a piece right when you walk in. Perhaps even have a special cabinet where you place raw pieces of wood and another one for unfinished pieces. 

      Also, some pieces of wood can be very heavy, it would really be an ordeal to have to drag it around your woodworking shop. Although if you followed our tips for placement of all the tools, you wouldn’t have to lug it too far.

Have a Middle Ground

  • By a middle ground, we actually mean a table or island in the middle of all things. It’s also called an assembly table where it holds all the parts you need such as pieces of lumber, a saw, a hand tool or two and some power tools. Your screws and nuts can go on here too! Not everything can fit into your work belt and having a place where you can plunk things down whenever you need to that is the same distance to every machine will help.
  • End at the Window

    Where you apply finishes in your small shop should also be located near a window. After our lumber pieces become beautiful furniture, we need to coat it with finishes and paint for that extra touch. Why do you ask? Well, if you have a full-on respirator mask then you can move on to the next point. Many of us forgo the masks altogether, and everyone knows that paint fumes and breathing toxic chemicals into our lungs is not going to do our health any favors. Being able to be near a window and propping it open to let all the fumes out will keep your woodworking shop ventilated.

  • Try to Keep Things Moving

    Even if you follow all these amazing tips, you may still find yourself adjusting and moving things around. You never know what works until you actually get down to business. A way to make this settling process easier is to keep your larger tools mobile. A lot of larger tools have mobile bases that allow you to roll and push them around your workspace.

Setting Up Your Garage Workshop

If you’re just starting out, you might want to begin in the comfort of your own home. Well, not in your home but near it – in your garage. This saves you on rent and also allows you to customize the space as you see fit. Spending time alone in your little woodshop haven and crafting something by hand sounds heavenly. Let’s get to setting up your very own beginner garage workshop!

  • The Space

    Determine how much space you have to work with. Not all garages are the same size, and they won’t be able to accommodate the same amount of tools. Try to aim for mobile larger power tools but some of the ones you get may be stationary. This is when you need to consider which ones you can’t be without and which ones don’t make the cut. 

    A larger power tool such as a table saw could take up a lot of space. A workbench is also necessary but an assembly table could be easily replaced by an assembly stool for example.

    The next part is your storage space. If you use a lot of hand tools, your tool storage will need to be easily accessible. The best place for tool storage would be against the wall. You would then need to invest in hooks, clamps and and shelves to secure these tools. 

    The next part is wood storage. You need a place to hold all your precious lumber before they turn into the furniture of your dreams. 

    Clear out space and give it a good clean. Since garages often double as storage spaces, it might be time to give the clutter a good purge. That way you will have a clearer idea of just how much space you have to work with.

  • The Equipment

    A woodshop is only as good as the equipment! What works for others may not be what you need. Some people are more power tool people while others prefer hand tools. What kind of worker are you? We’ll dive more into the tools we need for every small beginner woodworking shop a little further in.

  • Organization

    Making sure everything is neat and tidy is extremely important. It not only makes your small woodworking shop more efficient, it also puts you in a good state of mind. Not to mention the safety factor of a well-organized workspace. 

    Other than proper placement of your heavy machinery, having a toolbox, workbench, assembly table and work belt are the perfect organizers for all your necessary tools. Hangers, hooks, clamps, shelves, pegs, rungs – these are all excellent items to use to keep your tools out of your way. 

    Do what works for you. Remember, you can always switch it up if you find something else you like better. 

  • Power It Up!

    To keep everything working and functional, you need plenty of power. If you’re looking at a traditional hand tool workshop, then this may not apply to you. Make sure you have outlets working at both 110 and 220 volts. Larger equipment will need more voltage while smaller ones will do well with the 110. 

    You need these outlets to be placed in optimal positions for the layout of your garage workshop. It’s nice to be able to plan the outlets around your machines rather than vice versa, but we can’t all have that luxury. 

    Don’t have them too low because having to bend down to plug or unplug your device can get quite annoying. You may be thinking about extension cords and while they do make your life easier, they could also pose as a safety hazard. You can easily trip over the long cord and it just adds so much clutter.

  • It’s All about Lighting

    We mentioned why lighting is important and it could seem quite obvious, but there is more to it than just having one bright lamp in your workshop. You want to place lights, bulbs, lamps, in such a way where there are no shadows cast on your work. 

    Generally, what helps is having light from two separate sources. For example, if you have a row of overhead lights, your person would cast a shadow on your lumber. Use another lamp to offset the overhead lights. 

    Sometimes even having a flashlight (we find it useful to have one on your helmet) can be of great help. LED lights are bright and economical, but traditional bulbs have a warm glow that makes your whole workshop seem homier.

  • Dust Collection

    A miter saw, table saw, sanding paper, jigsaw, and almost every other tool can cause dust accumulation in your new woodworking shop. Years ago, there may not have been an easy solution to your dust problem, now there is. Airborne dust can really do a number on your airways, especially after long term exposure. 

    A way to combat this would be to stop it from even happening right at the source. Collect the dust right at the machine with a dust collection system. It might sound discouraging when you think about the price tag, but it’s actually not as expensive as you would think. Prices for these crucial gadgets have dropped over the years. 

    Dust collectors are different from your run of the mill shop vacuum cleaners, because they operate with lower suction and moving higher volumes of air. 

    Even if you clean your workshop regularly after every project, the duration in which the dust stays in your workshop before the cleanup is already enough time for it to infiltrate your lungs. You can’t imagine the health problems it could lead to after prolonged exposure. Why not stop it before it gets that far? They could even become a fire hazard if not properly cleaned up. Give yourself a safe environment to work in with a modern dust collector.

  • Give It a Try

    When you finally start building is when you will finally figure out what you need to modify. You can plan for all you want, but nothing really goes as planned, and that’s just life. Start off by trying some simpler projects such as picture frames, wine holders, address signs and more. If you need more ideas, we have articles that are packed with beginner woodworking project ideas. You can sign up for services that will provide you with tips and woodworking projects, like the Woodworkers Guild of America. After you’ve attempted the easy tasks, move on to a more complex project. This will help you get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t in your new garage workshop. It takes time (sometimes months) to get finalize the setting for your small woodworking shop. It also takes a lot of patience so don’t feel the need to get everything done all at once.

Small Basement Woodworking Shop

Since it’s attached to your home, unlike your garage which is most likely a separate entity, it bodes certain benefits. Heating and air con should be built in and connected to the rest of your house could be used to create the right ambient temperature and humidity. 

A lot of basements around the world are a source for mold, leaks and moisture issues. Before you even go ahead and set up shop, you need to get down there and see to what extent you need to renovate your basement. Moisture is a killer of all your heavy machinery you may place down there. Dampness could lead to shocks and wet lumber. Make sure the plugs and clean and in ideal positions. 

A basement isn’t usually known for adequate lighting, so you may need to enlarge the windows and even installing a door for easy access to the outside. 

All the other considerations to setting up a workshop is quite similar to a small beginner garage workshop so you can refer to our previous list for more instructions.

The Tools!

We finally get to the part you’re eagerly anticipating. Let’s populate your small beginner workshop with the “right” tools. A lot of beginner woodworkers are concerned about overspending, buying the “wrong” tools and just not knowing where to start. It’s hard to just take advice off text on a page or from people who love building projects that are a far cry from what you want. We’re going to try and help you weed out the “good” from the “bad”. Read on to find out how!

What NOT to Do When You Buy New Tools

Instead of reading off of untrustworthy sites, we suggest looking into proper reviews. Try not to buy second-hand tools (you can give it a try if they are still under warranty). Do not go for tools that seem too good to be true. By that we mean the price tag. Definitely do not go for tools that boast a variety of capabilities but come at about half or a quarter of the price. It will give you a rude awakening and help you realize that there are deals that are too good to be true. A good way to combat this risk is to go for brands that are established, well-known and reliable. 

Just because there happens to be a sale and you think you might need the tool sometime in the future or buying two of something just because something might break down later on are all exactly what you should do to spend money you don’t need to.

Price doesn’t always equal better quality so you don’t need to buy the most expensive one that’s “top of the line”. Truth is, you actually need surprisingly little to get set up. 

Just make sure you don’t go the other way and buy the least expensive choices out there and end up spending just a few hundred dollars.

Good Tools to Invest In

Power Tools

Table Saw – You might have seen this one on many of the lists you’ve come across. Whether it’s a large table saw or a compact design that’s easily portable, it’s great for cutting angles and sawing through surfaces. A larger table saw is of course more expensive but it is more diverse. It will be able to do more jobs and is also much more powerful. If you are thinking about engaging in larger projects, you may need a table saw with a blade that exceeds 10 inches. 

Miter Saw – It possesses a circular saw and can be adjusted to accommodate the angle you want. You can also tilt this device as needed. This is a great tool that is often needed to cut rounded corners. The standard blade is about 8-15 inches and anything in between that will do the trick for most jobs.

Drill Press – Perhaps our favorite choice in larger machinery for a small woodworking shop, it’s similar to a hand drill and it has excellent precision. It’s easy to use and is capable of drilling holes, sanding, and producing grooves.

Planer – Also known as a thickness planer, these tools are used to trim lumber into consistent sizes and thickness.

Sanders – They do the job sandpaper does but much more quickly and effectively. The abrasive surface smooths down your wood surfaces upon contact. This is often used as a finishing touch on most projects.

Band Saw – A band saw is a machine that sports a thinner vertical blade that moves up and down when it’s powered on. They can also cut through metal and are a common fixture in small woodshops. You may have also seen this and used it before in your high school shop class.

Router – These handy devices can be handheld and are used to hollow out wood pieces. The best part is their amazing versatility. They also work on certain types of metal and plastic as well!

Circular Saw – An enjoyable piece loved by many professional woodworkers, the circular saw is used to crosscut wood. Since they can do many of the jobs other saws can, having this portable piece in your arsenal will make cutting wood even more fun,

Power Drill – A lot of you may be wondering why it took so long for this tool to pop up. While we didn’t list the tools in any specific order, we figured we would get the larger tools off the list first. 

A power drill is amazing because they are portable, come in cordless options, and come in three different types. A lot of the time these fancy gadgets come with different bits for you to switch out at your convenience. What was once a power drill can easily be converted into an electric screwdriver.

Jigsaw – No, not the scary mascot of the Saw movie series (although it would be pretty cool to have him as a prop), but another trusty saw. It’s another power tool that offers a ton of versatility. Since they are handheld, they are ergonomic and gives you a lot of control.

Hand Tools

Measuring tape – How do you know if you have the right sized lumber? What if you cut just an inch off and your chair is no longer sitting even? These are preventable circumstances if you have a measuring tape in your tool box.

Hammer – One of the most trusted tools owned not only by woodshop workers, but everyone! It’s an essential tool to secure your nails or whenever you need excessive force, a type of hammer will come through for you.

Chisels – Chisels used for chiseling wood surfaces and for beginner woodcarvers, these hand tools come in many different sizes.

Speed Square – How do you make sure you’re measuring the right angles? With a speed square of course!

Screwdrivers – If you bought an essential tool kit, you may have a lot of these tools already in it, and that includes the screwdriver. Even if you have an electric power drill that can double as a screwdriver, having one you can operate with your hands is still useful. It gives you more control and won’t cost you a lot.

Wrench – Screwing in the nuts and doing so tightly would require a handy wrench. 

Workshop Safety

Even a small workshop can be an accident-prone site. To make sure that nothing terrible happens, workshop safety knowledge is imperative. 

Always make sure you read the instructions carefully and have all the safety equipment such as a helmet, goggles, gloves when needed. Never jump into a job without proper preparation. Ease into a new tool slowly to minimize accidents.

Concentrate on the task at hand and don’t let yourself get distracted. A simple slide of the hand could result in detrimental repercussions. 

Cleaning up and keeping your new workshop neat and tidy minimizes the chance of fires, and also keeps your lungs clean.

Having a fire extinguisher handy in your workshop could save you from a total loss if a fire breaks out, even if you don’t believe you will ever need one (say if you only operate with hand tools).

Remember to always turn off your tools when they are not in use. Even if you will come back to it in the next few minutes. When you are concentrating on your project, it’s easy to forget which tool you left on.

Conclusion

We hope this list helps you in your endeavor to set up a small woodworking shop. The basics are all pretty much the same whether you’re renting out a space, setting up in your garage or in your basement. Safety first and convenience comes second. Never sacrifice safety for anything and remembering all the safety equipment when operating heavy machinery will reduce accidents. Good luck setting up your small woodworking shop, we look forward to all the amazing projects that will come to fruition in your new space.

If you’re thinking about starting your own small woodworking business from your garage, ensure your success with some of these resources:

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