Setting up a small woodworking shop right in my garage can be quite an exciting endeavor. The initial steps involve preparing the space, ensuring its safety, and gathering all the necessary woodworking tools. With a substantial to-do list ahead, it can be a bit frustrating if you’re unsure of where to begin. Let me share everything I’ve learned about this process:
General Wood Shop Layout
Whether you’re setting up your small woodwork shop in your car garage, a rental space, or just an outbuilding outside your house, there are a few tips you need in terms of layout. Here’s our advice:
Don't Disrupt the Flow
Create a smooth traffic flow inside your shop. From the first cut up to finishing, you want to have a well-organized process. We highly recommend creating your woodworking cut list for your reference.
When it comes to the workflow in my workshop, I aim for a seamless journey for the wood, from shaping to polishing. It’s important to avoid placing the first tool I need at the center of my workspace and the last tool by the door. I prefer to establish a logical flow, allowing me to transition smoothly from one machine to another without any unnecessary hassle. It’s a good practice to test this arrangement to determine if any adjustments are needed, such as deciding which equipment should be closer to or farther away from the door.
As mentioned, heavy-duty stuff such as a jointer, router table, radial arm saw or table saw should be placed in the order you need them for a seamless process.
Planning a specific workshop area to store them is important. Ideally, it should be near your work bench or self-made sawhorse, so they’re within reach. Utilize tool cabinets, the floor, or even wall space in your work area.
Storage units would help. Wall mounted organizers are great for hand tool storage. Clamps on walls are great for storage too. Sometimes, a door on the floor can open to a compartment.
Let There Be Light
In every book for woodworkers, you’ll find this tip: woodworking shops have to have good lighting. When you use a jointer or a tablesaw, you want to stay safe.
Have overhead lights and lamps to provide lighting as you work. If possible, place your workbench (check out our experts’ free plan for a DIY Table Saw Workbench to build your own workbench) or work table near a window to get natural light during the day. Remember, you will sit or stand in your workspace for a length of time, you want it to be well-lit when you cut or plane pieces.
In my experience, the optimal spot for storing wood pieces or sheet goods is either near the front of the workshop, close to the garage door, or conveniently situated near the workbench. This arrangement ensures that you can easily grab a piece of wood as soon as you enter, enhancing overall efficiency.
Another option to contemplate is the use of separate cabinets for storing raw wood pieces and unfinished workpieces. Furthermore, when designing your workshop floor layout, it’s worth giving thought to the storage of plywood boards and other sheet goods.
(Looking to build your own audio equipment? Here are our top wood picks for speaker boxes.)
Have a Middle Ground
When I refer to a central table or island, what I’m talking about is essentially an assembly table or area placed right in the heart of your workspace. This multifunctional space serves as a hub for lumber, boards, saws, a couple of essential hand tools, and even jointers. Additionally, it’s a convenient spot to keep screws and nuts for quick and easy access. This setup not only promotes organization but also contributes to a smoother workflow.
End at the Window
After our boards and materials become a beautiful workpiece, we need to coat it with finishes and paint. That’s why the area where you apply finishes should be near windows or doors. Being near the door helps air out the fumes. And if you have an AC unit on the side or against a wall, that helps fan out fumes too.
Alternatively, you can have a high-velocity wall or floor fan as well. The amount of chemicals you can inhale in a workshop can be potentially harmful, so have this option for better ventilation.
If you have a respirator mask, that’s good protection. However, many of us forgo this, causing health problems if you’re always working on a ton of wood projects.
Try to Keep Things Moving
Creating a storage system can be tricky and you may never know what works immediately, so be prepared for any adjustments on your shop floor.
Thankfully, most large tools today (like the router table, tablesaw, or jointer) have mobile bases so you can roll and push your machines around your workspace. This allows you to move the machines when you need space on either side of it.
Clamps on walls are useful too. Planning to have shelves on your wall will also be great for other products.
Setting Up Your Garage Workshop
If you’re just starting out but wanting to create profit in woodworking, you might want to begin in the comfort of your own home – in your car garage. This saves you money on rent and also allows you to customize the wall and floor space as you see fit.
Spending time in your shop sounds heavenly. To start, here’s what you need to do.
Determine how much space you have to work with. Not all garages are the same size, and a one-car garage may not accommodate the same amount of materials or workbenches as one with a larger shop floor. But before you set up shop, clean and clear out the space. Garages often double as storage spaces, so decluttering would reveal how much space you have.
If you’re still shopping for larger power tools, aim for mobile ones for more flexibility. Be careful with the big machines though, you might end up choosing between which ones should stay on the floor and which ones should go.
In my experience, it’s important to recognize that the equipment one person envisions in their dream workshop may not align with your specific needs. Woodworkers have unique preferences and requirements, but there are certain fundamental machines like a table saw and a jointer that tend to be staples. Additionally, some might find a beverage cooler essential, while others working in colder climates could greatly benefit from a wall-mounted heater.
Regardless of your choices, the key is to incorporate high-quality, heavy-duty equipment into your workshop layout. This is crucial because you want your tools to endure without the need for frequent replacements, ensuring longevity and efficiency in your woodworking endeavors.
Having a few organizers like a toolbox, clamp racks, workbench, assembly table, and work belt can make your shop neater. Hangers, hooks, a clamp rack, cabinets, and rungs are all great for keeping your materials out of your way.
As for your work surface, having bench dog holes may help depending on the work you’re doing. You can even have an accent wall on the side to make your shop prettier. If you care about aesthetics and you want to brighten up the space, that’s a good idea.
Power It Up!
Make sure you have outlets working at a capacity of both 110 and 220 volts. Larger equipment will need more voltage while smaller ones will do well with the 110.
These outlets should be placed in optimal positions for your garage workshop layout. It’s nice to be able to plan each receptacle around each machine, but extension cords would help with that.
You might also need heating in your space so include that in planning too. At least 5000 watts of heating power is enough.
It's All About Lighting
Aside from the planning the storage, heating, and wall organization in your layouts, it’s important to have lights in your space. Of course, you want to build your first ever woodworking projects for novice with ease and without straining your eyes.
Generally, what helps is having light from two separate sources. If you have a row of overhead lights, use another lamp to offset the overhead light and eliminate the shadows.
Having adequate lighting is crucial to a workshop. You want to be able to create small projects of furnitures with accuracy. It’s a safety feature as well since you’re working with potentially harmful equipment and you don’t want any accidents happening.
A table saw, radial arm saw, sand paper, jigsaw, and almost every other tool can accumulate particles in your work surface. This can damage your airways especially after long term exposure, so dust extraction is a must.
Use a dust collection system. Different from your run-of-the-mill shop vacuum cleaner for woodworking, dust collectors move higher volumes of air. Combined with blast gates, they gather waste and wood chips from your wood shop to prevent health risks, fires, and safety issues.
Give It A Try
When you start building your projects, that’s the time you’ll figure out what you need to modify in your plan and organization technique. You can plan your setup all you want, but sometimes, you still need changes to the space. It can be wall organizer or moving storage near the door – or you’ll realize you’re missing some more things altogether.
Don’t be afraid to work on a few projects even when your layout isn’t completely done. Start by building simpler projects like frames, wine holders, address signs and any easy piece. If you need more tips, we have articles packed with beginner woodworking project ideas.
You can also sign up for services that will provide you with tips and information, like the Woodworkers Guild of America. After you’ve attempted the easy tasks in your space, move on to a complex project. This will help you get a better idea of what works in your small workshop space.
Small Basement Workshop
There are problems that come with a basement workshop. As you probably know, basements, even basements with hardwood flooring, are susceptible to mold, leaks, and moisture issues.
Moisture is a killer of heavy machines. When assessing the condition of basements, also make sure that the plugs and clean and in ideal positions.
Basements aren’t usually known for adequate task lighting, so you may need to enlarge the windows and even install a door to let the lights from outside in.
(Looking for the best flooring for your shop? Then, here are the reasons why you should use LVT flooring for your woodshop)
A lot of beginner woodworkers are concerned about overspending or buying the “wrong” accessories. After all, it’s hard to take advice off from a page or person who just love building projects.
In this quick guide, we’re going to 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. Don’t buy and use hand-me-down products. Some items you might need on the shop floor include a combination machine, radial arm saw, a drill press, router table, miter station, and some air tools as well. Planning the organization and storage is crucial in your layouts.
Good Tools to Invest In
Table Saw – You might have seen a table saw on many of the lists you’ve come across. Whether it’s a large table saw or a portable design, table saws are great for cutting angles and cutting through surfaces. If you’re planning to have a table saw, have an outfeed table.
Miter Saw – The use of this is for cutting rounded corners. The standard blade is about 8-15 inches. A miter saw station is common in a basement shop or a garage shop.
Drill Press – This is our favorite stationary machine for small workshops. Similar to a hand drill, drill presses have precision and are easy to use. It’s capable of drilling holes, sanding, and producing grooves as well.
Planer – Also known as a thickness planer, these are used to trim lumber into consistent sizes.
Sanders – This does the job that any best quality sandpapers do, but much more quickly and effectively. The abrasive surface smooths down surfaces upon contact. This is often used as a finishing touch on most projects, including these fun plywood 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. It can also cut through metal and is a common fixture in a small shop. You should have space on either side of this equipment.
Router – These handy devices can be handheld and are used to hollow out pieces for your project.
Circular Saw – An enjoyable piece used by many professional woodworkers, the circular saw is for crosscutting.
Power Drill – The use of a power drill is common in the house and in the shop. It’s one of the accessories most commonly required in a job.
Jigsaw – It’s a versatile power tool. It’s ergonomic and gives you a lot of control.
Want to know the power tool for your lawn? Check out our review of Husqvarna YTA24V48 here.
Measuring tape – How do you know if you have the right sized lumber? A measuring tape is an essential in any tool box for length, width, and depth measurements.
Hammer – One of the most trusted items in the woodshop and in the household space. It’s essential for securing nails or whenever you need force.
Chisels – Chisels are used in shops for chiseling surfaces and are ideal for beginner woodcarvers.
Speed Square – Another must-have in your work shop, this tool is used for measuring the right angles.
Screwdrivers – 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.
Wrench – Screwing in nuts would require a handy wrench.
Other hand tools that you might be interested in buying are the top Japanese woodworking tools we listed here.
Even a small workshop can be an accident-prone site. Workshop safety knowledge is imperative.
Cleaning up and keeping your new workshop neat minimizes risks. This is crucial especially if you let your kids work on the shop from time to time using their own wood kits to build.
(A clean shop is a safe environment, thus, here are the top cyclone dust collection system you can install in your workspace)
How do you Layout a woodworking Shop?
You layout it by thinking first about your workflow and setting things up according to that. Group related tools, place your bench near a window, and have available wood near the entrance. An assembly table at the center helps, too.
What is the ideal size for a Wood working Shop?
The ideal size is 75 square feet to 125 square feet depending on the number of tools you have on the floor. Power tools will occupy much space, so that’s one thing to consider in shop size. You must also have a lumber storage or a lumber rack.
What is A Workshop Layout?
A workshop layout is a plan that indicates the placement of equipment, storage areas, and your workbench inside your workshop. A good shop layout is ideal for optimum workflow and doesn’t result in too much clutter or excessive unnecessary transportation within the floor space.
We hope our guide helps you in setting up a small woodworking shop in your garage. The basics are the same, whether you’re renting out a workshop space or working in your basement.
If you’re thinking about starting your own small woodworking business from your garage, ensure your success with some of these resources:
Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.
Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.