Evolution of a Workshop

Article - December 26, 2007

I recently had a question from a viewer concerning my shop setup. The gentleman was building a new shop and had questions about equipment arrangement. He stressed that he wanted to get the setup right the first time. This made me laugh a little. If I only had a dollar each time I thought my shop was FINALLY setup perfectly. Well, I wouldn’t be rich but I would have at least 20 bucks.

Whether minor alterations or major rearrangements, my shop has seen its share of modifications. New tools are usually the culprit. You just cant drop a new tool in the middle of the floor. You need to find the perfect spot. Preferably a spot that fits into the shop work flow and is located near an appropriate outlet. For most of us, this is the biggest challenge. Most of our garages and basements are inadequately wired for a shop. But for the viewer who emailed me, there was still time to increase the number of outlets, and that was the advice I gave him.

It is important to recognize the fact that the setup WILL change and you need to be able to adapt. So if possible, its always a good idea to have multiple 220v outlets and numerous 110v outlets throughout your shop. Today, in my own shop, I had a work-flow dilemma. My shop, while generously-sized, has limited wall space. Most walls either have doors, garage doors, or something else in the way. And walls are a natural place to put a large tool. So some of my tools are positioned in the middle of the floor in a group of three. The group in question consisted of a drum sander and a planer sitting perpendicular to one another, and a 14″ bandsaw wedged between them. This worked for a while, but there were two major issues. First, when going from the planer to the drum sander (the usual work-flow), I had to pick up the whole pile of boards and walk around to the other side of the little triad. Once there, I had no place to sit the boards as I sent them through the drum sander one by one.

The fix was rather simple and involved putting the drum sander and planer side by side so the out-feeds were going in the same direction and finding a new home for the bandsaw. So now the drum sanded pieces can rest right on top of the planer and I don’t have to carry them around when moving from one machine to the other. It will probably save me a few seconds per board and makes the whole operation easier and safer. The workflow just makes sense.

Now I have been in this garage for almost 3 years now and none of these tools are new to me. So why did it take this long to come up with an ideal solution? I wish I knew. But the moral to the story is there is no reason to think of our shops as static entities. Our equipment changes, our needs change, our tastes change. Heck, I sometimes like to move things around just for the sake of seeing something different. I find it very inspiring. Just ask my wife who recently came back from a work trip to find our office completely rearranged just for fun.


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