Here’s something a bit different. I’ve enjoyed looking at all the dream workshops, but for those of us with extremely limited space and finances, one can still turn out pretty fair work. Here’s my little shop. It’s a 10’x 12′ room off the garage. As you can see from the photo, it’s pretty crammed and rather messy. But a lot of nice stuff has come out of here in the past 20+ years. It may look disorganized, but I can lay my hand on any tool with my eyes closed. (Except a running table saw) The photo was taken from one end of the shop. Behind me is a drill press, disk sander, buffer and cabinet for supplies. There is wood storage overhead, and high shelves for jigs, forms, etc. The portable Rigid table saw was a recent upgrade. I have just room enough to rip 6 foot boards in place, but I can quickly wheel it out into the yard for cutting longer boards. (You can no doubt tell from the picture that a fixed cabinet saw would be impossible in so small a space). If I remove the guard and lower the blade, the saw doubles as an assembly table. In this shop I build banjos, guitars, and other moderately sized projects, as befits the space. I occasionally tackle something bigger. My largest project was a 17 foot cabin cruiser, which was assembled in the back yard–the smaller pieces of which were fabricated in this tiny room.
Recently I decided it would be nice to have a watchmaker’s style bench for small, non-messy projects like guitar repair, inlay work, etc. It would allow me to work in the comfort of the house on cold days. After pricing watchmaker’s benches, I decided to cobble one out of an old solid birch desk I picked up at the Goodwill store for $40. I added a raised top to bring it up to about 36″, and saved myself six or seven hundred dollars. Nine drawers of storage for my hand tools, jeweler’s tools, etc. And a nice neat area for working on items up to guitar size. The Versa-Vise quick releases for removal if I need to get it out of the way. I originally planned to build some drawers to fit under the table top, but I’ve found the space is perfect as-is for stashing tools and other items that tend to clutter the bench top while working.
On the desk is my little Sherline metal lathe showing a saw attachment I recently fabricated. I turned a mandrel to hold a 3″ precision, thin-bladed slitting saw which I can clamp in the lathe chuck. I built it because I wanted a fine-kerf saw for cutting tiny marquetry tiles for classical guitar rosettes and other such finicky stuff. This blade makes a kerf of only .017″. I made a table and fence out of scrap aluminum, which clamps into the lathe vise, to create the miniature table saw. It’s limited to 1/2″ depth of cut, but is very precise with almost no material waste. As a test cut, I sliced off a piece of cedar you can see sitting on the saw table. It measures an even .4mm thick. A perfect, smooth cut. I can even use the lead screw handwheel to make cut adjustments as small as .001″. Should come in handy for fabricating small parts like guitar nuts, saddles, inlay, etc. If you can’t buy the tool you need, you can always make one.
I’ve included an example of one of the instruments I built in the garage workshop. If the projects are not too large, one can do decent work in very modest space.