If you’ve been following my blog posts all summer (links at the end of this write-up), you are probably as excited about this video release as I am! Welcome to the Dream Shop Build!
Every woodworker (I think!) dreams of someday being able to construct their own dedicated woodworking space. To date, I have bounced around from garage to garage (about 4 times), making the best of a crappy real estate situation. And while I have been lucky to have fairly large spaces to work in, I still daydreamed about the possibility of designing a shop from the ground up, with both woodworking and video production in mind.
In my opinion, the best shop space is a flexible one. I know many folks expected that after setting up my shop so many times, I would be able to design the PERFECT shop space including a finishing room, a dust collection closet, and even some internal walls. But the truth is, the most important lesson I learned over the years was to expect change. My shop is not a static entity. It is more like a living breathing creature that adapts, evolves, grows, shrinks, and changes configuration. Committing to an internal spacial arrangement too early could yield disappointing results. This is why you won’t see me placing dust collection ductwork in the floor. I need to work in a space for at least a few months before I can be confident in my initial setup. Even then, I fully expect things to change at some point. If I made too many restrictive and/or permanent decisions ahead of time, these changes could be difficult or impossible to implement. So my best piece of advice is to forget about the concept of perfection. Instead, focus on flexibility. The ideal shop, in my mind, is little more than 4 walls, a roof, and a butt-load of outlets and lights. So here are some of my basic general goals for my new shop space.
I want the shop to be big! Not only do I have a lot of tools, but I tend to frequently bring tools in for testing. As you probably know by now, I also do a lot of filming. So I need a space big enough to allow for full movement around most of the tools. My tripod has a pretty good-sized footprint and having more room allows me to get the best vantage point possible. More space will also allow me to stage larger pieces of furniture, whether for the show or for jobs I take on locally.
The final size I decided on was 1800 sq. ft. Yeah, that’s big! I actually balked and second guessed myself after we received the estimate from the contractor. Sure, more space is nice, but at what cost? I then asked for a second estimate, bringing the shop down to 1500 sq feet, which is still huge. As you might expect, the savings just weren’t that substantial. By the time you get over 1000 sq. ft., the price per sq. ft. is really low, making it very difficult to justify down-sizing. So I bit the bullet and stayed with my original choice of 1800 sq. ft.
The more outlets the better! I have a good mix of 220v and 110v outlets throughout the shop. I even included a few in the ceiling and the floor in hopes of avoiding power cords in the walkways. And although this contradicts my previous comments about over-committing, I picked locations that would likely work for various tool configurations. If at some point they don’t work for my setup, I just won’t use them.
Every shop should have good lighting, whether natural or artificial. My video work dictates limited natural light, so I was sure to have plenty of overhead T8 fixtures (6500k). You’ll hear me mention in the video that I was disappointed to see that the ends of the shop were just a little dark. Thankfully, I was able to get the contractor to come back in and drop in 4 more fixtures for me, two at either end. Now the light is bright, crisp, and evenly distributed from one side of the shop to the other.
Just a quick note about light spectrum. I went with 6500k because that’s what I like to film in. The daylight spectrum makes it easier for me if I decide to open the blinds, letting in some natural light. For the average woodworking shop, I think 5000k is probably a good choice, although some folks really enjoy the crispness of a 6500k light. But you should test them out for yourself to see what you prefer.
I have to admit that I am very easily distracted. So working from home can be very inefficient. In order to remove my primary excuse for going into the house, the shop would absolutely have to have a bathroom. As you’ll see, I also included a slop sink for various shop cleaning/rinsing needs.
Nicole and I decided not to go public with the cost of the build. Although we are very open about most things, we are a little uncomfortable about making an expenditure of this magnitude public knowledge. Furthermore, unless you live in the Phoenix area and plan on building the same size shop with the same patio and with all of the same finishing touches and labor requirements, the price isn’t all that helpful to you.
But here’s a quick back-story so you know how things went down. The reason I moved my shop so many times was because the sale of our old house fell through at the last minute. This is the house with the original Wood Whisperer shop/garage. We took the house off the market to recuperate and wait for the market to improve. In the mean time, I decided that I should probably make the best of the shop space that I was already paying for, so that’s why I moved my tools back there. When we eventually put that house back on the market, it sold on the first day. That was a BIG surprise! While we weren’t financially (or mentally) ready to build the new shop, I wasn’t about to lose a chance to get that 2nd mortgage gorilla off my back. So all of our resources went into the sale of the old house and the purchase of my mom’s new place. Truth is, there really wasn’t much left to put toward the new shop. Thanks to some financing wizardry, we made it work. But let’s just say I’ll be paying this off for quite some time!
We did our best to keep costs down, but there was only so much we could do. We needed the shop to go up quickly, which eliminated the prospect of me doing some of the work myself. Additionally, we live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association. This means we have very specific restrictions for what we can and can’t do on our property. So the shop must have all of the same finishing touches as our house.
Overall I am very happy with the final results and I can’t wait to get back to making sawdust. The first project to be completed in the new shop is going to be a Queen Size Platform Bed for one of my favorite clients. I mentioned in a previous post that one of my goals this year was to get back into doing client work and this is me making good on that promise. I can’t wait to get started!
Of course not everyone needs or wants a space this large, but this was the right move for me. I hope the sharing of my personal experience with you will provide some ideas and inspiration for your own shop, regardless of its size.