A Workshop Evolution #1: Startup

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Blog entry by MTBrian posted 01-26-2009 07:26 AM 2720 reads 2 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of A Workshop Evolution series Part 2: Shop Cabinets or how i get distracted »

My name is Brian Schuppe. I live in Billings, Montana. I have wanted to get into woodworking for about 15 years, but never had the time, money or space. It still seems sometimes that i am missing those three key ingredients, but i make due. I do not have a good area on my property to build a free standing shop, so i am in the garage.

This garage is not meant to be a shop. It has one outlet, and one light fixture. It is only as wide as the two doors, and the back end of the garage has large, built in storage closets. I am starting from scratch, my only powertools are a circular saw and a cordless drill. My wife and i are remodeling our 1960’s home, so everything is on a budget. Tools come as they are needed. My wife wants crown molding, so i end up with a Sliding Compound Miter Saw. I have to put in a floor, so i purchase a jobsite Ridgid table saw. Now i am starting to have some initial equipment, but now, where to put it?

I have decided to take over the back half of the garage, I will have 10 feet by 16 feet. This is dedicated space; i will use casters, i will move cars out of the garage, i will be mobile. I tear out the storage closets, and build new storage in the house. I am starting to have some space. I start to shop at pawn shops and check out craigs list. Many slightly used tools start to appear in the garage. I havent built anything bigger than a birdhouse at this point, but i have plans.

On a woodworking forum site, i talk to someone from Montana who tells me i should check out lumberjocks and Todd Clippinger. He is very helpful and knowledgable. Im thinking thats great, but im just glad to find another woodworker in Billings. So i send an email to Todd, and before i know it, i am getting an extremely detailed tour of his operation, what he has built in the past, and what his dogs like for dinner. He took the time to talk to me about what i might need to get a shop going. What tools need to be a priority, and he wants to know what my workflow is going to be. So i head home to do some thinking, work flow? I just wanna make stuff.

A couple more trips to Todd’s house and i am pumped up. I know what i need to do, what equipment i NEED, and what equipment i WANT. So Todd comes to the house to check out my workspace. First thing he tells me, you don’t want to park in your spot anymore, you need to put your table saw where your car used to be. And i need to have tables ready to roll into my wife’s spot when shes not in the garage. And i need cabinets, and power and…...etc. He gives me tons of ideas about what might work, how to setup areas to breakdown sheet goods and this work flow thing. He mentions it alot, so it must be important. He hammers my initial assembly table. It is not efficient enough, the top is made of reg grade ply, its ugly. He is right.


But it reminds me of a story i read a long, long time ago. A guy is talking about a forge, He says that the first thing he will make is a hammer. And the second thing he will make is…. a hammer. He will make a crude hammer and use that to make a nicer hammer. I like to think this is the model for my assembly table. It is crude, it is 2X4s and plywood. It can hold an elephant without sagging. It is a starter table. So i know now that the second thing i need is a second assembly table, two tables will let me do whatever i need to do. And i need power. So i check my breaker box and notice a 50 amp breaker that is unused. I have struck gold!

I go to Lowes and spend way too much of my hard earned money on supplies. I hang a subpanel, conduit and pull 1500 feet of wire. I now have 5, 110 circuits and 2 220 circuits. I install some lighting and i am on my way. I now have space, i now have light, i now have power. So now it is time to start the second assembly table. A certain American Craftsman from Billings fills my truck up with ‘scrap’ that is ‘in the way’. I might as well be a 5 year old with a truck full of icecream. i head home and start to work on assembly table 2.



I remember something Todd told me, “don’t be afraid to make your shop equipment nice, there is no better place to practice and learn technique than on shop furniture”. So i decide to dress the table up.



This table has peg board on one end, and the other has a powerstrip, with a built in 20 foot extension cord. A fold up table that comes in very handy for setting tools and folds out of the way. I add some alder trim to pretty up the table. ( I will probably create a gallery for this table when i put the finish on it). So the table is together, looks nice, is solid and functional…...and it will help my workflow. I am on to the cabinets!

Breaking down sheet goods before was dangerous. There is no other way to put it, i had no infeed and no outfeed. Now i have both


and breaking down sheet goods is a breeze.


With my trusty Kreg jig, these cabinets are no match for me, the carcasses are flying together


This ends my first segment, i will be putting the second segment together as the cabinets are done. I want to thank everyone that gave me such a warm greeting when i joined the site, i hope your generosity carrys over to this blog. I hope you like what you read, and i hope you will enjoy what i create in the future. I want to thank Todd for his help, his scrap and the motivation to get something going. More to follow.

22 comments so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4604 days

#1 posted 01-26-2009 07:44 AM

This is a fantastic story! And I love all the photos. Your second mobile table did turn out nice.

I have never heard the forge analogy but it is accurate and perfect for this situation. Everything else that you make will be built upon these benches now.

The big thing is that you have dramatically increased your safety factor by providing proper support for you materials going across the tablesaw.

You’re increasing safety, productivity, and your skills. When you work on the house you will be safer, faster, and more skilled than before.

Hey, you work for a living and you don’t have time to waste with inefficient workflow and disorganization!

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4604 days

#2 posted 01-26-2009 07:46 AM

Good to see all that material is really going to good use.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4379 days

#3 posted 01-26-2009 08:14 AM

Go easy on the guy, Todd! If you’re not too careful you’ll have too much competition.

Brian, its going to be fun to watch your shop and skills grow, especially with such a good mentor so close by. Welcome to Lumberjocks.

-- Happy woodworking!

View BarryW's profile


1015 posts in 4411 days

#4 posted 01-26-2009 08:42 AM

Yeah, if we could measure the skill in terms used for mountains then Billings is growing fast…and about as tall as the Himalayas. With you and Clippinger in the same neighborhood, you guys are trying make your South Dakota neighbors look like the Black Hole of Calcutta. But watch out…we growing “down here.” Congrats on your shop project.

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View jamieb's profile


9 posts in 3913 days

#5 posted 01-26-2009 08:53 AM

Looks like you’re well on your way. Thanks for sharing! I’m in a similar situation: a cramped garage with a single electrical outlet is preventing me from getting a “real” shop going. I’m planning on doing the subpanel and reorganization thing when it warms up a bit. I look forward to reading more.

-- Woodworker? Nah, I'm a clamp collector and expert in sawdust production.

View Texasgaloot's profile


465 posts in 4205 days

#6 posted 01-26-2009 02:43 PM

Hey Brian—

Most of us are not nearly as fortunate to have such a mentor as Todd! He’s forgotten more about this stuff that most of us will ever remember, and is a good friend.

Glad to have you aboard!

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View douginaz's profile


220 posts in 4507 days

#7 posted 01-26-2009 02:50 PM

Todd and Brian, I can see you guys are going to make a great team.
Brian – YOU GO DUDE!
Todd – Thanks for being a perfect example of how this should work.

Doug in AZ.

-- If you need craft books - please visit our small business at

View dusty2's profile


323 posts in 3934 days

#8 posted 01-26-2009 03:27 PM

I was really taken by your post Brian. Congratulations on your enthusiasm and your dedication to this task at hand.

This almost makes me want to move back to Billings so that I could see this shop grow first hand. I grew up in Billings and attended Billings Senior High. Shortly after graduation, I went in the service and haven’t been back. If I do, I’ll stop in and see what all you have done with your shop.

Your enthusiasm is great but in all this – work smart and work SAFE.

-- Making Sawdust Safely

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 4217 days

#9 posted 01-26-2009 06:05 PM

Enjoyed reading this very much, esp. the forge story. Please keep up the work, and take lots of pictures, and post as frequently as you can!

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View John in SD's profile

John in SD

140 posts in 4318 days

#10 posted 01-26-2009 06:29 PM

Great post Brian…....I really like that folding shelf on your table/bench, that will be duplicated soon here in SD on my bench…......And Thanks Todd for being a good neighbor or in other words being yourself.

-- Life used to be soooo much simpler!!!!

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 4233 days

#11 posted 01-26-2009 09:58 PM

great post. to echo other’s comments, Todd has contributed a lot here and I don’t think he’s ever really asked for anything back. Its great to see such generosity. Also, I appreciate you posting in this blog. Its nice to see all levels of experiece share their progress and experience and accomplishments. Thats a great looking assemply table and I’m looking forward to seeing some great projects come from this.

View Todd Thomas 's profile

Todd Thomas

4969 posts in 3954 days

#12 posted 01-26-2009 10:29 PM

good looking shop…you are well on your way…...Todd seems to have pointed you in the right direction…..he’s a master craftsman so it is wise to listen to him…just look at the work he does!!

-- Todd, Oak Ridge, TN, Hello my name is Todd and I'm a Toolholic, I bought my last tool 10 days, no 4 days, oh heck I bought a tool on the way here! †

View MTBrian's profile


27 posts in 3931 days

#13 posted 01-27-2009 03:01 AM

To anyone that does not have sturdy infeed and outfeed tables, this should be your biggest priority. Even if they are something you can take down and store, they are a necessity. Besides being much safer, they make breaking down sheets so much easier. I was cutting 2’ X 3; panels today, and knocked out 12 panels in about 10 minutes. Not because i was rushing, just because good tables make it easy. Set the piece on the table against the fence and carefully push through.

To anyone that is wondering about my safety, notice the pic with the tables, yes, that is ear protection, glasses and a pushstick. There is not much that gets used without those three tools.

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 4063 days

#14 posted 01-27-2009 03:16 AM

A great post and welcome to LJ’s…................ but be real careful…..............this site is addicting.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4666 days

#15 posted 01-27-2009 07:14 PM

that is one inspirational story!!!

If you ever wonder what it means to be a LumberJock, I think this explains it all!!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

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