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New Woodshop Construction

145289 Views 130 Replies 61 Participants Last post by  Grumpy
Setting Up Shop II, or How I Spent My Winter Vacation

(This is the first post here, but a continuation of a series started at my personal blog at

I'm not what you would call a "neat freak." However, I do try to keep things generally organized and find it near impossible to work in a cluttered shop. Not only do I find it technically difficult to work in an unorganized mess - I find it hopelessly depressing as well. Consequently, when the shop is cluttered I will typically avoid doing any woodworking until the mess is resolved.Keeping the shop organized is especially difficult when the thing you're working on is the shop itself. For the past couple months our garage and the new shop space has been a jumble of scraps of lumber and sheet goods, plastic bins of random hand tools, power tools, hardware, etc. somewhat haphazardly-arrange throughout. Need a hammer? Time to go routing through the bins. Double-stick tape? I just know it's here somewhere. Not fun. Coupled with the scarcity of available "shop time" and basically nothing has been done since Thanksgiving.

To turn this untenable situation around I took a week-long vacation from my real job beginning January 7th. As luck would have it, this happened to coincide with a major "January thaw" with temperatures soaring into the 50's and 60's early in the week. After spending a day cleaning out the garage and setting up a temporary table to somewhat organize my tools/supplies, I set out to complete the job. First priority was the cabinetry. I had completed the carcasses and counter tops in November but hadn't even planned the drawers. Drawers. After spending way too much time agonizing over their arrangement (do I make 3 or 4 drawers in this bay? One very deep or 2 shallower?) I settled on a design and slapped together some boxes out of 3/4" ply and pocket screws. Not very "fine" I know, but I'd prefer to just get the shop done and get down to business on pieces bound for the house! Ply banded with 3/16" maple bullnose serve as drawer fronts. After that I installed the ceiling-mounted speakers, running the wire through the 2" PVC I ran before the walls were finished. I also ran RG-6 and Cat 5e cable to the 4 boxes placed around the shop, patching the works together, neatly, in the crawl space before hooking up a home run back to my communications panel in the main basement.

While I frequently use Google SketchUp to design my projects, I find that working things out on a whiteboard can be extremely helpful in the shop. I frequently use a whiteboard for my cut-list-writing large enough to be visible across the room. The one from the old shop is roughly 18" x 36". For the new shop, I wanted something a bit bigger, but "real" dry erase boards can be rather pricey. A quick google search turned up this page For $10 plus some scrap pine I was able to build my own custom board for the shop. I installed a 4'x4' sheet in the middle of the back wall and still have 1/2 sheet left for future uses. Lastly, I installed the TV on a wall-mount (for NYW and Woodworks, natch!) and moved the metal paint cabinet into place beside the slop sink.

As usual the process was covered by a couple web cams and I've edited together a brief time lapse…I only wish I could have completed the actual work in only 5 minutes.

Note: The angle of the cameras, properties of the lighting and advanced image compression may make it appear to the untrained observer that my hair is a bit thinner at the top. I assure you this is merely an optical illusion.
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My "Green" Dust Collection System

Not "green" in the environmental sense, mind you…but green in a very literal sense. I've spent literally months planning out most of the details of my new shop, since before they broke ground. One of the features I was most anxious to include that I was unable to have in my shared garage space was an honest-to-goodness central dust collection system. One of the earliest decisions I needed to make: metal or plastic?

Metal of Plastic?

I first read Sandor Nagyszalanczy's oft recommended book "Woodshop Dust Control" where he makes a strong argument against the use of plastic PVC piping for ductwork citing the risk of explosions that could ruin your day/shop/life/etc. After reading this book it was clear to me that metal was the only way to go. That was, until I began researching actually purchasing the stuff. Expensive. What's more, the stuff they sell at the "Big Box" stores is too thin…so the only real way to do this with metal ducting, beyond finding a local supplier (which I was unable to do) is to meticulously plot out the whole thing and place one big order to have shipped to the shop. While I'm no stranger to meticulous planning, I've never setup a dust collection system before and was not 100% sure I could plot this out perfectly without actually attempting to fit some pieces together first. In fact, I was pretty darn certain that I couldn't plan this out to the last screw in advance of ordering the materials. I just knew I'd get half-way done with the install and either change my mind or realize I needed some other type of fitting(s) to finish the job. Without a local supplier, I'd be forced to place an order-likely a small one-and incur additional shipping charges and delays. Time's too much of a premium to lose an entire day because I can't get what I need. This realization sent me searching for alternatives.

It didn't take long for me to find some interesting forum discussions online…but the clincher for me was this extremely well-crafted article. The upshot of reading this article was that I was now certain that I would definitely use the cheaper/easier-to-find S&D PVC piping for my system. Fortunately or Un- I was now also paranoid about what I could appreciate was the most dangerous aspect of my dust collection system-a smoldering fire in a collection bag. (Mental note: daily emptying of the bags is a must. But I digress…)

A bit of searching locally initially indicated that my local "Big Box" stores carried only up to 4" diameter piping. My basic math says that I'd really be better off using a minimum of 5" ducting for the main run. As S&D pipes aren't offered in 5", I opted for the next size up…which, as I mentioned, I was unable to locate locally. That is, until an unrelated and rare trip to Menards where I discovered all the 6" and 4" fittings and pipe I would ever need. Excellent.

Goin' Green

Menards stocks their PVC piping in an outdoor lumber yard. This meant that I placed an order off a sheet with a nice picture of white 6" PVC pipe listed as ASTM 2729 S&D. When I got into the yard, however, the pipe was actually the green stuff..ASTM 3034/SDR35. The Menards product number on the sticker on the pipe and the label on the bin matched my receipt, so I'm not sure if there was a mistake in their inventory or their labeling…or if they for some reason sell the 3034 and 2729 interchangably (seems unlikely), but I didn't see the 2729 anywhere so I figured I'd use the somewhat heavier, green 3034 that I had paid for rather than start the hunt over again. I purchased a few 10' lengths of the 4" thin white stuff from Lowes as well figuring I'd at least have white drops.


I purchased my blast gates and quick disconnect fittings from my local Woodcraft store and started the assembly. What I discovered during the assembly was that the thicker-walled SDR35 was a significantly snugger fit for the pipe fittings. Also, while a special coupling is required to attach the blast gates to 2729, they fit perfectly in the green stuff. So, while the 2729 is a bit cheaper and much lighter, I save money overall with the SDR35 since there are no adapters needed to fit the blast gates to the pipes. Serendipity.

Assembly continues apace. I'm currently roughly 50% complete with the core installation, that is the main 6" line is 80% complete and half the drops are essentially in. I still need to build the hoods for the RAS and CMS and work out the details of the fittings for the router table, which will likely take more time than the assembly time to date. I've still got the two cameras capturing the process and have been sure to move them as needed as there's no one position that can capture even most of the shop. Editing of the time-lapse is ongoing and I will be posting the completed video when the job is done, natch.

(originally posted at
Well thought out and laid out system. I always went to great lengths to ground my PVC system but after reading the same article I don't bother and it hasn't made a difference. Do you really empty the dust collector every night? I have actually gone to using 2 smaller (650 CFM) collection units on either side of the shop each hooked to about 2-4 machines. Each machine has it's own remote control. Result is less overall duct work, more versatility in system set up and same CFM as a large cyclone unit at less than 1/3 the cost.
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