ideas/tips for a small shop

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Forum topic by Johnalan Thomas posted 03-14-2016 02:44 PM 1491 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Johnalan Thomas

57 posts in 1866 days

03-14-2016 02:44 PM

Topic tags/keywords: small shop tip question help storage

When some people say small shop they mean a 1 car garage, what I mean by a small shop is an 8×12 building in renting to own.

as you can understand I have a very small shop, I have a big shelf unit at the end of the shop that is 8long and 12in deep, so you can say 8×11 shop, my workbench is 61in long and 3 foot wide, and with he recent addition to my shop a table saw I can barely walk because I store my lumber inside it. (I hate storing it outside it warps easy and spiders get everywhere in it ), I don’t have much lumber currently but I did a few weeks ago when I got a commission to build 5 dog beds I couldn’t not even get to my work bench I was walking on lumber the whole time, so any tips on how I can save space they would be greatly appreciated. thanks

-- John Darlington Sc

9 replies so far

View CharlesA's profile


3458 posts in 2770 days

#1 posted 03-14-2016 02:46 PM

I’m the 1 car garage guy. That is a wide workbench, especially for that size shop. Mine is 30” and is plenty wide. 6-12” would mean a lot in a small shop.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View onoitsmatt's profile


447 posts in 2148 days

#2 posted 03-14-2016 02:59 PM

I’m a 1 car garage guy too. I share the space with a lawnmower, bikes, Christmas decorations and a hundred other things. Useable space is similar to yours if not smaller.

Use the walls and ceiling for storage. Particularly your lumber. But make sure your ceiling can bear the load.

Get a rolling base for the table saw (and bench if feasible).

If your space is like a garage with a rolling, overhead door, roll the bench outside when weather permits. And work out there.

Keep the shop clean. Nothing hogs up space unnecessarily like clutter of tools, scraps and other stuff.

-- Matt - Phoenix, AZ

View thechipcarver's profile


229 posts in 2550 days

#3 posted 03-14-2016 03:52 PM

I’m with onoitsmatt, use the walls and ceilings for storage. Also, go online and see if you can find some Shop Notes magazines. They publish a lot of small shop tips.

-- While teaching a class, a gentlemen once asked me: "When chip carving an intricate design, what do you do when you are almost finished and the wood breaks off?" I replied "Cover the kids ears."

View hotbyte's profile


1019 posts in 3947 days

#4 posted 03-14-2016 04:32 PM

  • Wheels, wheels and wheels…put everything you can on wheels.
  • try to find double and triple duty for everything

As mentioned, Shop Notes has a whole booklet on small workshops for $10 – Small Shop Solutions

View CharlesA's profile


3458 posts in 2770 days

#5 posted 03-14-2016 04:32 PM

All sheet goods in my shop are stored overhead on some 2×4’s I hung. Keeps them out of the way.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 3916 days

#6 posted 03-14-2016 05:26 PM

When I buy lumber for a project, I know what sizes to break the wood down to. I do this step before I store it in my shop. Reduces the amount of storage space needed. I do not order any wood unless I am going to use it. Don’t have the space to store it. Cutoffs get fitted into the rafters and dated. If not used within 9 months, they get burned for heat.

With not much room, you do not have the luxury of being able to store things for a rainy day. Work from job to job with the wood.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View MadMark's profile


979 posts in 2425 days

#7 posted 03-14-2016 08:23 PM

My cabinet shop is about 8’ x 10’ with the planer, OS Sander, & band saw on wheels:

Made these cabs (& others):

It’s not the space, its how you fill it.


-- Madmark - [email protected]

View BonPacific's profile


20 posts in 1827 days

#8 posted 03-14-2016 09:32 PM

This is a bit of a ramble, but here’s a bunch of tips I’ve either picked up or learned the hard way.

While I usually agree with the “put everything on wheels” crowd, in a space this small it might not actually help you. There’s not a lot of floor to clear. If you can roll tools/carts out the door, definitely go for the wheels. If you can’t do this, I’d say compress everything you can against the walls. Even 2” clearances can add up. Anything floor standing is going to restrict your options, so go for bench top models of anything you can (sander, drill press, planer, jointer, etc). Either permanently install your common benchtop tools, or make sure they can be stored away easily. I keep my (floor standing) jointer underneath my table-saw’s extension wing, and the router table lives on a shelf. Any thing permanently installed should share table height with as many other tools as possible.

There are certain tools you can probably ignore or get rid of. A chop saw can be replaced by a circular saw and a a table saw sled. A jointer can be replaced by a router and table saw sled for anything less than 1” thick. You probably wont fit a bandsaw in a shop this small, but a benchtop scrollsaw or a good jigsaw can handle all your curve-cutting needs. You can resaw on a tablesaw if you’re careful.

I’d cut the workbench down to 20” or 2 feet deep at the most. If you want more space build in a flip-up assembly table that can be folded flat against the bench. Norm Abrams shows something like this in his Garage workshop 2-parter, which you should be able to find on YouTube.

Use every inch of vertical wall space. Hang your hand tools, build a floor to ceiling set of shelves for paint/finish cans and hardware boxes. These sort of things store best when they can only be one-layer deep, don’t let then get hidden on deeper shelves. This is a perfect use for the space behind a swinging door, which is otherwise dead.

If you have the head room, build an overhead lumber rack. If this is a standard pre-fab type shed, you should be able to hold a sheet or two of plywood (cut down to smaller size) or maybe a dozen 2×4’s, but throw in a pair of ceiling joists for insurance to keep the walls from pulling outward.

If you have a hybrid or cabinet saw, consider reducing the length of the rails or remove an extension wing. Depending on your work style, you may find you don’t use the extra width,and it can greatly reduce the saw’s footprint. You can also try and embed the table saw into a workbench, as the top works great as an assembly table.

If the walls are unfinished, build shelves into the bays, you can fit a lot of stuff inside the wall cavities themselves.

View 01ntrain's profile


259 posts in 2042 days

#9 posted 03-14-2016 09:38 PM

I found this article on the internet… me it’s a pretty good setup. I set my basement shop up in a similar way. Luckily, I have a garage, enclosed porch, and another workspace in my basement to spread things out a bit.

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