Shop shape (physical layout)

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Forum topic by homercal posted 07-15-2019 02:48 PM 921 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 1069 days

07-15-2019 02:48 PM

Hi all,

I’ve seen a few posts where people ask about layout of tools, but I am not seeing much in the way of preferred shape of space (e.g., rectangle vs. square).

If you had the choice, would you prefer a 12’ x 28’ space or an 18’ by 18’ space. Both give you roughly 330 sqft to play with.

Anyone have experience with either shape and wish they went the other way?

12 replies so far

View Phil32's profile


1073 posts in 703 days

#1 posted 07-15-2019 03:26 PM

One of the considerations would be the out-feed space from table saws, planers, etc. This can be handled by double doors or windows, if the outside space doesn’t intrude on others. On a more basic level, it depends on what projects you take on. If you make 20 foot long benches, you may want a 10’ x 40’ shop. My projects of late are less than two feet square, so I use one corner of the dining room. The machines are in one corner of the garage.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View Bill_Steele's profile


714 posts in 2531 days

#2 posted 07-15-2019 03:57 PM

I feel like either your workbench or your tablesaw is typically the center of operations. I like to have my workbench away from the wall so I can walk all the way around it.

The jointer, planer, and tablesaw are often used to square lumber and as such it is convenient to place them near each other.

A dust collector is an important part of the process and will need to be close enough to connect the hose to each tool as needed (unless you install ducting).

My basement shop is closer to your 12’ x 28’ footprint and has worked OK for me. I have all of my tools on mobile bases and have an open area where I can roll-in/roll-out some tools (bandsaw, planer, drum sander) as needed.

It’s also good to have an area where you can break down full size sheet goods.

Just my thoughts.

View PPK's profile


1767 posts in 1608 days

#3 posted 07-15-2019 07:51 PM

I don’t think it matters that much! Only thing that would NOT be all that great is if you have a bunch of little bump-outs or corners. They waste space.

-- Pete

View therealSteveN's profile


5901 posts in 1373 days

#4 posted 07-15-2019 09:05 PM

I can only say because of how I work, I would not feel comfortable in such a long skinny place as the 12×28. I tend to use the middle, and only put storage cabinets, and I do have a running counter space all around the perimeter, at least sides, and back. I work directly on that counter, but also use it more for laying out what I am working on, kinda more storage. So the square shape would favor me better. I think in most shops you will find that horizontal spaces are full, IOW tops of TS’s, benches, etc. They tend to draw a crowd, sometimes to the point of making more benches…..

Now make the dimensions larger, and I could see either, but I need a spacious middle, can’t get that out of a long rectangle.

But that is me. If you want to know you, it comes with use, and experience. Have you taken shop in school? worked at a buddies/relatives shop? How did the shape suit you? That is the question that needs answered.

-- Think safe, be safe

View CaptainKlutz's profile


3315 posts in 2293 days

#5 posted 07-15-2019 09:19 PM

hmm, little small for me regardless of layout?
IMHO – If you plan to use small TS fence, and mostly hand tools, then either size would work?
But long and skinny is not ideal for shop full of power tools, especially larger 2HP+ industrial tools.

The 12×28 is only 6ft longer than a conventional 1 car garage. I find the narrow width of single garage bay limiting on project size and tool selection. If you put a 7’ rail (52” cut capacity) on TS it ends up with one end of saw table against the wall, leaving only a ~4’ isle to walk past it. This lack of width makes it hard to use wall for cabinets or tool rack also. Personally I can’t work wood without 1.5 wide garage bay, or about 18ft.

Suggest you check out the Grizzly shop layout tool?

See what works best for your tool set, and your future project list.

Best Luck!

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View PPBart's profile


87 posts in 630 days

#6 posted 07-15-2019 09:49 PM

My shop is 12×24’. Tablesaw is at center lengthwise, off-center width. I have two benches, both level with tablesaw. I would love more room, but it’s been adequate for projects up to full kitchen rebuild.

-- PPBart

View TungOil's profile


1382 posts in 1294 days

#7 posted 07-16-2019 02:26 AM

My last shop was 13×27 and it was too narrow. Bit tight getting around the TS in the center if that is how you like to layout.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View BattleRidge's profile


150 posts in 1015 days

#8 posted 07-16-2019 03:48 AM

My workshop is 30’ x 40’ x 10’h but my woodworking area is basically in the space of a one-car garage.

The majority of my equipment is along one wall in the shop and spaced so that most of my work can be performed without moving anything other than the planer. The jointer can be moved out from the wall to allow use with longer boards when needed.

My combination workbench / assembly table / outfeed area is 4’ x 8’ with a 30” x 30” drop-down area that I use for the oscillating spindle / belt sander, portable router table and scroll saw (all of which can store beneath the work surface). This unit provides a lot of storage capability and I house much of my portable power equipment on shelving, as well as a variety of woodworking supplies (I will be eventually adding drawers for convenience on the side opposite the shelving).

Wood storage is on an A-frame shelving unit at one end of the shop.

Given the choices you provided, I would likely lean toward the rectangular layout – but each person can have different wants and needs so choices can vary.

-- ~Art~

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2838 posts in 3721 days

#9 posted 07-17-2019 09:43 AM

One thing to consider is a dust collection duct system. I have a 13’ x 23’ workshop with my dust collector in a metal shed beside my shop. I ran the 6” round metal duct on the floor against the walls and up to each machine. Works well and avoids having the duct run up to the ceiling and back down to the machines. (that is a lot of duct) I would opt for the rectangular shape for what I do. I make small crafty items and toys.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Lubbock Texas

View becikeja's profile


1121 posts in 3612 days

#10 posted 07-17-2019 09:54 AM

I never really thought about this. My shop is actually square, but I have my tools and benches arranged so that I have a rectangular work area that takes up about 75% of the width, the other 25% is used for storage, supplies etc….

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View Madmark2's profile


1450 posts in 1387 days

#11 posted 07-17-2019 06:17 PM

I am differently abled and my shop is a U with the saw at the end and the rest of the tools on either side. There is an outfeed table between the saw and wall. All the power tools have their own stands so the top of all the tools is the same – 34” – to match the saw. I don’t have to move far to use any tool.

Aisles are a waste of space around islands. Better to get a turntable and rotate the work instead of walking around the island and tying up all that space.

A too large shop wastes space and time. A shop should be large enough to hold your tools and work safely but not so large as you have long walks everytime you need a tool. A small, well filled area is often more efficient.

Many feel the first thing in their shop is a good (large) workbench and spend lots of time moving from the saw and bench and back. My saw is my bench so no schlepping is needed.

Individualized stands for planer, drill press, OSS, etc. allow more flexibility in layout than long counters and can each include their own accessory storage that moves with the tool.


-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View Redoak49's profile


4792 posts in 2788 days

#12 posted 07-17-2019 09:12 PM

I think the big consideration is the table saw. If you have 52” rails then a square shop might be best. I do not use my saw to break down plywood so a narrower shop works well. I use a track saw for plywood.

The answer to the question will come out of your projects and how you break down wood.

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