New Shop Lessons Learned
Being limited to the same footprint as the old shop left me with a challenge – how do I justify building a new shop in the same footprint but be able to make it actually work for me? I had the ability, working from scratch, of designing a floor layout plus building up and adding storage ability. These are the lessons I took from the old shop, how I applied them to the new shop, and the improvements I think I can make after about seven months of working in it fully.
The layout in my old shop was an absolute mess. It looked like it might work when rendered, but in actuality small details really just made it too cramped.
The space on the left was very, very close to the most accurate representation of my last setup in the old shop. The space on the right is an early thought process of how things might be in a new shop (I made this before the new shop was begun). The obvious thing that makes a difference is that the lathe isn’t involved, which is true to this day – it’s still in the old shop, awaiting a resolution. But there are things not obvious in these renders. The small things.
In the old shop, I had a dust extraction setup of a vac and a separator, and these were on the floor under things. The old shop had a low pitch roof with very little space above the rafters (such as the were). As such, I had no other choice, and these were the biggest things you can’t see on the render. One was under the end of the workbench, the other the end of the table saw. But neither went under completely, and made moving things around very hard. So, the first design decision I made for the new shop was to have a true attic space so that I could install a true dust extractor – I was pretty sure the vac suction wouldn’t work.
Indeed, in October I bought the extractor and plumbed pipe in November. I also figured the air compressor that peeks out in the upper left corner in the left shop could go upstairs as well, and that has saved even more room.
The other thing to this point that I’ve done differently with the setup is not have any (or much, at least) scrap hanging around. The wood rack is also going to be installed upstairs, so that clears a good bit of wall real estate. But in the old shop there was entirely too much plywood scrap that I had no other resolution for – all that is still in the old shop and needs to be dealt with. In the new shop, I will need to be much better about getting rid of scrap plywood and not letting it pile up. You can see it even in the picture below.
Otherwise, the layout involves the same things and is as below, generally. Not everything is rendered.
So, what have I learned?
The first thing I’ve learned is that I love the flexibility. I can move my router table, MFT sysport, and table saw however I need to work. Things aren’t perfect, though. The bandsaw and drill press need to be more mobile, so I need to add casters in some way. For the bandsaw, this will easily allow cutting of long or wide stock. Similar story for the drill press. Otherwise, the location of these is pretty much perfect. Building the MFT Sysport and Boom Arm has really taken the mobility of the MFT to where it has always needed to be. The clamp rack I built has been a game changer, and again something I wish I had done a long time ago. There’s little about the left side of the shop that I would change.
The rear of the shop needs a minor bit of improvement. There’s the hand tool cabinet that is still on my to-do list, plus the drawers underneath my workbench aren’t the absolute best. There’s some poorly organized wall space there. There’s no real lessons here except that I could do a better job organizing my space. Particularly if on my next workbench it doesn’t have drawers or anything like that.
The real lessons can be taken from the remainder of the space. The right side of the shop was moved in it’s entirety over from the old shop like it was in Sketchup, with it formerly being on the left side of the shop. Nothing changed. The systainer cabinet, the upper cabinet, the miter saw station, the part above the jointer…it all came right over as it was. There have been some issues with that. The third systainer rack, the one closest to the miter saw, is only single depth. This was because I had to store the mortiser back there. Speaking of which, it’s just sitting on the shelf above the jointer. The shelf isn’t level or even with the miter saw, at all. The systainer racks could use a redo, to put more mounting holes in there as well – that could be something I could do in-place, and add a full depth unit on the end. That would certainly save money considering how expensive plywood is these days. The upper cabinets aren’t very efficient. The finishing cabinet, situated above the miter saw, is not in a good spot.
The miter saw where it attaches to the wall is also about an inch too high – if it were to be lowered, I could slide the Incra fence rail under it so I can rip items on the table saw easier.
In other words, that entire half of the shop could do with a comprehensive redo. A full design from scratch, that allows elements to work together, is the best way forward, even if it does mean more money, time, and materials wasted.
In reality though, the tweaks that absolutely have to be done are minor, but the concept of how to do them well is difficult. It just might be easier long term to do things the right way, which is something that is pretty consistently true.