I have a 12×12 shop, a touch less than 144 square feet (a touch over 41 square meters). Obviously, there’s quite a few challenges I have faced working in that small of a space. Some have thought my attempts foolish, some have thought it inspirational. I wanted to share the things I’ve learned over the course of now two shops, and what still could use some work.
Being in this small of a space, breaking down sheet goods is a very big challenge. In fact, it’s the biggest challenge I have. This was a much bigger issue before I bought my Festool track saw. I had to use another solution that involved a guide, and an attachment to my circular saw. The problem was it wasn’t accurate, and it was frustrating to use. So, I bought the Festool TS55, the 1900 (75″) guide rail, and I was on my way. I would set up my Centipede work table with some foam on top, and do my cross cuts first, then my rip cuts either inside or out, depending on how big they were. I have moved on to a cheap and quick outdoor table made of 2x4s for stability, but otherwise this is the setup I use to this day.
Well, let me talk about the challenges this presents. First, the table I’m using isn’t put together well, so it is in danger of falling apart. Worse, it is on the slope of the same hill I had to deal with when I was building my shop. The top is slick, so things tend to slide and fall off constantly. I either need to account for the slope or fix the slope. I’ll be fixing the slope, even though it’s the harder thing to do. I’d love to rent a skid steer (and I may), but likely I will be doing this by hand. I dread that, but I can’t afford the rental. With the slope level, I can build some sort of outdoor cutting/assembly solution. I will work out either a tacky solution to keep things from sliding, or use the rigid foam. I would also like a shelf where I can sit the tool I’m using, either the track saw or the jigsaw. A couple of nail holes to sit the level, straight edge, or square that I need for the job so they don’t get set on the ground or fall off.
I did not account for two things with my outdoor work, though. One is a power outlet. I did not think that using an extension cord into the shop, then another extension cord via an outdoor outlet was a good idea, so I didn’t plan for that. As for right now, power still comes from an extension cord from my shop to what I’m doing through the door. I can also pull the original cord providing power to the shop, but that then cuts off power to things that might be running in the background like the air conditioner or compressor. It is something I will have to think on. The other issue is dust collection. For the tracksaw, this is a big issue, as the dust is thrown all over the guide rail, the workpiece, and me. It creates a big mess, and while there is a conversion kit, it’s nearly $60. The cordless version, of course, comes with one. Buying the cordless one is a big consideration at this point due to the ability it would give to breaking down sheet goods at the point of purchase. Not having a truck, this is a big deal. I’ll be discussing purchases in depth on another day.
Breaking down dimensional lumber is another pain, with my cheap circular saw, and not always enough room with my miter saw. Purchasing the Festool HKC is also a consideration, but it is more of a convenience thing at this point, something I can live without for a bit longer. The FSK rails with the preset angles seems nice, though.
Moving to the inside of the shop itself, I did touch on a few issues in the previous entry. If I want to cut longer pieces on the table saw, I have to make sure the router table fence is out of the way. If I can adjust the miter saw mount, I can get this fence out of the way no problem. Keeping the tables clean is a bigger challenge. I do need to raise the router table up slightly, or figure out some way that the pieces I use on the table don’t interfere with the table saw. They need to be virtually equal in height for this to work, or for whichever one I work on to be higher at that moment. Haven’t quite figured out how to bend time and space like that. The router table does move, so it hasn’t been a deal breaker to this point.
Putting wheels on the MFT really freed up the ability to cut longer stock, but my ability to cut wider stock is still hampered by the fence and attachment points for the track. I plan on solving this by buying Parf Dogs as demonstrated by their creator, Peter Parfitt on his YouTube channel. He’s English, which means I already like him, but he’s a great study on how to make really nice stuff and explained in a clear manner. Hopefully one day we can meet up, perhaps I can take a visit to his shop.
I will at some point end up upgrading my workbench, but for now the biggest help I can do for it is to try and keep it cleaner. Same thing for the miter saw, except I do need to fix the outfeed side of the shelf to be even with the saw. The jointer has some issues, but I can move things around enough to use it, and the planer too.
Otherwise, for technique and the ability to do things, I’m in pretty good shape. Of course, I don’t have a drum sander or anything like that, so I have to do the best I can. There are some tweaks to where I store things, which ties back into the layout post, but overall I’m very happy with my shop to this point. I do realize that some of my posts in this series might overlap, but they are all interconnected.