I thought each of these different designs could be discussed and vetted openly so that anyone who comes along can see my decision process and hopefully benefit. The first candidate is a cabinet. There are two common choices for a cabinet stand, having the whole top flat and on the same plane, or recessing the saw portion lower. Recessing the saw leaves the natural top of the cabinets as the workpiece support and provides a large surface area for other work. Keeping the main surface in a flat plane means that work would either remain unsupported or supports must be used.
If I had a preference, it would be to recess the saw platform. Why? In the end, it takes up less space. If I want a big flat workspace then I’ll need someplace to store the supports. If I make them small enough and movable, it’s not as big of a deal. However, if I have a long piece I’m working on, the saw itself would block it. A recessed platform allows the work surface to be in plane with the saw, meaning nothing has to be moved out of the way. A recessed platform also means potentially less material used – a shelf between two complete cabinet assemblies.
Having chosen the recessed platform, we move on to width and height of cabinets. My current cabinets hold drawers and a couple of cavities. I know right this minute that I won’t need quite as many drawers going forward – they were built to fill versus fill to build. I also may not need a cavity or two, depending on what my final solution for dust collection will be. I would rather build without them than include them at this point in the planning stages. So having two base cabinets filled with drawers is certainly a solution.
This is, however, where I can get really creative. I could size the cabinets such that one would be a standard cabinet with drawers, and the other be a bit shorter for other storage (turning blanks, scrap, less-used tools or cases). Just above that, the end of the saw could slide in, and ‘floating’ above it would be the right side of the miter saw table. That open area would allow the table saw to slide in and not take up additional room. I would have to modify my overarm dust collection, which would be a negative. The portion under the saw could be any depth I needed to clear the handles of the saw.
There is one big problem with creating a stationary workstation for a sliding MS if you don’t clearance the wall behind – in a small space, that extra depth on the cabinet is valuable. I figure I need a depth of 28″ to properly house the saw and provide support for the workpiece. That’s an extra 4″ of high-priced real estate. I also don’t want to pay extra for longer drawer slides, but not using the space in some way is extremely wasteful. I could leave the void for sheet goods, however that comes with the very probable possibility of items finding themselves on the floor behind. I certainly don’t want that. So, the surface is intact which leaves a hollow cavity below. Sheet good storage is still an option, but it’s limited in scope. A two foot long narrow cavity – this could be a call for a vertical drawer. Finishes would find a good home there, as they are items I don’t normally have a need for. However this also means I can’t put them in a fire-retardant, removable container. Other options? Chisel drawer. Saw blade drawer. Router bit drawers. Without a good item to put there, it still remains a wasted space. I could also go crazy and have the cabinet/drawer section lift up, but I don’t do crazy that well.
That’s my rationale thus far about the cabinet method. I’m going to revisit this in a few days to a week with Sketchup models showing a few different designs and shop layouts using them.
Update: Further thoughts
I’ve seen a couple of pictures that have led me to additional ideas and modifications of the traditional cabinet. One modification is to make the miter saw shelf the additional depth and keep the rest of the cabinet the traditional 24″ or so. The saw fence would sit roughly in line with the front of the cabinet. Work would then be supported by a movable, removable support attached to the front of the cabinet. Using half-lap 2×4 construction for the surface base, it would have plenty of meat to attach to. I could also situate the saw base about 3/4″ below the surface of the bench and use a partial folding shelf with a hinge. I would put it down for miter saw use, then fold it back up for a contiguous surface otherwise. I actually quite like that idea, I just came up with it. It would require a thicker top, and flat sheets like MDF. Warping might be a serious issue, and would throw off accuracy. Hmm, this is why we plan and think things out.
I also am a bit more open to the idea of a flat surface and support blocks. Still don’t like how it divides the bench, but it could be worked with. I could modify construction so it could go either way if I really dislike it.
If I go with the first addendum thought, I could mount the T-track to the front of the cabinet and use the stops that way.
I also had the idea of making the left side under the support hollow, so anything could be stored underneath. It would be high enough to roll the jointer under, and if the planer was on a flip cart, that would slide under as well. Could also have another cart for tool mounting or small assembly that would slide under as well. This is similar to the idea of keeping the lathe under the left wing (or right wing, honestly).
All additional thoughts aside, I think I’m going to make some use to the side and behind the fence for the hardware and sanding storage, eliminating the need for it on the planer cart (and making way to eliminate the planer cart). This really is the early stages of this project, so I’ll have a lot more to add.