Shop master plan – 2013 and (hopefully) beyond

About a year ago I started on transforming my space from a shed to a true shop, and for the most part it’s been a success. I did a few large-scale projects, such as the Holtzapffel bench and the kitchen pub table. I got my start in finishing, I expanded my table saw top, added some hand planes and tried to weed out some scrap. In the course of doing these things though, I’ve noticed some things about what I have and how I have it that have impeded workflow within the scope of a project.

While I’ve worked hard on getting this about where it needs to be, I’m aware that necessity and want often causes changes in plans. That’s why I’ve tried to incorporate components in the cabinets instead of making them one huge unit that would have to be destroyed if I change my mind – that’s where I am now, I will have to probably destroy 75% of what I’ve built in order to go with this new plan. Building the component sections of the cabinet will allow me to make minor changes without having to necessarily start from scratch. For example, the component that will house the miter saw will probably never change if I build it correctly. It would even transition to a mobile unit just with the addition of casters. I’m going for strong, I’m going for sturdy, I’m going for never having to do some of this stuff again. Components also help if I should ever upgrade to a bigger shop or to fix my floor.

So, I post this with the reservation to make adjustments. In fact, I know I will be: I’ve not yet measured for every single detail, but wanted to get an overview of what I needed, where things were going, and what I needed to do. The renders you see here reflect that. I’ll be building some things straight away, but others I’ll have to do later on.

The general idea is this: the workbench and table saw stay where they are. The bandsaw and the drill press move to the back wall, and the miter saw moves back over to the left wall. The planer moves up to a front corner, while the jointer and wall rack switch sides and go over to the right wall. The other big change is that my full size router table gets retained, but redesigned to fit between the rails of the table saw and serve as the right side extension.

At first glance it looks very clean. I’m hoping it functions as well as it looks. To evaluate the layout, I wanted to try and sort out what projects I could build in here, and what tools I use most frequently.

The hub of my shop is the saw, so that gets no change in location. It works well where it is, although I’d like a little more room to cut wider pieces like 5×5 baltic birch. This is a space restraint, and nothing I can do about it. The saw easily moves over to cut wider pieces up to 4′. Next, I’d say I use my jointer and planer most. Here’s where I wanted to move things around a bit. While my jointer is in a pretty good spot right now, I still have to drag it by the tables to get it right where I’d like. That’s because of a combination of where it is, and how I can orient the wheels on the base. It’s also pretty long, and wouldn’t work in the left front corner with the saw staying put. If I clear the right front corner though, it will slide into stow and use positions with the wheels oriented to one side. Should, anyway. Time will tell if I have to do any more shoving. The planer is being stored in the back, but brought to the front for use. I knew that needed to be one of my top priorities to fix. Since I had just slid the jointer over to the right side, the planer should fit in the left front corner. That is, if I moved the wall rack back over to it’s original position. Over in the right front corner, over the saw extension and the jointer seems to make the most sense.

I noticed a huge pain in the butt was trying to use my miter saw. The position on the far right of the wall wasn’t a bad one, but having the planer basically right next to it, and not being able to move it easily, was. I’m hoping by moving it over to the left wall will help solve that. I’ll be able to slide the planer cart out slightly and cut long boards, and the cart won’t get in the way of anything except possibly leaving the shop. I noticed I’d need to go over and grab a pencil, or the tape, or something else in the shop while using the miter. Not being constrained by the bench and the planer cart right there should help.

One other huge pain in that area is the battery charging. I would have to stretch the reel over to the back wall to hook up the chargers, and it would invariably be in the way, especially as it pertained to getting to the bench and back wall. I’ll be moving the chargers probably to the left front corner, so that will be vastly improved. Perhaps the right front corner, which would be even better, but that depends on the space available.

Having experienced the benefit of having a freestanding router table available to me during the table build, I’ve decided to retain it in the best way I know how – but not retaining it. I’ll be turning it into the right side extension of my table saw. The top will have to be slightly narrower to fit between the rails, but that is very minor. The bigger issue will be retaining bit and accessory storage while fitting it in and around the handles for the saw base. It will be oriented perpendicular to the saw, which is different than most. I wanted to retain a larger surface for outfeed purposes, it’s one of the things I like about my current table the best. It will still be on wheels, and attached to the rails so it will slide out when I move the saw. I could easily detach it so I could use either tool outside the shop. I will also be provisioning a spot on the left side of the saw, parallel to the blade, for another router. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last couple of years, it’s the convenience of having two router setups at the same time. Now I’ll finally be able to do it.

Because the router is going to the table, I’ll have to find a new home for the vac. Not the worst prospect, considering right now it’s hard to get to. Same goes for the cyclone, but with it it gets in the way constantly. Since I’ll need them primarily for the jointer, planer and table saw – tools that now will be near the entrance, I should put it as close to them as possible. I’m hoping the vac will fit inside the planer cart, and the cyclone in an adjacent cabinet as part of the left side wall. That will mean short duct runs to the main tools, with only really the bandsaw, drill press and possibly mortiser. Not a huge deal. Those are all on the back wall, and I’m hoping I can finally store full sheets of ply behind these tools, so I can make fewer trips to the lumber yard and having to rent a truck.

I’m hoping the air compressor will fit under the jointer outfeed table in the right front corner, and the air reel can move over slightly as well.



That’s the initial plan, anyway. I think the smartest way to tackle this would be to build the new router table and have it in place before I tear out any cabinets. If I do this, then tear up the old router table, I can cut out a portion of the current cabinets that house it, making room to temporarily put the bandsaw on the back wall to clear room to make the new left side cabinets, one at a time.’

So, as best I can see it, in order:

  1. Plan and build new router table (then destroy current extension and current router table)
  2. Partially destroy left hand back wall cabinet, and move bandsaw to this spot
  3. Rebuild planer cart with vac storage
  4. Build new miter saw cabinet (and buy miter saw, before they become hard to find – would be my luck)
  5. Build one other cabinet with drawers (then destroy current miter saw cabinet and adjacent cabinet on back wall)
  6. Move upper cabinet on back wall to left wall temporarily, move drill press and bandsaw to final positions
  7. Build out rest of left side cabinets
  8. Finish replacing walls, move lumber rack to other side
  9. ????
  10. Profit.

There’s a bunch of minor steps involved as well, such as clearing out a mess of scrap, but it will happen. I plan on having a fire this winter and burning anything I can’t immediately use.

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