Getting Started With Woodworking – Part 2 – Setting Up Shop

By December 17, 2017Uncategorized


Now that you've got a good handle on the basic tools you'll need to get started with woodworking, let's discuss setting up your work area or wood shop. If you are just getting started, you'll likely want to use an existing space in your home such as a garage or basement for your shop.

There are several features that any shop will need to be successful. The first is an efficient use of the available space. Making your shop usable is the most important step. If you are constantly running into machinery or having to move something every time you want to use it, your woodworking experience will not be nearly as enjoyable as if everything flows smoothly in your shop.

If you are like most of us, you are very busy and you'll only have limited blocks of time to pursue woodworking. Having an efficiently laid out shop is the key to making the most of your productive time.

Shop Considerations

In the last article we covered the essential tools that you'll need to get started with woodworking. There are a few more tools that you'll also want to invest in to make your woodworking experience as enjoyable as possible as well as some storage considerations.


A workbench is a must. There are tons of different styles of workbench and they are available to buy or build. My recommendation would be to build a workbench as your first project. This is a great way to begin developing your skills and the end-result will be something that you can use every time you work in your shop.

An important feature to include on your workbench is a vise. A vise is a tool that helps hold wood steady. If the vice is built into your workbench, it will always be handy and will not take up any extra space in your workshop. Other features to consider on a workbench is a place to store your tools and possibly a tray to hold small fasteners so they do not fall to the floor when you are working.

One plan for a workbench that I particularly like is a simple one to build. Fine Woodworking magazine has a great plan for a plywood workbench that has a built-in vice. Search for "Rock-Solid Plywood Bench" in your favorite search engine to find the free downloadable plans. What a great sense of accomplishment to build this workbench and you'll have the added benefit of using and appreciating it for years to come!

Safety Gear and Storage

Other considerations for your beginning workshop are safety gear and storage. Let's cover safety gear first. To be safe when working with wood, you'll need:

  • Safety Glasses – Choose any safety glasses that fit you comfortably. Remember to get ones that cover the sides of your eyes as well. Flying wood chips can come at you from many directions!
  • Ear Protection – When using power tools, they can be extremely loud. Good ear protection will keep you from damaging your hearing. You can choose ear plugs or over the ear protection. Pick the one most comfortable for you.
  • Dust Mask – When sanding wood, the dust particles are small and can fill the air and can be very harmful to your lungs. Be sure to protect your lungs with a dust mask any time you are sanding. Dust masks are inexpensive and can be picked up at your local hardware store or home center.


Now that you have your tools and safety gear covered, the last consideration is storage. As you progress with your woodworking hobby you'll be steering your hand tools, your power tools, your safety gear, fasteners and wood. Since you'll likely be starting in a relatively small space such as your garage or a corner of your basement, you'll probably have to get creative with wall storage.

Remember that walls can be a great place to store things. If you have access to any old cabinetry, these can be used in your shop to store just about anything. It does not matter what the cabinets look like or even what shape they are in. Check with friends that may have recently remodeled to see if they have old cabinets that they are getting rid of. If you do not have old cabinets, you can use pegboard and hooks. Another way to take advantage of wall space is to hang basic shelves. These can be used to store wood and other long objects.

The workbench plans mentioned earlier include 3 shelves underneath. These shelves can store lots of frequently used tools and fasteners.

Shop considerations

Now that you have some ideas for setting up your shop, there are a few other things to consider as well.

  • Lighting – You'll want bright overhead lighting in your work area. You'll need to be able to mark lines, read tape measures and make accurate cuts. All of these things are difficult to do in dark areas. Fluorescent lights are inexpensive and easy to install and they provide lots of good light regardless of the size of your area.
  • Electrical Outlets – Remember that power tools require electricity. As you get more tools, you'll need to be able to plug them in. Having extension cords all around can be a real mess, so be sure that you choose a space with plenty of electrical outlets. If you need more added, an electrician can install more for you at very reasonable prices. If you are having an electrician install outlets, err on the side of caution and install more than you think you'll need. You never know when you'll need a new plug.
  • Rolling Tools – If your workshop is doubling as something else, like a place to park your car at night, you'll need to be able to move tools and equipment around when you are finished working. Your local home center has all kinds of neat casters and rolling devices that you can install on the bottom of your tools and benches to make them movable when you need to. The wheels can be locked so they will not move during your sessions. While wheels are optional, they are a much better choice than trying to manually lift and move heavy tools and benches.

Methods for planning usage of space

Now that you are comfortable with your work area, it's time to plan it all out. If you are like most of us, you'll have a lot of tools and storage that you are trying to fit in a small space. Planning the space out ahead of time allows you to set up your space in the most efficient way. There are two ways to lay out your space. Both work very well, so choose whichever fits your style best.

  • Manual Layout – In this method you use graph paper and paper cutouts of tools to organize your space. This method is very inexpensive and can be done quickly. To find scale sized tool layouts, search the Internet for "sketchup woodworking workshop". In this method, you draw your workshop to scale on graph paper and literally place paper models of your tools on the paper. Remember to include space for the wood infeed and outfeed.
  • Computer Aided Layout – You do not have to have a computer expert to use the power of computers to help you with your shop design. Google offers a free program called Sketchup that you can use to electronically lay out your shop. This program has so many features that my next article will be dedicated to this amazing tool. This program allows you to electronically draw your shop, then add tools to it, then view it in 2D or 3D. There is a power professional version that you can "trial" for free as well.


Remember that your wood shop is your area for peace and tranquility, so take your time planning it out efficiently and effectively. A well-organized shop will make your time woodworking more fun and enjoyable and safer.

Source by Wayne Foreman

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