Dream-Shop Planner

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This article is from Issue 29 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Behind every great workshop lies a great plan, whether your shop makes up the corner of a basement, the back wall of a two-car garage, or a dedicated outbuilding. Common ingredients include good organization, a complement of tools (power and hand) geared to your interests, and a practical, efficient floor plan. Other considerations are dust collection, accessibility, heating, lighting, and electrical service. 

Because budget concerns force most of us to pick away at putting a shop together, you might start out with entry-level tools and cramped quarters. But as your interest in woodworking grows and you accumulate bigger and better tools, you owe it to yourself to make a harder-working shop. 

If you find yourself dreaming about that shop you’ve always wanted, this planner may be able to help you get it that much sooner. All you need to start are scissors, tape, and a little imagination.

How to Use Your Planner

This two-part planner includes a 1 square = 1 foot grid that lets you plan a shop measuring up to  25 × 40' (tape photocopies of the grid together for a larger shop—lucky you). The second part is a sheet loaded with cut-out templates for everything in a shop, from woodworking machines to cabinets to workbenches to windows and doors. Follow this sequence to develop your plan:

1 Outline your shop on the grid

First things first, settle on a shop location. Now transfer the outline of the shop dimensions onto your  grid. (If you have space for additional rooms, consider blocking out a separate finishing space and bathroom.) Cut out the room shell components—doors, windows, stairs— from the template page and tape them in place.

2 Lay out your cabinets and storage

Here’s where the real fun begins. Determine your storage needs. In addition to base cabinets and wall cabinets, you’ll also need a place for wall-hung tools, clamps, and lumber (boards, shorts, and sheet goods). Don’t forget your workbench and assembly table. Cut out the appropriate templates and place them on your grid. 

3 Bring in the machines

Cut out the machinery templates and begin experimenting with work flow. This simply means being mindful of where materials come in and projects move about before leaving your shop. For example, position your jointer, planer, and table saw close to your lumber rack. Leave infeed and outfeed space for machining long boards. As you place your drill press, router, and lathe, include storage for machine-related accessories. 

Don’t forget to plan for future machinery. Ductwork and electrical wiring are best done before the heavy iron rolls in.

Consider dust collection and utility needs

In addition to a workbench, machines, and shop cabinets, an efficient shop requires a systems strategy. To plan for dust-collection ductwork, electricity, lighting, HVAC, etc., place acetate over your shop plan and map out where each will run. Use your sketches to enlist the experience of others—moving ductwork and/or machinery will never be easier.

After completing your sketch, break your project into steps and make it happen when time and budget allow. By helping you make progress without missteps, this plan may be the most valuable tool you own. 

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