Top Shop: Welcome To Our New Workshop

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This article is from Issue 29 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Your key source now and in the future for great ideas and projects

In this special issue of Woodcraft Magazine we are excited to introduce you to our new 30 × 50' workshop. Why? Because we now have a place that lets us generate a truckload of workshop ideas, techniques, and project plans for making your shop more organized, efficient, and—dare I say it—a pretty cool place to hang out. What you notice right away from glancing at the photos is that we have outfitted our shop with three distinctly different cabinet areas built on three budgets. These include the MDF workshop, the melamine workshop, and the birch plywood workshop. Here, price differences come down to sheet goods, hardware, and countertop costs.

    Where the cabinets do not differ is in their general construction. Everything you see is built from the same basic 24"- and 32"-wide base and wall cabinet plans. As you’ll discover in “Super-Easy Workshop Cabinets” on page 28, we took the mystery out of cabinet building by going with the simple 32-millimeter system. If you can count to 10, you can build these cabinets, though it helps to have an inches-to-millimeter measuring tape. Now let’s look at the three contrasting areas and our shop’s specs, overall features, and floor plan.

The Workshop at a Glance

Size: 30 × 50' with a 9' ceiling

Construction: Concrete block and insulated 2 × 4 stud walls; double layers of  5/8" drywall or  5/8" drywall and  5/8" plywood (for screwing items to the wall anywhere along its length above 4').

Heating and cooling: Natural gas forced-air furnace and air conditioner; room thermostatically controlled. 

Lighting: Ten 8' fluorescent lights operated by a single on/off T-8 switch; 32-watt bulbs.

Electrical: 200-amp service panel—fourteen 110 outlets and seven 220 outlets with two of each ceiling-mounted.

Dust Collection: Oneida 3 hp Pro Series 1500 with cartridge filter, metal fittings, and spiral metal piping (6" and 7" main trunk with 4"  and 5" branch lines).

Air compressor: Porter-Cable 3 hp, 60-gallon air compressor.

Three hardworking workshops from one great plan

Whether you’re adding storage to the back of your garage or outfitting a dedicated workshop building, chances are, one of these cabinet choices will suit your style and wallet. As you can see we used a cleat system for hanging our wall cabinets and tool boards.

1. MDF

Fast and low-dollar MDF—This handsome workshop could easily be built in a few weekends for under $700. Constructing the cases with Confirmat screws (recommended for MDF) speeds the work, as does cutting out and hanging the frameless slab doors. While one cabinet contains four quick-to-assemble Metal Box drawers (Inset), all the others contain shelves. In other words, more simple slabs. We painted the cabinets with two coats of General Finishes milk paint (one part outback brown, three parts snow white), and topped the base units with a double-layer MDF countertop, edged with ¾" maple. This we finished with two coats of clear water-based polyurethane and a coat of paste wax. Maple pulls (purchased through the VanDyke catalog) provide a nice accent while matching the edging.

2. Melamine

Mid-range, easy-to-clean melamine cabinets—Smooth, white laminate surfaces set this workshop apart. The ¼" Marlite panels in the maple cabinet door frames let you jot down dimensions, phone numbers, and more with erasable markers, while the thin sheet-metal-on-Marlite door panels let you pin up paper designs, receipts, and cut lists with magnets (Inset). Underneath the counter, drawers, shelves, and pull-out trays provide versatile storage in the base cabinets.

3. Birch Plywood

Showy, premium cabinets with an all-wood look—Consider birch plywood cabinets for a touch of class and craftsmanship. We paid $15 more for a sheet of birch plywood ($43) than we did for a sheet of MDF. We outfitted the base cabinets with Metal-Box drawers as well as shelves and pull-out trays for storing portable power tools. Full-extension slides for trays let you take advantage of the cabinet storage room while the 165° full-overlay hinges on the base cabinet doors provide clearance (left). To further dress out this workshop, we topped the base cabinets with a hard-wearing, 1½"-thick by 12'-long laminated maple countertop. Framed glass doors for one wall cabinet let you view prized planes or collectibles. Finish for the cabinets consists of three spray-coats of General Finishes Satin High Performance Water-Based Topcoat, a tough, fast-drying product with acrylic and urethane resins. (See more on workshop finishes on page 54.)

Creating a first-class woodworking environment

Complementary tool boards

For easy access to frequently used hand tools, we included perforated hardboard tool boards that you build to fit and hang on the beveled wall cleat. Unique to this system is that we did away with commercial metal hooks and hangers and made custom hangers from scrap. (You’ll find a variety of the hangers on page 42.) Small rectangles of perforated hardboard back the hangers, allowing you to fix them to the tool boards with plastic wall anchors and screws. This approach enables you to quickly relocate the holders as needed. Better still, they stay put when secured, unlike metal hangers which often fall off when tools are removed.

Dust collection and healthy shop air

Our whole-shop metal-pipe dust-collection system from Oneida provides swift and complete collection of sawdust and chips at every floor machine. The cyclone dust-collector unit (Pro Series 1500) features a 3 hp Baldor motor with an external cartridge filter. It sits outside the shop along one wall. To turn it on we use key-fob remotes which we hang at convenient locations. Blast gates terminate each branch duct line, allowing the system to effectively service any two major machines simultaneously. (See our story on whole-shop dust-collection on page 46.)  

Comfort and good looks underfoot

The basement where we located our shop has a concrete floor that, as many of you know, raises havoc on your feet and legs. We wanted something easier on the dogs so we contacted the Southern  Forest Products Association for suggestions. They recommended Southern yellow pine flooring and put us in touch with Grizzly Forest Products. As soon as the walls were up, we installed 1 × 6 tongue-and-groove vertical-grain flooring and finished it with four coats of General Finishes Satin Water-Based Top Coat . (See how to put in a workshop wood floor on page 56.) Floor mats in front of the major machines and workbenches add even more comfort.

The Floor Plan

Key to any woodworking shop is the arrangement of tools, storage, and workbenches. In many shops, everything revolves around the table saw. That holds true in our shop as well with the SawStop table saw front and center. A few steps away, however, sits the Jet jointer/planer. This tool combination needs to stand together for ease of milling project stock into parts. We made sure that we had ample space at the infeed and outfeed ends of these machines for running long stock through. The Makita mitersaw also resides near the middle of the room for sizing longer parts to length. Similarly, the Rikon bandsaw sits near the lathe work station for prep-cutting turning blanks, as well as resawing. 

   In addition, we created tool stations where cabinets containing accessories are within an arm’s reach. We built a shallow 6¾"-deep cabinet for drill bits near the Jet drill press, and a similar cabinet hangs on the wall above the Pinnacle router table. A set of cabinets dedicated to sharpening features a countertop of plastic laminate to catch the drips and spills of oil and water. 

   We located our workbenches to allow plenty of walk-around room for working on a project, and we dedicated one end of the room for storing lumber and sheet goods. A corner of the shop is set up for turning. While no shop is perfect, this one has more than enough bells and whistles to make working in it a joy. If you’ve been re-thinking your current shop or planning a new one from scratch, turn to page 64 for our pull-out Dream-Shop Planner.  Then, plan your shop to complement your woodworking interests. By doing so, you will have taken the very first step in creating a bragging-rights workshop, one that finally and fully addresses your project-building needs.


Putting a workshop together from scratch is no small feat, and we would be remiss if we did not include a special thanks to the sponsors who helped make our dream a reality. Here are the participants:

Adjustable Clamp
Assortment of Clamps

Bessey Tools
Assortment of Clamps

Euro Hinges, 110⁰ & 165⁰

2 Random-Orbit Sanders
2 Trim Routers
Drum Sander
6-Gallon Portable Air Compressor
60-Gallon 240-Volt Air Compressor

13" Thickness Planer

HVLP Spray Station Pro

Kapex KS 120 Sliding
Compound Mitersaw
Clean Tech Vacuum
Domino Joining System
MFK 700 Trim Router
Plunge Router
MFT/3 Multifunction Table

Forrest Blades
Saw Blades

Franklin International
Glues & Adhesives

Router Bits & Saw Blades
Biscuit Joiner
31/4 HP Plunge Router
Doweling Machine

General Finishes
Wood Coatings
Water-based Finishes
Oil-based Finishes

General International
Excalibur Scrollsaw
Overarm Blade Guard
Benchtop Mortiser

Grizzly Forest Products
Tongue-and-groove Southern Yellow Pine Flooring

Metal Box Drawer System
Fixing Brackets

Measuring, Marking, and Positioning Tools

Air-Tech 750ER High-Efficiency Air Filtration System

Portable Dust Collection
Belt Disc Sander
14" Bandsaw
6" Jointer
12" Jointer/Planer Combo
Drill Press

Pocket Hole System

Universal Featherboard
MagJig Universal Base
Combo Kit

10" Slider Compound Mitersaw
18-Volt Cordless Drill Driver
Trim Router

Stationary Dust Collection System/Consultation + Installation

Floor Finishing Tools

Measuring & Marking Tools
Router Table
Premium Coping Sled

10" Table Saw, 1½ HP
18" Variable Speed Drill Press

14" Deluxe Bandsaw with Fence
12" Disc Sander

18-Volt Lithium Tech Cordless Drill/Driver

Cabinet-style Table Saw
52" Extension Table Assembly
Extra Blade Cartridges

Elite 2500 Workbench & Cabinet Combo
DUO Bench Cabinet Combo 

Stanley Bostitch
Portable Compressor
Pneumatic Nailer

Steel City
13" Portable Planer with Helical Head
5-speed Granite Mini Lathe
10" Granite Table Saw

Teknatool International
Nova DVR Lathe

T-3 Sharpening System

Oscillating Spindle Sander
2½ HP Router

Router Bits & Bushings

Planes & Chisels

Metric Shelf Pin Jigs


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